Written by: Michael Graham

With the summer students finishing orientation, an articling recruit around the corner, and our year as articling students drawing to an end, the students thought we would put our heads together to come up with our best tips, tricks, and “wished-we-had-knowns.” So, in no particular order:

  1. Make an earnest effort to try to work in every area. Even if at the beginning you are only interested in a handful of practice groups, you never know what might pique your interest. This will provide a robust understanding of the work you like and the work you don’t. You might just be surprised! 
  2. Try to work with as many different lawyers as possible. It’s good to have connections throughout the firm; you never know when you might need to ask a question about shareholder agreements or the Land Titles Act.
  3. Take the initiative to observe or take part in every aspect of a practice, such as attending questionings, drafting a pleading, writing letters to clients, etc. You will find that you like some aspects more than others. But don’t let that deter you from an area of law. As you progress you can just pawn, I mean delegate, those tasks. That’s what articling students are for right?

On their face, these first three seem analogous (great lawyer word am I right?). However, each is unique, and the more combinations of practice areas, lawyers, and tasks you create, the better off you will be.

  1. Focus on learning the practice of law and on the quality of your work. Worrying about how to track your time, how many hours you log, and how long it takes to get anything done is very consuming at first. But try not to concentrate on those things. During articling, there is less pressure to bill hours than there will be when you are an Associate. Take this time to learn how to approach assignments, and what you want your practice to look like.
  2. Try to have one regularly scheduled activity outside of work. You need to be a human and foster your interests outside of work and CPLED. One student didn’t do this early on and regretted it, but then took tennis lessons for fun during the busiest months of articling and CPLED and found it helped with separating themselves from work and improved their mental health.
  3. Plan and schedule as if you will be interrupted every day. Something you have not planned for will interrupt you every day. Sometimes it is a last-minute dash to the courthouse to get something filed, or a hearing that one of the partners thinks would be great for you to observe. Other days, you and your friends get ‘stuck’ on the patio waiting for your bill to arrive. 
  4. Always carry a notebook around with you. This tip is on multiple websites and boy is it true. You will be given assignments when you least expect them. Bonus tip: If you spill something on your pants at lunch, you can walk around with the notebook in front of the stain, and no one will think twice. 
  5. Learn the layout of the courthouse. It is important for articling students to have a certain level of comfort with the courthouse. When you are on your way into morning chambers, whether virtually or in person, the last thing you want to worry about is where to go. So take a trip to the courthouse and take a look around, and try logging onto virtual court to observe at least once before your first appearance in Masters Chambers. 
  6. Use search operators when using search engines to make searches more efficient. Every search engine has its own language to help make more specific searches. Using search operators, especially for CanLII, is a great way to save time. The library staff are great at coming up with the best search terms. Learning that you can use brackets like in math (who knew lawyers need BEDMAS) was mind-blowing. And that leads us to our final tip…
  7. Know when to ask for help and who to ask for help from. The answer for when to ask is early and often. Try to figure things out on your own at first, you will learn a ton that way. But it is not worth hours on your part searching for something that a more experienced associate can likely point you to in five minutes. Who to ask varies by situation, but you will never go wrong by asking your fellow students first!

We hope these will be helpful for future students. Best of luck to everyone in their articles and careers