Category Archives: Advice

Fashion Friday: Some Tips For The Fellas

It’s summer. That means it’s law firm tour season. Many law students wonder what to wear to these tours – it can be stressful, especially if you’ve never stepped foot in a law firm before. But fret not. Cassels Brock & Blogwell is here to save the day (and your potential embarrassment by stopping you from mismatching your belt and shoes) with our Fashion Friday posts. Each Friday throughout the summer, we’ll be helping you navigate the fashions of Bay Street and Cassels to help you look your best.

That being said, sorry ladies, can’t help you out there. Nor would you want my help. All of your shoes look the same to me. They all look like, well, shoes. Tegan will be covering women’s fashion. I’ve been asked to write this guest blog on something I know a little more about: men’s fashion. “Guys can just throw on a suit” said almost every female ever. While true, we can “just throw on a suit”, we want to look good whilst doing it. So without further ado, here are some things to consider when dressing for a Bay Street law firm tour:

1. Fit

Sure, you might have a $2000 suit on. But that $2000 suit isn’t going to matter too much if it looks like you’re swimming in it. Conversely, if it looks like tight enough that it might be something a boy band would wear, you might want to consider another suit.

First and foremost, a suit jacket should fit in the shoulders. You want to make sure that there aren’t shoulder divots. Almost everything else on a suit can be tailored except the divots. Many tailors refuse altering the shoulders because: a) it can throw off the proportions of the entire jacket and b) it takes a lot of time and skill. That being said, if you get a jacket that fits in the shoulders from the beginning, you won’t have to worry about any of that. Here are some other things to consider:

– Try to stick with a single breasted jacket, with notch or peak lapels

– The length of the jacket sleeves should ideally expose roughly 0.5-1” of your shirt sleeve

– The jacket should be long enough to cover (or most of) your seat (your butt)

– You can go with a three piece suit should you feel compelled too, but you might be really warm (also, calm down there, Harvey Spectre)

– The break on the pants (where the pant legs end) is a matter of preference. I personally like a half-break or no-break to show off the sock game (more on that later)

– No pleats or cuffs on the pants for a more modern look

2. Colour

Stick with navy or charcoal for the firm tour. I’ve heard mixed opinions on black. The majority has argued that one should not wear black to the office. That being said, I own a black suit and haven’t worn it to work, and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon. Nor have I seen many others wearing black. Take from that what you will. However, if a black suit is all you own, absolutely go for it (just don’t pair it with a white shirt and black tie – you don’t want people giving you their food orders while at the tour).

Most patterns on suits are fine. Prince of Wales, glen plaid, and pin stripes are all acceptable. Unless you’re going for the Don Cherry look of the firm tour world (not advisable), anything that isn’t too flashy works. Don Cherry is the litmus test here.

3. Shirt

When I attended firm tours, I always wore a plain white shirt. I did the same during OCIs and in-firm interviews. While colour is a matter of preference, plain white is a classic and safe colour that goes with any suit, and is easily paired with a variety of tie colours and patterns. Light blue is also another favourite. Some things to consider:

– This goes without saying, but make sure that it is a dress shirt (don’t be the person to show up in a t-shirt – you’d be surprised)

– Make sure that it’s clean and ironed

– A spread or point collar is most common at law firms

– If possible, make sure that the shirt has collar stays. Keep that collar crispy

– Patterns are fine (gingham, checks, or stripes), but again, a plain white or light blue shirt would be ideal

With the above being said, whatever shirt you pick, just make sure that it looks crisp and fresh the day of the firm tour. You want the lawyer you’re talking with to be concentrated on you and not on what may or may not be Cheeto stains on your shirt.

4. Socks

Sure, you can wear plain black socks, but come on, let’s get real. You can also eat the strawberry flavour in Neapolitan ice cream first. Why would you want to?

You have a little more discretion when it comes to your socks. You can use them to show off your personality when you might feel a little more restricted when it comes to your suit and shirt options. I’ve seen everything from neon polka dots, purple argyle, to turtle patterns grace the ankles of the boys at Cassels. Though you can definitely get away with a little more when it comes to socks, make sure to keep it within reason. This is true especially if it’s the first time you’re stepping foot in a law firm or at an interview. You want the lawyers to be concentrated on you and not distracted by your socks. You don’t want to become known as the guy who only wears crazy socks every day. If this is you, you’re trying too hard. You’re like that guy who loses their mind at pick-up softball, sliding into home, and taking out the catcher when you’re already up 12 runs. No one likes that guy. Stop.

5. Shoes

If your dress shoes are black or brown and aren’t falling apart, you’re probably fine. If possible, make sure that they’re polished the day of the tour and don’t look like you just trekked through the Andes in them. When it comes to the style of shoe, you have some choices. Oxfords, cap toes, brogues, and wingtips all grace the hallways of Cassels. NOTE: Make sure that your belt and shoes are the same colour. Major key.

6. Ties

Definitely wear one to the firm tour. Again, just like socks, you have a little more discretion when it comes to ties. I’m not saying go ahead and break out that festive holiday one or that it’s time for the one with the piano keys to make an appearance, but you can definitely add some flare to your look with your tie. Just make sure it goes with what you’re wearing. Ex., combining a striped tie, striped shirt, and striped suit generally isn’t a good look (unless tastefully done and the distance between the stripes are all noticeably different. But even still, just don’t).

If you’re unsure how to match patterns and colours, a solid, dark coloured tie is usually safe when paired with a plain white or light blue shirt. Some safe colours for ties include: burgundy, dark blue, and purple. Stick with a half-Windsor or Windsor knot.

Also, be sure to keep your tie proportional to your jacket. The rule of thumb is that the widest part of your tie should be no thinner than the widest party part of your jacket lapel. Generally, this means no super skinny ties. A tie less than 2”in width would fall into this category.

7. Accessories

Here’s a quick (non-exhaustive) list of tips when it comes to accessorizing:

– Wear a brown or black belt with a conservative buckle. Your belt and your shoes should be the same colour

– A simple analog watch is always safe. If it looks like it could be worn in a rap video, you might want to reconsider wearing it to a firm tour

– Necklaces are fine, just make sure that it’s not visible because you have the Miami Vice look going on and have three buttons undone. Though the necklace shouldn’t be visible anyway, since it’ll be under your plain white or light blue shirt and half-Windsor or Windsor knot. See above

– Pocket squares are also fine. Avoid matching your pocket square to your tie. Your pocket square and tie should complement one another, not match. To be safe, a plain white cotton or linen pocket square in a square fold goes with almost every tie, shirt, and suit combination. Very Don Draper

– Make sure your hair is neat and clean cut. You’ll be visiting a professional work environment and your overall appearance should reflect that. Having hair that looks like it could belong on the Bride of Frankenstein detracts from having a perfectly accessorized and fitting suit

8. Budget

There is absolutely no reason to break the bank over any of the things on this list. I don’t want anyone reading this to think that they have to go out and buy the things on here to be able to attend a firm tour or that you’ll be shunned if you show up in a black suit. That was not the point of this post at all. The goal here was simply to provide some guidance if you’re completely lost on what to wear.

At this point in your career, there is absolutely no reason that you need a bespoke suit form Savile Row or expensive shoes. Honestly, no one is going to care. You’re still a student and lawyers know this. No one is expecting you to wow them with the price tag of anything you’re wearing. If anything, you’ll look like you’re trying too hard. If you fit things off the rack, absolutely go for it. Just make sure that it fits. If you get a suit on sale, even better. Use the money you save and go see a tailor. I cannot stress that enough. A $300 suit that fits well can and will look exponentially better than one that’s a $1000 and poor fitting. Many people will have zero idea how to tell the difference between that $300 and $1000 suit. The majority of people will have no idea if that same suit is a polyester blend or wool or even know what difference that entails. As long as you feel confident in what you’re wearing, that’s the most important thing.

This is Richard signing off. Keep your fashion game strong.

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a style expert and you’re more than welcome to completely disagree with me on anything that was said. Take everything on this list with a grain of salt.

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Your Guide to Firm Tours

I’m sure you’ve heard that law firms all have a unique culture, and that you should try to find the one where you best “fit”. I heard that line a million times and I must say as a 1L I didn’t buy it. But, once I started going on firm tours I quickly realized that it is true! Firms really do have different cultures and firm tours are a great way to start discovering that.

That said, firm tours can be scary. For me it was the first time setting foot in a big law firm and I had no idea what to expect. But fear not – here are some tips to help you succeed at any firm tour:

1. Dress professionally – You don’t have to be in a full suit but remember that the students and lawyers running the tour are at work and will be dressed as such – you should be too! If you show up in cut-off jeans you’ll kind of stand out. For ladies a dress and a blazer is a great option.

2. Ask smart questions – The whole point of the tour is for you to learn more about what the firm is like, take advantage of that opportunity. That said don’t ask questions with obvious Googleable answers – don’t ask if Cassels does any work in mining (hint: we do…a lot). Focus on learning more about the intangibles of the firm, the culture, day to day life, the kind of work students get to do, basically the things you can’t just find on the website.

3. Relax and enjoy– Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Firm tours are more for you to learn about the firm than for the firm to learn about you. Relax and try to view firm tours as a learning opportunity more than anything else. Also eat! There is great food at these things and people are often too nervous to eat or think they shouldn’t for some reason. You should eat – the food is awesome and it’s there for you!

4. GO! – If you have the opportunity to go to firm tours I really recommend you do. It is a great low pressure way to get an introduction to the firm, and it can only serve to make you more informed and more comfortable as you navigate the recruit.

 

For information on firm tours you can contact your law school’s career development office or check the firm’s website. For Cassels I’ll save you the time, just click here.

Our firms tours will be a great opportunity to meet lawyers and students, learn about the summer program and the recruitment process, and they will be lunch!

The Toronto office has tours on June 28, July 21, and August 9 from 12:00-1:00.

The Vancouver office has an open house on July 13 from 4:30-5:30.

Hope to see you there!

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From Law School to Law Firm: The Gulf Between What You Know and What You Need to Know

I am not remotely close to being an expert in any field of law, but that’s okay – I’m a student! During Cassels’ orientation week I was a little troubled by how little I knew. I thought the gulf between what I do know and what I thought I ought to know would be detrimental. However, I’m pleased to report that I have not been sent packing for bringing only an inquisitive mind to the table at this juncture in my legal career. The firm has learned that I know little about securities and has opted to still keep me around.

While I do believe that every aspect of my first year of law school was in some way beneficial, certain things prepared me for my summer position more than others. The activities that aren’t in any way represented on my transcript have been the most useful. For example, I realized in mooting that I read cases more analytically when I’m reading for a moot as opposed to a class or exam. My experience reading cases for a moot has helped me a lot when conducting research. Preparing for moots requires that you read cases while trying to determine whether each and every point made helps or hurts your position. Every time a lawyer at Cassels has asked me to do research they’ve told me how my research fits into the broader puzzle. So, I’ve been able to put my point by point reading (figured I’d give it a name) to further practice.

I must admit that at the start of law school (probably through the middle as well) Legal Process/Civil Procedure was my least favourite class. As such, it was at the bottom of my priority list. I thought that above all things, I needed to do well in contracts to do well on Bay Street. This thought continued until I was asked to take the first crack at a Statement of Claim. I won’t walk through each and every way Legal Process/Civil Procedure helped prepare me for that assignment, but it helped a lot!

Now that I am a seasoned and accomplished veteran a month and a week into the job, I think I’ve noticed a trend. The most important thing does not appear to be the nuts and the bolts of what you learn. Rather, it’s how you’re taught to read, think, and learn! While the nuts and bolts may undoubtedly help, Cassels is full of willing substitute teachers. Also, the true aim of law school is to teach you how to learn efficiently. The knowledge can and will come in practice. Be it mooting or extremely practical courses, law school does prepare you for life as a lawyer if you capitalize on your learning avenues. Sometimes you do fall victim to the knowledge gulf, but when for whatever reason the knowledge aspect hasn’t come despite my best efforts I’ve rented my mentor Chris’ brain.

The knowledge gulf is real, but it is not significant. An inquisitive mind that is willing to learn and occasionally rent another brain is all that is required to survive a summer on Bay.

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West Coast Wednesday (Special Thursday Edition): Tips and Tricks for Vancouver’s “Big Firm” Hiring Process

To all of you brilliant and amazing almost-2Ls out there:

How is it August already!?!? Days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder, and a cloud of palpable stress has descended over law students across Canada…

OCI’S AND INTERVIEW WEEK ARE ALMOST UPON US!!!!

Don’t worry, CBB Vancouver has your back.

In our second-to-last West Coast Wednesday post of summer 2014, Arend and I want to share our insights about Vancouver’s “big firm” hiring process. We both remember how it felt to ride the emotional roller coaster of job applications last year. Somehow we both made it through in one piece and ended up with jobs that we love.

We have comments on all stages of the application process, from visiting firms in the summer to the “grand finale” of Interview Week. Hopefully you’ll find at least some of what we’ve written to be helpful!

In the summer

Arend

  • Invite summer students to coffee – The benefits are immense: you get one-on-one time, students can give you the best impression of what being a summer student is like, you get free coffee and possibly a snack, you might be introduced to some other firm members, and you will make an impression just by reaching out. Always send a follow-up thank you email after the coffee – it’s a nice gesture that will be noticed and appreciated.
  • Do research before you visit firms or meet with students – It makes a good impression if you seem interested and knowledgeable about the firm.

Jenna

  • Visit as many firms as you can – The best way to get a sense of the general atmosphere of a firm is to visit its office. You can sign up for group tours and open houses, or contact a firm’s student coordinator and request to meet with a summer student individually.
  • Contact people you know who are working in firms you’re interested in – People you know are more likely to give you candid feedback on their experiences at a firm. They may also put in a good word for you when you apply, which can set you apart from other applicants.

“Wine and Cheese” events

Arend

  • Arrive early – If you arrive at the very beginning of the event, you will have more opportunities to meet with lawyers and face less competition from other candidates.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t get an opportunity to make an impression on the lawyers – These events can be challenging and intimidating. In a typical evening you might only be able to chat with four or five lawyers, and even when you do, you’ll be competing with other students trying to interject. You’re unlikely to get a job offer or an invitation for coffee or dinner afterwards. The real purpose of the wine and cheese is for students to get an understanding of the firm and a taste of its culture.
  • Relax and enjoy the free cheese – mmmmm cheese!

When you submit your applications

Arend

  • Narrow your focus – Some students apply widely, willing to try everything, while others, with clear career objectives, limit their scope. It’s challenging to give advice on how many applications to send, but don’t send an application if you have no intention of working for the firm or in their area of law.
  • Use the resources provided by the UBC Law Career Services Office (CSO) – They provide useful templates and examples of resumes and cover letters. If you aren’t from UBC you can still contact the CSO and inquire about accessing these resources.

Jenna

  • If you’re applying from an out-of-province school, or you aren’t from Vancouver, emphasize your connection to the city in your application – Firms want to ensure that you’re committed to working in Vancouver before they hire you. Mention why you want to work in Vancouver in your cover letter and be prepared to answer questions on this topic during your interviews.
  • Be strategic about how you write your cover letters – Make sure to mention any visits you made to the firm and the people you met. It will distinguish you application and demonstrate your interest in the firm.
  • PROOFREAD THOROUGHLY – Firms receive hundreds of applications. You want to stand out for the right reasons, not because you misspelled someone’s name or addressed your letter to the wrong firm.

OCI’s

Arend

  • Don’t worry if you don’t get asked any “serious” questions about your work and life experience –Interviewers will often ask questions about trivial parts of your resume because they want to hear a non-scripted answer and learn more about you as a person. Be yourself, engage in what they would like to discuss, and be personable.

Jenna

  • Keep smiling and don’t complain –Bring lots of energy to every conversation and be aware of the body language you’re conveying. If anyone asks you how your day is going, keep your comments positive and upbeat. The OCI process is draining and depressingly similar to speed dating, but just imagine being the interviewers! Likely they are even more burnt out than you, so try to make their job as easy as possible and make an effort to connect with them in engaging conversation.
  • Make a list of questions to ask your interviewers, but don’t feel like you have to stick to your script –To calm your nerves, spend some time thinking of some questions to ask your interviewers during the inevitable, “do you have any questions for us?” phase of the OCI. Write your questions down and bring the list with you to review, if needed, while you wait between interviews. Don’t force your questions; relax and go with the natural flow of the conversation whenever possible. If an interviewer mentions something that you’re genuinely interested in, ask about it! Don’t worry too much if you don’t get time to ask all of your questions, you can save them for interview week!

“Call Day” for Interview Week

Arend

  • Be selective in who you choose to interview with – I’d recommend taking five or six interviews. Having to manage 8 or 10 interviews during interview week will be exhausting, and will reduce the energy you need to woo your favourite firms.

Jenna

  • Make a game plan ahead of time – Write out a list of your OCI firms in order of your preference. Schedule your preferred firms earlier in the week (preferably Monday). If possible, leave the Wednesday open and unscheduled. Wednesday should be used for follow-up interviews with your favourite firms, which will be scheduled during Interview Week.
  • Write out a blank timetable in advance and fill in the time slots when firms call – Allow two hours for each interview (just to be safe). Include time slots for the evenings, as there will be receptions and dinners. You can squeeze a reception and dinner into one evening if need be, but don’t RSVP to a reception if you think you’ll be there for less than an hour.
  • If you make a mistake, people will understand – Firms know that this is a stressful and hectic process for candidates. If you double-book or need to cancel an interview, just call or email the firm’s student coordinator and politely explain what happened. They will understand, especially if you get in touch as promptly as possible and well in advance of the interview.

Interview Week

Arend

  • Keep your long-term career goals in mind – It’s easy to be excited at the prospect of working for an impressive firm, but don’t let the short-term glory of telling your grandma you’ll be working for a former Supreme Court judge cloud your long-term goals. This is more than just a summer job: chances are that you’ll be with this firm through articles and during your first few years as a lawyer.
  • Make sure you actually like people at the firms you’re interested in – A smart candidate prefers fit over prestige. The excitement of getting a summer job will quickly pass, and you’ll be left with the people you chose.
  • Profess your love to firms (appropriately) – As Jenna will discuss below, telling a firm that they’re your “first choice” is a terrifying but essential process. I recommend on Tuesday or Wednesday leading up to it by telling a firm that “you’re one of my top choices.” If you get any love back from them, then jump in and shout “I LOVE CASSELS!!! I can think of nothing better than spending an entire summer here!” (replacing “Cassels” with whatever firm you claim you can love as much as Jenna and I love Cassels). What about backup firms? Tell your number two “you’re among my two preferred firms,” and your third “you’re among my top three.” If you don’t want a firm to call, don’t tell them anything.

Jenna

  • Be nice to everyone – Every minute you spend visiting a firm during Interview Week is an opportunity to impress and make a good impression. This may seem obvious, but treat everyone you encounter with respect and consideration, from students to support staff to senior partners. Everyone has a say in hiring decisions.
  • Anticipate sources of stress and deal with the ones that are within your control – Interview Week is nerve-wracking enough, the last thing you want is to be worried about is a stain on your shirt or bad breath. I recommend carrying a bag of survival essentials, including tide-to-go, breath mints, extra pairs of nylons (you know they will rip), a cell phone charger, band aids, and energy bars (stomach grumbling mid-interview is the worst).
  • Consider staying in a hotel downtown – Even if you’re from Vancouver, staying downtown removes the unnecessary stress of waiting for a bus or a cab in the morning and reduces the time it takes you to get home to crash after a long day. I also found that it helped me stay “in the zone” and provided invaluable quiet time to think and reflect on the firms that I interviewed with.
  • If you know a firm is your first choice, TELL THEM! But only if you’re sure… You can only say “you’re my first choice” to one firm in the interview process, so make sure you say it to the right one! This phrase is code for “if you call me on call day, I will accept your offer.” If you say this to a firm and then decline their offer, you will burn bridges and start out your career with a negative reputation. Save the “first choice” conversation for Wednesday, after you’ve had at least one interview with all of the firms and carefully considered your options.

That’s all we’ve got for now, but please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about CBB Vancouver. We know that that preparing applications for OCI’s and Interview Week is stressful and we’re happy to help in any way we can!

Best of luck with the application process! Not that you’ll need luck, because you will do great.

Until next Wednesday,

Jenna C.

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Early Summer OCI Tips

Now, I know what you’re thinking already. Its mid-July, you’re sitting by the pool sipping some sangria or K-Juice (ask Kwaku for a recipe) and you are saying: why would I ever start worrying about OCI’s right now?!

The scary truth is that Toronto OCI applications are due in around 6 weeks, and it is never too early to start prepping. In fact, I would highly advise not leaving these applications until the last minute. The good news is that there is some very easy and helpful prep work you can start doing right now. Here are a few tips for getting started on the application process:

1) Contact people you know at the firms you are applying to. Reaching out to students and lawyers at these firms is a great way of demonstrating your interest to the firm and learning more about the firm culture.  And most importantly, you will have a name to reference in your cover letter. Every little trick you can use to help distinguish yourself from the pack is highly recommended. Also, if you don’t know anyone personally at the firm you are applying to, don’t be afraid to contact an alumni from your law school who works there. We have all been in your shoes and we are all happy to help.

2) ORDER YOUR TRANSCRIPTS. NOW. I won’t name names (NOAH LESZCZ) but some students forget to order their official transcripts from both their undergrad universities and their law school. You don’t want to be compiling your applications and suddenly realize that the transcript you thought you had from undergrad was in fact incomplete, and missing your entire fourth year. Needless to say, it’s not a fun feeling. (I ended up realizing my mistake with a week to go and rush ordered the transcript from McGill for a hefty price. No harm, no foul.) On this same note, contact the people (if any) who are writing your reference letters to give them as much time as possible.

photo32

Chan and Chad’s Tip: “Don’t wear the exact same suit, shirt, and tie combo as your good friends. One of you is inevitably going to look better.”

3) Clean up your resume. Start editing and re-writing your resume to make it as professional looking as possible. I highly recommend contacting a friend in upper year at law school and asking for a copy of their resume. Law firms want to see a specific format from your resume and double checking with an upper year buddy is a good way to make sure you are on track.

4) Go on firm tours. Firm tours are a great way to meet lawyers at the firms and give yourself a leg up before OCI’s. Most importantly, you will start to figure what people mean when they say “firm culture”. Finding a firm that you like, is just as important as finding a firm that likes you.

5) Find an “upper year OCI buddy”. Yes, I made up that term. And yes, I had an upper year OCI buddy. The next few months are going to be a whirlwind of applications, cover letters, interviews, dinners, and phone calls. Having someone that you can call at any time to bounce questions off of is crucial. There is a tremendous amount of strategy that goes into the whole OCI process and having a wise sage (AKA upper year OCI buddy) in your back-pocket will prove to be extremely helpful.

Stay tuned for more blog posts with tips for OCI’s in the upcoming weeks!

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