Emond Exam Prep: 5 Pieces of Advice for Articling Students

Articling is like adolescence in many ways: It is confusing and terrifying, but also exciting and exhilarating because finally, you begin to see glimpses of what it is like to be a real grown up or a real lawyer, as the case may be.

In this post, I’ll attempt to be your legal Judy Blume and talk about 5 important things to remember while articling:

1. This is when your build your reputation

You may have summered at a firm, or worked in a legal environment before, but expectations change when you’re an articling student. Now you will be given real legal tasks. You might be asked to argue a motion or draft pleadings in a matter. This is when you have to really prove your mettle, not only because you want to be hired back, but also because you want to make a solid impression as you navigate your way through your career. Common sense applies here: be punctual, work hard, meet deadlines, and always be professional and courteous to your co-workers, clients, and opposing counsels.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

If your stomach went cold while thinking about arguing a motion or drafting pleadings, that is completely normal. No one expects you as an articling student to know exactly what to do right away. Not only is it okay to ask questions; it is highly recommended. Make sure you understand the instructions; ask for clarifications or precedents if necessary. Even if it isn’t related to a specific task, expressing intellectual curiosity is a sign of a bright, engaged articling student who will go on to become a bright, engaged lawyer.

3. Keep an open mind

Maybe you watched Kramer vs. Kramer as a child and always wanted to be a family lawyer. Maybe you watched Kramer vs. Kramer as a child and swore you would never be a family lawyer. Articling might change your mind. There is nothing wrong with being focused on a particular field of law, but if you get the chance to explore other options, take it. You never know how you’ll feel about a certain field until you actually experience it. Being pro-active is important.

When I was articling, I asked for more exposure to immigration law even though I had been working on family law matters until that point. My principal agreed and allowed me to work with their staff immigration lawyer for a few months. I fell completely in love with the work and ended up practising immigration law exclusively.

4. Remember that this is a work place, not school

The stakes are very different when you are articling. Your work now has very real consequences. You will be working on more than one project at once, all with different deadlines. You’ll have to prioritize, keeping in mind that unforeseen work will interrupt even the best laid plans. Be organized and recognize that sometimes you may have to say no. Know your limits. It is better to be honest about your workload than to miss a deadline or present shoddy work.

5. Maintain a work–life balance

All the advice I’ve given you so far is important, but also somewhat austere. I will balance that out by reminding you that self-care is crucial for your physical and mental well-being. Articling can be very demanding and overwhelming, and it is easy to neglect the other parts of your life. It is way too early in your career to burn out, so make sure to get enough sleep, see friends and family, watch Netflix, exercise, try that new restaurant down the street, adopt the adorable kitten you’ve been pining over. Rested articling students are efficient articling students, and efficient articling students get hired back.