Category Archives: Tips

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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Fashion Friday OCI Tips: Mary Poppins Bag

Hey All!

Happy Fashion Friday! When I was going through the recruit I read this blog and my two favorite kinds of posts were OCI Tips and Fashion Friday posts, so today I figured I would combine the two.

I’m sure you will all wind up putting a lot (if you’re like me maybe too much) thought into what you wear. This post isn’t about that. This post is about all the other stuff you should bring. You know that scene in Mary Poppins where she just keeps pulling things out of her bag – that is what I felt like during OCIs and in firms. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you should probably go watch Mary Poppins it’s a classic. Although another good reference would be Hermione’s handbag from Deathly Hallows. Now if you don’t get either of those references I really can’t help you but I digress.

Here is a list of things you should carry with you during OCI’s and in firms:

  • Gum, toothbrush, floss etc.: nobody likes bad breath and you will be eating… a lot.
  • Make Up: For touch ups – these will be looooong days.
  • Advil etc: Hopefully you won’t need it but you might. And I wouldn’t want to be trying to find time to run to the drugstore while already dealing with a headache.
  • Tide to Go: for obvious reasons.
  • Hair ties, bobby pins etc.: Your hair will look fly when you leave the house in the morning but after running around and sweating it may be more fly-aways than fly. Be prepared.
  • Hairspray: Good for your hair, also good for stopping runs in panty hose. Sometimes they can’t be stopped so…
  • Extra pantyhose
  • Flats: Some people can rock it all day in heels I am not one of those people. I walked everywhere in flats and changed into the heels in the lobby of the building (the building lobby not the firm reception area – made that mistake once – regretted it).
  • Band-Aids: Sometimes even flats can rub you the wrong way.
  • Granola bars or other snacks: Yes there are lots of places to buy food but no you will not always have time. Oddly, even with all the firms feeding me, I still ate about 3 granola bars a day during in firms.
  • Hard copy of your schedule and locations: Your phone may die but the show must go on!
  • Copies of your resume: No one I know got asked for a copy but this is definitely a time to be better safe than sorry.
  • Umbrella: Weather dependent of course. It should be noted that you can take the path everywhere but I still get lost down there so I liked having the option of popping up to the surface.

It should be noted that most people brought way less stuff with them than I did. But, it should also be noted that I gave a lot of Band-Aids, bobby pins, Advil and even a pair of pantyhose to people. I carried a large structured bag – a good idea because they look professional even when bursting at the seams, other people carried much smaller bags and only carried what they deemed to be essential opting to pick up anything else they might need in between interviews. The reality is you need to pack for you. If you’re like me and it makes you calmer to be prepared for any possible situation, bring lots of stuff with you. There is a room to leave stuff in during OCIs and firms have coat rooms where you can leave the bag during interviews. If you would rather travel light that’s fine too (just make sure you know where the closest Shoppers is in case of emergency).

Until next time!

-Tegan (with guest contributions from Meghan who I bothered while trying to make sure this list was complete)

 

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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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