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What I Did This Summer

Due to circumstances beyond my control (namely, the coming into existence of a really awesome tobogganning hill with a sharp rock at the bottom of it), I was never able to give my kindergarten presentation on “What I Did Last Summer”.

But now that the incomparable Mr. Horkins has dropped a dime on the secrets of bulletproof OCI applications, and you’re all undoubtedly wondering what happens after you get hired for a summer at Cassels Brock, I finally have my chance to make amends!

So… *ahem*.

Hello. My name is Jeremy. I am twenty-seven years old, and I am in Ms. McGowan’s summer class of 2010. This is what I did this summer.

Through a few dozen turns of bizarre fate, I wound up doing litigation work almost exclusively. That itself is pretty unusual, and you can probably expect a lot more breadth of experience during your summer; the work I got just always happened to be somebody getting sued. Even when I got work from other departments, it involved an action of some kind. I blame the econodex: my proprietary combined measure of the economy and the humidity in downtown Toronto. People just didn’t want to get out of their air-conditioned offices to pay their bills. This summer had an average econodex of 62.1%, so what are you going to do? Folks gotta get their sue on.

Now, I’m a big litigation keener, so no harm done. And if you’re going to be stuck in one department for the entire summer, advocacy is the one to get since it involves arguing all other areas of law. Although I was always involved in a suit of some kind, I got to get my hands dirty in all kinds of product liability, corporate law, labour and employment, municipal law, franchise work, human rights, trusts and insolvency.

So take the below with the caveat that you’re probably going to be doing a lot more in the way of deals and regulatory work than I did. It’s hard to believe the summer’s almost over already, and that I’ve managed to do so much in just a few short months! Highlights:

  • Writing the first-draft factum for a municipal law motion (and winning!)
  • Throwing a talent show for charity!
  • Drafting a half-dozen statements of claim or defence
  • Eating an 18 inch hot dog with spicy peppers at a Blue Jays game and impressing more people than I sickened by at least two
  • Coming up with questions to ask during an examination for discovery
  • Pulling court documents for a real estate deal
  • Baking fifty cupcakes (with spicy chili chocolate)
  • Taking a crash course in tax law (also with spicy chili chocolate)
  • Cleverly avoiding an earthquake by going on a tour of wine country
  • Getting neck-deep in and attending daily at a real-life, full-on, all-the-marbles trial

Behold! The glorious brown rainbow of commercial litigation!

I managed to get in an awful lot of stuff this summer, and what have I learned? Well, first and foremost, I now know why 3Ls are so chilled out when you first meet them in September. They’ve been through the wringer and they know they’re going back at it next summer, so they’re savouring the warm, pillowy nest of law school in the interim. (This, of course, stands in contrast to the first- and second-year perception of law school as a flaming, spiky warm pillowy nest of insecurity and potential humiliation.)

Also, if the purpose of law school is to get you to think like a lawyer, a summer at a law firm gets you to start acting like one. I check my messages constantly, respond to everything right away, make appointments, organize my files, proactively have work ready in case it’s ever assigned and I stick to a schedule now better than I ever have.

I’m also — finally! — fluent in the arcane language of law, at least enough to do the equivalent of ordering a legal cheeseburger. I get the relationship between an affidavit of documents and answers to undertakings and where “will says”, discoveries, motion records, books of authorities, trial briefs, witness briefs, legal briefs and exhibits fall in the timeline and organization of a case, and what they can be relied on for, and what they can’t. Procedure finally makes some sense. If you’re reading this at the end of 1L, be warned: people will forget you don’t know this stuff. But be relieved: you soon will.

Mostly, though, and most rewardingly, I’m coming away from this summer knowing that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. And really, I think that’s what the summer — any firm summer — is for. The hours can be long, and if I see another “Dad’s” oatmeal cookie I think my stomach may actually reject the rest of my body and strike out on its own in search of grubs and berries by the riverside, but I found out that practicing law really is about thinking for a living, alongside some of the most interesting and engaging people you’re ever going to meet. I like the people I get to work with, and I love the work I do. And what’s even better, I like the work the associates and partners do even more. That alone was absolutely worth the experience.

I’ve got one more post coming up before the end of the summer, but I should say now that if anyone needs to find me in 2010-11, I’ll be at Feel free to say hi if you’re heading to the U of T this year! (And also if you’re not, I guess.)

Alternatively, I can be found in a lawn chair out behind the Bora Laskin library for the next few months, aggressively catching up on some taking it easy.

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OCIs: There’s an App for That

by Chris H.

Welcome everyone to Tuesdays with… Chris?!? I know I can’t be nearly as charming or insightful as Tali, but I will endeavour to be half as helpful.

Joey Joe Joe Shabado Jr. from 123 Fake Street asks: “OMG, guys, someone just told me OCI applications are due in a couple weeks and I don’t even know what OCIs are… or where to even begin!?!? HEEEEEELP?”

Well, Joe. Thanks for your well thought out, and not at all made up question.

OCIs are kind of exactly like the O.W.L.s in the Harry Potter books, except instead of a series of practical examinations in spell casting and alchemy, they are a series of applications and job interviews for law students who want to summer and article at downtown Toronto law firms. Okay, so slightly different.

OCI is an acronym for “On Campus Interviews”. While technically the OCI is only one stage of much longer, multi-staged process, which involves call day, in-firms, cocktail parties, dinners and walking barefoot over hot coals, the term “OCIs” for whatever reason is used to refer to the process as a whole. (Secret reason: lawyers love acronyms.)

Step one is the written applications, which is what I want to focus this post on. This stage is definitely the most work and, in my opinion, the least fun. The key is to get started early. Here are some thoughts I’ve pieced together about the two major component parts to every OCI app: the cover letter and the resume.

Cover Letters Made Easy – The Three Paragraph Solution

If you’re applying to 25-30 firms, which is not outrageous since most firms will likely look exactly the same to you at this point, then the idea of writing 25-30 individualized cover letters can seem like a terrible ordeal. I have an easy tip to cut down your workload. I can’t take credit for inventing it because I’m pretty sure law students have been writing cover letters this way for centuries (FACT: Plato got 20 OCIs and did all of them on the same day). It’s a simple three paragraph strategy:

Paragraph 1 – Introduce yourself: This is your short opening salvo. Tell them who you are, where you come from, what this letter is all about and what you’re applying for.
e.g. “My name is Neville Longbottom, and I am a second year law student at Hogwart’s University, Faculty of Law. Please accept this letter and the attached resume, transcripts and list of tentative upper-year courses as my application for a 2011 summer student position at Gryffindor Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw LLP.”

Paragraph 2 – What you want and why they have it: Explain what kind of summer and what kind of legal career you’re interested in. Then let them know why you think their firm can give you that. This is where you can show off all the research you’ve done and that this cover letter was written for them, and isn’t just a form letter. It’s okay, and probably smart, to stay general in describing your legal interests, after all, you’ve only been in law school for a year. If you set it up right, this should be the only part of your letter that changes substantially from firm to firm.
e.g. “I am looking for a diverse and challenging summer experience. The flexibility of the non-rotation summer program at a full service firm like Gryffindor Hufflepuff is appealing to me, because it would allow me to gain experience in a number of different areas as I continue to develop my specific legal interests… I spoke with your associate Ron Weasley at my school’s career fair and enjoyed what he said about the magical firm culture at your offices…”

Paragraph 3 – Why you have what they want: This is where you get to brag about your experiences and skills that would make hiring you an offer they can’t refuse. Pick a couple of the absolute highlight points from your resume, and elaborate on how those experiences contributed to skills and qualities you can bring to the job.
e.g. “…In my experience volunteering with Hogwart’s Legal Aid, I honed my research, drafting and oral advocacy skills. As captain of my law school Quidditch team, I took initiative to fill a leadership role among my peers…”

It’s not something you have to stick to, by any means, but I found this three paragraph method made writing 28 cover letters much much easier. The trick really is to have a general skeleton that you can mould to each firm depending on your research and what you like about them.

Rockin’ Resume Recommendations

Every resume is different, but here are a few general tips I can offer:

Highlight your strengths: There’s no set format to an OCI resume, so structure it to fit what makes you look good. For me, that meant putting my extra-curricular activities section front and centre. But for someone who worked 10 years as a nurse, engineer, firefighter and/or the red power ranger it might mean putting more emphasis on your past employment experiences. Don’t feel boxed in by your template.

Be Inclusive, Show your Personality: You will be told by a lot of people, “Don’t put that on your resume”. My advice would be “If it feels right, do it.” Don’t be afraid to include things from high school if you think they are impressive. Don’t be afraid to put the name of the political party you worked for.

Everything Has a Purpose: This is the flipside of my last point. You shouldn’t include something if you can’t think of why you’re including it. You need to be able to explain how each experience translates into job-ready skills, life lessons, etc. Speaking of translation, if you decide to put down that you’re fluent in a second language, you will be asked to use it on the job (ask Gill or Josh).

The “Interests” Section is Sneakily the Most Important: Do not underestimate the sneakiness of that 5-bullet point section at the very bottom of your resume. I guarantee that you will be asked at least one question about something from your “interests” section. I put “Creative Writing” in mine, and an interviewer asked me to give an example of something I wrote and to send him a copy! No joke. Luckily, he enjoyed my award winning holiday poem about former Toronto Raptors guard Jalen Rose enough to invite me for in-firms.

And once you’ve got all your apps together, quadruple check them because spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes and just straight up mistakes can be deadly. (I heard if you put “Mr. McGowan” on your Cassels app, Leigh-Ann will send ninjas to get you!) Get your room mate, your best friend, your dog that you taught to read and write (you know you went to all that effort for something), and start guilt tripping family members into proof-reading your stuff. Your Career Services office may also have a review service, but make sure to submit early. The more eyeballs, the better.

Most law schools offer a central collection and delivery service as well (I know Queen’s has this). This service is money, so use it. The deadline is usually a couple days earlier so be wise to that.

Hopefully these tips are helpful. Good luck with your apps everyone!

UPDATE: Leigh-Ann now informs me that all the firms are collecting their written OCI Applications electronically starting this year. What times we live in…

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So Long, Farewell

Hello to everyone out there in cyberland. My name is Sarah M. and I am a summer student at Cassels. Since today is Tuesday you might ask “Where is Tuesdays with Tali?” or “Who will answer my burning questions about Cassels if Tali is not posting today?” Fear not, Tali is safe and well, and sitting right beside me (she is my office mate) but she is busy working on Very Important Stuff. Which works out well, because I have had the ambitious goal of posting a guest blog for a while now, but I then I got Busy – that’s right, Busy with a capital B. Yet after working some hard, long days the last few weeks as part of the FS team (for those of you who don’t know, FS = Financial Services) who were “closing mad deals” (shout out to Chris H!), I took the weekend to recover and I am now rejuvenated and ready to make my first foray into blogging. Just in time, since tomorrow is my last day as a summer student at Cassels! *Tear*

Today I am going to blog about the Cassels Brock 2010 Talent Show. For the last few years, summer students have dedicated their summer to a worthwhile organization and devoted some time and energy to volunteering and fundraising for a good cause. This year our group has been raising money for Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab, and as part of that initiative (i.e. to make some $ to donate) we threw a killer talent show for the whole firm! Special thanks to Vanessa Q., Jeremy M., and Melissa W. for all their hard work in organizing the show and making it a success!

So without further adieu I will upload Tali’s pics of the show and give you a brief run-down of the acts featured. Unfortunately you will not see a picture of the fantastic summer student rendition of “So Long, Farewell” (that song from the Sound of Music where the little girl falls asleep at the end of the performance before Julie Andrews carries her off camera). Regrettably Tali’s camera died just before the summer students went on, but take my word for it that it was a show stopper!


This is an example of the lovely decorations which filled the Cassels Boardroom. Not pictured was a red carpet, classic movie posters, and Hollywood stars with the names of the performers. We also served pizza, chips and cupcakes. Yum!

Pictured above are the fantastic MCs for the night, Andrea B. and Chris H.

This is a newly formed band called the Ho-Hos. Chris H. plays guitar and sings, and Johnny H. also sings. They have a great sound AND were hilarious – their rewrite of “I want to be a Billionaire” will surely be talked about around this place for a while. My personal favourite performance of the night!

Pictured above is an improv comedy game lead by our own Andrea B. Let’s just say giraffes, and tiny shoes were involved.

Here we have John and Jennifer Gillies doing a beautiful performance of “Bye-bye Blackbird.”

This is Tilly Gray and Jake Bullen’s powerful performance of “Endless Love.”

Pictured above is Colin P. performing an old Van Morrison classic.

Above is Pete Henein, not only a stellar litigator, but also a talented stand up comic!

The 2010-2011 articling class singing their rewrite of a Hard Day’s night – well done guys!

Well, that’s all folks. Stay tuned for more Cassels posts by my colleagues as we wind up our summer here!

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The End of Roses and Thorns….

Rose: Today is my last day of work for the summer!
Thorn: Today is my last day of work for the summer!

That’s right. Today is my last day of work for the summer and it is both a rose and a thorn. I cannot believe my summer here is already over. While I am excited to leave work today (and go to L.A. for 4 months!!!) I am also sad to leave all of the summer students and amazing mentors I have met here. It will be weird not coming to work on Monday, not getting mass e-mails that go out to the whole summer student class anymore, and not eating lunch with everyone else!

It has been an incredible experience working here this summer and for all of you readers who are not already summer students at Cassels Brock (if there are any of you) please feel free to e-mail me at anytime to talk about Cassels, OCIs, law school, or anything else at

Enjoy the rest of your summer!!

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An eventful week in US law news

by Sean W.

The United States Supreme Court has a new member, as of yesterday. Elena Kagan is now the court’s 112th justice, as well as the fourth woman to ever serve on the court, the first person to serve as Dean of Harvard Law School before becoming a justice, and the fourth Solicitor General to do so.

Wait, I know what you’re thinking: “Enough of this triviality, Sean, tell me how this will affect the ideological balance on the court, and about the influence Kagan may potentially have on the court’s seeming conservative hegemony, as led by Chief Justice John Roberts?

Very good questions, I must say.

This excellent New York Times article from a couple of weeks ago should give you some answers to these and other important questions about the US Supreme Court.

P.S. – Kagan’s confirmation is all the more interesting, given this decision out of the US Federal Court on Wednesday.

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