Wednesday 2 November 2022

Speaking on my very first motion…alone!

image combined from pexel
DING DING. Off goes the list serve notification, and a new assignment has just come in for me. As I read the email, suddenly I am hit with a wave of excitement, and then utter fear. I have just been assigned to speak at an unopposed motion to request an adjournment…alone. Every litigator loves being in the courtroom, and consequently, I have always dreamed of speaking in court. However, now that the dream was about to be a reality, I felt immensely unprepared. >

"How am I supposed to speak in front of a real judge? How am I being trusted with this? What if I screw up big time? So many questions were rushing through my head."

As articling students, we are afforded the opportunity to speak at all types of motions. Despite this motion being unopposed, I knew this does not diminish the level of preparation I would require. I instantly knew that in order to be prepared for this, I needed to take advantage of all the resources available to me at McCague Borlack. First, I called the assigning lawyer, and he walked me through everything I needed to know. I was to look through all the materials, including the motion record, supporting motion record, evidence, and pleadings. I reviewed these in-depth, as my motto in life has always been that there is no such thing as over-preparation (we can debate this another time). Once I felt like I really had the materials down and understood the case, I began to draw a very sparse outline of points I want to make sure I cover. You never want to be reading from a script in front of a judge. However, it can be a nice piece of mind to have a few bullet points near you of the main gist of what you want to say, especially for your first time. I picked this practice up from my mooting days which was now proving to be an asset in terms of experience. Once the sparse outline was done, I got to practicing in front of a mirror to ensure I was prepared to articulate what I was seeking from the judge in a professional and competent manner.

Despite my preparation, I was still terrified the morning of. Every lawyer I spoke to told me I would be fine and not to stress, but I was still worried about all the “what ifs”. I made it to be some monster it wasn’t. I attended the motion (on zoom, as most motions are still being heard through video conference), outlined to the Associate Judge what exactly we were seeking, directed her to the exhibits which supported what we sought, and evidenced that the motion was unopposed. The next thing I know, the Associate Justice told me the adjournment has been granted and the endorsement will be sent shortly. I was dumbfounded – it was all over within 10 minutes! The first thing I thought to myself was that I had shed a skin. I had my first independent appearance in court and didn’t fail. It was an amazing learning opportunity and I know I will be less terrified for the next opportunity to appear independently in court. And yes, I say less terrified because let’s be real; the nerves never truly leave in entirety.

Monday 24 October 2022

How I survived My Busiest Week of Articling (so far)

The articling experience is about learning to become a practicing lawyer and a significant part of it involves developing time management skills. This is critical for a litigator. What I am quickly realizing is that while you can try to formulate a plan to divide your tasks a few days ahead, it can often change so quickly. The key is to adjust and recognize that at McCague Borlack, you have a team of people ready to assist you.

"Our common goal is to always get the job done for the benefit of the client."

In the 8 to 10 months of an articling student’s term, there is bound to be at least one week where everything seems to come all at once. Last week just happened to be one of those weeks for me.

On Monday, I had come in early to plan out my weekly schedule. The prior week, I received numerous rush assignments. So naturally, the assignments I had planned on finishing way in advance had to be done this week instead. Thus, my schedule already had to shift from the start.

I created what I thought was the perfect schedule in which I would meet all my deadlines with time to spare. However, all of a sudden mid-week, a variety of new tasks came in on files I had worked on previously and needed to be addressed on an urgent basis. All my careful planning had to be set aside to complete these more urgent and interesting new matters.

Fortunately at MB, we have a student director, lawyers, and fellow students who understand that a litigation file can have many twists and turns and are always available to assist and work as a team for a common goal. With their help, I was able to meet all my deadlines and finish the tasks I planned for the week.

Lessons learned

The biggest lesson I learned from my busiest week is how to better manage my time and plan around unexpected rush assignments, as you never know when they will come. I will do this in the future by scheduling to finish the assignments I receive way in advance of the actual deadline if possible and being honest with the lawyers upfront about my capacity to deliver the assignment within their preferred deadline.

I also learned that fellow articling students can be your biggest resource during the articling term as they have been there for me when I needed them the most. I am so grateful to be able to have other articling students to reach out to for help during my busiest times. I could not wish for a better group of students to have been able to share this experience with. 

Friday 23 September 2022

Taking a Lesson from Jon Snow

image from pixabay

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

Also known as the Socratic paradox, this principle allegedly uttered by the Greek philosopher Socrates is a great lesson in humility, critical reflection, and—when using it as an excuse for the C-minus grade you got in one of your courses—self-referential humour.

Unlike my fellow articling students, I’m brand-spankin' new. I don’t just mean that I’m new to McCague Borlack... I’m new to the practice of law itself. That’s right, articling is my very first venture into the legal profession as a (now graduated) law student, after forgoing the traditional summer student placements during the completion of my JD.

While this has certainly been a learning curve for all of us students, it goes without saying that the articling experience has been quite different for me compared to my colleagues. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harder or more challenging, it’s just different.

For starters, given my severe lack of prior firm experience and having taken no particularly relevant elective courses in law school, I knew nothing.

Honestly, that might be generous. I probably knew less than nothing, which is an even greater (or lesser?) amount of nothing than our old pal Jon Snow from Game of Thrones knew. It’s a weird flex, but I’ll tell you why it’s OK.

It’s because I knew that I knew nothing.

To know that you know nothing is incredibly humbling, especially in an industry that radiates (perhaps a little too much) confidence. It gave me no reason to inflate my ego or pretend to be someone I wasn’t because I knew that any attempts at the sort would immediately be recognized for what it was… BS. In that regard, it definitely wouldn’t have served me well to act like I knew how to do a task that I was assigned when I didn’t, lest I wanted to face the wrath of angry lawyers impatiently waiting for the drafted AODs or memos they asked for weeks ago.

But really, knowing that I knew nothing was an opportunity. It was an opportunity that allowed me to learn, ask questions, and grow, both inwardly and outwardly.

A month and a half into articling, I can positively say that I know more now than I did when I started. But at the same time, I recognize that I still know nothing. Because total knowledge isn’t achievable. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because rainbows, fun fact, are a full circle. Knowledge is an endless journey that one must strive to retain, as there is always something new to learn. Suffice it to say, I look forward to seeing where this journey takes me next.

By Matt D. 

Tuesday 6 September 2022

…And We’re Back - WFH vs. In-office experience


image by pixelbay

"They say articling is like riding a bike. Okay, maybe no one says that but so far it’s been true."

Having returned to the office, I'm surprised at how much I’ve retained from my summer student experience.

After being completely remote for the past two years, I am excited to say that the articling program is nearly entirely in person! Going into the office every day means that we finally get to put faces to names, and it has also provided a new avenue of getting work outside the list serve. Lawyers can now drop by our desk which increases the flow and variety of the type of files and assignments we receive. Already, it has made a difference in building relationships and receiving guidance from the lawyers when you can just pop by their office. 

In the few weeks since articling started, I’ve had a diverse array of assignments including drafting statements of claim, motion records, and preparing affidavit of documents just to name a few. Similarly, I’ve received work in various practice areas including construction, subrogation and defence work. Compared to the summer term, I am noticing more opportunities to stay involved with files longer. Given that articling is ten months compared to three in the summer, assignments now come with follow-up assignments. This often includes research, communicating with opposing counsel, or the opportunity to assist with further drafting assignments. It has been an amazing experience to begin to see a file through from start to finish. 

It is safe to say, the articling program at MB is full of hands-on work, and we will not spend the entire year doing research assignments. While the pace of articling moves faster than being a summer student some things remain the same. Namely, our biweekly student check-in meetings and the students from different offices still enjoy getting together for Friday lunch over zoom!

 One month down, nine to go!

by Winona F.

Monday 15 August 2022

Articling Students 2022

Welcome back to our summer students of 2021 who are now our articling students 2022 - Anita Zamani, Winona Fitch, Alexandria Bonney, Dominique Mesina and one new face Matt DeSumma. To read their bios see our student page.

Thursday 11 August 2022

Learning the Law, and the Trade

During my summer at MB, I was actively involved in several Small Claims Court files (topics of the files mentioned in this post have been changed due to confidentiality concerns). This was an interesting experience, but also a difficult one. 

To be involved in a Small Claims Court file, charged with reviewing the evidence and assisting in the matter, was a daunting task. However, what I soon found more daunting was the knowledge required to complete the claim.

In one file, the matter concerned technical issues in a certain trade. Claims of negligence, improper workmanship, and general inefficiencies were thrown around. I may be pretty handy with repairs at home, but the skill with which these individuals were working, the specificity and specialization of their trade, it was something I had absolutely no knowledge of. Law school had prepared me to know the standard of care, but the details of that standard, the specificity of it in person, in this specific trade, was something I knew nothing about.

This was magnified in another case that demanded specific performance. We knew what the client had to do. We could name it, inform the client that it needed to be done, and we could supervise as they conducted the work. We even knew what it would be like when it was finished. We knew point A (where we were) and point B (what it would look like when the task was completed). But, in a very real sense, I had no idea how exactly to get from point A to point B.

My knowledge of the steps required to complete the specific performance was derived from the information provided to me by the client, and the evidence accumulated during the progress of the claim. It goes without question that I familiarized myself with the legal boundaries involved in the claim, but oftentimes, it seems the law establishes these boundaries without defining the specific steps required. So, sure, I could say with confidence that the client could not leave all the excess drywall in the middle of the road. However, if they told me that removing it with an electrical knife was more efficient than a sledgehammer, I wouldn’t be able to disagree in any meaningful way.

When we encountered difficulties in undertaking a specific method of performance, it was the client who suggested an alternative method. Of course, we did our due diligence on the legal impacts of this method, and we made all necessary inquiries. But when there were no legal issues, it was the client who was the expert on the matter, and it was our position to watch them do their work.

I never believed as a lawyer that I would be the master of all knowledge. Hell, I doubt I will even come close to mastering one area of law. But, to me, it was amazing to see that the law truly operates at the nexus of everything else. With a claim involving electrical work, a lawyer need not be an electrician, but having any knowledge of electrician work is quite the asset. With personal injury claims, lawyers are not doctors, but I was amazed at the breadth of my colleagues’ knowledge on medical matters (and their ability to read a doctor's handwriting!) This experience, more than any other, really hammered home the idea that it is a litigator’s position to guide the parties through the legal system, not to engage in their work.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Field Trips – Expect the Unexpected!

picture from pexel

Summer student field trips at McCague Borlack can range from examinations of discoveries to mediations, pre-trials, arbitration and motions – all key parts of civil litigation.

  • An examination of discovery is a procedural part of litigation when the parties get to see what the other side’s facts, evidence and defence are. 

  •  Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution where an unbiased third party helps resolve the dispute between the two parties to reach a resolution.

    Both an examination of discovery and a mediation happen outside of the court.
  • A motion is a process by which one party submits a request to make an order to a Judge. The length of which varies, as it really depends on what is at issue and whether on consent. A basic consent motion can be less than 5 minutes, whereas a complicated multi-party motion can take up the better part of a day.
Students at MB play an active role in these field trips, often assisting with preparing key documents, and/or taking notes. These notes usually become part of the client report and are used throughout the life of the file.

Recently, I attended a motion where we were trying to get an adjournment. When we realized an adjournment would not be granted, instead, our lawyer had to make submissions (which are oral arguments) on the main issue. I did not expect submissions to be done during a motion, and that amped up the excitement of the field trip. Although this unpredictability seemed stressful at first, I learned from the lawyer on the file that litigators must be prepared for anything. As he stated, “Hope for the best but expect and plan for the worst!” Of course, he had the full submissions prepared and ready in case. 

Getting to hear litigators be zealous advocates in real-time, while also having my notes used for the client’s report makes me feel like I am contributing in a meaningful way and allows me to harness my own professional development.

That’s litigation – the learning curve is high, and the work is truly one of a kind.

Thursday 14 July 2022

Learning by Doing: Examination for Discovery

One of the highlights of my summer thus far has been attending a lengthy examination for discovery (or ‘discovery’, for short) with senior counsel. While the examination took place over the course of 4 days a few weeks ago, my work on the file has been ongoing ever since. It’s always great when you can continue to do work on a file to see how it progresses and how your contribution makes an impact!

You might be wondering (like I was just a few weeks ago), what even is an examination for discovery?

Well, discoveries are a pretty significant part of civil litigation that take place before the trial. I like to think of discoveries as getting a “sneak peek” into the other side’s case. The lawyer has the opportunity to ask questions to the opposing parties about the issues at hand as well as the evidence that they provided. The proceeding is less formal than a trial: it happens outside of court, but the parties are still required to make an oath.

Prior to the discovery, I took some steps to make sure I was properly prepared. The very first step was to speak with the lawyer I was attending with. Since this was a pretty complicated case, she gave me a nice overview and a few good starting points for familiarizing myself with the case. There were over 2000 documents associated with the file but luckily, I didn’t have to review everyone! Instead, the lawyer pointed to some key documents like the Statement of Claim where I could gain a good understanding of the case. I quickly learned that the case was about a corporation suing former employees alleging that they committed fraud. Crazy!

The discovery took place virtually over zoom with a court reporter present. Despite the very contentious issues involved, the lawyers had a good rapport with each other and exchanged pleasantries. Everyone also gave me a warm welcome to the practice of law!

During the discovery, my task was to observe and take notes. In particular, it was important to keep track of what is known as “undertakings.” This happens when the opposing lawyer does not have the answer to a question you asked right away, but the information might be available at a later date. The lawyer can “undertake” to provide an answer and/or request additional information to do so.

The lawyers went right into asking questions to the witnesses once we were on the record. They also gave witnesses the opportunity to seek clarification or rephrase questions if they were not sure of what was asked of them. It was really interesting to see the different examination strategies used by each of the lawyers, and how they used the evidence to their advantage. Things definitely heated up at times, but the lawyers and witnesses remained respectful of each other throughout.

After the discovery, I was eager to remain involved with the file on the next steps. I assisted in preparing a Discovery Report by providing summaries from my notes, which were then sent to the client! I also created undertakings schedules that will be sent to opposing counsel to ensure we receive the requested information. All in all, my first discovery was a great success and I am looking forward to attending many more and hopefully running the show myself one day!

Thursday 30 June 2022

The Summer Students' First Day In Person!

Although we summer students have been working at MB for over a month now, the firm's offices have been effectively closed since COVID hit in 2020. But, Ashley Faust, our fearless leader and Student Director, pushed and pushed for the firm to have us back in the office this summer… AND it worked! 

As of this week, all of MB’s students were back in the office and it was great (to say the least)!

The day started around 10 a.m. when we were greeted by Ashley in the lobby of our building. We walked to the elevators and up to the 27th floor we went! I can speak for all of the students in saying that the office environment was very well organized, very bright, and an overall really nice surprise! We went over to our designated student area, where our desks were adorned with monitors, keyboards, mouses and LOTS of space. A common thought that students have about the office is that they will be working in windowless, dark cubicles for the summer. I can say with confidence that that’s not the case at MB! Our cubicles are spacious, with large desks, tons of windows with gorgeous Toronto views, and lots of spots to put your personal items.

I was largely impressed by the culture of the office environment. It was really great to see the excitement with which all the lawyers had while greeting their colleagues (and friends) that they had not seen much of (if at all) since the office closed in 2020. All of the lawyers which us students know by name took plenty of time to greet us and get to know us in person – which was a really great touch. As students at MB, you certainly do not feel overlooked. 

 Then, Kathryn Stroscher, the HR Manager, gave us a tour of MB’s two-floor office and the building. The tour included the amenities in the underground PATH, the food court, the most convenient ways to get in (and out), and of course the COVID and fire safety protocols. I’m not sure what I expected, but the office is huge! I know it’ll take me some time to learn the lay of the land.

 After settling into our desks, and chatting about our new and exciting surroundings, we finally got to work. At around 1:30 p.m., we ventured out of the office for lunch. Our summer cohort is very fortunate that we get along so well. We were missing, Naomi, one of our fellow students because she was at a discovery, but lunch was still a blast! 

 For the rest of the afternoon, we worked at our desks exchanging comments and questions between the students, got to know the lawyers and associates better, and got comfortable in our new office space. I headed home at around 5:30 p.m. (my usual log-off time) and relaxed! 

by Madeleine C.

Monday 27 June 2022

My First Mediation

As a student at MB, I am given the opportunity to attend “field trips,” which allows me to attend pretrial conferences, discoveries, and mediations.

"Recently, I attended my first “field trip” which was a mediation."

During my first two years of law school, I participated in numerous moot competitions. However, unlike a moot competition which consists of a hypothetical scenario, this mediation consisted of facts and parties who are directly affected by the outcome of the case. I didn’t know what to expect from the mediation or how the disputing parties would work together to reach a resolution. What I did know going into the mediation is that it would involve a mediator (a neutral third party) who helps facilitate communication between the opposing parties with the hope of ultimately reaching a settlement that is beneficial for all parties involved.

Going into the mediation, I was asked to review the mediation briefs of the plaintiff and defendant. This was a helpful exercise in preparation for my attendance, as it gave me a glimpse into how each side was going to present their case on the day of the mediation.

The virtual mediation began with the mediator exchanging pleasantries with counsel. Despite the adversarial nature of litigation, counsel was friendly with one another and engaged in small talk, which is not what I had expected.

Then the mediator gave an opening statement to provide an overview of the mediation process. The plaintiff and defendant’s counsel then each presented their case. It was captivating to observe each side's persuasive oral advocacy skills when presenting their case.

After opening statements were heard, we were off to the races. The mediator helped facilitate the exchange of settlement offers between the plaintiff and defendant. It was great being able to observe counsel strategize and engage in various negotiation techniques, which helped me realize that there is an art to negotiation.

The informal nature of mediation allowed the disputing parties to exchange settlement offers confidentially, which meant that any settlement discussions at mediation would remain confidential and cannot be shared at trial. This proved to be highly beneficial as it allowed both parties to negotiate settlement offers that they otherwise might not be open to.

In the end, although the parties were making progress, there were several issues still in dispute with respect to damages and liability. Accordingly, it was difficult for the parties to reach a settlement.

While this mediation started off as an opportunity to take notes and absorb as much knowledge as I could, it quickly turned into an opportunity where I am now involved in the next steps of the file. Overall, the mediation was a fantastic experience and I’m excited to attend many more “field trips” this summer and learn as much as I can.

by Chanpreet S.

Monday 20 June 2022

What's happened so far: the first few weeks...

Image  from Pixabay

The transition from student to practitioner can be daunting. So, what are some of the things I’ve encountered in the few weeks since beginning my summer at MB? As a student at a litigation boutique, my day-to-day work typically involves assisting with preparing various court documents and legal research. From the day the students began working on files after our orientation...

"I was immediately immersed in interesting files and provided meaningful and essential work to move a file forward."

Whether it be affidavits, motions, briefs or research memos, we always walk through the matter with the lawyer assigning the task through a call or conference. This is imperative because, as students, it’s essential we understand what’s expected of us. It also allows us an opportunity to ask as many questions as we need to be able to tackle the assignment. And when I say, “as many questions as we need,” I mean it. The culture at MB is one of support and collaboration. This means that the lawyers understand that as much as we are there to aid with matters, they are there to guide us in becoming expert litigators.

In addition to the meaningful assignments, I’ve had the opportunity to attend “field trips.” These field trips were attending discoveries and an arbitration. These attendances, which started as an opportunity to take notes and be a sponge through observing varying styles of oral advocacy and negotiation techniques, quickly evolved into being involved in the matter through exciting follow-up assignments.

Though it has only been a few weeks, they have been rewarding and full of learning. I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

by Arjun Raju

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Initial Summer Student Experience: Here’s to Growth!

Aside from the excitement I had prior to starting as a Summer Student, I was unsure of what to expect. Will I enjoy the work? What will my colleagues be like? Will I have the necessary assistance if required? From my research of the firm, I knew I’d likely grow as both a student of the law and as an individual but I was uncertain about what that growth would entail.  

"Although my time with MB has only recently begun, I feel privileged to comment on my orientation experience."

Laying the framework for what to expect going in, I was happy to receive an orientation schedule as well as helpful aids. Our orientation was virtual, and there are plans to eventually integrate into the office. Throughout our orientation week, various firm members presented different aspects of the litigation process we’d need to familiarize ourselves with. This included handling defences, motions, subrogation, and small claims files. We also learned about firm-specific processes that law school does not teach. Questions were highly encouraged. So when the week was over, I was relieved that many of my original questions were answered. 

Along with expectations, a stable structure for receiving assignments was also laid out. MB maintains a 3-prong approach to work distribution. Assignments can be obtained by 

  1. Receiving an e-mail through the Summer Student server on a rotational basis; 
  2. Inquiring about work in areas of interest; and 
  3. Being specifically requested to take on a task. 

My first assignment was to draft a summary of a plaintiff’s productions in preparation for discovery. My second was to obtain a list of undertakings from the insured following discovery. I have also done some research, and most recently, I drafted a statement of claim. My next assignment is to review surveillance footage and reports on another matter (how cool!) I have quickly realized that assignments will vary depending on the type of file it is, expanding my overall range. A more prominent realization is that as a Summer Student, I am being trusted to handle key aspects of real-life litigation files. To say this is gratifying would be an understatement. As a future litigator, I’m thankful for the ability to further enhance my toolbox and grow.

On that note, I am happy to advise that I have only been “on the floor” for a week and I’ve already attended a two-day discovery, and have an arbitration scheduled for this week and a pre-trial at the end of the month.

Unsurprisingly, the journey of a law student is daunting at various stages. But I realize not knowing things is okay. There is no benefit to placing a perfectionist burden on myself. The most skilled, successful lawyers ask questions and endlessly learn from others. It is consistency along with curiosity and eagerness to learn that matters in the long run.

I'm eagerly looking forward to what’s to come. Here's to growth!

by Alan M.

Monday 30 May 2022

Handling my own Small Claims File

One of the best parts of my articling experience has been having the opportunity to run my own Small Claims Court files. Due to the unique rules of the Small Claims Court, articling students have standing to appear as counsel without the need for the direct supervision of a fully licensed lawyer.

Throughout the last ten months, I was handed the reigns on three small claims files. Here are the highlights of one...

My first small claims file was a subrogation matter in which we were tasked with recouping funds that were paid to a homeowner by their insurance company after their property was damaged through the negligence of two third parties. I received this file in the first month of articling through the student list. The email read: “Who wants to take on this Small Claims matter?” I eagerly replied stating that I would be assisting. I was excited but felt a pang of nervousness: where do I start? What does running a file even involve?

After a quick call with the assigning lawyer, I had a game plan: first, to draft a litigation plan. This involved reviewing the client documents and drafting an initial opinion to advise our client what the strengths and weaknesses of the case are, what information we still need to obtain, and what our chances of recovery are. I was nervous about missing the mark (this was my first real legal opinion after all!) but comforted by the fact that someone would be reviewing my work.

After doing my research and drafting an opinion, I discussed it with the lawyer. A few rounds of revisions later, I was given the green light to send it to the client. I couldn’t believe that within the first month of articling I was already communicating directly with clients!

Next, I drafted the pleadings and contacted a process server to have them filed with the court and served on the defendants. Upon completing each step, and upon receiving each of the statements of defence, I notified the client. In addition to these regular updates, I was also tasked with drafting formal status reports every 90 days, as per this client's guidelines. This taught me the importance of using a tickler system so as not to miss an internal deadline.

Due to the nature of subrogation files, my goal throughout this file has been to recoup as much of the client’s losses as quickly and for as little expense as possible. The backlog in the Small Claims Court is extreme right now due to the pandemic, and I knew we would be waiting months for a settlement conference. Therefore, I took it upon myself to email the defendants with our damages documentation and to canvass their willingness to engage in settlement discussions.

Unfortunately, because this file involved two defendants who each pointed the finger at the other, we haven’t been able to settle through informal negotiations. The good news is that the Small Claims Courts have now resumed regular operations, so a settlement conference is on the horizon. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and I’m so glad to be at a firm that gives its students so much responsibility.

I believe running these small claims files has helped set me up for success after articling, and because of these experiences, I feel much more prepared to tackle whatever is thrown at me next.

Thursday 21 April 2022

Family Law on Monday, Privacy Law on Tuesday, and Transportation Law on Wednesday...

image from pexels

Being an articling student is one of the few times in a legal career where we are afforded the opportunity to practice several different areas of law in any given week. As you may have gleaned from the title, I’ve been given this chance during my articling term with McCague Borlack LLP.

For my development, I keep track of all the assignments I complete.

"Here’s what my daily journals
look like in a typical week..."

Monday - Family Law

My week began with completing the first draft of a separation agreement for one of our clients. It was exciting because I needed to draft terms that reflected our client’s interests. This included going through a risk analysis of each key term to see if it could be used against us. Being trained at a firm that primarily does litigation work, I have been provided with insight into the ways that contractual terms can be effectively drafted to accomplish their goals.

Tuesday - Privacy Law

I was tasked with conducting legal research around the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act [PIPEDA]. After my research, I wrote to our client to advise on whether their practices and policies were compliant with PIPEDA and helped them prepare consent forms. My newfound interest in Privacy Law is entirely because of the diverse legal work I am given at our firm.

Wednesday - Transportation Law

I began a transportation law-related action in New Brunswick. This involved researching how to bring an action in New Brunswick, reviewing all the relevant documents, drafting a Notice of Action with a Statement of Claim, then serving and filing the Claim. This wasn’t the first time I had to bring an action in another province, nor will it be the last.

Thursday - Mediation

I attended a mediation for which I prepared the mediation brief. We settled, and it was amazing to see the arguments I prepared come to life and help create a positive result for our client.

As you can see, many of my weeks and days end up being filled with various areas of law. It always keeps me engaged and I look forward to assignments that have me exploring a new area.

Monday 11 April 2022

Bringing a Motion for the First Time: Step-by-Step

image from pixabay

I believed to attend and speak to a motion in Court would be a cornerstone of my articling experience. 

"Luckily, last month, I was asked to assist a lawyer to bring an unopposed motion for the first time."

This was a five-step process:

  1. Submitting the motion confirmation form: The purpose of this form is to provide the Court with all necessary information regarding the motion being brought forward, including the date and jurisdiction, the estimated time required for the motion, and the position of the parties involved.

  2. Confirming the position of all parties: The motion confirmation form must be sent to all parties for their review as a part of scheduling the motion. The party making the motion must discuss this matter with all parties and each party must confirm whether they are unopposed, opposed, or otherwise consent to this motion prior to the date of the motion.

  3. Upload documents onto Caselines: Caselines is the portal used in Ontario to ensure that the judicial official has access to your materials. Uploading to Caselines is mandatory and material that is not uploaded will likely not be reviewed in advance. Using Caselines for the first time was challenging, but with help from the articling group and the lawyer I was working with, I was able to navigate this system with ease.

  4. I also learned that the Superior Court of Justice operates with strict timelines; for instance, you need to get the Civil Motion Confirmation Form to be emailed to the court by 2:00 p.m. five days prior to the hearing, excluding weekends and holidays and motion materials must be uploaded into CaseLines at least three days in advance of the hearing. Given the rigidness of these timelines, it is beneficial to begin gathering and submitting motion materials as early as possible.

  5. Attending Court and speaking to the motion: I presented the motion to the Justice and answered any questions she had about the motion. I also had to make some edits to the draft order, so I had a Word version of the Order on hand. Since this was my first time attending Court, I made sure that I knew the matter I was speaking to very well. Answering questions requires quick and agile thinking, so it is important to be fully prepared and well-versed prior to the day of the motion.

  6. Issuing the Order with the Court and serving it on all parties: Once the relief you are seeking is obtained in the form of an Order, the Order must be issued and entered at the Courthouse. Once issued, the Order is to be served on opposing Counsel.

While speaking to a motion in Court can be a daunting process, it is also one that is exciting and rewarding!

by Kritika S.

Monday 28 March 2022

Articling in 270 rows

images merged from pexel

With final reviews and offers to come, I find myself looking back on how far I have come since I started here in August. Back then, everything seemed very foreign. Pleadings sounded like a desert and summarizing thousands of pages of productions sounded like a daunting task.

Looking at my assignment worksheet on excel (which every articling student likely has an iteration of) it looks like I have completed roughly 270 unique assignments to date. These assignments differ in complexity, length of time required to complete, and how interesting they were. In reviewing the list, I would say that there are probably seven categories of assignments that I have worked on:

  1. Pleadings (i.e., Statements of Defence, Claim, Third Party Claims, Defences, etc.);
  2. Research;
  3. Summaries (i.e., summarize affidavits of documents or undertakings productions);
  4. Review and Compile’ (i.e., affidavits of documents, books of authority, etc.);
  5. Motion Materials (i.e., affidavits, notices of motion, motion records, etc.);
  6. Written Advocacy (i.e., mediation briefs, pre-trial briefs, factums, etc.); and,
  7. Oral advocacy (i.e., speaking to a motion).

While any list is necessarily over or under-inclusive, and your mileage may vary, I would say that the list is a fair representation of an articling student’s life at a civil litigation firm.

Looking back, I am proud of how far I have come, and how much I have learned. When I interviewed with the firm, I was told something to the effect of ‘we train litigators’, and I can confidently say that that promise has been fulfilled. The firm has allowed me to be involved in each and every step of the litigation process, from the pleading stage to the execution stage, and for that, I am very grateful.

There’s no real takeaway here, but if one is required, I would say it is amazing just how much you can learn in the right setting.

by Conner S.

Monday 14 March 2022

Here's a peek into one Articling Student’s work

compiled from images on pexel

As articling students, we are given the opportunity to assist lawyers with different types of work. Our assignments vary, depending on the file’s stage in the course of litigation.

One of my past assignments required me to research case law where a party had suffered similar injuries as our client and to focus specifically on the non-pecuniary damages awarded by the court. 

My research would ultimately assist the lawyer with their post-discovery report, which must be prepared for the client after an examination for discovery. This report typically entails pertinent evidence from the examination for discovery, along with the lawyer’s revised liability and damages assessment of the file.

In order to find relevant cases, I took a three-step approach.
  1. I logged into the firm's Westlaw account, an online legal research platform. I also spoke to a Westlaw representative over the phone, who introduced me to the “Personal Injury Quantum Service” tool. By inputting certain general details, such as the type of injuries sustained, age group of the injured party, and jurisdiction, the tool populated the applicable cases along with a range of damages awarded in those cases. 

  2. Then, I met with our firm’s designated Westlaw representative over Microsoft Teams. I shared my screen, allowing me to learn more about the fascinating Westlaw platform and obtain more thorough research results. 

  3. As a final step, I sent a firm e-mail to the “MB lawyers'"group, asking for their insight on this topic. One of the lawyers directed me to the “Compendium of Damages awarded in personal injury actions across Ontario”, which was compiled by CCLA and was useful for my assignment.
The examples above are indicative of the vast variety of resources available to students for their work. While it is inevitable that we will get assignments we have never done before on topics we are unfamiliar with, what remains consistent throughout is the firm's support available to help us every step of the way.

Friday 7 January 2022

Look for a Firm That Includes Students in Decision Making

Ottawa recruitment is coming up and I remember how daunting the OCI process is. For those that aren’t aware, OCIs are when second-year law students apply for summer jobs, in hopes that the employer will ask them to article. 

"The amount of time, energy and pressure facing students during recruitment is unmatched in any other hiring process that I’m aware of."

Students write firm-specific resumes and cover letters, they submit them through the web portal and they eagerly wait to see which firms will interview them. In my year, this process was done in person. The first interview was held at the convention centre. Every 15 minutes, you’d rush off to the next interview. It’s speed dating reinvented for employment. This process went on for two days, yet classes kept going. After the initial interview, you were invited to the firm to meet more people and continue the interview process. Each firm met with selected candidates three to four times. At the end of the interview period, students eagerly wait for call day to find out if they landed a job.

The process is so stressful and cumbersome for students. I was shocked to learn it is equally taxing on the firms that participate in the program. The recruitment process is unreal. In an industry that is all about hourly targets and billables, it’s amazing how much time and effort is spent ensuring they hire not only the best candidates but the best fit for their organization.

McCague’s Student Program is spearheaded by Ashley Faust. Although a team effort, Ashley goes above and beyond to make sure the program runs smoothly. Ashley calls on current students and encourages them to be part of the interview process. That just shows how dedicated McCague is to the program. If they weren’t certain they offer their students a rewarding and challenging mentorship program, they’d never encourage current students to talk to future ones. Not only did McCague encourage our participation, but they also considered our comments when discussing who they wanted to hire. To me, that spoke volumes about the kind of collaborative, open and equal environment that McCague offers. 

 While this process was in person for me, the firms have done an excellent job mimicking the experience through zoom. This is advantageous for students because they aren’t rushing to and from firms. Plus, they may get an opportunity to meet more lawyers. I do recommend that students prepare as thoroughly as they would had the interviews been in person and not read from a script while they are on zoom.

All that being said, I recommend students look for a firm that puts them in touch with their students. That demonstrates confidence in what they have to offer and remember, you’re interviewing them as much as they are you.