As summer is approaching the nerves are likely beginning to set in for upcoming summer and articling students! I recall quite vividly the anxiety of starting at a new firm – in my case, I experienced this nervousness three times as I summered at two different firms and then moved to Harrison Pensa to complete my articles. So, it’s safe to say I have some experience with handling nerves when it comes to transitioning into a student position at a law firm. I have compiled a list of key points to take into account when starting a student position at a law firm, with the hopes of easing your nerves as well:
Take advantage of being the “new person”
The staff and lawyers at the firm recognize that you are new. Not only will they be very helpful, but they will also be understanding. Accordingly, it is best to ask as many questions as possible in the beginning. If you ask someone where the printer is a few months after you start, you may receive a strange look….
Get to know the lawyers and the staff
Begin to familiarize yourself with your colleagues. I found it helpful to scroll through the firm’s directory to determine which lawyer worked in what department and also to learn the names of their support staff. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, it is important to know everyone in the firm and their respective roles. Once you know the names of the lawyers and support staff you will feel more comfortable approaching them for assistance.
Precedents will be your life saver
Firms almost always have internal precedents for memorandums, factums, motion records, affidavits, etc. Reviewing precedents is one of the best ways to learn the firm’s style and, more specifically, each lawyer’s style. Also, you will not be as nervous when submitting documents to your supervising lawyer if you drafted your work using a sample previously prepared by that lawyer.
Take your time and recognize the vertical learning curve
I cannot stress enough the vertical learning curve you will experience when you begin summering or articling at a law firm. In the early days, it will take you longer to complete assignments and draft pleadings, but don’t worry – with time and practice your efficiency on completing assignments and drafting documents will significantly improve.
Remember that you are not alone
I found it very comforting to start a student position at a law firm with other students. I was fortunate enough to begin my 2L summer position with fifteen students, and to begin my articling position at Harrison Pensa with three other students. Your fellow colleagues will be your best support system because they will be sharing the same experience as you. However, if you are the only student at the firm then I recommend either building a relationship with someone else who is fairly new to the firm or someone who is close to your age. I remember in my 1L summer student position I was the only student at the firm and I quickly developed a relationship with a member of the support staff who was close to my age. This person played a large role in helping me transition into the firm and, most importantly, I did not feel intimidated to ask for assistance.
And remember, an open mind and a positive attitude will definitely ease your transition into a law firm. Good luck!
Arifa Serter finished her articles at Harrison Pensa and is now a Partner with the Insurance Defence and Subrogation group at the firm.