At Aird & Berlis LLP, we look at our students as the future of the firm and this starts in our summer student program. We want our summer students to become articling students, then associates and, in a few years, partners of the firm. Applications for second-year summer student positions must be received in accordance with timing set out in the Law Society's recruitment procedures.
Unlike our articling program, we do not have a rotation system during the summer. We find that the summer is just too short to implement a meaningful rotation system. Instead, our students are encouraged to try as many different areas of practice and to work with as many of our lawyers as possible. Where a student has a particular area or areas of interest, they are encouraged to seek work from our practitioners in that area, with the help of their mentors. This is very effective – lawyers love to work with students who have expressed an interest in their practice! We also address particular interests through our mentor program (discussed below) and through office locations, moving your office halfway through the summer.
A&B lawyers who take a special interest in our student program are assigned as mentors to ensure that each student’s summer is a successful and rewarding one. Our summer students are assigned two “official” mentors – a junior mentor and a senior mentor. If a student has an interest in a particular area or areas of practice, we will try to ensure that at least one of the student’s mentors practices in those areas. Students will also find that they create relationships with other lawyers as “unofficial” mentors throughout the summer.
Mentors can provide appropriate work to their students and are encouraged to involve their students, and other students, in their files. Mentors are responsible for ensuring that students are exposed to high quality work and have opportunities to participate in many different types of work, including closings, drafting sessions, hearings, motions and meetings with clients.
Mentors are a resource for students and often the first person a student will approach with questions, no matter what the topic. Mentors are encouraged to have regular, informal contact with their students and a mentor’s door is always open to his or her student.
While mentors are encouraged to involve their students in files, they do not filter or “gate keep” the student’s work. In addition, students should not receive the majority of work from his or her mentor. Instead, mentors act as liaisons for their students, introducing them to others in the firm and suggesting who a student should approach for particular work. Lawyers contact students directly to ask for their help on files and our students are responsible for managing their own workload. One of the most important learning experiences during the summer and articling programs is discovering how much one can take on, how long certain projects are likely to take, how to balance multiple projects at the same time and how to gracefully decline work when one’s plate (or desk) is full.
Formal reviews are conducted halfway through the summer (before the deadline for submitting articling applications) and again at the end of the summer. Lawyers with whom the student has worked are asked to provide feedback regarding the student’s legal research and analysis, writing and drafting, verbal communication ability, judgment and decision-making ability, timeliness, attitude and maturity. Students do, of course, receive informal feedback throughout the summer and are encouraged to ask for feedback and constructive comments directly from the lawyer with whom they have been working after each assignment is completed.
The first week of the summer is spent in our orientation program, where students learn everything from how the firm is organized to how to work with a legal assistant. Full computer and library training is provided, and an external QL refresher is provided. Representatives from each of the main practice groups come in to explain what their group is all about and what kind of work a student could expect to do in that group. As well, our outgoing articling students share their wisdom in an “If I Knew Then What I Know Now” session.
After orientation, we hold weekly Lunch-and-Learn sessions throughout the summer on a variety of topics including, brief overviews of some specialized practice areas. These sessions provide students with important skills they will need during the summer and onwards in their career. Our summer student seminar schedule included the following topics: "Legal Research and Writing," "Introduction to Corporate/Commercial Law," "Introduction to Securities Law," "The Basics of a Loan Transaction," "Introduction to Tax Law," "Introduction to Municipal and Planning Law," "Introduction to Real Estate Transactions," "The Litigation Process" and "The Heart of Darkness: An Introduction to Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law."
Angela Swan, counsel to the firm, is also a great resource for our students. Angela has been both a full and part-time professor of law for many years at several Ontario law schools and McGill University, and currently teaches “The Course of a Transaction” seminar at Osgoode Hall Law School. Angela''''s practice focuses on supporting lawyers and students with respect to research and opinions.
Our current summer student salary is $1,450 per week for both first and second year summer students.
Part of the purpose of the summer program is to get to know your fellow students and the lawyers at the firm on an informal basis. Past summer events have included celebratory dinners, beach volleyball, basketball, billards, ping-pong, an evening at E-Zone playing whirlyball and laser tag, and a summer party on Ward''''s Island.