Thursday, 28 February 2019

Why Litigation Boutique?

Last November, I had the opportunity to participate in the OCI recruitment process for the second time, and from the other side of the table. In just 3 short, but also very long days, I shared my articling experience with, what felt like 100, candidates. By the end, I realized (a) I can talk someone’s ears off, and (b) many people were surprised to hear how exciting and diverse our litigation practice and specifically, our insurance defence work could be. Our firm can provide any aspiring litigator with excellent hands-on experience—and very early on in their career.

Litigation Experience


"Every file we work on teaches us about some aspect of the litigation process." 


As a Summer Student, I learned about the nuts and bolts of this process by assisting with examinations for discovery, motion materials, research, and mediations. As an Articling Student, I gained more insight into the life of a claim from the beginning; by participating in client intake, drafting pleadings, preparing for discoveries, mediations, pre-trials, and even trial. This gave me the “big picture” perspective of what it is we do. As I gain more experience with the process, I feel more comfortable with the idea of working as a litigation lawyer after articling ends.

While it’s not always realistic to see a single file from beginning to end during an articling term, small claims files can and do provide that opportunity and at MB, Articling Students have carriage of small claims files. These files provide a great learning opportunity for drafting, settlement discussions, and if it comes to it, trial. We are also learning to be the main contact for our clients by briefing them on the status of the case, and if necessary, preparing them for trial.

Diverse Work

Many just think of motor vehicle accidents and slip and fall injuries when they think of insurance defence, but insurance defence work can actually be incredibly diverse. In addition to commercial litigation, I’ve already had a chance to work in the following areas of law, all surprisingly under the heading of insurance defence:

• Employment law (employee & management-side) 
• Criminal law
• Coverage
• Professional Negligence
• Administrative law
• Human rights law
• Cannabis law
• Contract law
• Product Liability
• Environmental law
• Property loss
• Privacy law

While having diverse work makes for an interesting articling experience, it also tests your knowledge of litigation procedure and helps you develop the skills you need to be an effective litigator. For example, property loss assignments have taught me the invaluable skill of quantifying and proving damages—which is necessary for productive settlement discussions for any claim. Criminal law taught me to think on my feet and feel comfortable in a courtroom—because court appearances are frequent. Employment law taught me to anticipate and negotiate risk.

Additionally, our plaintiff and subrogation practices expose us to other skills that are necessary to be an effective advocate. This can be in the areas of product liability, construction, cyber and privacy, shareholder disputes, and estate litigation, to name a few.

Opportunities for Growth

The legalization of recreational cannabis is currently a hot topic in many industries, including insurance, and we’ve been receiving a lot of work in this area. As a result, I’ve assisted on property loss, risk management, and employment assignments all related to this topic. I don’t know what the next big thing will be or what the future holds, but I am excited to find out.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

The Fantastic Five


In honour of our 5th month of articling, I have taken 5 Topics and for each, I’ve compiled a list of 5 tips to provide insight into our experience thus far.

I. Ways We Receive Work

  1. The list - A lawyer can send an email to the articling students and whoever is next on “The List” gets the assignment.

  2. Conflict Checks - Monitor & respond to a conflict check involving an area of law or a set of facts that you are interested in. There are always some unique files that catch my eye.  (p.s. this is a great one!)

  3. Personal Touch - reaching out to lawyers personally. As a student, you may enjoy working with specific people and/or in certain areas of law. You can simply walk over to a lawyer’s office and ask them if they have any work that you can assist with. It’s as easy as it sounds.
  4. Trading - Depending on availability and whether certain students prefer to work on specific tasks, you can trade jobs with fellow articling students.

  5. Student Liaison - Ashley Faust is the Student Liaison at McCague Borlack and she checks in with the students to make sure we experience as much as possible. If there is something you want to do but haven’t yet, let her know and she will set you up! Two of my favourite attendances so far, including arguing contested costs hearing, was arranged by Ashley.
II. Events to look forward to
  1. Orientation! - Honestly, the amount of times I refer to the material that was provided to us during orientation week is unbelievable. McCague offers articling students the opportunity to increase their knowledge exponentially within that first single week.

  2. The Christmas party! - Don’t forget that the articling students are responsible for entertaining the audience during the Christmas party. We thoroughly enjoyed preparing for our skit and (we think) the audience enjoyed watching it just as much.

  3. Christmas in January - Christmas party round 2? Almost. McCague Borlack hosts a Christmas in January event for clients and all members of the firm. It’s a great opportunity to get to know everyone better and have a chance to put a face to a name of a client you have been corresponding with through email for the past few months.

  4. Practice Group Seminars - We have a number of practice groups at McCague Borlack. Recently the Transportation Law practice group put together a lunch and learn. This is another great opportunity for students to meet with clients, draft papers on specific areas of the law and even present on them!

  5. After work socializing - It’s easy to plan social events among the students. Whether it’s a simple dinner at a restaurant or going to an escape room, the students are able to spend plenty of time together outside of work.
 III. Ways to learn
  1. The library - Most of us use the internet for almost everything. I don’t blame us. But what if I told you that someone has already collected knowledge on the topic you’re researching, compiled it into a book, and that very same book found its way onto a shelf at McCague? The best place to start when researching or simply learning about a new topic is in your firm’s library!

  2. Litigator - Of course, the internet is helpful too. At McCague, we have access to Westlaw’s database including a resource called “Litigator”. The best part of Litigator is that you can find pleadings and other material filed with the court in previous actions. These templates are useful tools and you can learn what to include, or avoid when drafting your own materials.

  3. Asking questions - I’m sure this has been mentioned many times in previous blogs, but that is because it is so important! The collective amount of knowledge in the heads of everyone at the firm is huge. If you are stuck, ask around, there are many willing teachers.

  4. Not asking questions - Yes that’s right. Part of learning is understanding how to independently find answers in an efficient manner. Of course, don’t hesitate to ask questions in urgent situations or once you have exhausted your other resources. However, the exercise of finding an answer is a learning experience in of in itself.

  5. This Student Blog - We aren’t the first set of students at the firm and we won’t be the last. The blog has captured the experiences of the students who were in our exact position previously. It might have the answer you’re looking for!
IV. Things to Remember for your motion for leave to amend a Statement of Claim
  1. Attach the amended Statement of Claim to your draft Order
  2. A staple remover;
  3. A mini stapler;
  4. There is a Staples right beside the Toronto Courthouse;
  5. Thank the associate who you ran into in the courtroom that helped you fix your draft Order minutes before the motion… thanks Marla!
V. My Articling Bucket List
  1. To argue a contested motion;
  2. To settle a small claims file at a settlement conference;
  3. To draft (even more) factums - they are great for working on your persuasive writing skills;
  4. To watch a trial; and
  5. To get hired back!