Monday, 25 October 2021

The Big Jump: The voyage from law student to lawyer

Image from pixabay -  edited by web manager

As someone who had an entire career before law school, I believe I had a robust tool kit going into articling. I was familiar with deadlines and multitasking and felt that articling wouldn’t be as challenging as rumoured. I was wrong. Even seasoned business professionals will struggle during articles. Of course, the tool kit was helpful, however, I question whether law school adequately prepares you for the actual work you will be doing.

Like my fellow students, I can prioritize my time effectively and complete tasks. 

"The struggle is knowing what to do, how to do it and how long each task will take." 

For example, when asked to summarize productions, I allocated five hours. It took me almost 15! (Productions are all the material provided by the Plaintiff – including medical notes, insurance documents, receipts etc.) This miscalculation meant my other tasks kept piling up. This made me reflect on the steep learning curve.

How is it that I felt so unprepared for articling? Why didn’t I learn how to do any of these things in law school? Shouldn’t law school teach you the law and how to lawyer? Including, and this is from a litigation standpoint, how to write factums, motions, damages briefs, affidavits of documents, etc.? Of course, for every area of law, there are different forms, processes, etc., that need to be followed. Shouldn’t law school touch on these? For example, I took Real Estate law; however, I have no idea what systems to use or how to use them should I pursue a career in real estate law. That isn’t a reflection on the professor. He only has so much time to teach us. That is a reflection on the law school experience as a whole. Wouldn’t practicum courses covering docketing, litigation forms and procedures (like motions, affidavits etc.), and technology used in law be far more impactful than making business law mandatory?

In order to whole-heartedly swear an oath to be the best lawyers we can be, we need to fully understand what’s being asked of us. How would you recommend law school better prepare its students for the actual practice of law?

Currently, the responsibility of training lands squarely on the law firms hiring these students. Luckily, McCague is a remarkable organization that puts a ton of resources into training its students. We have mentors, an open-door policy (aka call anytime), and a group of students who work together. I do not doubt that my articling experience will prepare me for becoming a strong litigator. I wonder how other students will fare if they don’t have the same support?

My advice to other students is to take any practical courses you can to gain hands-on experience. That is my one regret.

I welcome feedback from other students, firms and even law schools. Perhaps together, we can make a difference for future law students so that their learning curve won’t be as steep.