If you’re reading our blawg with the hope of gaining insight into what being a summer student on Bay street is really like, there is an important concept we haven’t given much “time” to – docketing.
When I started in May I had certainly heard of the word “docket”, and I knew there was no pressure at Cassels to meet billable targets as a summer student. What I did not know was that I would be expected to try and docket a certain number of hours per day and that my time would be measured in six minute chunks (this, like everything, you get used to).
The work we do as summer students can generally be classified as “billable” (e.g. researching a point of law for a client or drafting closing documents) or “non-billable” (e.g. preparing a power point presentation for a partner’s upcoming conference or writing a blawg entry). At Cassels, our dockets can be any mixture of billable or non-billable work.
For me, the hardest part about docketing has been thinking in six minute intervals. Thankfully, there are several options available at the firm for helping to keep track of the time. “Timer lovers” set clocks (with the help of special docketing programs on the computer) for each file they are working on. “List makers” use a notepad to keep a running diary of every task they have completed in the day. There are “guesstimaters” who ball-park their time, especially when it comes to non-billable work, and “precisioners” who take pride in accounting for every minute they are at the office.
If you’re a prospective summer student, it is important to be aware that the firms on Bay street take different approaches to the concepts of time and docketing. On one hand there are those who aren’t concerned with summer student docketing at all. At the other end of the spectrum are those who give their students expected billable targets for each month of the summer.
When deciding on the type of summer experience you want, weigh the pros and cons of the various docketing methods of each firm. The potential down side to docketing is that it makes you acutely aware of the time (which can be good or bad depending on how fast the day is flying by). On the up side, docketing has given me a realistic sense of how long it actually takes to reach a target and will definitely make the transition to an associate position easier down the road. Docketing also lets me account for my entire day, has taught me to be efficient while at work, and causes me to search out new work on slow days. The “big” docketing days also feel pretty satisfying (in a “wow I worked way harder today than I ever do at law school” kind of a way)!