Category Archives: Advice

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…


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


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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.



  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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.


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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First Years Take on Bay Street

As we have mentioned, there are 22 summer students at Cassels. What you may not know is that three of us are first year students. While we usually blend in with the second year students, sometimes we just can’t hide our “inexperience”.

While the first year recruitment process begins in second semester, landing a first year position at a Bay Street firm may be something on your mind when you begin law school in September. If not, you may start to consider first year recruitment after receiving your grades in January. In either case, you will undoubtedly have endless questions and concerns about the process. I have decided to compile this post (with the help of the lovely previous and present 1L students) to provide some insight into the application process, explain why you should consider participating in 1L recruitment, and offer our perspective on being a 1L student at Cassels.

From us to you, we hope this post eases some of your worries and provides you with a few (albeit corny) laughs along the way!


The Application Process:

“I highly recommend applying for a 1L position because even if you don’t end up landing a job, you still come out with polished application materials, invaluable interview experience, and a handful of new connections at law firms.”

– Michael Garbuz


“Although all interviews come with a reasonable amount of stress, the 1L process is much less stressful than the frenzy of OCIs. Firms generally interview fewer 1L candidates and as a result, you get to experience the firm on a more holistic level. I had the benefit of meeting the entire student committee during my interviews at Cassels which provided me with a much more comprehensive view of the firm and its culture.”

– Xi Chen


Life as a 1L at Cassels:

“This year, the 1L students are sharing offices with the returning 1L students. We are thankful that we each have an “unofficial” mentor to calm our nerves and answer all of our questions (usually with a sarcastic response or a laugh). So, while we have capitalized on their knowledge of the Firm, we have also been the victims of the “oh, you silly 1L” jokes.

I was particularly looking forward to having a returning summer student officemate so that my most serious issues – all computer and printing related – could be addressed. Unfortunately, Jacquie has been very unhelpful in this respect. I have suggested that she sign up for additional computer training sessions to fix this problem.”

– Amanda Metallo


“Being a 1L at Cassels is not so different from being a 2L at Cassels. However, there are some changes I would suggest:

  1. Provide us each with an “in training” label for our clothes to alert lawyers that we don’t know what a PPSA or a Prospectus is
  2. Provide our office-mates with sensitivity training (looking at you, Chan) to support our professional development
  3. Take us for ice cream when we have had a tough day at the office
  4. Give us the authority to delegate work to the 2L summer students

That being said, life is good being a 1L summer student at Cassels.”

– Chad Podolsky


“You will feel like you are scamming the system because you are getting paid but don’t know anything substantial. Don’t worry, everyone is in the same boat, including the 2Ls. Although you might not know anything about securities or business or what a PPSA Registration is, the summer program is all about learning. The lawyers know that we know nothing and everyone’s willing to help so just ask questions. The one caveat to that is if you’re wondering what’s on the lunch menu or how to set up voicemail, you might want to ask another summer student and not a partner.”

– Andrew Chan


“As a 1L student, the number one lession I learned was that, if you don’t know what something means, ask.

As a returning student, I’ve decided to reject my own advice entirely and impart knowledge upon my officemate Amanda exclusively through the “learn by doing” method. While Amanda has not yet figured out that this is almost entirely because I still don’t know what “toggling a doc ID” means or how to convert a PDF into a gif into a three dimensionally printed working airplane, I still take partial credit for her laudable skill at “replying-all” to assignment emails in three seconds or less.”

– Jacquie Richards


Jacquie reminding me that what we lack in skill, we make up for in enthusiasm


Michael has been trying to perfect David’s ‘serious’ face all summer long


Andrew and Chad need a little distance from time to time


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