Yearly Archives: 2015

The OCI Application Process, Demystified

Given that many of you have begun or have at least started to think about the upcoming OCI process, I thought it would be helpful to share a few pieces of application-related advice. Here are a few basic things to keep in mind as you begin to prepare your applications:

Planning

At the outset, spend some time thinking about the types of firms that you could see yourself working at. Whether you see yourself taking your talents to a large, full-service corporate law firm, a smaller, more specialized boutique or something in between, beginning to develop an understanding of the type of legal environment you see yourself excelling in will help you target your applications and focus your time and energy on the firms you really want to work at.

Research

Once you have a rough idea of the type (or types) of firms that you want to apply to, the next step is to begin researching the firms that fit the bill. Read their websites, reach out to their students and members of their student committees, attend their firm tours, look them up using NALP’s Canadian Directory of Legal Employers (http://www.nalpcanada.com/), and leverage your networks. The more research you do, the better prepared you will be to start differentiating firms and making decisions about which firms you want to target and which firms may no longer interest you.

Resume & Cover Letters

After the planning and research is done, start working on your resume and cover letters. Collectively, these documents are how you will tell the firms you are applying to more about yourself and your story. A few basic points about each:

Cover Letter

  • Think of your cover letter as an opportunity to craft a narrative that links your skills and experience with the culture and strengths of the firm that you are applying to.
  • Don’t use overly complicated or flowery language to convey simple points. Instead, write clearly and concisely about why you believe you are a good fit at the firm.
  • Avoid recycling your resume verbatim. Try to fit your skills and experience into broad themes that you want to convey to the reader.

Resume

  • Don’t overstate your experience or try to make a routine job sound like something it’s not. More often than not, your experience at those entry-level jobs will have taught you skills that are extremely useful for the practice of law. Own those experiences and use them to your advantage.
  • Leave white space on the page. Where you can say things in one line instead of two, do it. Concision is key.
  • Include a “Skills and Interests” section. Often, a big part of your interview will be spent discussing what you have listed here. If you are an expert skydiver, are fluent in a foreign language, are addicted to fantasy sports etc. say so. These skills and interests are great conversation starters for when you land your dream interview.

The Wrap-Up

Congratulations! You’ve finished your planning and research and have drafted your cover letters and resume. Before transcribing your application package onto parchment and sending it out via raven (or uploading it to viDesktop for those of you living outside of Westeros) give your application a thorough read-through. Attention to detail will go a long way, so proofread your documents over and over again, then send the documents to everyone you know and their grandmothers to do the same. Never hesitate to ask for help – the more eyes you have on something, the better it will be.

Best of luck,

Rowan

 

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Insights with Mike

Mike is a summer student here at Cassels Brock, and we are profiling him this week to find out a little more about who he is, how his summer is going so far, and any application tips he has for students applying to Cassels Brock for a summer 2016 position.

S: Mike, congratulations on making it halfway through your Cassels Brock summer. How’s it going so far?

M:Thank you so much. It’s been great! I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many different lawyers and I’ve been able to work hands-on with clients, which is something I didn’t expect at such an early stage in my career.

S: How do you balance your time between work and social activities?

M: It’s all about communication! Work is my priority, but all the lawyers I’ve been working with have been very considerate of my time and have made sure I have been able to meet any important commitments in my personal life.

S: Mike, do you have any summer goals at work or in your personal life?

M: What I’ve been trying to do throughout the summer is explore the firm as much as possible. I have tried to reach out to lawyers in different practice groups here at Cassels, and to connect with other summer students outside of the office.

S: Mike, what did you find to be the most useful advice you were given when preparing your applications for summer positions?

M: I think there are two important things to keep in mind. First, try to identify areas of expertise of firms you are researching. An example of this would be tailoring a cover letter towards a business law firm, or to a firm that does a lot of litigation. Second, pay attention to detail, which is something I focused on when preparing my applications and have been reminded of since. Spelling mistakes or editorial errors are very obvious to those reading your applications. An example of this is forgetting to change the name of the firm you are applying to, and keeping the name of a firm from a previous cover letter.

S: What was your most efficient method for proofreading?

M: Definitely having second and third sets of eyes taking a look at things. Another helpful tip is to print off your cover letter and reading it aloud before submitting it!

S: Does it matter what you did in your summer after 1L?

M: I think that in general, employers wanted to see what my most recent experiences were. I think the reason for this is to see the new skills people build and acquire, and how these skills can be transferrable to working in a law firm environment. The experiences I found myself talking about more were not necessarily law-related but usually productive and interesting!

Thank you for your time, Mike!

 

To those of you reading this who are considering applying to Cassels Brock, feel free to reach out to myself, Mike, or any of the other students on the Cassels Brock Student Website http://students.casselsbrock.com !

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Lawyers Feed the Hungry: The CBB Summer Student Edition

Last week, the CBB Toronto Summer Students and I traded in our suits for aprons and volunteered at Lawyers Feed the Hungry, a program which helps to provide meals to those in need.

We were shepherded to Osgoode Hall by our famed Director of Professional Development & Student Programs Deborah Glatter. We managed to make it to our destination together and unharmed, a small miracle considering we ignored Deborah’s request to use the walking rope she had brought for us (see photo below).

 

 

Walking rope

 

After arriving and donning our aprons, we were each assigned tasks which varied from serving water, milk, and tea to dishing out the desserts, a fielder’s choice between a banana and a cookie. All told, the CBB Summer Students and the dedicated Lawyers Feed the Hungry volunteers served over 400 meals to individuals and families who needed them. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and a good opportunity for us to give back to the community.

The program  is able to provide over 60,000 meals a year and is funded almost exclusively through charitable donations. With an operating budget of over $600,000, it relies heavily on donations from the legal community to keep its doors open. If you are interested in getting involved in any capacity or want to read more about the program, you get more information at <http://www.lawyersfeedthehungry.ca/index.html>.

Happy Canada Day everyone!

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Fashion Friday – CBB Student Advice Edition

As some of you may know, firm tours are well underway on Bay Street. In fact, we held our first one yesterday! Firm tours, although not mandatory for applicants, are a great way to get comfortable in a big firm environment without the added pressure of an official interview. If you’re in the city this summer, and can make it out to one, I would definitely recommend it.

Our firm tour on July 16 is already at capacity, but you can sign up for one on July 29 or August 11 at:
http://cbbstudents.com/StaticPage/Toronto__Cassels_Brock_Student_Open_Houses_2015

For those of you out in balmy Vancouver, we will be having an open house on July 22nd. Register at:
http://cbbstudents.com/StaticPage/Vancouver__Cassels_Brock_Student_Open_House_2015

*Pro tip: If you aren’t available for a scheduled firm tour you can reach out to Leigh-Ann, our Assistant Director of Professional Development & Student Programs. She can put you in contact with a current summer student to chat about Cassels, the application process, OCIs, or anything in between.

OK, so you’re signed up for a firm tour. Now what? One thing we all think about is what to wear. Trading in a sweat suit for a business suit is a difficult emotional process, so I wrote this post to help ease the worries of anyone struggling with their game day outfit. Let’s face it – “look good, feel good” is a legitimate mental state, and if you’re comfortable and confident in what you wear it will be a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved!

I think the best piece of advice I received last summer was that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Now, I wouldn’t recommend re-wearing your prom dress for a firm tour or interview, but dressing up rather than dressing down is definitely the way to go. Just ask yourself if you would be comfortable meeting every single lawyer, staff, and client of the firm in what you’re wearing. If the answer is no, I would try to find something more appropriate.

Regardless of gender, it’s always safe to go with a suit. Ladies – don’t be worried about the skirtsuit vs. pantsuit debate. Honestly, it’s all about comfort.Whatever you feel best in, wear. It’s a pretty even 50/50 split and it’s based completely on personal preference.

Finding an appropriate suit isn’t the hard part. The difficulty comes, for me anyway, when trying to decide what top to pair with it! Try to reach for something that isn’t a tank top or too sheer. If you’re worried, wear a camisole underneath to cover your bases. For the ladies, a collared shirt is not necessary; in fact, I’d advise against it. They can be uncomfortable and restricting. Best to save them for interviews when you’ll need to bring out the big guns. If you don’t own a suit but you have an appropriate dress, pair it with a blazer and you’ll be good to go.

Same advice goes for whether you should wear heels or flats. If you are going to wear heels, just be sure that walking all day isn’t going to be an issue – and that they are appropriate office wear. If your doubting walkability over the course of the day, bring a pair of back-up flats or flip-flops to slip on pre and post tour.

Hair, makeup, and accessories are another important point that sometimes get overlooked. I think it’s best not to have unruly hair and not to wear stage makeup or costume jewellery. It’s OK to wear nail polish, but try sticking to neutral colours and make sure it isn’t chipped. Try to keep everything toned down but at the same time, be yourself. You want to feel good, but you do not want to be remembered for what you are wearing.

Gentlemen, I regret to inform you that my fashion advice for you is rather basic – but hey, at least it isn’t complicated. Throw on your favourite suit and tie, a pair of dress-shoes, add in a pair of stylish socks and remember to iron your shirt!

As an added bonus to all of this well-crafted advice, I’m providing you with examples of how to “dress for success” like a CBB student.

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Until next time fashionistas,

D

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Bike for Tykes

 

Today the 2015 Summer Students participated in the Bikes for Tykes Charity Fundraiser in support of The Cancer Neighbourhood of the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning at SickKids. The Cancer Neighbourhood supports research methodologies that will transform treatments for children with cancer across the world, through the sharing of data and results. The goal is to provide a better quality of life for children suffering from cancer, through improved outcomes.

The event was a blast and a huge success! The sun was shining in the TD courtyard and the energy levels were soaring! We surpassed our fundraising goal and have raised $1347 in support of this fantastic cause. Thank you to all who donated!

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