What I Did This Summer

Due to circumstances beyond my control (namely, the coming into existence of a really awesome tobogganning hill with a sharp rock at the bottom of it), I was never able to give my kindergarten presentation on “What I Did Last Summer”.

But now that the incomparable Mr. Horkins has dropped a dime on the secrets of bulletproof OCI applications, and you’re all undoubtedly wondering what happens after you get hired for a summer at Cassels Brock, I finally have my chance to make amends!

So… *ahem*.

Hello. My name is Jeremy. I am twenty-seven years old, and I am in Ms. McGowan’s summer class of 2010. This is what I did this summer.

Through a few dozen turns of bizarre fate, I wound up doing litigation work almost exclusively. That itself is pretty unusual, and you can probably expect a lot more breadth of experience during your summer; the work I got just always happened to be somebody getting sued. Even when I got work from other departments, it involved an action of some kind. I blame the econodex: my proprietary combined measure of the economy and the humidity in downtown Toronto. People just didn’t want to get out of their air-conditioned offices to pay their bills. This summer had an average econodex of 62.1%, so what are you going to do? Folks gotta get their sue on.

Now, I’m a big litigation keener, so no harm done. And if you’re going to be stuck in one department for the entire summer, advocacy is the one to get since it involves arguing all other areas of law. Although I was always involved in a suit of some kind, I got to get my hands dirty in all kinds of product liability, corporate law, labour and employment, municipal law, franchise work, human rights, trusts and insolvency.

So take the below with the caveat that you’re probably going to be doing a lot more in the way of deals and regulatory work than I did. It’s hard to believe the summer’s almost over already, and that I’ve managed to do so much in just a few short months! Highlights:

  • Writing the first-draft factum for a municipal law motion (and winning!)
  • Throwing a talent show for charity!
  • Drafting a half-dozen statements of claim or defence
  • Eating an 18 inch hot dog with spicy peppers at a Blue Jays game and impressing more people than I sickened by at least two
  • Coming up with questions to ask during an examination for discovery
  • Pulling court documents for a real estate deal
  • Baking fifty cupcakes (with spicy chili chocolate)
  • Taking a crash course in tax law (also with spicy chili chocolate)
  • Cleverly avoiding an earthquake by going on a tour of wine country
  • Getting neck-deep in and attending daily at a real-life, full-on, all-the-marbles trial

Behold! The glorious brown rainbow of commercial litigation!

I managed to get in an awful lot of stuff this summer, and what have I learned? Well, first and foremost, I now know why 3Ls are so chilled out when you first meet them in September. They’ve been through the wringer and they know they’re going back at it next summer, so they’re savouring the warm, pillowy nest of law school in the interim. (This, of course, stands in contrast to the first- and second-year perception of law school as a flaming, spiky warm pillowy nest of insecurity and potential humiliation.)

Also, if the purpose of law school is to get you to think like a lawyer, a summer at a law firm gets you to start acting like one. I check my messages constantly, respond to everything right away, make appointments, organize my files, proactively have work ready in case it’s ever assigned and I stick to a schedule now better than I ever have.

I’m also — finally! — fluent in the arcane language of law, at least enough to do the equivalent of ordering a legal cheeseburger. I get the relationship between an affidavit of documents and answers to undertakings and where “will says”, discoveries, motion records, books of authorities, trial briefs, witness briefs, legal briefs and exhibits fall in the timeline and organization of a case, and what they can be relied on for, and what they can’t. Procedure finally makes some sense. If you’re reading this at the end of 1L, be warned: people will forget you don’t know this stuff. But be relieved: you soon will.

Mostly, though, and most rewardingly, I’m coming away from this summer knowing that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. And really, I think that’s what the summer — any firm summer — is for. The hours can be long, and if I see another “Dad’s” oatmeal cookie I think my stomach may actually reject the rest of my body and strike out on its own in search of grubs and berries by the riverside, but I found out that practicing law really is about thinking for a living, alongside some of the most interesting and engaging people you’re ever going to meet. I like the people I get to work with, and I love the work I do. And what’s even better, I like the work the associates and partners do even more. That alone was absolutely worth the experience.

I’ve got one more post coming up before the end of the summer, but I should say now that if anyone needs to find me in 2010-11, I’ll be at jeremy.martin@utoronto.ca. Feel free to say hi if you’re heading to the U of T this year! (And also if you’re not, I guess.)

Alternatively, I can be found in a lawn chair out behind the Bora Laskin library for the next few months, aggressively catching up on some taking it easy.

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