Category Archives: West Coast Wednesday

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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West Coast Wednesday: Water – A Flowing Narrative

A Guest Blog by Arend Hoekstra (UBC)

There are 22 summer students at Cassels Brock this year. Only two are in the Vancouver office, yet they have contributed a quarter of the blog posts – a truly astounding accomplishment.

Other amazing things are also happening under the radar in Vancouver: things so astounding that at times they seem unexplainable. For instance, did you know that Vancouver summer students are 2000% more likely to eat their lunch on the steps of an art gallery than those in Toronto? They have the unique fortitude to be able to wait until the lunchtime training sessions before tasting their first bites of breakfast. And, while it’s only been six weeks so far, Vancouver students are 100% certain that the space-time continuum is broken, causing summer to fly by way too quickly.

Art is for the birds! Birds of a Feather! Winging It!

Winging It!

and so is Jenna...

is Jenna

What is the common thread to all of this fantastic fortitude, attitude, and confidence? Water. But not just any water. This is water saturated with calcium and tiny bubbles. It percolated triumphantly to the surface of the earth somewhere in France, was packaged in classy green bottles (people who collect smooth sand-washed glass on the beach should appreciate that), and was shipped directly to the thirsty people at Cassels Brock Vancouver.

This isn’t to say that Toronto doesn’t have its exciting features – like 20 amazing summer students who manage to be both super friendly and freakishly impressively dressed at the same time – but when we count our blessings in Vancouver, the little green bottles of fizzy water (Perrier!) are pretty close to the top.

Currently I’m drinking about 3 bottles of the stuff a day. It’s perfect. Every morning, when Jenna grabs a coffee, I bee-line to the fridge to grab a refreshingly cold pick-me-up; by noon I’m grabbing my second to enjoy with whatever delicious food has been delivered for lunch; and when the 3 o’clock drop hits, I’m back at the fridge, getting my CO2 on.

Jenna is more restrained. She usually only goes through 2 bottles a day, and I’ve even seen her on occasion with a glass filled with flat water. Despite this difference in degree, we both agree that bubbles are better.

What does all of this have to do with working at Cassels? First of all, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to have a deliciously refreshing beverage in the morning, but also, it’s awesome to feel like you’re valued and appreciated, even if you’re only a summer student.

In many ways the Perrier water is a total metaphor for student life at Cassels. Every day at work has been refreshing, and filled with bubbles of learning, growth and friendship. My day at Cassels doesn’t usually drag at 3; it’s usually filled with an exciting, time sensitive project that has me humming “Final Countdown” as I clatter on my keyboard, or flip pages. And like the apparently limitless supplies of Perrier, so too are the limitless chances to grow and develop. The firm has supported us for the past 6 weeks, not only with food and drinks, but with an endless supply of super-applicable training, that always seems to arrive just when we need it.

When we interviewed with Cassels we heard about the Perrier, the lunches, the foosball table and the culture. Our expectations of this place were pretty high. But, since we actually started working here, our expectations have been exceeded in every way. We have been overwhelmed by the exceptional atmosphere, the positive and energetic people, and the mentorship.

There are purported to be 50 million bubbles in a 330ml bottle of Perrier. When you open the cap you can hear just of fraction of those millions of bubbles exploding from the surface. We’ve only been here 6 weeks, but every week has been stuffed with new and positive experiences. We only have 8 weeks left, and I can assure you, we plan to drink up as much as we can.

Drinking in the views

Drinking in the views

(Future Summer Student Note: Paragraph 5 is an example of how you’ll be embracing semicolons when you get here!)

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West Coast Wednesday: An Evening of Wine Tasting

Last week, Arend and I enjoyed our first student event of the summer: wine tasting at the Vancouver Urban Winery!

photo 5

Arend and I with our tasting flights.

Leigh-Ann McGowan – CBB’s fabulous Assistant Director of Professional Development & Student Programs – joined me, Arend and our mentors, Jennifer Hansen and Andrew Spencer, at a trendy wine tasting bar on the fringes of Gastown.

We sampled delicious BC wines, snacked on gourmet charcuterie and debriefed our first few days at the Vancouver office. Arend impressed our table with his sommelier-esque wine knowledge (he assured us that the Chardonnay met all four steps of the Oaked test). I considered it a personal victory that I didn’t spill any of the tomato soup fondue on my suit.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup fondue. Best. Idea. Ever.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup fondue. Best. Idea. Ever.

Leigh-Ann was great company and an incredibly good sport. She is an avid Montreal Canadiens fan and there were no televisions for her to watch the playoff game!

Leigh-Ann wore her lucky red and blue wool socks over her high heels, but, tragically, the Rangers crushed the Habs’ Stanley Cup dreams. You can blame Arend and I for that…I’m sure the socks would have worked their magic if Leigh-Ann had been able to watch the game!

Stay tuned for more CBB Vancouver student adventures! Until next Wednesday,

Jenna C

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West Coast Wednesday: Week One at the Vancouver Office

Hello! My name is Jenna C. and I will be spending the summer with Arend H. at the Vancouver office of Cassels Brock & Blackwell (CBB).

A typical view from one of the the CBB Vancouver board rooms.

A typical view from the CBB Vancouver office.

In our weekly “West Coast Wednesday” posts, Arend and I will update you on our wild and wacky adventures on the best – oops, I mean west – coast.

Arend and I enjoying one of the office patios. CBB provides Vancouver students with massive umbrellas to help us battle the west coast rain.

Arend and I enjoying one of the office patios. CBB provides Vancouver students with massive umbrellas to help us battle the west coast rain.


Highlights from our first week

This edition of West Coast Wednesday offers a snapshot of life at CBB Vancouver and reviews highlights of our first week at the firm.

Moving into our own offices

I have a big office all to myself with a commanding view of Robson square.

Jenna, office

Arend has an internal office with no windows, but he is being admirably stoic about it. At least he has lots of desk space to hold his Perrier bottles and stacks of impressive lawyerly papers.

Arend, office

Attending the Business in Vancouver 2014 BC CFO Awards Gala

Arend and I finished our first day of work by joining the CBB Vancouver lawyers at an awards gala in support of a client. It was great way to start our week!

Video conferences with our pals in Toronto

After spending a week in Toronto for orientation training, Arend and I were sad to say goodbye to our fellow summer students. Fortunately, we will have video conference meetings with them throughout the summer to keep in touch.

Discovering the snack drawer

Arend and I keep up our strength by munching on CBB Vancouver’s selection of healthy (and sometimes not-so-healthy) snacks.

Snacks 1

Snacks 2

Meeting the wonderful team of staff and lawyers at the Vancouver office

The Vancouver office is a close-knit team of 14 lawyers, 2 summer students, 2 articling students and 14 support staff. Every second Friday, the entire office meets for “afternoon tea” (read: beer, wine and snacks). Everyone has been incredibly kind and welcoming in our first week here – we’re looking forward to getting to know them better this summer!

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Vancouver hits the links

In Vancouver, we know how to Friday.

Last Friday afternoon, in honour of Deborah Glatter (Director of Professional Development & Student Program)’s visit to the fairer coast, we took a field trip to the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt- an 18 hole golf extravaganza that lies somewhere between the realm of mini-putt and Pebble Beach.

Pitch and Putt is the chameleon of golf courses. Into driving? With a little skill, you can skip most of your short game and just put a ball on the green in one shot. Into putting? If you’re like me, you can say goodbye to hopes of watching your ball sail into the blue sky, but with some brute force, you can just putt all the way to the finish! Into shirtless golfing? They have that, too.

Full disclosure: I am a terrible golfer. Deborah made the same claim, but after watching a suspicious and sizeable improvement after only few holes I began to think that maybe we had been hustled.

Mike is a great golfer. He also has the patience of a saint.  As can be seen in the exhibit displayed below, Coach Mike spent most of the afternoon a) wearing a t-shirt that was too small for him, b) rustling around in the shrubbery looking for our misdirected golf balls, and c) coaching us on our athletic golf swing stances.

mr. brownCoach Mike, looking disparagingly into the distance as he ponders what awaits him in the shrubbery as he hunts for golf balls led astray. 

carolineI hit my ball so far in the wrong direction that it went to Jurassic Park. Note dino-sized leaves. Photo taken shortly before velociraptor chase.


LPGA ready. Look at that stance.

Pitch and Putt was a fantastic way to spend a Friday afternoon, and we capped it off with the Vancouver Office’s Friday afternoon tradition of beverages on the balcony, followed by dinner at L’Abattoir (a delicious restaraunt that is not too hipster, but hipster enough that the walls are exposed brick and they serve their pork shoulder on a bed of kale. Nom nom nom).

We just started the renovation process to take over the rest of the 22nd floor out here…you know you want to come visit!





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