When I told a friend that I would be articling at a full-service litigation firm in the heart of Toronto, he did not hesitate to respond with “Enjoy standing behind the photocopier all day!” While that may be many people’s perception of what students do in firms like MB, here it could not be further from the truth.
My very first assignment, 30 minutes into articling, involved communication with multiple parties in the process of drafting a Statement of Claim.
While nervous at first, I knew the detailed training I received was more than sufficient but more importantly that help is ALWAYS one phone call away (or within a few feet).
Fast forward to today, and looking back at that moment, I can clearly see how many different skills I learned in such a short time. Even though it's only been a few months, I’ve had a chance to be involved in and observe multiple court proceedings including pre-trials, Examinations for Discovery and even Trials, one all the way in London, almost 200 kilometres away from my desk.
On any given day, I may walk into the office with my morning coffee and draft claims where we represent the plaintiff. Then after lunch, I shift gears and now I’m drafting documents or preparing for proceedings where we represent the defendant. This diversity makes it possible to learn not just the craft of litigation but to experience both sides of it without the need to change seats! It also makes it possible to learn by doing in a more effective manner. It feels kind of like being a double agent because when I write a defense, I can not only refer to all our resources but also what I was thinking when I was drafting a Statement of Claim and vice versa. Something only possible in this setting.
All of this is while the work is meaningful. Coming from the legal aid clinical environment, I was used to seeing the impact of my work both in the form of the matters proceeding and the direct impact it had on clients. While there is a learning curve with literally anything a student does, the lawyers are more than happy to go the extra mile by letting the student do the tasks and be a part of the process. Making students a part of the file allows us to see how certain actions taken lead to the next steps. We can also see the different paths a particular case can go with the benefit of the context I got from being involved in its previous stages.
A benefit of being a student in this environment is there is plenty of room for self-reflection. I remember how long it took me to draft my first Statement of Claim versus how much faster I am today. That said, I still need to figure out where they keep the photocopier because I’ve been too busy becoming a litigator!