Thursday, 5 August 2021

Summer Student's End of Term - Lesson's Learned

As the 12-week summer student program comes to an end this week, I have been reflecting on how much I’ve learned in what feels like such a short amount of time. There were hundreds of questions I had when I first began 12 weeks ago. 

"Here are some of those questions and I'll share what I learned along the way."

How many hours should I be spending on each assignment?

One of the most perplexing concepts to me was calculating what was a reasonable amount of time to spend on each assignment. What I quickly came to realize is that every assignment is very different. While the first time around I was slower to finish or underestimated how much time the assignment would take, but I picked up things along the way. My longest assignment was summarizing a Plaintiff’s Affidavit of Documents production of 6,000+ pages, which took me multiple days to complete. My shortest assignment was drafting a consent which took me 15 minutes to draft. I quickly learned which type of assignments require longer turnaround times to complete, and my fellow students were a great reference to turn to. Many times, one of the other students had a similar assignment and I asked them approximately how long it took them to complete. This helped me plan my own calendar in terms of due dates.

How will I organize my assignment list?

This is one of those things where there is no “right” method but there sure can be wrong ones. How to organize an assignment list is a very personal preference. For myself, the outlook calendar works best, I simply drag and drop the email assignment into my calendar. I can then track the due dates and instructions all in one spot. Other students have mentioned their different methods, such as using excel spreadsheets or a personal agenda. There is no wrong way as long as it tracks everything one is assigned including due dates and has the ability to find potential conflicts with other assignments.

How often will I be speaking with the lawyers at the firm?

I quickly came to realize how friendly and collegial McCague Borlack is when I had many phone calls during my first week. Any lawyer who assigned me work would reach out with a quick phone call or zoom call to walk me through the assignment, answer any questions I may have, and just have a quick chat about how I was finding my first weeks in the program. While initially the thought of speaking to lawyers on such an often and casual basis was daunting, I quickly realized, by simply reaching out, they are more than happy to lend a helping hand and walk me through any difficulties.

How will feedback be provided to me?

So, I hand in my first assignment, and all I can think of is how will the lawyer respond? Typically, 'no response' can be a good response, it usually means the work was acceptable and so there was no feedback needed to be given. Other lawyers sent a quick email of thanks, clarifying that the completed work was satisfactory. Other times, lawyers would email or call with changes required, or they sent an assignment back with edits and track changes on the document. Either of these methods has one thing in common: the intention was for me to learn. Through every mistake made on an assignment, I was taught the correct way of doing things. It’s a learning process, and not everyone gets it right the first time, nor does anyone expect me to get it right on the first try. When receiving feedback, implementing the changes was paramount but learning for future assignments and practice was just as important.

Once you begin your own journey into the summer and articling programs, you will have many other questions. My advice is to breathe, trust in yourself and your ability to learn and grow, and never be afraid to reach out for help or clarification. You too will be surprised how much you can learn in one summer.

by Anita Z.