Category Archives: Tips

Don’t Tell Me to Get a Real Job: A Camp Kid’s Path to Bay St.

If you’ve worked at camp, you’ve heard it before: “isn’t it time to get a real job”? The first time this question was posed to me, I got defensive. But as time went on, I began to feel sorry for the person asking it because clearly the person had no idea what it’s like to work at camp. That person hadn’t had the experiences or opportunities that only camp can provide – and as a result, all I can do is feel sorry for them. But this post isn’t for the people who don’t understand. Sure – if someone who has never been to camp can read this and gain a greater appreciation for what it means to be a camp counselor, then that would be great – but the intended audience here is you: the camp kid. The one who, at 17-years-old, stayed up with a homesick camper or facilitated cabin clean-up with a group of 10-year-olds; or the 19-year-old who was responsible for teaching a new skill and driving children around the lake on a ski-boat; or the 21-year-old who managed a group of staff not more than three years younger and provided evaluations, feedback and guidance. Camp is a wild place – not simply because of how much fun it is (which it is), but because of what it offers young adults like us.

Pisher (2007)

If you couldn’t tell, I’m a camp guy. My first summer at Camp Kadimah was in 2007 as a 12-year-old pisher with chubby cheeks and braces (as you can see). 12 short summers later, in 2018, I ended off my camp career after 6 years on staff, as Assistant Director.

This summer at Cassels Brock is my first full summer spent in Toronto since I was 12. In other words, this job is my first full-time summer job that isn’t camp. Yeah. It’s a bit different. But don’t you dare read ‘different’ as ‘harder’ – cause honestly – it isn’t.

Regardless of your position at camp, if you want to be a good staff, there are a few base-level skills that you need to demonstrate: initiative, effective communication, critical thinking, and the ability to work as part of a team. If you are able to refine these skills, I promise you, you will make a fantastic camp counselor. But not just that – I also promise you that you will be well on your way to becoming successful beyond your years at camp.

The truth is, the value of the work experience you get at camp cannot be recreated in any city job, at least not at the same age. In what “office” job would you be given managerial responsibilities before you can legally rent a car? In what “city” job would a teenager be tasked with the business’ most integral operations? The answer: none.

Now that you’re nearing or are at the end of your camp career, the question is: what’s next? You need to figure out how to qualify and quantify the totality of your camp experiences, consolidate them, and tie them up in a nice bow with the end product being your resume and cover letter. While this may sound hard to do, it’s not. It just takes the right kind of guidance. Which is where I can come in. If you, like me, spent the better part of your childhood at camp and continued onto become a staff, I think I can help. And even if you didn’t spend that many years at camp but worked on staff for even just one or two summers, those experiences are nonetheless valuable.

Leadership, management, loyalty, intuition, initiative, critical thinking, teamwork, communication…

These are the buzz words that, whether or not they want to admit it, your future employers love to see. What can separate you from the rest is that you have a tangible, real-world experience under your belt where you have not just practiced these skills, but have refined and re-refined them.

While it’s always sad to move on from camp (trust me, I’m still trying to get over it), it should be a small reassurance to know that not only do your memories of the summers-past stay with you, but also the skills and experiences that you inevitably gained will stay with you too. It is these skills and experiences that have prepared you for this moment, and provided you with a uniquely strong base for you to begin your professional career.

Working on Bay St. is no more a “real job” than working in Barss Corner, Nova Scotia at Camp Kadimah was, and I find myself lucky to have wound up at a firm that gets that. And trust me, Cassels does get it. But it’s up to you to make sure your future employer, no matter who they may be, knows that just as well as we do.

Pisher in a suit (2019)

(p.s. my offer to help still stands – shoot me an email, find me on Facebook, drop into my DMs.. I really am happy to help. The more camp kids here the better!)

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Coffee Chats 101

Hey Blogwell readers! Now that we are in June, I’m sure you all can’t wait to chat with us about our student experience at Cassels Brock so far!

If you are a law student heading into your second year of school this fall, you may already be thinking about the wonderful and blissful experience that is OCI recruitment. Here are a few tips to help you prepare.

1.Schedule a phone call or a  coffee chat

Although applications are not due until August, now is a great time to start researching the firms that interest you. Phone calls and coffee chats with current summer students are a great way to do this.

Start by visiting the Cassels Brock student website (http://www.cbbstudents.com) where you can find our current summer students bios and contact information. If it is possible, reach out to a summer student that attends the same law school as you. Send one of us an e-mail introducing yourself and expressing your interest in the firm, and we will be happy to schedule a phone call or coffee chat with you!

2.     Do your research to ask great questions

The next step is preparing questions before your call or coffee chat. There are tons of standard go-to questions when chatting with a summer student at any firm. For example, you can ask a student about the most exciting assignment they have received this summer, or if there was something specific that drew them to the firm during the recruitment process.

While these are great questions, the best way to stand out and demonstrate interest is to have firm-specific questions ready. Take the time beforehand to research our general and student websites to get a sense of the student program and the type of work the firm does. Since you are reading Cassels Brock & Blogwell, you are off to a great start!

3.    Attend our open houses

Open houses are another great way to meet with current summer students, lawyers and learn more about Cassels Brock. The Toronto office is holding two open houses – July 18 and August 1, both from 12-1pm. The Vancouver office will host an open house on July 24 from 4-5pm. Register here to attend.

 

 

 

 

4.    Send thank you e-mails

After speaking with a summer student, send a quick e-mail thanking them for their time. This is also the perfect opportunity to reiterate that you are interested in working at Cassels. Now, you have plenty of information to help you tailor your cover letter to the firm.

Phone calls, coffee chats and going to open houses are truly valuable experiences to have before submitting applications and heading into OCI’s. Last summer, I spoke with a student at Cassels over the phone, and later in the summer we met for coffee. Not only did she tell me about her amazing experience at Cassels, but she was also generous enough to read over my cover letter and provide me with tips for OCI’s (thank-you Grace Wu!!).

We hope this helps and we can’t wait to hear from you!

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Tips on Firm Tours

Each summer, many firms host open houses for students to get a sense of the firm’s work and to meet some of the lawyers/students. To give you a sense of what they’re like, some of our summer students shared some helpful tips!

Kojo Hayward, Osgoode

“Firm tours can be both exciting and nerve wrecking. On the one hand, you are presented with an opportunity to learn more about the firm and to meet people there while hopefully leaving an impression. Therein, on the second hand, lies the nerve wreck. In trying to leave an impression on someone, we can talk too much, blurt out awkward comments, or amplify our own anxiety. When we don’t talk “enough”, we can even feel defeated. All of this can be mitigated. First, prepare some different talking points for students, associates, partners, and the student program team. The nature of your questions may vary depending on who you’re talking to, so come prepared for all of the above. Second, if you have nothing to say, say nothing and listen attentively until you do. Awkwardness arises when you force questions and conversation. Third, change your frame of mind from just looking to impress to looking to learn and be convinced why this is where you want to be. The firm tour is as much (if not more) about the firm trying to share its culture and approaches with you as it is an opportunity for you to impress and meet people.”

Paras Patel, U of T

“Your best bet for firm tours is to balance enthusiasm and professionalism. I’ve seen people at firms tours who were trying their hardest to get face time with the lawyers and impress them, and while they stood out, it might not have been for the best reasons. That being said, you shouldn’t shy away from an opportunity to make a connection with someone from the firm (however brief the interaction may be). Prepare some meaningful questions, be engaged, and depending on the conversation, reach out by email later that day. The firm tour isn’t necessarily the venue to sell yourself, but it can lead to coffee chats where the person can really get to know you”

Tristan Davis, Osgoode

“I did not have the opportunity to attend many firm tours, but I did make it out to a few of them. I think firm tours are a great way to familiarize yourself with different law firms. Most firm tours allow you to mingle with students, associates and partners at the firm. It is a great experience that may provide you with something to write about in your cover letters. My advice would be to attend as many as you reasonably can. During the tour always remain professional, try not to congregate only with your friends, talk to the lawyers and summer students!

One piece of advice that I think is crucial during these firm tours is that it is more important to have meaningful conversations with those you meet from the firm, rather than trying to speak to everyone. They are talking to dozens of students during that time, so the likelihood of them remembering you is slim if you do not make a connection. If you speak to someone that you connect with, get their card and email them later thanking them for their time. It also may be prudent to reach out to that person to speak to them one-on-one over coffee. Once again, during these tours, try to relax and be yourself.”

We hope to meet some of you this summer at our open house!

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Can we chat over coffee?

For some of you out there, you’ve started to hear about people going on “coffee chats” in anticipation of the recruiting season. As it is a great way to get to know the firms, you might be wondering how to get the most of out of these meetings. To give you some tips on this, we’ve asked some of our own summer students to share their experience with you!

Ave Bross, Queen’s

“My number one tip is to network and meet as many people as possible. Go on as many coffee chats with as many different lawyers as you can. Going for coffee with a lawyer is the best way to learn about the summer student experience and gain insight into the culture of the firm. If you cannot make a coffee chat then try to set up a phone conversation. The connections that are established through a coffee chat are invaluable when going through the recruiting process.”

Tristan Davis, Osgoode

“I spent the majority of last summer abroad in Thailand, so I did not have the opportunity to participate in traditional coffee chats. However, I knew they were an important aspect of the recruiting process, so I had to improvise. First, I decided to reach out to those people I knew at firms that I was interested in, I focused primarily on upper-years at my school who had spent summers at the firm before, or were spending summers at the firm at that time. If there were no individuals that I knew, I would reach out to people who I shared something in common with (sports, undergrad program, hobbies, hometown etc.). Finding something in common with someone is a great way to start the conversation, if all else fails, find someone who has done something interesting that you want to learn more about.

I think it is important to remember that all these students can get busy at times, so if they do not reply immediately, give it some time. Also, make sure if you are reaching out, that it does not sound generic, you increase your chances of someone replying with a tailored email. On that note, try not to reach out to too many people, it is more important to have quality conversations rather than trying to meet every person at a firm.

During these chats, I think it is important to have topics of discussion prepared before the meeting. It will help keep the conversation going and allow you to get all the information you need during the chat. If you are meeting with someone that you do not know very well (or at all), try to relax and be yourself. We have all been in your shoes before so we know exactly how you are feeling.”

Emma Zaltz, U of T

“My best tip to law students is to take advantage of past and current summer students! They will be happy to speak to you and share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Find out why they chose Cassels, what they’ve come to love about the firm, and what they’re looking forward to in the future. Hopefully, you’ll start to see if Cassels is the kind of law firm you will thrive at. Don’t be afraid to ask candid questions that you’re genuinely curious about! We’re not lawyers (yet) so you’re still speaking student to student. There’s nothing we haven’t already heard, and an honest dialogue is what makes it exciting for us.”

As you can tell, there is not set format on how to reach out or follow up, or a set list of what to talk about. Just be considerate, be curious, and be yourself! Lastly, don’t hesitate to reach out to our summer class at Cassels – we’re all happy to help!

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Fashion Friday: 10 OCI/In-Firm Fashion Tips

You have to look your best to do your best.

It might sound silly but that’s one of my favourite sayings – when you’re confident in yourself you give your best.

I think this is especially true during OCIs and In-firms. It’s intimidating enough to meet a bunch of lawyers working at big Bay Street law firms without having to worry about your outfit not being on point. So, hopefully these 10 tips will make your OCIs and In-firms slightly less stressful.

(1) Buy a Nice Suit –Take the time to buy a nice suit. Yes, suits are expensive, and it will seem like a lot of money to spend before you even have a job. However, a nice suit can make all the difference. I should note that by nice I don’t necessarily mean the most expensive suit on the market, you need a decent suit that works for you. For women’s suits especially the hunt can be challenging. My best friend and I went shopping about 8 different times before I found one that worked for me. I found that the Bay and Calvin Klein seemed to have the nicest suits for me, while other people found Banana Republic or J Crew suits work better for them. Brands that work great for your friend might not work at all for you, so be sure to try out lots of places.

(2) Pants or a Skirt – My thought is skirts are best for interviews and the reality is most people go that route. But, some people rock pants and if you’re more comfortable in them wear them – it’s all about confidence. If you have the option to buy a 3 piece suit it’s not a bad idea because you’ll just have more options for when you land that dream job!

(3) Keep the Colours Simple – Most of the women during OCIs and In-firms wore a black, navy, or charcoal suit. There are special rules for men’s suits though, one of which is that men should not wear black suits because they are considered to be too formal. I would also recommend wearing a white or neutral coloured dress shirt under your suit. I chose to wear a collared blouse, but a lot of the women wore a neutral shirt without a collar under their suit. It is important to note that, I know my colleagues Kojo and Tegan would disagree with me on this point. Kojo, being the stylish guy he is, he wore a bright pink tie to his Cassels interview. Tegan went to OCIs with a patterned shirt under her suit. Again it’s all about confidence!

(4) Go to a Tailor – A little bit of tailoring can make all the difference. I’ve heard a lot of lawyers say that it is better to have a less expensive suit that fits right, than an ill-fitting more expensive suit. So, when you are buying your suit, keep in mind that it will take time and cost extra money to get it tailored.

(5) Nails Done… – This is a very small detail, but you want to make sure you look put together from head to toe. I would suggest either a clear coat of nail polish or getting a neutral coloured shellac polish. The days are long and a regular coloured coat of polish may chip.

(6) Hair Done… – Again it’s about looking polished and professional. Most people wear their hair down and neat but a simple ponytail or bun is also an option.

(7) Everything Did (oh you fancy huh… but not too fancy don’t overdo it)Wear Natural Makeup – If you wear makeup, I would suggest making it look as natural as possible. Also keep in mind that the days are really long and you may not have time for touch-ups. However, it is most important that your makeup is done in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident. For example, I didn’t wear any lipstick during OCIs/In-firms due to an irrational fear that I would get lipstick on my teeth.

(8) Bring a Structured Purse – For OCIs and In-firms most women brought some sort of purse to hold all of their stuff. As Tegan mentioned in her last post on things to bring with you to OCI’s, the purse you bring should be structured, professional looking, and medium-sized. Don’t worry about the brand. But, if you are looking to save money on a nice bag, I would recommend the Toronto Premium Outlets in Milton, where there’s Kate Spade, Coach, and Michael Kors outlets. You can also find things at Winners or the Bay both name brand and otherwise. Additionally, the simple colours tip from #3 applies to bags as well.

(9) Wear Sensible Shoes – During In-firms especially, there will be a lot of walking from place to place. The best piece of advice I received from upper years was if you plan to wear new shoes to In-firms, make sure you break them in first! Specifically, I would recommend wearing plain black shoes with less than a two inch heel.

(10) Minimal Jewellery (but definitely a watch)– The attention should be on you, not your bling. Some people chose to wear no jewelry but simple studs and/or a simple, small necklace are great options too. Whichever route you go, you should absolutely wear a watch especially for In-firms – you will need to check the time and it is rude to be pulling out your phone. Just be sure the watch you pick is professional (i.e. none of those GPS, calculator, scuba diving plastic ones) and not too flashy.

*Disclaimer, these are my personal opinions with help from Tegan, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident in your outfit so you will rock your interviews!

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