As my articling term at Harrison Pensa comes to an end, it’s hard to believe that ten months have come and gone. I have learned valuable lessons and skills throughout my articling term that I am sure will stay with me throughout my career.
1. Embrace new opportunities
If you are like me, a lot of the tasks you will be facing during articling are things that you have never done before. Whether it is taking notes during examinations for discovery, appearing in court or assisting a lawyer on a closing, many new tasks can seem intimidating and daunting at first. During articling I learned to become excited when faced with something new, and I always learned the most when I was working outside of my comfort zone.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
When you are assigned a research question, asked to draft materials or any other assignment you are given, don’t be afraid to ask relevant questions. The last thing you want to happen is to spend hours on a research memo, only to hear back from the lawyer that they wanted your research to go in a different direction. If questions come to mind when you are receiving instructions, feel free to bring them up at that time. If, as you are researching or drafting, you think of additional questions, write them down and ask for clarification or direction once you have tried to work through them on your own. It is important to ask relevant questions when you need clarification on an issue.
3. Seek out work that interests you
When articling at a full service firm like HP, you will get experience in various areas of the law. It is important to use this opportunity to learn about as many different areas of law as possible, as you never know which area of law may ultimately appeal to you. Once you have an idea about what interests you, or even if you want exposure to an area that you haven’t had opportunity in yet, seek out work in that practice group. If there isn’t student work available in that area, consider asking to sit in on meetings or hearings, or to borrow a file to look through on your own.
4. Organization is key (prioritizing, deadlines, limitation periods)
Working at a law firm requires you to be organized and efficient with your work schedule. As an articling student, I learned the importance of documenting everything, setting reminders, and keeping file contents together. Once you have carriage of multiple files, the importance of keeping them separate and organized will become vital. Not only is physically organizing your workspace and files important, but organizing your schedule is just as crucial. During articling I learned how to prioritize, work efficiently and organize my schedule to be as productive as possible.
5. Use your resources
At first, I was under the impression that I would be able to handle any assignment on my own. But throughout my articles, I learned the importance and benefit of using different resources effectively. As students, we have a wide number of resources available to us. These resources include our fellow students, other lawyers in the firm, in-firm librarians, clerks, assistants, and courthouse librarians and staff (just to name a few). In my experience at HP, everyone was more than willing to assist you and do their best to help you produce the best work possible. Using these resources made my learning experiences much more enjoyable and productive. Whether it is learning new research techniques, learning how to organize a motion record properly, or figuring out a procedural issue at an out of town courthouse, the skills that I have learned as a result of reaching out to my resources will assuredly assist me in becoming a successful lawyer.