Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Recap of the Second Year Summer Job Hunt

I last wrote the night before on-campus interviews (“OCIs”): those 17-minute, preliminary interviews with big Vancouver law firms. I promised to report back on my experiences, but before I get into the details, I want to make a quick disclaimer. This process was pretty competitive and intense. This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise – students across the country were vying for a small number of positions – but I think it’s worth emphasizing.

I feel extremely lucky to have come out of this whole thing with a position at a firm I really like. Without a doubt, this process didn’t end with everyone getting exactly what they wanted. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but out of approximately 200 second year students, only around 50 got jobs through OCIs. With that said, there are lots of jobs out there with firms that don’t participate in this process. This is but one possible path.

September 19th – 20th: On Campus Interviews

My nerves compelled me to be about an hour early for my first OCI. This meant I had plenty of time to scope out the set up, fret about missing classes, and make nervous chitchat with classmates while I waited. We reassured each other that our outfits were appropriate and that firms would be crazy not to hire us.

The interviews were held in small booths made out of curtains, which were not the most welcoming, but were very functional. For whatever magical reason, even though there was only a thin piece of fabric separating my interviews from others’, the acoustics were such that you couldn’t hear other people. By the time introductions had been made and hands had been shook, the other interviews melted away into background sound. This was a BIG relief because some interviews went better than others, so I could convince myself that what happened behind the curtains, stayed behind the curtains.

At the end of Day 2, I’d had so many adrenaline peaks and troughs that I was totally spent. There was a two-week wait before interview call day, when I would know the outcome of my OCIs. Interview call day is when firms call to schedule “in firm” interviews – the next step in getting a summer job.

October 17th – 19th: Interview Week

Interview week was truly an experience. I spent those three days running around downtown Vancouver, going from firm to firm, event to event. Thank heavens it was sunny. At times interview week was super fun, other times it was pretty stressful. It was an opportunity to meet scores of interesting and successful people, but it was also a week of tough decisions and some rejection.

Firms put a ton of resources into interview week (well, the whole recruitment process really). There were lunches and dinners, receptions and coffees.  I met dozens of partners, associates and students – many spent a significant amount of time answering my questions and telling me about their practices. Firms put a lot of effort into getting to know students, and while Career Services will be able to advise you better than I can, I think it’s safe to say that firms are looking for a bit of reciprocation in this process. The people I met weren’t concerned that I didn’t know what kind of law I want to practice, but they wanted to get a sense of why I wanted to work for them in particular.  They certainly gave me every opportunity to show my curiosity about their firm.

My focus for interview week was pretty general (because I don’t know what kind of law I want to practice).  I paid attention to the vibes I got from the people I met, and the kinds of things they emphasized as being important to their “firm culture”. I also asked lawyers about their pre-law background and what drew them to their practice area to get a sense of what my path might be if I ended up at their firm. Lastly, I tried to imagine what it would be like working at the firms I interviewed with.

When it was all said and done, I consider myself to be very lucky to have received an offer, and from a firm I really like. I’ve heard all sorts of stories from friends – some knew exactly who was going to be their first call with an offer; others were really surprised by who called and who didn’t.

The best advice I was given during this crazy month and a half was: Don’t read into anything. If you’re digging a firm but they don’t invite you to a lunch: don’t read into it. If you thought you nailed an OCI but the firm didn’t respond to your follow-up email: don’t read into it. If the firm gives you gifts, tells you they think you’re amazing, invites you to meet every lawyer in the firm: don’t read into it. I’ve heard lots of stories, and you may not know exactly where you stand with a firm until they call with a job offer.

For example, the firm that I will be working for this summer didn’t call me on interview call day to schedule an interview. Yup. They called me a full 30+ hours later. I thought for sure they must have gotten a cancelation and I was top of their pity list. It was hard not to read into it! But it turned out to be an awesome interview (sparks flew!), and they were my first call with a job offer (and they called me at 8:00 am sharp that time).

That’s a pretty long summary (I know), but if you have any questions- I’d be more than happy to answer them!

Applications, Admissions, and Questions Abound.

On my last post, I threw out an open request to anyone for the topic of this post. I received one (lonely) comment from a reader out there requesting me to adress the applications process and how it relates to life in law school.  So, below are my thoughts thusfar.

Disclaimer: Let me start this post by clarifying that I am from Toronto. I applied to Ontario and BC schools only, so my experience is limited to those two provinces.

The Hardest Part is Getting In.

To be honest, there is some truth to that statement. However, I think to leave it at that is a gross injustice to the amount of hard work law school students do. Depending on your university of choice, getting in requires communications for letters of recommendations, transcripts, composition of letters of intent and equivalent bureaucratic requirements. You need to achieve high academic standings throughout four years of university. You need to get a relatively decent LSAT result. All of these things combine to create your application. So yes, this is a difficult process.

However, law school itself is not EASY. The idea is that you get into law school because you are driven to do it. The requirements you must meet are designed (in my opinion) to make certain this is a career you will be serious about. You do not just put your name down to get acceptance, you need to work hard. Once you meet all of those standards of admission, it is not that requirements suddenly drop or that law school itself is easy. Rather, the main concept is that by meeting the requirements set out by admissions, you are better prepared to take on the assignments and you are committed to doing so. Hundreds of pages of reading will avert some people but the people who do get in typically are ready to handle it or if not, are willing to put in the time to get there.

Hopefully this helps both answer my one reader’s question and anyone else who is thinking of applying.  I would add one thing in terms of the application process and researching your schools. Try to get as much information about all of your choices (I—with a potential bias—suggest you closely look at UBC) and find out what gels with who you are. Talk to students, ask questions, and try to nquire. Go beyond traditional questions. Think about everything. Consider the location (can you see mountains from every law library? I think not). Consider the social requirements and look beyond the name on the pamphlet. Look at the facilities available.  I never would have advocated this until I was fortuitous enough to be among the first class of students into the new facilities at Allard Hall. Facilities can impact education and this new building has been incredible.

For my fellow out-of-province potential applicants:  do not be intimidated from a big move away from your home province. UBC has a really big mixture of Canadians from across the country and you will definitely meet people who are from where you are. There also is support from the university to help get you here. When I was applying last year, I remember thinking that it was just too far. I knew one person in the entire province of BC. Not only have I met people but, as funny as this may sound, I have not even had time to miss the people left behind. Make the
decision that is best for you and your future. Do not worry about a big move; it is completely do-able. In fact, it is a great adventure that I am so
thrilled I decided to undertake.

I will be coming up on exams soon so will be taking a brief hiatus from long-winded posts on my blog. Hopefully after my first set of law school exams, I can give you a better idea of what to expect. Any questions you may have are still welcomed and if I can answer it in short form, I’ll do that instead. If not, I will be back with a breath of fresh air (see what I did there with my use of imagery–you do not get to do this in legal writing) in late December or early January. I am thinking of topics for upcoming posts such as exams, preparation for law school, extracurriculars, firms and social events… if any or none of the above appeal to you, leave a comment or ask away.

Happy holidays to everyone out there.


Myths About the MAAPPS – JD Program and the 2L Summer Process

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and the entire 2nd year summer article recruitment process. Now is probably as good a time as any to reflect on how recruiting went and how classes are going in the dual MAAPPS – Law program before December exam prep begins and life gets crazy.

I want to start by saying I am fortunate enough to have landed a second year summer with a large national firm with one of the strongest Asia-Pacific legal practices in Vancouver. Another bonus is that I’ll be working with fellow blogger, Rebecca Coad. Check out her blogs too!

Myth #1: The dual degree’s requirement to do a 2-4 month practicum makes it impossible to summer second year at a law firm downtown.

It’s possible, and I’m looking forward to it. The MAAPPS program provides students a chance to write a thesis or a practicum. For those interested in practicing law, and basically those not interested in a career in academia, the practicum is the way to go. My senior in 3L, Theressa Etmanski, just completed her practicum working in a human rights tribunal in Cambodia. I came off a stint (for fun) at one of the 3 national law firms in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and I am beginning to brainstorm some exciting practicum opportunities.

The only issue is that it’s often expected to be done in the summer of 2L. You may think this is a scheduling conflict; luckily several of the firms downtown don’t think so.

Throughout the recruiting process, I’ve asked about the possibility of splitting the 4 month summer in half, two with the firm, and two doing my practicum. Most firms have been receptive to this idea. Of course, they would much prefer that you do the practicum at the end of your law degree (April – August of 3L) prior to beginning articles. This may, however, mean that you graduate in November with both degrees. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to graduate with my law buddies in May. Stay tuned.

Myth #2: If I do my practicum instead of summering, I will be in a better position for attaining articles in 3L.

This is a highly contentious opinion, but here’s my sense after speaking with the law firm recruiters for the past few months: if you have a summer offer at a firm that you like (maybe it has cool people, swivel chairs and a window, or more rationally, it does good Asia Pacific work), do that before your practicum.

Presumably, you’re interested in the dual program because you are interested in pursuing an Asia Pacific legal practice. In Vancouver, the firms best at this practice area, in terms of clients, size and type of files, and expertise, tend to be the big national firms. These national firms adhere to predominantly filling their articling positions with students who spent the summer with them in 2L. Consequently, many of these seats are filled already before you begin your search in 3L. It would be prudent to secure your summer/articling spot early (there’s a lot of peace of mind that comes with it) and then go off to do the practicum (which has no rigid recruitment process, timelines, or competition to worry about).

Most interestingly:

Myth #3: Being in the dual degree program got you a summer job. Win.

I want to say yes to this, but that wouldn’t be the whole story. Being in the dual degree program, particularly when the firms interview you 1-2 months into it, does not really mean anything much…yet. I say “yet” because firms are looking for potential (having one year of law under our belts doesn’t mean that much more either). In dual degree students, however, they see individuals willing to work hard for something  (as if law school isn’t hard enough), taking time to spend studying issues important to them and the rest of the world (it is a degree in the Asia Pacific after all). Being in the dual degree doesn’t make you an all-star automatically, but I think it shows that you have all the tools and determination to become one with time. For firms with a 5 year strategy to generate more business from Asia, you’ll definitely get more attention. For firms that are more regionally based, they may give you a pat on the back for your work ethic. The key is demonstrating to the firms you are interested in that you can, and if given the chance, will be a fantastic addition given your formal training in policy analysis.

Myth #4: I’m already in 1L. It’s too late to join this cool dual program.

Lies. The beauty of the dual MAAPPS program is its flexibility, and the fact that it is designed to start the MAAPPS component at the beginning of 2L. So you have not missed anything, and in fact, you have probably saved yourself some tuition money too, as the dual program (like law) is charged by the number of years taken to study, as opposed to credits (like in undergrad).

The application deadline is January 15, 2012. Here is a link to the application details and requirements:

If you have any questions about the program, you may always feel free to contact me directly: <>.

In my next installment, I’ll talk about the different studying approaches needed to do well in law versus MAAPPS.

Decisions, Decisions

Toto, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore. The difference between mid-September, when there were organized social events abound and light(-ish) reading, and early November, having just finished our first exam and with 250+ pages of reading a week, is pretty striking.  That is not to say that it is unmanageable, but let’s just say that my weekends aren’t necessarily my own anymore.

Schoolwork isn’t by any means all there is to being in law. During September, we were bombarded with different clubs, teams, and organizations that we could join. I am certain that every student could find at least three things that pique their interest among the multitude of activities offered, and that is without even looking past the UBC Law community to the UBC campus as a whole. This was completely overwhelming, and I have to say that I’m pretty glad I went into it with a strategy – allow me to elaborate.

Everyone in law school has a drive to be successful; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. The problem is that this passion can sometimes get the best of us and result in overcommitment. As one of my friends likes to say, “if you want something done, ask a busy person”; while this may be true, there is also a point where said busy person has a miniature nervous breakdown, climbs into bed, and watches every season of Mad Men available on Netflix. I came to law school knowing that there would be a lot of ways to get involved, and that I would tempted to take on more than I could probably handle. In order to try and prevent the aforementioned Netflix coma-like state, I decided to limit myself to a sport and two other activities.

Here are some of the strategies I used to grapple with the choices:

1)      Research beforehand: this doesn’t have to be anything lengthy by any means, but take the time to look up a few of the clubs online and start thinking about which ones interest you. When you get to school you can then attend the club days, and if your opinion changes that’s completely fine, but it might help you to zero in on how you would most like to spend your time.

2)      Join a sport: exercise can easily fall by the wayside when you’re busy, so joining a sport will not only be a great way to meet your classmates, it’s a fun way to make sure you’re getting in at least one workout a week. There may be days where you don’t want to make it out, but the mental break is important and the endorphins don’t hurt either.

3)      Know what you want from your experience: think about what you liked and didn’t like in your undergrad, as well as what kind of work habits you aim to have in law school. For example, I know that while I am way happier when I am involved in university life beyond the scope of classes, I also really dislike feeling like there is no way that I am going to get everything done. I am not a last minute person, nor will I ever be, so I needed to make sure I would have enough free time to not be rushing before class all the time.

These are by no means must-follow rules (I am no Joel Bakan writing the Oakes test – incoming students, you’ll understand this somewhat feeble attempt at a law-related joke in September of your first year), but they might help you feel your way through the process a little bit and hopefully prevent you from feeling like you simply cannot narrow down your options. And remember – everyone can handle different amounts of work. If you are someone who loves being busy, don’t be afraid to try out everything that interests you; if it proves to be too much, you can always drop the ones you aren’t as passionate about.