Blog post by Jessica Williams
“Have you heard yet?”
If you’re an articling student, you’ve probably been asked this question a hundred times in the last month by your family, friends, former law school peers and maybe some of the lawyers at your firm, and you know exactly what you’re being asked about.
No, they’re not wondering whether you know the sex of Kate Middleton’s baby or about the latest firings within the Leafs’ organization; they’re asking about whether you’ve been hired back as an associate at your firm.
In honour of the hire back season, I asked a few of the associates and partners at HP about the transition from articling to associate life and below are some of the responses I received:
Q: If you had time off between articling and when you started as an associate, what did you do?
A: I hopped on an airplane and drove around Southern Italy with my wife and visited family. The food there is better…highway speed limits too.
Q: What were you most afraid of as you transitioned from an articling student to an associate?
A: I cannot remember. Probably everything.
Q: What was your first week like as an associate?
A: It was a pretty smooth transition, not too stressful. Came back from the time off to some of the files that I worked on as a student and continued with them. Also, a lot of planning and organization for my new practice.
Q: What do you wish you knew your first day as an associate?
A: To remember my parking pass.
Q: What do you wish you knew your first year as an associate?
A: My first year I wish that I knew that balance was important – that it is okay to take a holiday even though your boss’s client said he might call that week. I hope we do a better job of instilling the work/life balance in our associates today.
Q: What surprised you the most about being an associate?
A: The sense of pride and accomplishment in realizing that I could finally provide legal advice and assist my own clients.
Q: What was the biggest difference between being an articling student and being an associate?
A: Biggest difference is the amount of autonomy. I have my own clients with my own files, can set my schedule and build my practice accordingly. Also only working within a distinct practice group means I have significantly fewer lawyers who require assistance with file work – so essentially more time to focus on the type of legal work that I enjoy the most.
Q: What has been the best advice you’ve received as an associate?
A: I received this advice prior to being an associate but it sticks with me – it is called the PRACTICE of law for a reason. Always approach this profession with a humble attitude and embrace the need for constant learning and self-improvement. Mistakes will inevitably happen but don’t get down on yourself when they do. Instead, work hard and keep practicing to iron out the mistakes and hone your trade.
Q: What was the best advice you received as an associate (directed to a partner)?
A: Two pieces of advice that I find that I pass on: Frank Angeletti for whom I juniored once told me when I lost a motion that my job was to go in and do the very best job that I could for the client and that I could not obsess over a loss or I would have a very short career. That advice has helped me numerous times. The other was from our Learned Bob Israel – to take that vacation because the work and the client will still be here when you get back.