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#NewYearNewMe and Articling

New Year New Me image with year 2020 on it.

It’s the new year and you are most likely #NewYearNewMe (or maybe, #NewYearSameMe because it’s totally okay to continue being your best self in this new year!). Some of you may have some financial goals, health goals or maybe no goals…just trying to survive! Same, same.

I have been in your shoes, and I am not about to be all showy with any suggestions or recommendations to help make some part of your articles to go more smoothly. There are no mysteries here; rather, I hope to share based on my own experiences.

It’s the end of the holidays and you are back to a somewhat normal schedule. Let’s begin.

If you have been lucky enough to learn so far, you will realize that the holiday schedule for the courts do not always align with your working schedule. Congrats if you figured this out on your own! I did not. That Easter Friday day before the Easter Monday? Plan to get the documents filed a few days in advance because you will have to instruct someone (your assistant if you are lucky enough to work in a larger office or your process server if you do not go down to the courthouse yourself) who may have to instruct someone else (that assistant may have to instruct a process server). Or, even better, you may have to mail your documents, which means you have to account for any holidays when mail is not processed. In fact, just print out a calendar, highlight all statutory holidays in one colour and highlight all your limitation periods in another colour. Your employer’s holidays may also be different than court holidays, especially in environments with unions. Account for that too. You can also be super proactive and ask your instructing lawyer if they will be away for any holidays and put those in your calendar too.

Another thing I have done for counting limitation periods if there are enough days in between? Remove a day or two to give yourself time to edit/review your work, and perhaps, to learn from a mistake or two along the way…you will make them. It’s okay. Articling is the space to learn.

Perhaps, you have some files to issue in another jurisdiction and you need to figure out the court’s practices in that region. I recommend calling the courthouse first thing in the morning (accounting for any time differences) and ask the clerk about any practices, pending your area of law, and as soon as you can. In more northern and rural regions, some courts only sit once a week or even less! I learned this during my articles and I also learned that one courthouse did not accept courier packages, or the documents to be filed via courier. They didn’t accept courier packages because no human body was there to accept them on days the court did not sit. I figured it out with, of course. And, just like me, you will figure it out too. Some smaller courts are nice enough to allow you to coordinate via email. However, I recommend calling to establish a more personal relationship. This may help when you are dealing with a more complex file with plenty of filing required, for instance. I developed some good relationships with court clerks over the phone during my articles. I, too, also hated talking on the phone but you will get over it especially if you need those documents to be filed.

When it came to worry about next steps after articles (*cough* jobs *cough*), I was under a good character investigation for most of my articles. So, I really did not think about a job. Once the investigation was closed, I was able to focus on finishing my articles on a good note. Near the end of my articles, I started to pay attention to the job market. I was lucky enough to have an excellent articling experience that I indicated my interest in staying on. They offered me a position. Some folks are not so lucky. That’s okay. You can be proactive by working on developing relationships and networking with others. Be honest in your networking. If you are meeting someone for a job prospect, tell them. If you just want to meet for coffee, tell them. I had a really bad experience where a partner at one law firm thought I was looking for a job from their firm, after they followed me on twitter, and I indicated my interest in meeting them for coffee. After organizing other lawyers at their firm to join (which was kind of weird since I only wanted coffee), that partner did not want to meet for coffee because I was “only a student.” Their words, not mine, and I guess they don’t know how to read my twitter profile because, at the time, it said I was a student. Also, thanks for telling me you thought less of me because I was only a student. Their comment presumed I wanted a job but, if you know me and how honest/blunt I am: If I wanted more than a coffee, I would have said so.

You may also be overwhelmed with all the various associations and you are wondering what is the best one to join. I recommend, before your student status changes, to join as many as you can (if you can afford them) since many have super affordable student prices. There are junior lawyer or recent call prices; however, the student prices are still more attractive. You can also determine whether a particular association is useful by also signing up for their mailing lists. I used to be a member of the Advocates Society but since it is a super Toronto-centric association, I cancelled once I bounced from Toronto. Bye girl! Don’t throw your money at things that are not helpful.

As for CPD, you do not need to attend CPD until you are called but you are more than welcome to attend CPD or related business events. Still, you can sign up for law firm emails/subscriptions. They sometimes send free CPD event invites which may be useful if you are not a member of any associations. And, ps. sign up for major law firms who practice in the same area as you. They sometimes release summary of key cases a lot faster than you can read them. I found it helpful to see a summary before I read them in full. My motto for my students when I teach them: Don’t do double the work (because why do double the work if someone else has already done it?!)

When it comes to your health, I spent half of 2018 and all of 2019 putting my health first because, let’s be real here, health always takes a back seat in law school and in articles. It’s a bad habit we all pick up and there is really no shame in it. What’s shitty is the profession/universities assuming individuals can change the longstanding culture by making individual food/health choices. How many more unhelpful tips to practice healthy eating or exercising do we need? As much as I loved pizza pockets for dinner some nights, I wanted to change. I am still working on this and this is an ongoing journey. The only tip I can share is that it takes many small changes to put your health first, but it will always boil down to sleep and eating. Yes, some folks say that there is not much time for sleeping during articles and success depends on how much effort you put into your work. Well, they also say to work smarter, not harder. Get your sleep on track. I am a morning person and I made it a goal of mine to wake up at 5am to get to the gym and be working by 8am. This sometimes works but with my own practice now, it really depends. My goals change. I try to make it to the gym three times a week, and walk as much as I can. My goal now is to move more, especially after breaking my ankle in two spots and getting new hardware put in. Now that I live up north, I sometimes can’t go to the gym unless the roads have been plowed, which means no more 5am gym trips. Things will always work out though.

I try not to give financial tips, but I would be happy to chat about any suggestions to manage things. I don’t give financial tips because it really depends on the other person and some people make horrible assumptions about people’s financial situation when giving such advice. Let’s avoid all that and if you want to chat, reach out!

I would be happy to chat with any student or articling student, especially first-generation racialized/Indigenous students who are looking for more tips. You can also stay watching here or sign up for my newsletter here, where I sometimes send extra stuff!

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