Wednesday 13 September 2023

A Recipe for Success: The Similar Challenges of Articling and Starting Law School

image adapted from pexel

As I began my journey as an articling student, I quickly realized that all the same feelings I had when starting 1L came back to hit me like a brick wall. The excitement of starting a new chapter in my life, the nerves associated with the what-ifs and of course, the unrelenting sense of existential dread wondering if I really have what it takes to be a lawyer.

"These were only a handful of the many emotions I felt during both these new beginnings."

The best word of advice I can give to those finishing law school is that the transition to practice isn’t exactly going to be smooth sailing. But remember– you made it this far already– which likely means that you already have all that is needed in your figurative “legal kitchen cabinet” to whip up a recipe for success.

Here’s what you’ll need…

Two Cups of Organization and Adaptation

In law school, you quickly get into the habit of staying on top of your readings, going to class and creating summaries for exams. As an articling student, you will need that same level of routine and organization. You’ll have to get into a pattern of checking in with the next steps for files, docketing your time, answering emails, etc. or else you’ll feel scrambled. Remember those growing pains with the first few weeks of adjusting to life as a law student, well, the same thing is going to happen when you start articling. You’ll get into the swing of things in no time but expect the unexpected. You never know when an urgent assignment will force you out of your element just like a professor cold calling you in class. This will be no problem if you add a bit of adaptability into the mix. 

 Equal Parts Trying New Things and Learning How to Fail

The bread and butter at MB is insurance defence but there is a whole bunch of other work that comes through the door. Test the waters because this is the time to figure out where you want to focus your practice in the future. Who knows, you may end up loving an area of law you never had a taste of just like that one class in school you put into your schedule because nothing else fit. Don’t be afraid of trying something new because you don’t want to get it “wrong”. Grades are no longer your focus and besides, there is never a perfect answer when it comes to the law anyway. Just do your best, get the easy things right, be reliable and think of how you can add value to advance a file.

A Pinch of Competence and Confidence

As a first-year law student, I remember feeling imposter syndrome. How do I draft a legal memo? What’s a factum? How do I approach my first law school exam? These things become a breeze by the time you complete your studies. You’ll have the same feelings as you start articling; however, the more exposure you get to basic litigation tasks, the more confident and competent you become in knowing how to tackle whatever assignment comes at you.

Garnish With Some Rest and Relaxation

At the end of the day, no recipe is complete if it isn’t made with a little love (or R&R in the case of articling students)!

In law school, you have deadlines for papers and exams and you will have similar expectations when articling. I remember like it was yesterday the fall of 1L and the rush of due dates for assignments while trying to balance studying for exams. Of course, this was followed by the lull of the second semester. During articling, you will have the same ebbs and flows, so take advantage of the downtime getting ahead on files but also doing things you enjoy. Yes, you need to work hard and meet deadlines because you are setting yourself up for your future career, but you also need to take time for yourself.

As a final thought, just know that you’ll be fine. Think back to how you developed and grew from your first to last year of law school. Similarly (and hopefully), things will get easier as time goes on during your articling experience and you get to learn how the law works in practice.