Friday, 15 March 2019

These are a Few of Our Favorite Things: MB Articling Class of 2019 Highlights

During articling, you’re constantly learning. In law school, the majority of our education focused on theory, but as students-at-law, we are learning about the practice of law and the application of the theory we studied. As our articles get closer to ending, I have been reflecting on how much I’ve learned and also how much I still don’t know.

In order to highlight the variety of experiences our articling class has been privy to, I’ve polled my fellow students to ask them which of their many experiences so far stood out the most. This is what they said:



Andrew

Favourite assignment:
  • My attendance at a small claims settlement conference.
Why it was my favourite:
  • It was a great way to strengthen my negotiation and oral advocacy skills.
What I learned:
  • It is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your client’s case and to anticipate the arguments of opposing counsel. I also learned that negotiating is an art form and that negotiation styles develop over time with practice.
What I’ll do differently next time:
  • Use time more efficiently by trying to narrow the issues with counsel beforehand.


Émilie-Anne

Favourite assignment:
  • It’s hard to pick a “favourite” assignment since I’ve received so much good work during my articles. A really cool assignment that comes to mind is a settlement conference I was asked to attend. The pleadings had closed, and I was asked to help negotiate the settlement. Though I sought approval from a lawyer before taking each step, I was given the freedom to develop the negotiation strategy on my own.
Why it was my favourite:
  • The best part was that I could assess damages using any method I wanted, including calling stores across Ontario to ask for their pricing. I was the main contact point with both the client and opposing counsel, which meant I continuously re-evaluated both positions to find a middle ground. The matter eventually settled last year.
What I learned:
  • What made this file interesting was that it was very emotionally charged. In addition to strengthening my advocacy skills, this assignment taught me how to interact with parties in a sensitive situation. When the opposing party’s position is personal rather than financial, it’s a lot harder to elicit a compromise.
What I’ll do differently next time:
  • If I could do it all again, I would rehearse my submissions another a dozen more times. I remember my voice trembling as I was speaking to the deputy judge. Nerves make you seem less prepared and less confident in your position (which couldn’t be farther from the truth).
 

 Jessica

Favourite assignment:
  • Student support on a summary judgement motion. This included conducting research and helping draft the Brief of Authorities and Cost Outline
Why it was my favourite:
  • It was super rewarding seeing my research being used in legal documents and discussed in court. I had heard so much about summary judgement motions in law school, so it was such a great experience finally seeing one in action. I also loved seeing the different oral advocacy styles of counsel.
What I learned:
  • Real life litigation is even more exciting than a moot court. Good advocates can have completely different styles.


Karolina

Favourite assignment:
  • I have a few favourites, and one of them is something I’m doing now: helping a lawyer prepare for trial.
Why it was my favourite:
  • I helped draft the pre-trial memo for this file, so when it began heading to trial, I was excited to get a glimpse into the process. Putting together the trial brief is a satisfying process on its own, but I enjoy preparing for the performative aspects even more. I mooted competitively in law school, both at the trial and appellate levels. I’ve also taken improv classes for fun. Taking the first crack at drafting the opening/closing and examinations is not only fun, but it’s also incredibly instructive on persuasive advocacy and evidence.
What I learned:
  • While we’re still in the midst of things, I’ve already learned to expect nothing but prepare for everything. While I tried to organize my workload around this assignment, I didn’t realize preparing for trial would be this all-encompassing. I have a number of other large projects, including a small claims trial that will take place shortly after this trial. Time-sensitive assignments can and do come up when you least expect it. I will be moving everything forward with these two trials at the forefront. A trial is the “final act” of a file, and as they say, ‘the show must go on’.


Lee

Favourite assignment:
  • Drafting the initial opinion for a subrogated fire loss claim.
Why it was my favourite:
  • It’s interesting, challenging, and I learned a lot in the process. Initial opinions to clients are an important step in the litigation process, even though they exist outside of the court process. Initial opinions are the first opportunity we have to demonstrate an early mastery of the facts leading to our client’s loss and chart a way forward for its resolution.
What I learned:
  • I found the assignment challenging because I have a long way to go before I master litigation strategy! Luckily, I was able to review some sample plans for similar cases and work closely with the partner in developing the opinion.
What I’ll do differently next time:
  • If I knew then what I know now, I would definitely consult more litigation plans, looking at the different strategies we’ve used as a firm to be successful in winning cases like this. I was very happy to draft and revise the entire opinion, discussing it with an Associate and a Partner along the way. Ultimately I got to see a final product that was predominantly my work going to our client, and I learned a ton along the way.


Priya

Favourite assignment:
  • My favourite assignments so far have been drafting mediation briefs.
Why it was my favourite:
  •  Drafting a mediation brief gave me the opportunity to exercise written advocacy.


 Theo

Favourite assignment:
  • My favourite assignment during articling was being given my own small claims file.
Why it was my favourite:
  • It was my favourite for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it was completely nerve-wracking. In most other tasks I am assigned, I am not the head point of contact on the file. Having that responsibility was a challenge and an opportunity that I welcomed and only made me better. All of my actions carried a different weight compared to other assignments because it was my name that was being attached to it. It also provided a great foundation from which to build off of and I felt it really took me to another level in terms of my confidence and aptitude.
What I learned:
  • Aside from the bigger events like preparing for a settlement conference, I also learned about the finer details such as communicating with the client and other parties. I learned how to manage expectations and confidently give my opinion on the status of the matter. These behind the scenes communications are every bit as essential, and they’re not something I was always privy to. Additionally, I learned when it comes to pleadings to ensure that you are thorough and cover all possible angles of your case and leave no stone left unturned.
What I’ll do differently next time:
  • The next time I am given my own file I will be better equipped to hit the ground running. I wouldn’t necessarily do things very differently as new cases also come with fresh issues and nuances, but I would definitely have fewer questions regarding the process and how to navigate it. 


Yousef

Favourite assignment:
  • My favourite assignment was to bring an application under the Repair and Storage Liens Act for the return of an article that was improperly seized.
Why it was my favourite:
  • It was my favourite assignment because at the time I was unfamiliar with the legislation and it was a chance to explore an area of law that I hadn’t yet experienced.
What I learned:
  • I had the opportunity to communicate back and forth with the client and the insured throughout the completion of the application which was a great learning experience.


Conclusion

Even writing this blog post was a learning experience. What I learned from interviewing my fellow students is that we have all had diverse and varied experiences. I’ve been lucky enough to try some of the “favourite assignments” listed above, but some I still haven’t. There’s still a lot to look forward to. The great thing about this profession is I don’t think we’ll ever stop learning.