It has been more than a year since I penned my piece on 6 Strategies for Transitioning from Student-At-Law to Lawyer. The OBA Student Section and Young Lawyers Division put together a session on helping upper years and articling students smoothly transition into their new legal roles. Without being repetitive, I briefly list these strategies below. They are as follows:
- Networking & Mentorship
- Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
- Time Management and Work-and-Life Balance
- Managing Your Workload
- Communicating with Clients
- Managing Professional Obligations
You are welcome to read more about that inspirational session in the piece referenced above. Plus, I will walk you through how I embraced and implemented those tips in my professional placement discussed below.
As I anxiously listened to the panellists and absorbed their practical tips like a sponge, these tips resonated with my 2L law student brain for more than one reason. First, I was in the process of applying for my 3L summer internships. Second, I had to secure a professional placement for the fall semester of the same year. The former was optional, but the latter was a must.
Integrated Practice Curriculum
Professional placement is a required part of the Integrated Practice Curriculum (IPC) in my J.D. Program at Lincoln Alexander School of Law. Through being engaged in experiential learning, law students conduct legal research, write legal memos and opinions, draft and analyze pre-trial, trial, and appellate-level materials, including briefs, facta, affidavits, respondent’s submissions, participate in moots and mock negotiations, and address client counselling scenarios in contract, family and Aboriginal law. Throughout the three years, I learned oral and written advocacy skills. I received hands-on mentorship from practising lawyers, who taught tutorials and judged mooting competitions such as our first-year LRW Moot.
Ultimately, law students in our Program do not have to article after graduation. Once they pass the barrister and solicitor licensing exams and are called to the Bar in Ontario, they are good to practice law. IPC is a fast-track path to becoming a lawyer, but one can opt out of it for a traditional articling program with a law firm or a government agency. Nothing is off the table.
IPC Professional Placement
Have you ever wondered what happened to that hungry caterpillar I was in 2L? I decided that IPC is my path to becoming a licensed lawyer in Ontario. This end-of-December, I wrapped up my professional placement. I can’t believe that I am done. No matter how exciting and scary legal and client work was initially, all things come to a bittersweet end.
My job search mantra has always been, “Choose great people to work with over great offices." Returning to Buzaker Law Firm Professional Corporation to complete my IPC Professional Placement felt like a homecoming. Although I did not feel anxious about interning because I had worked on this legal team before, I did feel an increased sense of accountability towards completing the work on time and creating value for the firm. I also wanted to demonstrate what I learned in 2L and during my summer internship. The challenge was to balance individual performance with the need to ask for help and clarifications. As I observed in my September 2022 The Lawyer’s Daily article, asking a supervising lawyer for clarifications on a task is critical to meeting deadlines and a law student’s overall success. As law students and aspiring lawyers, we must embrace a different mindset. That is, asking for help is a sign of strength rather than weakness. Moreover, it shows commitment to a law firm or an organization.
From September to December 2022, I worked full-time at Buzaker Law Firm under the supervision of Valeria Buzaker, LL. B. This law firm focuses on business, real estate, trusts, estates, family, employment, and immigration law. Ms. Buzaker served as my supervisor and as my mentor. However, I reached out to other mentors in my network for support and attended several virtual CPD sessions through the Ontario Bar Association.
The paragraphs below may feel dry and too detailed, but they could help draft your resume. Not bad, right?
During the first part of my internship at the firm, I assisted with client intake and follow-up on seller/purchaser questionnaires for real estate transactions and employment and family law matters. This broad exposure to interacting with clients helped me meet most of the competencies required by the law school and the Law Society of Ontario (LSO).
As a placement student working towards meeting the LSO licensing requirements, I drafted and reviewed articles of incorporation, bylaws, minute books, shareholder agreements, purchase and sale agreements, workplace policies for our corporate clients, and several blogs. In addition to a traditional law student role, I assisted in developing new business and legal marketing strategies to promote the firm’s legal services.
While in the placement, I attended four virtual facilitated check-in classes. Career development office staff facilitated those sessions, which focused on the following topics: establishing a client relationship, representing clients through ADR and settlement process, tackling legal research challenges, optimizing keyword searches, and synthesizing case law and secondary sources.
At the end of the placement, our course instructor Leanne Shafir, Director of Career Development and Professional Placement Office, hosted a special guest speaker from the LSO to discuss the ethics and professionalism scenarios we would face in our placements and practice, applying the LSO rules and by-laws. Ms. Kelly Gerra, Counsel and Manager, Practice Management, also discussed practice management resources available to law students and lawyers, such as Practice Management Helpline, Coach and Advisor Network (CAN), Well-being Resource Centre, and Access CLE, a digital library containing articles and professional development materials.
To everyone completing their IPC professional placements or articling programs, I wish you confidence in forging your path forward in law. It is a truism that you can learn the law anywhere if you are curious, diligent, and passionate enough. However, being surrounded by a supportive team invested in your growth as a lawyer and your future with the law firm or organization is essential. One piece of advice that I would give to all placement and articling students is to choose great people to work with over great offices. Having your summer internship, your placement and an articling position at the same firm or organization may seem ideal. However, it is more than OK if it does not happen precisely in this order or that way. You can sample different areas of law and types of solicitor- and barrister-based practice to see where your passion lies. Your way is the only right way to decide the best fit for you when you have several competing interests and priorities. Farewell!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Oksana Romanov is a 3L law student at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Toronto Metropolitan University. She serves on the 2022-2023 Ontario Bar Association Student Section Executive and is her law school ambassador. To learn more about the author, you can visit her LinkedIn profile.
Any article or other information or content expressed or made available in this Section is that of the respective author(s) and not of the OBA.