Yearly Archives: 2013

APPLICATIONS, ON CAMPUS INTERVIEWS (OCIS) AND IN FIRMS – OH MY! By: guest blogger Alex Williamson

OH HELLO THERE

The 2L recruitment process is, for lack of a better word… bananas. Some of you will find it incredibly overwhelming and scary – I know I did. And some of you will be as cool as a cucumber, owning those interviews like it ain’t no thang. And most of you will probably fall somewhere in between those two extremes. Regardless of what category you fit into, you likely have a million questions rolling around in that very bright brain of yours.

Never fear, the students at CBB are here to help! I have compiled this blog post with words of wisdom (to aid you on your own journey), embarrassing and cringe worthy OCI and infirm interview stories (to provide comic relief) and a few plugs for Cassels Brock (at least I come by it honesty) from the summer students of 2013.

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that, in my opinion, everyone has their own approach and style to this process. One approach isn’t necessarily better than the other. Go to your law school’s Career Services sessions. Seek out upper year students who will share their journey with you. Contact students at firms you are interested in. Read this blog post. Listen and read and embrace the advice and insight that makes the most sense and suits you. You are bright and capable and have made it this far. You are a beautiful and unique snowflake. Remember this. Okay, pep talk over – moving on!

WORDS AND WISDOM

THE APPLICATION

“Tailor your applications to the firms. Admissions committees will identify generic applications for what they are. Generic applications are indications that you do not care about the particular firm or are unable to distinguish it from others. While many firms are similar, they are also all unique. And by unique, I mean that they are separate entities. This statement may seem trite, but compare the following two statements: “I like your firm because I want to practice corporate law.” Or, “I like your firm because I [spoke to person X in your firm who said…] [read X about your firm in Y publication]…” You get the picture. At the very least, it shows that you have the wherewithal to collect some unique data about the firm.”

–       Peter Reinitzer

 

“The best tip I have for applications is to take the time to research the firms you are applying to in order to understand the various practice areas, and determine if that firm will allow you to gain the experience you need to progress in your career.”

–       Evan Eliason

 

“Take the process one step at a time. If you don’t put together a good application package, you won’t get an OCI. If you don’t get an OCI, you won’t get an in-firm. Put your best foot forward each step of the way.”

–       Amir Har-Gill

 

THE ON CAMPUS INTERVIEW (OCI)

“I would say that during all OCIs that you treat those twenty minutes like a conversation, rather than an interview.  That is the mindset you need to get into.  That means aside from answering questions -which are basically just springboards for you to jump into new conversational terrain after your response –  you should be initiating topics of conversation, asking questions of your own, making light/comedy of a situation, and generally projecting all the qualities you think would be appealing (aka marketable) in a social setting.  This is compared to speed-dating for a reason; because that is exactly what it is.  You have twenty minutes to convince the interviewing lawyer that you would be worth hanging out with at some point again.  Don’t go into this process with the false expectation you are to be rigid, formalistic and staring into a teleprompter when answering questions – that makes everybody uncomfortable, and will unlikely score you the job.  This does not mean you should abandon professionalism though – it’s one thing to make witty banter, but telling inappropriate jokes or swearing to reciprocate with the loose-lipped lawyer across the desk is a recipe for disaster.

The natural extension of all this is that you need to walk into these interviews appearing to be having a great time.  You are excited to be amongst all your nervously sweating colleagues, awkwardly jockeying for position in a most obviously artificial environment, telling the same stories over and over again .   You have to just roll with it and recognize you are in an incredibly lucky position to be there, and the process is what it is.  Chances are you wouldn’t go out to a bar to meet new people if you weren’t really feeling like having some fun.  Genuinely enjoying yourself (in spite of the festering terror within) is obviously the best formula for success.  Otherwise, as the old adage goes – fake it until you make it.”

–       Nick Carmichael

 

 “The firms that don’t call you back after OCIs don’t deserve you.”

–       Peter Reinitzer

 

THE IN FIRM INTERVIEW

Do not ignore/glance over anyone you meet from the firm. Be polite and friendly with EVERYONE at the firm, as impressions are shared and solicited from many different people in many different roles. Don’t assume the senior partner is the only one influencing the hiring/interview decisions.”

–       Michael Brown

 

“Know your resume backwards and forwards and have an anecdote prepared about every bullet because that is where the majority of the questions come from. Ensure that you are able to relate every experience to how it prepared you for, or would help you in a career in law.”

–       David Kelman

“Girls, we understand that you’d love to break out those gorgeous new pumps, but think twice before wearing sky-high heels for the interview process. Unless you are akin to the talented lady gaga in her foot torture devices, you don’t want to be remembered as the girl who hobbled up and down the internal staircase.”

–       Belinda Chiu

 

“If you have many in-firms, do NOT try to visit every single one of those firms again on Wednesday.  It’s impossible.  Just don’t do it.  It limits the amount of time that you can spend at each firm, and will likely leave firms with a bad impression. On the Wednesday, I valiantly tried to take on this impossible task, causing me to spend only 15 minutes at a student networking event at one of the firms.  Just as I stealthily snuck out of the event, thinking that no one had noticed, I ran right into the recruitment director.  I had mentioned the day before that I may have to leave early, but it still led to an embarrassing and awkward exit.”

–       Michael Alvaro 

 

“For in-firms, rely on the articling students. They are very valuable their advice really helps. At the end of the day, they probably give their opinions to the student committee so remember that the entire time you are with someone from the firm it is part of the interview process.”

–       Jonathan Sherman

 

HORROR STORIES

“I didn’t have enough time to eat a snack between two of my interviews in the morning. I was meeting with the managing partner and my stomach started to rumble. I had to cover my stomach to muffle the noises… Bring cliff bars kids.”

–       Meredith Bacal

 

“I was in an interview. I felt as though it was going well. I was laughing. Not awkward-nervous-you-are-interviewing-me-so-I-have-to-laugh-at-your-jokes-laughter. Real laughter. Sincere giggles. Mid laugh, somehow, and I am not entirely sure how, I managed to bash my head on a cabinet behind me. I was mildly concussed mid-interview and still got hired. There is hope for everyone.”

–       Alex Williamson

 

“I spilled a near-full glass of red wine on the white tablecloths at a firm dinner. When I realized I didn’t really care I knew I wasn’t wild about the firm. Do not advise this as a litmus test.”

–       Kate Byers

 

“I was speaking to a lawyer at another firm and kept referring to his firm as “Cassels”… until he corrected me. I guess it was meant to be!”

–       Jake Goldberg

WHY CASSELS BROCK? (let those warm and fuzzy feelings shine through!)

“I have too many fitted peplum jackets and statement necklaces to work in a place that won’t let me wear them and the concentration of fashionable folks at Cassels is impressive to say the least.”

–       Xi Chen

 

“Free lunches and casual Fridays.”

–       Andrew Chan

 

“I personally just felt so comfortable during all stages of the process with Cassels. Every person I spoke to I felt I could have a real conversation with. It wasn’t superficial and didn’t feel like it was an interview! Especially after having experience in the firm this summer, it is really important to like the people you are working with, so that was huge for me!”

–       Michelle Sutzkiewicz

 

“I spent a lot of time before I began applying to jobs attending various seminars and listening to people talk about things like “fit” and “the people making a big difference” and being “comfortable” somewhere, and I remember nodding complacently while fidgeting awkwardly in my suit, thinking something along the lines of “LIARS! THE LOT OF YOU! I JUST TRIPPED IN THE INTERNAL STAIRCASE AND I’M SO AWKWARD AND MY LAW CAREER IS OVER!”

Totally reasonable.

But, beneath the platitudes, there was something genuinely important being hinted at in remarks like this. Interviews are not like going to dinner with your best friends and they aren’t supposed to be, but they’re also not supposed to be terrifying— these are nice, interesting people who really want to get to know you and get along with you. A reality of our chosen profession is that we spend a lot of time at work doing challenging, unfamiliar tasks under significant pressure. You’re going to want to like the people you’re doing this with. Given that, it’s important to try to relax during the process so you can stop essentially throwing spaghetti at the wall trying to “impress people” and start paying attention to where you’re meeting people who you genuinely admire, share values and aspirations with, who do things that (would) actually interest you (if you weren’t terrified and unable to walk in your shoes) and who you, you know, enjoy being around.

That’s why I’m at Cassels.”

–       Jacqui Richards

 

CLOSING REMARKS

There are many factors in this process that are outside your control. Accept that. Not everyone is going to think you are bee’s knees, and some of the firms may not be into your pocket square.

Focus on the factors that you can control. Do your research. Edit, edit, edit those resumes and cover letters!  Dress the part. Talk to students at the firm. Smile. Be the best version of yourself. Express interest. And at the end of the day, that is all you can really do.

Please do not hesitate to contact any one of us with any questions about Cassels Brock, or the recruitment process generally. I mean it. This is not just something we say. Contact us. We can’t wait to hear from you.

 

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Half Decathlon

At Cassels Brock we do real work but we also like to have some fun here and there. With Roey leaving at the end of this week and Jake and Kate soon to go, there were openings in different offices and to determine who was moving, a half decathlon competition between Amir and I was set up by commissioners Roey and Jake. The following is a detailed outline of the 5 rounds of competition involving high levels of academics and physical activity.

Round 1 – Skill Testing Question (in 15 seconds)

The first test was an academic question in a high pressure environment. Both contestants had 15 seconds to answer the following question:

(10 + (6*9.5) – 47) / 5

It was a nervous, frantic 15 seconds but after much deliberation and thought, I managed to come out on top with time to spare. Answer is 4.

Winner: Andrew 1-0

Round 2 – Riddle

Commissioner Roey was in charge of coming up with the riddle. After his first riddle being too ridiculous, he came up with the following:

What has holes on the top, bottom, and sides and still holds water?

Amir guessed “cloud” and heard the rejection buzzer. After some meditation and deep thought, I realized the answer was “sponge”. 2-0.

Winner: Andrew 2-0

Round 3 – Card Swiping Speed Competition

Amir came into this competition as the true favourite as he practices this manoeuvre constantly. How does this work? The contestants line up equal distance from the swipe target and swipe their pass cards, first one to get the green light wins. Jake instructed the contestants keep their hands in their pockets until “go” and Roey was the judge. Amir came out of the starting blocks blazing and had the upper hand but alas, the card slipped out of his hands and his last minute stumble allowed me to clinch the title as winner of the half decathlon.

Winner: Andrew 3-0

Round 4 – Voicemail Speed Competition

As a consolation, we ran the voicemail speed competition. The objective is to set up your voicemail for the following day the fastest. After one try, both of us failed to get the dates correct due to the high pressure environment. However on the second try, Amir was able to redeem himself and only lose the decathlon by a score of 3-1.

Winner: Amir

Round 5 – Plank

This was supposed to be the tiebreaker but fortunately we never reached it.

Amir will now be moving into my office for Roey on August 1st. I’d like to thank all my fans, family and friends; without you this would not have been possible. I’d like to thank Amir for his effort and competitive spirit. And of course I have to thank Roey and Jake for acting as commissioners of this great event prior to finishing their summers at Cassels.

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A bring-down comfort letter to Arts Undergrads:

Dear Arts Undergrads:

Right now, you are probably combing over your resume, writing your cover letter, and going on a thousand and one firm tours in an attempt to wrap your head around the beast that is the 2L recruitment process. A beast it is– and made a little more beastly if the accomplishments on your resume showcase (awesome) things like ‘Poetry Contest Winner’ and ‘Star of High School Musical’ (if you are Zac Efron, you should probably be reconsidering your decision to apply anyway), rather than “Winner of Widget Case Competition” or “CFA Level 3.”

The idea of working at a business law firm can be intimidating for some students without any previous exposure to the business world. The world of M&A, CBCA, and a bajillion other acronyms can be totally foreign to a 1L student fresh out of nothing but Torts, Constitutional, Crim, Property and a Bachelor of Arts.

You may have a bit of a steeper learning curve ahead of you than the Ivey kids in some areas, but you will get there.

Yesterday, I was asked what the definition of ‘working capital’ was. The Arts student in me saw the terms ‘working’ and ‘capital’ and my brain started spewing ‘Marx!’ ‘I don’t know but I can give you a post-modernist deconstructionist essay on the term!!!’

I could give a vague answer, but didn’t really know what I was talking about. The associate I was speaking with gave me a thorough and clear explanation of the term, which was neither terribly confusing nor intimidating.

The most important thing I have learned so far this summer is to always ask questions. Lawyers don’t find it annoying (as long as you are not asking the same question multiple times)- they encourage and expect it from you. You are hired here as a student– you are here to learn. The more you ask, the more you’ll learn, and the more effective you’ll be.

Here are a few ‘trade secrets’ that have helped me get by so far this summer (really, these are applicable to anyone):

  • Wikipedia is your friend. Not as a definitive answer, but it is a great starting point for many things, and can help you tailor the questions you’ll ask.
  •  Read The Economist and New York Times DealBook. Mostly because reading The Economist will make you a better human being, but the NYT DealBook has a great section called ‘Deal Professor’ that will discuss the legal/regulatory impact of big deals and decisions. It’s very readable and can help you understand basic corporate structures and transactions.
  • Read PLTC (for BC) or Continuing Legal Education materials. And this is an obvious one, but take relevant courses in law school. I thought I could get away with delaying Corporations until my third year because I didn’t get a spot in the class, and that was a big mistake.
  •  MD&A is not a drug. It is actually your friend; essentially, it is a company’s financial statements, translated into (relatively) plain English so that people like us can understand a company’s financial and operations narrative.

Of other students and lawyers that I have come across at Cassels, I have met music majors, art history majors, biology majors and yes, business majors. They are all great lawyers.

Don’t underestimate your value. Just last week, Deborah Glatter (who will probably be reading your application), gave a seminar on the vital importance of good writing in legal practice. At the end of the day, writing is a lawyer’s trade product. Throughout your arts undergrad, you have learned to be eloquent, analytical, concise and have (hopefully) learned the proper usage of a semicolon. Those are all skills that will serve you well.

Recognize that this whole thing is a serious learning process for everyone, and each will face their own challenges. Keep asking questions and sooner than you know, you will be at the point where you understand the cheesy pun in the title of this blog post!

Yours in the mutually inclusive pursuit of eloquence and business smarts,

Caroline (B.A. International Relations)

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Vancouver hits the links

In Vancouver, we know how to Friday.

Last Friday afternoon, in honour of Deborah Glatter (Director of Professional Development & Student Program)’s visit to the fairer coast, we took a field trip to the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt- an 18 hole golf extravaganza that lies somewhere between the realm of mini-putt and Pebble Beach.

Pitch and Putt is the chameleon of golf courses. Into driving? With a little skill, you can skip most of your short game and just put a ball on the green in one shot. Into putting? If you’re like me, you can say goodbye to hopes of watching your ball sail into the blue sky, but with some brute force, you can just putt all the way to the finish! Into shirtless golfing? They have that, too.

Full disclosure: I am a terrible golfer. Deborah made the same claim, but after watching a suspicious and sizeable improvement after only few holes I began to think that maybe we had been hustled.

Mike is a great golfer. He also has the patience of a saint.  As can be seen in the exhibit displayed below, Coach Mike spent most of the afternoon a) wearing a t-shirt that was too small for him, b) rustling around in the shrubbery looking for our misdirected golf balls, and c) coaching us on our athletic golf swing stances.

mr. brownCoach Mike, looking disparagingly into the distance as he ponders what awaits him in the shrubbery as he hunts for golf balls led astray. 

carolineI hit my ball so far in the wrong direction that it went to Jurassic Park. Note dino-sized leaves. Photo taken shortly before velociraptor chase.

deborah

LPGA ready. Look at that stance.

Pitch and Putt was a fantastic way to spend a Friday afternoon, and we capped it off with the Vancouver Office’s Friday afternoon tradition of beverages on the balcony, followed by dinner at L’Abattoir (a delicious restaraunt that is not too hipster, but hipster enough that the walls are exposed brick and they serve their pork shoulder on a bed of kale. Nom nom nom).

We just started the renovation process to take over the rest of the 22nd floor out here…you know you want to come visit!

 

 

 

 

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2013 Summer Student Night Out

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Part of me would like to start off this blog post with the following: “For our 2013 Cassels Brock summer student event Leigh-Ann green-lighted an evening at the Backyard Axe Throwing League, which involved hurling 26-inch lumberjack axes across the width of a crowded bar in hopes of lodging the weapons deep into a target carved from wood.  The beer was plentiful and super cheap too”.  For some reason, the axe-wielding never ended up happening.  We also nearly descended on the Muskokas, and stacked mattresses all the way up to the rafters of one of the student’s cottages for a weekend.  The enthusiasm waned, and we opted for a more classic evening suitable for the budding lawyer – a chef’s tasting menu on the rooftop patio of Gusto 101, a swanky eatery in the clubbing district, followed by a few casual drinks at the local table-tennis joint, or as the kids  call it these days, “Spin”.

Gusto 101 is a 3 story restaurant, jam-packed with fashionable young people looking for a good time and scrumptious food after an exhausting day at the grind.  We seemed to fit the bill.  It is virtually impossible to find a table there on a date, let alone a table to accommodate 24 of us – so kudos to our event organizer, Kate Byers.  We were seated on the rooftop, which had some funky glass pyramids that you could peer into and see the floor below, and some overhead hanging Christmas lights.  Generally, it was just a very appealing ambience.  We sat at one long communal table at the side of the floor, and there was a giant “Goodyear Blimp” sign welded from sheet metal hovering above us.  Some jokes were told, and some wine was to be had, and before we knew it we were bogged down in plates of aranchini (deep-fried risotto balls covered in fresh marinara sauce and shreds of fresh basil), thin-crust pizza with a variety of vegetarian-friendly as well as carnivorous toppings, beautiful roasted whole chickens without a hint of dryness, and plates of homemade pasta glistening with a rich cream sauce infused with truffle-oil.  Everything was pitch-perfect, and the service was attentive and friendly.  We played musical chairs and discussed everything under the sun, other than the current state of the law.  It was refreshing.

Someone had the brilliant idea of ordering a few rounds of Fernet-Branca, an Italian amara digestive liqueur that is reminiscent of a minty flavour and cough medicine.  The medicinal properties did wonders for settling our post-gluttony stomachs.  One student though the appropriate move was to “shoot back” one of these potent glasses of Fernet.  Typically, the drink is sipped slowly.  That student is rumoured to still be recovering.  This was sort of the transitional moment of the evening.  Now we were off to Spin to see who was the best ping-pong competitor of the bunch.

 

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Spin is a bar located in a back-alleyway jetting off of King Street West.  The business model of combining an endless sea of ping-pong tables with bars and drinking culture originated in the Big Apple.  New locations have sprouted across North America, and recently Toronto was added to the roster.  All the Spins are independently-operated with creative licence to do what they want with the environment.  In Toronto, the lighting is dim, and the calibre of play isn’t exactly intimidating.  Buckets of orange balls are propped up next to the tables and kids just start wailing on these things, littering the floors with dozens of them.  Attn: Ambulance Chasers.  At one moment I am pretty sure I witnessed somebody trying to deliberately snipe people across the bar with ping-pong balls.  A couple of employees roam the bar with something I can only describe as a vacuum/swifter mop device, combing the ground for balls that ricochet off the table.  It makes everything slightly more convenient for the players.

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Our student night happened to coincide with the opening rounds of the All England Tennis Tournament, also known as Wimbledon 2013.  In an historic year that saw the shocking departures of Nadal and Federer in the first and second rounds, respectively, the feeling was in the air that there would be some upsets at Spin.  Some genuinely surprising lacklustre showings came from Daniel Shiff and Hilary Fender, who were both pegged for greatness.  Even David Kelman, a self-titled “3-time Fantasy NHL champion” put his chips on the wrong horses.  The sleeper of the event undeniably had to be Peter Reinitzer, and an honourable mention goes out to Jake Goldberg, who was not too shabby himself. 

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This was a really incredible event.  This summer we have already had numerous opportunities to get to know each other and let our hair down.  This made the night more enjoyable because it wasn’t an ice-breaker or a pressured sort of “work event”  It was just an awesome way to spend time together outside of the office and do something a little out of the ordinary.  Everyone was in good spirits, and the night went off without a hitch.  If you ignore 1:30 A.M. and onwards that is.  Thank you again to Kate for organizing.

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