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.