Category Archives: Archive

OCI Applications: Cover Letter, Resume & Final Tips

Since 5 PM on Monday August 21 is fast-approaching, our summer student group thought it would be beneficial to share some final tips of advice as you finalize your cover letters and resumes. We know the stress of uploading every document to the ViDesktop… making sure that every T is crossed and I is dotted.

Don’t fret! Considering the fact that all of us went through the exact same process last year, we thought we would share some of the key features/ elements of a successful cover letter.

1) Know yourself and be able to communicate your “theme” in your cover letter

The reader of your cover letter will be greatly impressed when they can draw connections between your resume and your cover letter. You want your cover letter to provide a strong sense of your personality, character, work ethic, and attitude. Every line you include in your cover letter should therefore have a purpose. Make sure you are drawing connections between the work experience and the skills you acquired during the experience.

For example, if you were a barista at Starbucks, do not waste valuable real estate on explaining the role of a barista. Everyone generally knows the roles and duties of a barista at a coffee shop. Do your best to communicate the lessons and skills you gained on the job, IE: “Over the past four years, I have worked as a barista at Starbucks Canada, where I was promoted from Jr. Server into a managerial role, overseeing roughly 15 employees. It was through this experience where I learned the value of working within a team-setting under tight deadlines.”

Already, as a reader, we would get the sense that you are team player who rose through the ranks based on hard work, dedication, and commitment. Do not be afraid to tell your story!

2) Be honest about your interests but do not pigeon hole yourself (if applying to a full-service firm).

At Cassels Brock, we are a full-service firm, which means that our lawyers practice all different types of law. Our advocacy and business groups consist of many sub-groups and practice areas. This structure is quite similar at other firms. As a reader, one would definitely want to see that you are interested in certain areas of the law. It shows that you have done your research and have selected courses that can somewhat prepare you for practice. At the same time; however, always keep an open mind.

Many of us wrote to Cassels something alone these lines: “I am interested in your franchise and intellectual property groups, but would welcome the opportunity to gain broad exposure to the various groups within advocacy and business law.”

3) Always include a paragraph on WHY the firm

We are sure that many, if not most of you, have attended various firm tours across the city over the course of the summer. While it may not be apparent to you just yet, you will notice (during in-firm interviews) that firms embody distinct cultures. Ultimately, many of you will be making decisions about your legal career based on a specific culture of a firm. If you have had the opportunity to speak with summer students/ articling students and/or lawyers from firms, be sure to mention some of the integral tidbits they shared about the firm in your cover letter. Always explain to the reader WHY you see yourself making a great addition to the firm and WHAT about the firm attracted you to apply. Do your best to communicate characteristics and/or features that are not directly mentioned on the website.

Were there certain diversity initiatives about the firm that you admired? Did a summer student speak about a work assignment that seemed exciting and intriguing? Did you speak to a recruiter about the unique qualities of the firm? Be sure to mention those key interactions/ conversations! It will benefit you in the long run, especially when you are able to put a name to a face during the interview process.


  • Use powerful active verbs such as “I managed,” “I facilitated,” “I organized.”
  • Maximum use of 3 bullets per experience.
  • Try to avoid high school involvement (unless it is inherently unique).
  • Be specific when describing your tasks.
  • Think carefully about your skills and interests section.

Final Tips

  • Be yourself! Everyone in this process values authenticity.
  • Know your personality- be able to recognize the type of firm/ working environment you are looking for (IE: smaller, medium, big, rotational summer program, flexible summer program, litigation, corporate, full-service).
  • Ask meaningful questions (Try not to ask lawyers questions that can be answered directly from the Cassels Brock website).
  • Use students as your resources from beginning to end (Call a friend who interviewed at Cassels prior to OCIs to learn more about the interview experience).

We wish all of you the best of the luck in the process. Our summer term ends Friday August 18th, 2017, but all of us would be happy to provide support and to answer any of your questions throughout the process!

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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:


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.


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 (, 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.


  • 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,



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“Back to school… back to school…”

[quote]”…to prove to Dad, that I’m not a fool”[/quote]

By Chris H.

Points if you recognize the above movie quote correctly.

Well, internet readers, here we are at the end of summer 2010. Leaves are turning, they finally managed to get rid of the last of the summer students still hanging around until the “bitter end”. I put quotes around it because I have literally had this conversation about twenty times in the last few weeks:

“Hey, when are you working until?”

“August 27th.”

“oooh… the bitter end!”

Why do we think of the end as being “bitter”? I don’t feel bitter in the slightest. If anything I would say it feels bittersweet. As I look back on the summer, I’m thankful for having had the experience, and a little sad to be leaving. But I’m also very excited to get back to the student lifestyle, especially since I am leaving on Monday for an exchange term in the Netherlands. Having had a taste of work life, I’m sure all of us will appreciate student life a heck of a lot more and really get the most out of third year. Both academically speaking and in terms of my grand plans to sleep in more and grow a beard.

I wanted to leave the blog with a few reflections on my time as a summer student. I choose to present them in the form of me being interviewed by Barbara Walters.

Hello, we’re here tonight with Chris, up until recently a summer student at Toronto law firm Cassels Brock and Blackwell.

Good to be here, Babs.

Tell me, what was the hardest part of being a summer student?

The constant fear that you have no idea what you’re doing. After a while, though, I started to get more comfortable. I realized we’re not supposed to know anything about what practice is actually like and that’s why we’re here: to learn. There’s a reason our job title includes “student”.

Also the exhaustion. I found the transition from my usual student sleep schedule to work life was very jarring. I drank a lot of coffee. It’s definitely an adjustment.

What were the highlights of your summer?

Oh my gosh, so many to choose from. Work-wise here’s three:

  • Going to small claims court to watch a litigator with 40+ years experience, appearances at the SCC and a QC designation argue and win on motions that I helped draft.
  • Attending two full days of an examination for discovery in a franchise litigation file I had done some work on.
  • Putting together an application to appeal a recent CRTC decision, which involved lots of direct client contact.

And of course extra-curricularly, there were highlights as well. The bbq/pool-party we had about halfway through the summer when Keri and Carolyn switched, our magical mystery wine tour to Niagara and our wildly successful firm talent show in support of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab are the ones I will remember for a long time.

Can I get in touch with you and ask any questions about OCIs or generally how to be awesome?

Why, that’s strange that you’d be interested in that Barbara, but of course. Drop me a line anytime at

Final question, and it’s a toughie: what was the “song of the summer”?

Wow. That is a tough question. This was not like last summer, where if you thought the song of the summer was anything other than “I Gotta Feeling” I would’ve said you lived under a rock and instantly lost all faith in your ability to appreciate music. It was kind of a weak year, there wasn’t really a stand out candidate. My favourite album was probably Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” but I’m a firm believer that the song of the summer has to have gotten play on top-40 radio. Drake was big, the Bieb was doin’ his thing, Taio Cruz came out of nowhere to be all over the radio. I would almost give to “California Gurls” by Katy Perry… but I hate that song.

If for no other reason than they played it every time Jose Bautista stepped to the plate, the song of the summer of 2010 was “OMG” by Usher. Congratulations, Mr. Raymond. You can add this to your resume.

That’s all the time we have for tonight, thanks for joining us.

The pleasure was all mine.

(end scene)

That’s all folks. Good luck to all the aspiring summer students (and aspiring summer student bloggers) with your applications, and thanks to my many, many fans and readers, especially Zach, Leigh-Ann, John Gillies and my Mom, all of whom read every single post.

And I’m gone…

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Mental Edges for OCIs

by: Josh C.

For my last entry here on the blog, I’d also like to discuss OCIs briefly. If you’re reading this, you will have seen that Chris and Tali have provided invaluable advice for resumes, cover letters, interviews, etc. These topics have been covered so thoroughly, I don’t think I can contribute anything else on them. Instead, I’d like to focus on a different aspect: the mental side of recruiting.

A lot of hype gets built up among fresh 2Ls about OCIs and it will likely be one of the only things you hear about for two months. The way the numbers work means that a substantial number of 2Ls who apply through OCIs will not receive an offer for a summer position. I had the fortune of knowing a few people in the years above me who were willing to impart their guidance about the process. They told me that year after year, many qualified people do not get an offer and that I shouldn’t feel like it’s the end of the world if it were to happen to me. Their words may not sound optimistic but I thought it was a realistic view of what happens.

At the time, I was constantly asking myself questions like “What if I don’t get an offer?” and “What if no one wants to hire me?”. I realized that these questions were disempowering for two reasons: 1) when you ask yourself things like this, you’re psyching yourself out and not in a productive state of mind and 2) it’s very easy to start thinking that the worst is going to happen. Rather than get completely caught up, I decided to change my way of thinking. I chose not to invest myself completely in the OCI process and would take whatever outcome in stride. That isn’t to say that I stopped working on my application or stopped putting forward my best effort. I just simply realized that this wasn’t an end but rather a step in a sequence. As soon as I changed my mindset, everything was easier. I was calmly editing my cover letters and resumes instead of agonizing over paragraph length and synonyms. Interviews and cocktail parties were no longer stressful interrogations but rather opportunities to talk to people about a million different topics. Everything was easier.

When you don’t completely invest yourself in a particular outcome, I think that you can see things from a more objective perspective and determine your strengths and weaknesses. Moral of the story: change your mental approach and you will not only avoid disappointment if you don’t get what you want but you’ll also likely improve your chances in achieving your goals. It helped me and hopefully it helps some of you.

Have a great rest of the summer and good luck on whatever goals you set out to achieve.

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Summer Studenting Corporate Lawing

by: Josh C.

Since Jeremy put up a blog about what he did as a summer student working primarily in litigation, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about what I did this summer since I worked mostly in corporate and securities.

If legal research is the foundation of litigation then due diligence is the foundation of corporate law. The term has been mentioned on the blog before but it’s basically reviewing documents for the purpose of making sure everything about a business or transaction is how it’s supposed to be. Let’s take a hypothetical example. Say you want to purchase a fireworks factory. You would naturally want to know everything about the company so that you know what you’re getting into. Employment agreements, contracts with suppliers, insurance policies, and a lot of other things get sent to law firms so that they can review them. What would you think if the factory has a pending claim for $10 million against them? If the collective bargaining agreement with the fireworks union is ending next week? If the contract with the factory’s number one buyer is terminated if the factory is sold to a third party? You might reconsider the price you’re willing to pay or decide not to go through it. There is a lot of due diligence, no question about that, but you get to know the ins and outs of corporate transactions and learn what’s important when navigating your way through reams of paper.

Other things I did this summer:

1. Researched the implications of new securities legislation for clients;
2. Delivered securities to purchasers in exchange for cheques (very, very large cheques in some cases);
3. Looked for connections between a scandal and a key figure in pending litigation;
4. Wrote a memo on the financial and legal implications of a client proceeding with a transaction; and
5. Researched transactional precedents on SEDAR.

I know, I know, that’s a really vague list but that’s just an inevitable part of the sensitive work that we do. The bottom line is that even if you don’t think it’s for you, getting exposure to corporate law provides a ton of insight into how business is conducted from a legal perspective. And, if you’re anything like me and had no idea what a corporate lawyer does, you’ll finally be able to speak somewhat intelligently about it…somewhat.

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