Friday 21 June 2024

Survey Says...

image from khan.zein554159

On Monday morning Ashley, the Student Director, emailed each of the eight summer students: “Please complete the attached questionnaire and send it back to me.”

The questionnaire was a survey with a list of tasks such as “drafted statement of claim”, and “worked on a personal injury claim, etc.,” with the option to select “yes” or “no” upon completion of the task.

Monday marked four weeks since we began working as summer students at MB, the time flew by, which wasn’t surprising. What was surprising, however, was the multitude of tasks we had been exposed to in those four short weeks. I filled in “Yes” to nearly half of the survey.

During OCI’s and In Firm Interviews last September, everyone in the interviews boasted about MB’s summer program and the hands-on experience the summer students receive. I’ll admit I was skeptical. How could such a program be possible? I had always been told that summer students -- especially those at downtown firms in Toronto -- would be tasked with nothing more than file production, research, and memo writing. Pre-OCIs, I expected my summer to be spent on Westlaw.

Then, in November, when I first visited MB in person, I was elated to learn that the summer students are exposed to meaningful litigation experiences during their term. While still skeptical, the MB articling students, outside of the interview, really drilled in the notion that things are different here.

In fact, Ashley has made it her mission to ensure that every single summer student attended both a mediation and an ED in their first few weeks. I was taken aback by this commitment. I thought I would be lucky if I attended a single ED all summer; I had no idea that exposing the summer students to these proceedings was the expectation, not the hope.

While not all work can be as exciting as attending a heated mediation, I’ve found that even the more “tedious” tasks -- i.e. drafting damages briefs or affidavits of documents -- are stepping stones to learning about the entire litigation process. The best way to learn about the development of a case is to analyze every single relevant document. I now have a much greater understanding of the way a file progresses, and how and why certain steps in the litigation process are taken.

Drafting statements of claim, statements of defence, mediation briefs, and initial reports has kept me engaged in client files. These tasks all serve their own unique purpose in the development of a case, which is why I am grateful for the opportunity to work on them.

After four weeks at MB, I am delighted at how many meaningful tasks we have been allowed to work on. Come August, I’m certain I’ll be able to complete Ashley’s survey to nearly 100%.

By Jordan J

Thursday 13 June 2024

My First Assignment and Other (Not-So) Scary Things

The first day of work is always daunting, there’s no way around it. Thanks to the orientation program at McCague Borlack, I felt as well prepared as I possibly could be. But of course, I was nervous when that email went out announcing:

"The Summer Students are available to take on assignments." 

So many questions ran through my mind – What if I don’t know where to start? What if I take too long to complete my tasks? What if I can’t keep up with the workload?

The Summer Student program works off of a list system for assigning tasks -- a.k.a. "The List". A lawyer's work request comes through a group email account and is assigned to whichever student is next on the list. Within the first few days, I realized how useful this system is. It ensures that no one works exclusively with one lawyer or in one area of law and that we experience different types of work and working styles. It also ensures students aren't competing for assignments, making it much easier to work as a team.

Back to that first assignment

When the list came around to me, I was incredibly nervous for my first meeting with the assigning lawyer. Luckily, everyone at MB is supportive and understands that this is likely our first time doing this type of work. I felt comfortable asking questions and was given useful precedents to get me started.

I was also surprised at how nervous I was when handing in my first assignment. A new set of questions ran through my mind – What if it’s not what they wanted? What if I did it wrong? What if they don’t check my work and an error slips through the cracks? Again, these worries were unwarranted. The assigning lawyer thoroughly checked my work and discussed changes with me so I understood what was needed for next time.

After a few weeks in

The nerves wear down with each new assignment that comes in, and I've found MB truly has a great support system where no question or concern is left to fester. With these first few weeks on the books, I realize what an amazing team I get to be part of, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn in a supportive environment.

by Emily O.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Summer Student Orientation Week

Every student feels the nerves that come with starting a new job. Transitioning from the classroom to the office is always a significant adjustment. Prior to the start of summer orientation week, our Student Director, Ashley Faust, made sure we were well-prepared to commence our journey with McCague Borlack. We are lucky to have Ashley as a mentor as she was not only a summer and articling student at MB, but she is the lead lawyer on a number of files, enabling her to share all of her experiences with us eager students.

My fellow summer students and I received a detailed orientation schedule outlining the activities for the weeks ahead.

This schedule was so helpful to ensure we were prepared for the start of the summer term, which greatly eased the stress from the start. It made day one so much easier for us to navigate and gave us many exciting things to look forward to. It also provided our first glance inside the firm’s multifaceted practice areas.

Every day of orientation was filled with plenty of insightful presentations, seminars and activities. We were given the opportunity to learn from many of the firm’s amazing lawyers about their practice. This allowed us to have a variety of insights into the different ways each person would tailor their files based on their personal preferences. While the program prepared us for the work that we had to look forward to, it was also a great way to get to know the incredible people that make up the firm’s staff. Everyone gave us plenty of time to ask questions about anything that we could think of and made us feel so welcome.

Despite the focus being on preparing us for the substantive work that makes up much of the summer, we were given plenty of fun breaks to ensure that we could stay energized for the next activity. Some of the fun activities included playing Scattergories and participating in the annual student Brownie Baking Bonanza (which turned out to be the best brownie recipe I have ever tried!). This week was an amazing way to get to know the other students, especially those I am now in the Ottawa office with every day.

With the summer program having just kicked off fully, the orientation experience was so helpful in preparing me for the start of the work period. Not only did it give us a great overview of the summer term ahead, but it also ensured that we were able to seamlessly transition into being in the office every day. Even though I took notes and paid attention during orientation (with the help of a few coffees), there was still so much to learn/re-learn once we got started officially. But everyone at the firm is so helpful in teaching you the best practices, tips and tricks to help you succeed. Now, I wonder why I was ever worried at all.

To any future summer students reading this: even if you feel like you know nothing, someone will always be willing to help. I have learned so much from asking questions and doing my own exploration of the firm’s systems. While I know that I still have a long way to go before I am comfortable, I am confident anyone I ask will happily jump in to help. The firm culture is truly special in terms of the willingness to support the summer students with all our needs. We know that we will make mistakes, but this is part of the experience. We will be better for it by the end of the summer.

by Alexander D.