Author Archives: Max

Guest Post: Len’s Pre Trial Extravaganza

Early on in the summer Len and I were given the opportunity to attend a pre-trial for a litigation file we were working on. Unfortunately I was too busy and only Len got to go, so I made him promise to write a guest post for the blog describing his experience. So without further ado, here is Len’s post on his amazing pre-trial experience:

Guest Blogger: Len Loewith

Blogging! What a great chance to write down my feelings. It’s like that diary I never kept, but open to everyone!

In all seriousness, I came into this summer at CBB wanting to get as much hands on litigation experience as possible. I have always had a strong interest in advocacy, and figured diving right into it would be the only way to determine if this is something I want to pursue as a career.

Fortunately for me, the team here at CBB is very open to giving summer students hands-on experience, and the litigation group has some of the best opportunities available. On my second day of work I went along to the Commercial List (a specialized commercial/insolvency court) and was in chambers with a well-known insolvency judge. The next week I travelled to St. Catherine’s to appear on a matter in traffic court (I know, I know, it’s just traffic court, but I still got to speak to the judge – it all counts – and also, I’m 1-0!). I’ve also tagged along for discoveries and shadowed a mediator on a full day mediation, to name a few of the experiences I’ve had this summer. 

My favourite experience came as a result of some basic case law research Max and I had been asked to do for an employment/business law litigation file. The matter was proceeding to a pre trial (essentially a mediation that takes place in front of a judge – nothing actually binding, but they try to work out the conflict and avoid the very high legal fees resulting from a two-week trial if no resolution is reached.) This takes place at the courthouse and is technically in chambers, although the “chambers” for this purpose is a boardroom that seats 10 people.

Stock legal image / the first result of a Google search for “Pre-Trial”

The judge we were in front of is infamous in litigation circles – well known for doing whatever it takes to reach a settlement: no food breaks, no bathroom breaks, keep you there until 3AM if necessary. I sat at the back of the room to observe, but was immediately called out by the judge. “Mr. Loewith, do you want to learn anything today?” Of course I did. “Then sit at the damn table.” With that, we were off and running.

The judge fired a few questions at different parties in the proceeding, trying to get a grasp of what the exact issue was. The whole ordeal degenerated into a yelling match between family members that, at times, became very personal. Throughout, the judge just sat back, shushing the lawyers when they tried to intervene, and allowing the families to air our their grievances. As things cooled off, the judge simply passed around a blank piece of paper for everyone to take. When I tried to avoid taking one, I was again scolded into participating. When she said “Everyone write down a number that they think would be a fair settlement,” I jumped. Write down a number? I don’t even understand employment law yet, let alone costs, damages, etc. How would I ever come up with an accurate number? And how seriously was she taking these suggestions. Luckily, I think I was somewhat in the ballpark on the number.

The day continued with the parties haggling about numbers, the judge telling them how stupid it would be to go to trial, etc. By 6:30 PM, we had reached a settlement. Not too bad actually, only 8.5 hours and we were out of there. First, for the much needed bathroom break. Then food.

Pre trials are an important step in litigation proceedings. Clients really can save a significant sum of money by avoiding trial. Not all are as crazy as the one I got to be a part of (or so I’m told). Either way, it was a good real world experience that I won’t be forgetting for a while.

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Learning to cook with the Great Cooks on Eight!

A few weeks back the summer students and a few lawyers went out to Great Cooks on Eight in the Simpson Tower (it’s on the eighth floor, geddit?). There we were taught to cook a few gourmet dishes that we then enjoyed together. It was sort of a fancy, supervised potluck kind of affair, instructed by the amazing Great Cooks staff (who, lets be real, were equally there to make sure we didn’t kill ourselves).

“I mean yes, you could serve the crab meat tartare… But should you?

Knife Safety 101

Some of the great dishes we learned to cook included crab cakes, bruschetta, baked salmon, and red velvet cake. They all turned out fantastically, although truth be told I heard that the red velvet cake had to be recooked by the Great Cooks staff before they would let us eat it. But then that could just be a nasty rumour spread by the overly-competitive bruschetta team. People got really serious about their dishes.

Lawyers hard at work on the red velvet cake

How many law students does it take to prepare a main course? One, so long as he has five others to “supervise”

We’ve had a lot of great and unique experiences this summer, and Great Cooks on Eight was no exception! We enjoyed some great company and some nice wine, learned to cook something new, and then were treated to a fantastic meal! 10/10, would go again!

Great Cooks on Eight: Cassels Tested, Dom Approved

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CBB Students: Candy Olympians

If you haven’t heard from me in a while it’s because I’ve been earning myself a new nickname around the office: the candy man.

The summer students at Cassels Brock have been involved in a number of charitable initiatives in support of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). It’s an important cause that has impacted most peoples’ lives, and we’ve been thrilled to devote a bit of our summer to supporting the work CAMH does. Last week we visted the organization’s Queen Street location and spent an afternoon with some of their clients and staff. We’re also organizing a silent auction within the firm a little later in the summer to raise money for CAMH. However, the part of all this that has figured most prominently in my life over the last few weeks has been the CAMH Candy Olympics.

The CBB Summer Students at CAMH

Basically the Candy Olympics involve the summer students selling candy around the Cassels offices to raise money in support of CAMH. The “Olympics” part is because we’ve pitted the various floors of the Toronto office and the Vancouver office against one another in order to inspire some friendly (and charitable) competitiveness. At the end the floor that raises the most money for CAMH will receive a “fabulous mystery prize” (spoiler alert: it will not be fabulous / will almost certainly just be more candy), and in the meantime people have a good incentive to buy lots of candy. On top of candy being, you know, awesome and tasty.

I’ve been working with a few other summer students to coordinate the Candy Olympics, and the whole thing has proven to be quite a substantial task. My individual jobs have included sending out firm-wide emails about candy and answering any questions about the initiative (hence the nickname), as well as storing massive amounts of candy in my office (more on that in a bit). On top of that there’s a whole series of weekly tasks that take the entire student group to complete.

Each week we organize student volunteers to go around the firm taking orders and donations from everyone they can find. Once these are in we count the orders to determine how much candy we need to buy, and then we’re off to Bulk Barn for some serious candy shopping. And I do mean serious:

This is cart one of five

With the candy in hand, we return to Cassels to construct the bags and attach small labels with a bit of information about CAMH. We’ve been really lucky to have a ton of support from the entire student group for each of these candy bag production sessions, as we often have 300+ orders. Many hands makes for a lighter load, and we really wouldn’t be able to handle all the orders we’ve gotten without the full support of all the Cassels summer students. It’s been a great bonding experience working together assembly line-style, and we’ve learned interesting things about one another like Len‘s incredible talent for catching Skittles in his mouth.

Frantically putting candy into bags

The firm’s Copy Centre has also been really amazing about putting together the informational tags about CAMH. Each week they’ve been producing hundreds of these tags for each of the ordered candy bags. It makes a huge difference for each bag to individually raise awareness about the cause behind the initiative, especially as many of the bags have been given out to the friends and families of people working at the firm.

Finally, once the candy bags are constructed, we again organize student volunteers to deliver each of the bags. This has proven to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the initiative, as it’s allowed us to meet and talk to many more people around the firm than we would have otherwise. I know that I’ve met a ton of new people as a result of this, and I’ve also learned all about each of their candy preferences.

Fun fact: many, many people like chocolate. We didn’t initially include much in our bags because we were concerned about allergies and melting, but we’ve gotten so many requests that next week we’re having an all-chocolate candy run. Immediately after I sent out an email announcing the so-called Chocolate Day I received an email from a partner that just included the word “finally” and this picture:

So that about sums up the process behind the CAMH Candy Olympics. As you can see, it’s a huge effort, and so along with all of my other work I’ve been quite busy these last few weeks (we occassionally do lawyerly type things around here). If I never see another piece of candy for the rest of my life I won’t miss it (though my dentist might), but the experience of working together with the other students and various departments in the firm, as well as meeting an incredible number of people that I might never have been able to otherwise, has been extremely gratifying. On top of that we’re working to support an incredible cause in CAMH, and each of us on the Candy Olympics committee has felt a distinct sense of pride with each dollar we’ve raised for the organization. All with these little bags of sugary gold:

The finished product / Money Maker

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So that was the day the Batmobile showed up at work…

One of the unexpected perks of working downtown: getting to see the freakin’ Batmobile.

Ain’t it a beaut?

I was hard at work on a file yesterday morning when all of a sudden I heard an extremely loud noise and noticed birds scattering in all directions. My initial thoughts were that there was a truck parking below my window on Adelaide Street, or else that the noise somehow came from a crane (I can’t explain why that made sense at the time). The point is that the noise was very loud and impressive, and when I looked out my window the absolute last thing I expected to see was this:

The Batmobile. For real. And that loud, startling noise? Turns out it was the thing’s motor revving up. From 20 stories below me. Wow.

Seeing as how I’m a strapping young summer student at a prestigious Toronto law firm and I had a literal truckload of files ominously towering over my desk, I decided to do the only sensible thing and go take a bunch of pictures of the car. Priorities: I’ll get to them later.

The sheer fun of the Batmobile cracks Justin's otherwise cool and collected demeanour

Seriously though, I’m a huge Bat-geek and the chance to see the car in person was an unexpected dream come true. I’m pleased to say I’m not alone either. As soon as I saw the car I notified my fellow summer students, and within minutes the news had spread throughout the firm. I saw partners, associates, and law students alike running towards north-facing windows to get a glimpse of the Batmobile (the Tumbler to our nerdier readers).

In addition to the Batmobile, Toronto’s own Batman showed up to add to the fun. If you haven’t heard of him then you should check out his video on YouTube. He stood around taking pictures with passersby, and getting people to quote Batman Begins and The Dark Knight with him. Here he is holding a baby:

And then, just as swiftly and surprisingly as it had arrived, the car was gone. Where is it off to? Nobody knows… Actually it’s pretty easy to find out, it has a schedule and everything. I recommend checking it out if you get a chance, it was a great way to start the day and get hyped up about one of the most anticipated movies of the summer.

All in all it was a Bat-filled and fun day at the office. Speaking of which, wasn’t this blog supposed to be about working in a law firm or something?

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Biking to Work

Hello Internet! My name is Max and, as Noah’s illustrious introductions made clear, I’m one of the Cassels Brock 2012 summer student bloggers. I’ll be posting regularly about everything from OCI tips to Bay Street-area restaurant reviews, inter-firm softball match results, and myth-busting revelations about what firm life is actually like. Feel free to use the contact information under the “Contact Us” tab to get in touch with me (or any of the 2012 blogging team) if you have any questions or ideas about posts you’d like to read!

For my first post I’ve chosen a subject that’s near and dear to my heart: how to bike to work at a Bay Street law firm. I’m an avid cyclist and so my ideal vision of working at Cassels for the summer included being able to get to and from work each day on my bike. But, having spent a summer or two in Toronto before, I knew there were a few things I’d need to ensure that biking to work would be feasible. Clara’s already given a few helpful hints in case you deicde to wear a skirt, and below are a few Do’s and Don’ts to help make sure you successfully get to work on two wheels each day:

Do: Find a shower
Toronto gets hot during the summer. Absurdly hot, and humid to boot. I knew that while cruising into work in early May might not be a big deal, come June/July/August I’d be sweating through my shirt after just a few minutes outside, bike or no bike. So on my first day at Cassels I made it a priority to figure out where I could find a shower. Luckily for me there were plenty of options! Cassels actually has a shower available for its summer students and so I’ve been using it when I arrive each morning (see pictures below). It’s a tad on the creepy side what with it not having an overhead light, but it’s convenient and gets the job done.

If the firm you’re working at doesn’t have a shower then there are also numerous gyms in the area that have showers available for members. Chances are you’re going to want to get a gym membership that you can use downtown anyway, so if you sign up then you’ll have access to a nearby shower. You can also rent lockers from most if not all of the gyms, so you can store whatever you need there! Which brings me to my next point…

Do: Bring what you need to get ready every day to work
This is largely obvious, bring shampoo and a shaving razor, etc., but you also shouldn’t be afraid to bring in your shirts, ties and suit(s). All of mine are hanging behind my door in my office, and I have it on good authority that there are numerous partners and associates here that do the same thing. There’s also a mysterious set of clothes that seem to be permanently located in the shower bathroom (see picture below), despite the posted warning against leaving any personal items in the room overnight. I don’t know who they belong to but they never move, and I’m pretty sure that no one else is regularly using the shower. Maybe whoever owns them has forgotten they exist or is no longer at the firm, no one seems to know but if I find out I’ll post an update!

The mystery clothes...

Do: Scope out the parking situation
On the first day that I biked in I parked about a block away from my office on King Street, and that was a mistake. It rained, my bike was left out in the cold to face the elements alone, and I was treated to a very unpleasant and wet seat on my trip home. Needless to say I wasn’t about to make that mistake again. I took Clara’s advice and found the great bicycle parking available on Adelaide, where the Scotia Plaza actually has an overhang that protects the bikes from getting rained on. They also have security watching the area all day long, which is great if you’re going to experience separation anxiety like me, but not so great if you want to take a picture. Seriously, when I first tried to take a picture of the bike racks security shut me down, but when I went back for a photo shoot with fellow blogger Cait they let us snap a quick pic. I guess two people in suits with a camera looks less suspicious than one… Or something… Anyway, this is how packed the bike racks are:

This very full looking bike rack (conveniently) brings me to my first Don’t, which is…

Don’t: Show up late
Aside from the obvious “It’s a good way to get fired” logic, showing up late will ensure that you have nowhere to park. There are more people who bike to work downtown than you’d expect, and if you show up late you’ll be forced to try to find a bike-locking-post-thing (what are they even called?) somewhere on King Street, which exponentially increases your chances of getting on the wrong side of a bike courier. It’s all around bad news.

Don’t: Look like a scuzzball
My final Don’t is another word of caution for the young, professional, legal cyclist demographic: don’t look like you biked to work in front of clients. In fact, don’t look like you biked to work in front of anyone. This is actually a good reason to follow my first Do, namely find a shower, but you should also make sure that when getting to-and-from said shower you don’t run into anyone who you’d rather not have see you looking sweaty and covered in chain grease. So, if you’re showering at a gym then make sure you can change before coming from your gym to work. This is simple and usually just necessitates that you rent a locker at the gym. However, if you take my lead and shower at your firm then take a moment on your first day to ask someone smarter than you (read: anyone) a few important questions: a) what’s the quickest way to your office from the elevator?, and b) can you get from your office to the shower and back without going through the lobby/client area? Take it from me, the answers to these questions could make or break your summer, or at least your bicycling commute.

Whew! Well that turned out longer than I expected! Later in the summer I’ll post some more biking tips-and-tricks about road safety in Toronto (although I’m probably the farthest thing from an authority on the subject). For now though I’ll leave you with a hilarious picture of me looking awkward on my bike in my suit. Enjoy it, laugh at it, but don’t immitate it since you shouldn’t wear your suit on your bike. That’s like the number two way to get bike grease on your suit, right after annoying a bike courier.

Do as I say, not as I do...

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