Monday 26 July 2021

Incoming articling students: What to expect during virtual orientation week


As the short summer term is quickly coming to a close, the incoming articling students are just a few weeks away from beginning their term. While Ontarian's are starting to experience some sense of normalcy as the province reopens, much of the working world is still virtual. The incoming articling students have the likely prospect of returning to the office at some point in their term. However, like myself and my fellow summer students, they will still have the experience of a virtual orientation week. This article highlights this summer’s orientation week to give all future students a rough understanding of what to expect.

This summer, Ashley Faust, the Director of the student program, organized and facilitated a 5-day orientation training in the first week of our summer term. Each day, we had between four and five training sessions, each led by a different lawyer of the firm.

The sessions ranged from substantive topics relevant to the firm’s common practice areas to topics relevant to daily firm administration. 

Substantive topics included:

  • the ABCs of civil litigation, 
  • managing a file including interactions with clients, 
  • insurance law 101, 
  • subrogation, and 
  • accident benefits. 
Conversely, the firm admin topics taught us

  • how to docket, 
  • run a small claims court file, 
  • be a good junior, 
  • an effective researcher, and 
  • be efficient in file management.
Ashley did a great job of balancing the schedule, such that we often alternated between substantive sessions and firm admin sessions. This was helpful in keeping me focused and engaged (since sitting in front of a computer screen for hours can be exhausting in itself).

As the sessions were led by different lawyers at the firm, this allowed us to meet some of our new colleagues and put faces to the names that we would soon see frequently. I appreciated this opportunity having been completely virtual this summer. Without it, it would have been incredibly daunting to start working without really knowing anybody.

During orientation, we did not have access to a firm email account, therefore, no work was assigned during the entire week. This allowed us to ease into the summer term and focus on what we were learning without any added distractions.

Ashley ran a final session each day to catch up on any content not covered in full. At this time, the students could also ask for clarification on anything covered that day. This checkpoint gave us confidence that no question would be left unanswered. (Note: we also maintained a similar checkpoint throughout the remainder of the summer).

By far, the highlight of the orientation week was our Brownie Bake Bonanza. Ashley provided her famous recipe, and one afternoon, we baked together over Zoom. While the brownies were in the oven, we joined in another Zoom call with many of the firm’s lawyers for a virtual meet and greet.

All in all, the orientation week was effective in preparing us to start our summer experience. It was also a great way to meet the faces we would be working with.

Pro-tip for incoming articling students: scroll down and read the rest of the blogs! 

by Rebecca F.

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Be a Sponge Part 2: What I Learned from my Summer Student Experience

In my last blog, I outlined all the things I planned to do to make the most out of my summer student experience. As promised, in this blog, I will let you know how everything worked out for me, as well as mention other things I learned this summer.

Every assignment is a new opportunity

In my last blog post, I said I would keep an open mind when it comes to new assignments (no matter how daunting they seemed). I am proud to say that I did just that. 

"When I was first assigned to do a report for a marine law file involving multiple jurisdictions, I felt extremely overwhelmed since I had never even heard of marine law before."

When I first started the assignment, the issue felt impossible to solve. However, instead of feeling defeated, I saw it as an opportunity to learn about an area of law that not very many lawyers I know practice. After pushing through the difficult parts and keeping an open mind, I found that I actually enjoyed learning about marine law. Through that experience, not only did I learn things I would have never learned in law school, but I also found a new area of law that is of interest to me.

Small assignments can turn into big assignments

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, when I complete an assignment or attend a field trip, I would ask the lawyer if I can be a part of the next step on the file. Sometimes, I didn’t even need to ask because the lawyer would already assign me the next step on the file. Because of this, what started out as a simple assignment has allowed me to get more involved in the development of a case. For example, after drafting an initial report recommending that we file a claim, I was able to draft the actual claim itself. Because I already had familiarity with the file, the lawyer thought I would be the best person to move the file along. This not only increased my knowledge in the different areas of law but also helped me build connections with different lawyers at the firm.

Ask and you shall receive

Whenever I had an interest in exploring a new practice area, I learned that all I had to do was ask the lawyers if they had any work in those areas. Most of the time, many of them have something I can help them with and are happy to give me assignments that I can work on. This is another way to build connections with the lawyers and gain a broad range of experience in the different practice areas.

Last but not least, your fellow summer students are one of your best resources

I am so grateful to have been able to share this experience with my fellow summer students. Whenever I receive an assignment I have never done before and I feel overwhelmed, I can just quickly shoot a message to the summer student group. Most of the time, someone else has already done it and can send you a precedent and even give you some advice. What would have taken several minutes to figure out has just been solved in a few seconds by a single message. I honestly do not know what I would’ve done without Anita, Alexandria, Rebecca, Winona and our Student Program Director, Ashley. They have been such a valuable resource to me and have made this experience truly amazing.

I am super excited to come back to article next year. I look forward to continuing to be a sponge and soaking in more knowledge and experiences (and sharing them with you again)!

by Dominique M.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Why I’m scared of the Outlook Chime: Law Student vs. Summer Student

We hear it all the time as students that law school does not prepare you for actually practising law. In my very limited experience, I have found this statement to be mostly true, but not in the ways I was expecting. 

"After almost two months into my summer student experience, here are what I’ve found to be the biggest differences between student life and working as a student within a law firm."

Expect the Unexpected

In school, it is very easy to stick to a routine. Your class schedule is set out in advance, you have roughly the same amount of readings every week, and you know from the beginning of the semester when your assignments are due (at least in theory you’re supposed to). Working in a firm, your days will always look different depending on what’s on your schedule and everything can change in an instant with one email. When I hear the new email chime from outlook I break out in a cold sweat because it could mean that my entire day has been upended by a rush assignment. I even have a minor heart attack when I hear my housemate’s email go off from another room. Despite the panic it induces, I like how my days never look the same and the variety definitely keeps you on your toes.

Assignments Can be Weird

Before I started work, I assumed that all of my assignments would be research memos. While you will definitely have to write memos as a summer student, they are not always the long tedious ordeals that law school can make them out to be. In my experience, lawyers would prefer that they are short and to the point. Similarly, when you’re assigned a research memo the lawyer is normally looking for the answer to a very specific question such as the application of a rule of civil procedure or a very specific fact scenario.

More so than just memos, I’ve found that assignments can range from document summaries to drafting, to things that you wouldn’t normally expect to be assignments. This summer I have internet stalked opposing parties, tried to determine the likelihood of whether a Moose could have been on a highway at a certain time of day and learned about every muscle, tendon and bone found in the knees while reading medical briefs.

Working with Lawyers vs for Professors

Working at a firm sometimes no news is good news. When you submit an assignment and don’t hear anything back that most often means that the lawyer was happy, and you don’t need to do any revisions. When you do get your work sent back it is often completely marked up in red. While this can be demoralizing at times, I have found having this opportunity to go back and edit has been extremely beneficial for improving my drafting skills. In law school, you have one chance to submit an assignment and you hope you get it right on the first try. At a firm because there is always a client on the other side of every assignment you take on you have to get it right but it’s ok if it takes a couple of tries to get there.

Finally, I have found that there is more collaboration at a firm than law school. Even senior lawyers can have questions and it’s encouraged to reach out firm wide to see who has any insights. It has been so helpful having a group of other summer students that you can bounce ideas off of and ask questions. Even if we’re all working on different assignments, chances are someone has already worked on something similar all you have to do is ask!

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Getting through the nerves of the OCI process

image from pixabay

Preparing and participating for recruit is no easy task. From perfecting your resume to practicing interviewing in your mirror, there is a lot of nerves, excitement, and learning involved. When I was going through the recruit, I spent a lot of time worrying about what was going to happen. 

Once it was over, I realized how much stress I unnecessarily caused myself. 

Here are my insights on how to have a successful and stress-free recruitment.

Application Materials

When it comes to preparing your cover letter and resume, make certain they capture not only the experiences you have had but also the skills you have gained. You must find a balance between providing enough information on your application materials for firms to have a sense of the highlights you bring, but not too much information to the point that it is over-cluttered. What is the point of interviews if you have nothing further to talk about?

Proof-reading is very important. Ask a friend, a parent, anyone you can find to read over your materials. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors looks like you put little effort into your application, which can be a negative factor when it comes to having your application compared to hundreds of others.

OCI/In firm Interview

So, you scored the interview(s). That is so exciting! Make sure to research the firms you will be interviewing with. Look at what areas of law they practice, their recent cases, and watch out for any buzzwords the firm uses frequently across their websites. Buzzwords can give a good inclination of what the firm finds very important.

A good way I found to practice interviewing was practicing with a friend. My roommate and I practiced interviewing each other, and the first couple times I could not get through the whole 17 minutes without feeling awkward and laughing. But if you can get through the awkwardness of doing a serious interview in front of your friend, you will be a pro by the time the real thing comes around.

An interviewer may ask about one of your past work experiences or an extra-curricular you participated in. This is an opportunity for you to tell a story, starting from an experience you had, a skill you developed, and how that will transfer into the work you hope to do for the firm. Do not just restate what you have already written down in your submission materials because they have already read that!

Bring questions for the interviewers. While they are interviewing you, you are equally as much interviewing them! My OCI interviewers left up to half the allotted interview time just for me to ask them questions. This is a great opportunity to show what research you have done on the firm, and what you would like further information on. Do not ask any questions that a quick look on their website could have answered.

Pep Talk

At the end of the day, always make sure to be yourself! It can be too easy to get caught up with imposter syndrome and to think you need to act like someone you are not, just to come off as cool, calm and collected. The problem is that interviewers can see right through it. They want to get to know the real you, so let that person shine on through! The right firm for you will be the one where the real you can be appreciated and accepted.

Something that helped me with managing stress during the OCI process was refraining from speaking about it to my friends in law school. As tempting as it is to run to others and compare who got interviews where, it is important to be mindful that the process is different for everyone. By refraining from speaking about it, when my friends and I were hanging out we were truly just having a good time and there were no stressful conversations about the latest OCI news. Of course the day after call day when everything cooled down a bit, everyone told each other the mix of news. But by refraining from these conversations during the midst of recruit, we were all able to balance our stress to a manageable level without feeling pressured or compared further by our surrounding classmates.

I wish all the incoming 2L’s the best of luck in the 2021-2022 recruit, and hope it is a memorable and fun experience to look back on as one of the milestones of law school.