1L of a Way to Start Law School

Sniping my title from Professor Andrew J. McClurg’s welcome to law school bible, I can say that this pre-law recommended reading definitely did not prepare me for the unique experience of Calgary firm interviews in my first month at UBC.

While the majority of law students participate in the job hunt process known as “OCIs” in second year (see Rebecca’s earlier blog post), many Calgary and Toronto law firms make an exception and seek out 1L students for summer positions.

The UBC Law Career Services Office advises first year students from Calgary and Toronto to focus on their grades and worry about the summer job process in second year. This is sound advice based on years of experience… that I for some reason chose not to follow.

Coming west for undergrad and law school, Calgary is still home for me and I am strongly considering calling it home after what I am sure will be three wonderful (and sometimes wet) years in Vancouver. That being said, I decided to throw my hat in the ring with a few of my fellow 1L Calgarians.

Once the process started, it was easy to get caught up in resume and cover letter drafting, interview preparation and the pedantic crafting of two sentence thank you emails but when I took a moment to stop and realize that I was downtown Vancouver in a suit leaving an interview at a law firm I had to laugh. I had been in law school for three days when I submitted my applications and three weeks when I faced my first law interview.

While the process itself was stressful and time consuming (hence the advice of the CSO) I can honestly say that it has been an incredible experience for me in more way than one…

(1)  The interview process really helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel (though I am sure it will be a fantastic three year tunnel!) First year law is very challenging and involves a large adjustment for many students. As ominous as readings and memos and exams seem, all of the lawyers I met (a) survived law school and (b) were normal, happy and fun individuals.

(2)  I also discovered incredible support systems at Allard Hall in many unexpected places. Jenn Lau from the CSO gave me pragmatic and absolutely essential advice on everything from my resume format to ‘what not to wear’. My legal buddy educated me on interview style and helped me by eliminating the fear of the unknown. A few Vancouverites in my 1L small group absolutely overwhelmed me with encouragement, came suit shopping with me, conducted mock interviews and drove me around the city! While the process was intimidating, I had all of the help I could possibly need.

(3)  I met many amazing lawyers (read: real human beings) that I would never have been exposed to and learned a lot about the legal profession, even though most interviews were short and sweet.

(4)  1Ls have a slight advantage in that at UBC you sort of skip the OCI process and get to interview in a myriad of places such as cafeterias, hotels, Vancouver offices and Mahoney & Sons. That being said, I actually got to participate in a real OCI which removed the terror of the speed dating process for next year (thanks to a rogue law firm sneaking me into an unoccupied booth for 17 minutes)

(5)  I got to drink wine and eat cheese with my peers in a swanky downtown hotel (and was also given advice on how to do so by the CSO in ‘How to Wine and Cheese’)

(6)  I learned a lot about myself by looking at my resume from a stranger’s perspective and thinking about answers to questions like “Why did you decide to go to law school?” (And also… “If you were a cheese, what kind would you be?”)

Why my list could go on and on, this is law school and I heard that brevity is an asset. Despite all of the initial stress and anxiety I am glad that I participated in the 1L interview process although now I face the suspense of waiting for the clock to strike 4pm on Offer Call Day. The next fundamental step is that of ‘mutual selection’ and while this process was a fantastic experience I feel that it could be simplified for all years if we could only get our hands on a sorting hat.

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