Clerking and You

BY Jennifer Lau, Acting Director; Chiara Woods, Acting Associate Director; and Tracy Wachmann, Public Interest Coordinator

Clerking Information

Do You:

  • Enjoy the academic and intellectual aspects of law?
  • Have an interest in litigation and want to gain insight into judicial reasoning and decision making?
  • Enjoy legal research and legal discussion?
  • Have excellent legal research and writing skills?
  • Not mind having an extended articling period?

If so, you may want to consider applying for a judicial clerkship. Clerking is a unique opportunity to spend a year working “behind the scenes” in a Court. The chance to observe counsel and litigants of all stripes arguing their cases in court and assist judges as they craft their decisions is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Clerks often maintain collegial relationships not only with their judges, but also with their fellow law clerks.

The duties of a law clerk vary from court to court and from judge to judge. Generally, however, law clerks are responsible for researching and writing preliminary memoranda (brief summaries of the cases coming before the court based on the written submissions of the parties), conducting post-hearing research, and editing judgments.

Law students usually apply for clerkships in their 2nd year, which commence after graduation.  If you are interested in applying for a Canadian Clerkship, note that application deadlines range from November to April.  Please see the Judicial Clerkships 2014-2015 handout on Symplicity which contains information about the application process, interview preparation, application deadlines, and names of former clerks. 

We welcome the opportunity to review your clerkship application materials. Students may book an appointment with a member of the CSO team on Symplicity.

Get in touch with Career Services.

All roads lead to Symplicity (www.ubclawcareers.com). If you do not have a Symplicity login, email careers@law.ubc.ca so that you can access our Document Library, review job postings, upload your resume, and make appointments with Jennifer Lau, Chiara Woods or Tracy Wachmann. We look forward to helping you with your job search!

Summer Job Search

BY JENNIFER LAU AND CHIARA WOODS

Regardless of whether you are in 1L or 2L or even if you want to article and practice law down the road, the summer is a great opportunity to gain some work and life experience, explore legal employment options in different work environments, and build your transferable skills.  What do 1Ls and 2Ls do with their summers?  Here is a sample of some things that 1Ls and 2Ls have historically done in the summer:

  • UBC Faculty of Law (i.e. research assistant, orientation coordinator, development assistant)
  • Research fellowships which may involve time at the law school, firm, or non-profit organization (Fraser Milner Casgrain Business Law Fellowship and Insolvency Internship, UBC Research Abroad Grant)
  • Internships (i.e. United Nations, Pivot Legal Society, BC Civil Liberties Association)
  • Private organizations (i.e. Best Buy Canada, LexisNexis Canada)
  • Government organizations (i.e. WorkSafe BC; Health Employers Association of BC)
  • Professional associations (i.e. Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC)
  • Public Interest Groups (i.e. LSLAP, BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support, West Coast Environmental Law, BC Law Institute)
  • Law firms (small, medium, or large – and full-service or boutique)
  • Work in a non-law job and gain transferable skills
  • Or travel and see the world!

The Public Interest Work Placement Project will also fund 6 summer 2013 positions exclusively for UBC Law students.  These positions will be posted in February 2013.  Summer 2012 organizations included:

  • BC Coalition of People with Disabilities
  • CHIMO Crisis Services
  • First United Church
  • Golden Women’s Centre Society
  • Nelson CARES Society; and,
  • Pivot Legal Society.

If you are considering opportunities with public interest organizations, please refer to the Public Interest Legal Careers Guide, the Public Interest Opportunities handoutand the Public Interest Funding Optionshandout and consider making an appointment on Symplicity to meet with Tracy Wachmann, our Public Interest Coordinator.

For more information, please see the Summer Employment after First and Second Yearhandout and visit the Job Postings on Symplicity. To see what jobs have been posted in the past (and when), click on “Job Leads” within the Job Postings section to see expired postings.

In consideration of your summer employment, take the time to self-assess, evaluate your current experience, and look for a summer opportunity that develops and strengthens your skills. We encourage students to take initiative and contact smaller law firms, corporations, public interest organizations, government organizations, and other employers with whom they would be interested in working this summer. It’s never too early to start thinking about your job hunt, but do remember that most employers do not hire summer students until February, March & April, so stay realistic when contacting them.  The CSO’s handouts on Finding Unposted Jobs, Networking, and Informational Interviewing are excellent resources for tapping into the many hidden job opportunities.

Lastly, remember that only 25 – 30% of 2Ls at UBC Law work at larger law firms in Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary during their 2nd year summer.  Jobs at the larger law firms for 1Ls are virtually non-existent in Vancouver, and fairly limited in Calgary, Ottawa, and Toronto. Take your summer to explore the many legal career opportunities outside of the traditional law firm environment and build your resume.

INTERVIEWS

It is one word that strikes fear into the hearts of many law students.  Your palms start to sweat and your hands may even shake.  What will they ask me?  Will I sound stupid?  I don’t even know in which area of law I want to practice!

It is normal to be nervous.  It may make you feel better to know that many law firm interviews are conversational.  The lawyers at the firm are just trying to get to know you as a person.  Once you have secured an interview, it is generally assumed that you are qualified for the job.  Therefore, marks do not matter (whew!).  One lawyer on the student committee of a national firm said that as an interviewer, he is trying to determine two simple questions:

(1)  Is this someone I would leave in charge of a file while I am away on holidays (here, the employer is evaluating your legal ability, client management skills and practicality): and

(2)  Is this someone I would want to sit in the office next to me for the next twenty years (here, the employer is evaluating your collegiality, friendliness and general fit with their office culture).

Even though your interview will generally be conversational, you should still prepare.  Preparation reduces nervousness (as much as possible!) and enables you to present yourself in the best possible light.  You should review your cover letter and resume and be prepared to answer the following types of questions:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Why did you go to law school?
  • How do you like law school? What is your favourite course/professor?
  • What practice area/kind of law are you interested in?  Why?
  • Why are you interested in our firm/office?
  • Do you have any questions for us?  What can we tell you about us?

Ideally, you will craft your answers to the above questions without sounding too rehearsed to highlight the type of skill set legal employers seek by drawing on examples from your academic, work and volunteer experience.  Your individual skill set is unique, but may include legal research and writing, analysis, advocacy, interpersonal skills (including client relations), mentoring, and the ability to multi-task and work well under pressure.  You should try to talk about things in which you are genuinely interested, as opposed to things you think the firm wants you to say or wants to hear.  When you talk about things you are passionate about, you will talk slower, be less nervous and more engaging. Remember to be positive about anything and everything you discuss in the interview.

Most government employers, and some firms may also ask behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interviewing is a technique used to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors in order to determine their potential for success. The theory behind behavioral interview questions is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral questions are very specific. You are asked to provide detailed examples of situations when you demonstrated certain attributes or skills. When answering, we recommend using the STAR approach as itallows you to structure your answers and highlight the skills that the employer is seeking. The STAR approach works to your advantage because it provides specific details and showcases specific skills. Answering behavioral interview questions with the STAR approach will differentiate you from other candidates who may provide standard answers. Details regarding the STAR approach are provided in the Interviewing Guide and there are also sample behavioral interview questions that you can use to prepare.

So on a final note, take the time to prepare yourself for your interview and then try to relax and take this opportunity to get to know the different employers.  The Interviewing Guide is available on Symplicity and at the CSO office for students to review.  Students can also sign up via Symplicity for a mock interview with Jenn, Chiara or Tracy.

Get in touch with Career Services

All roads lead to Symplicity (www.ubclawcareers.com).  If you do not have a Symplicity login, email careers@law.ubc.ca so that you can access our Document Library, review job postings, upload your resume, and make appointments with Jenn, Chiara or Tracy. We look forward to helping you with your job search!

10 STEPS TO BUILDING A PROFESSIONAL REPUTATION

BY JENNIFER LAU & CHIARA WOODS 

Whether you are starting a law-related job this summer, networking with lawyers in different practice areas, or just socializing with fellow law students, you have already started to build one of the most important features of your career: your professional reputation.  The legal community in Vancouver and across Canada is surprisingly small.  Keep in mind the following tips as you make your way through law school and start building your legal or non-traditional career:

(1)           You have already entered the legal profession. Whether you pursue a legal career or not, your law school classmates are your future professional colleagues.  Much of legal practice and other employment options involve ‘word of mouth’ referrals and anecdotes.  Everything you do, say, and write will form a permanent part of how your colleagues will view you going forward.

(2)           Socializing/Networking.  Socializing with current or prospective employers and with fellow law students will be a key component of your professional life.  Try to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum and avoid becoming the subject of law firm or law school gossip.  Remember that wine and cheese receptions and law firm tours are business events.  You don’t want to be known as the student who brought a date to the wine and cheese or the student who tried get a date with a lawyer at a firm tour!

(3)           Be enthusiastic and take initiative.

  • Even if you are not sure why you came to law school or what kind of career you’d like to pursue, you can still meet different types of lawyers (i.eg. public interest; large firm; small firm; government; in-house) from diverse practice areas.  You also may want to investigate non-traditional careers (i.e. public relations; sports/entertainment; or public interest) by contacting someone who has your ‘dream job’ and finding out how they gained their position.  For some ideas, see the “Non-Traditional Careers” section in the Legal Careers Guide in the Document Library on Symplicity (or buy a hard copy of the newly revised 2012 version in early April).  The contacts you make during this information-gathering process will not only be helpful during your job search, but may also be valuable contacts for your future career.
  • If you have a summer job, take the initiative to gain constructive feedback to improve your skills.  Be creative and don’t be afraid to provide thoughtful comments on a project or issue.  Finally, don’t wait for work to come to you.  Find out about files or matters that interest you and approach the appropriate person to see if you can lend a hand!  If not, ask them to keep you in mind for future cases or projects.

(4)           Maintain confidentiality and be discreet.  Whenever you are working with clients, you must at all times keep everything confidential.  Lawyers are often caught talking about their cases in elevators, on the bus or in bars!  You may also want to be careful on voicing your thoughts about opposing counsel, other students, and lawyers.

(5)           Deliver on the deadline.  Whether you are at Worksafe BC, at the university as a research assistant for a professor, at LSLAP, or with a non-profit organization or committee, you should always avoid missing a deadline (including limitation dates).  Even if your work quality is high, missing deadlines can seriously hamper your career prospects.

(6)           Go ahead, make mistakes, but never lie.  It is not a question of “if you will make a mistake”, but “when you will make a mistake”.  The key is how you deal with the aftermath.  Take responsibility, be forthright and tell your supervisor or the appropriate person immediately.  The true test of character is how people react in the face of adversity.  Don’t compound a mistake by lying, although that may seem like the most attractive option at the time.

(7)           Social Networking Sites.  Assume that current or prospective employers, clients and colleagues can and will view your online profile, which may include any material posted online such as photos you have posted; photos friends may have posted of you; and comments you have made on other people’s pages.  Consider how an employer or client would view your language or clothing.  If you are not comfortable with a potential employer, client or colleague viewing your personal life in this manner, ensure that your online profile is not public.  You can also Google yourself to see if there is anything else online of which you are unaware.  Keep your online profile professional.

(8)           E-Etiquette.  Email can be a quick, convenient, and informal method of communication.  However, being overly informal can also be viewed as unprofessional, especially when you are emailing someone for the first time.  Emails are also permanent.  Write in complete sentences and use appropriate capitalization.  Do not use abbreviations like “LOL” or use emoticons in your professional email correspondence.  Do not send numerous, repetitive e-mails as you run the risk of annoying the recipient – if you haven’t received a response or if you think something may not come across well by e-mail, pick up the phone and contact the recipient the old-fashioned way.

(9)           Telephone Etiquette.  Telephone etiquette is important because you will be interacting with interviewers, clients, and opposing counsel over the phone, both during law school and throughout your career.  Speak clearly and confidently and always state your full name, the full name of the person you are seeking, and a brief reason for why you are calling.  If you are leaving a message, it is helpful to repeat back important information at the end of the message, such as meeting times or contact information.  Ensure that all of your voicemail greetings are professional.

(10)        Professional Style.  Always err on the conservative side and dress for the position you want, not the one you necessarily have.  If business casual is appropriate (i.e. for an interview with a public interest organization or if it is specifically referred to on an invitation), still err on the conservative side.

For more information, see the CSO handouts Business Etiquette, What Not to Wear, Networking, Informational Interviewing, and Finding Unposted Jobs available online and at our office.

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Important: Second-year students seeking 2013/2014 Articles this Summer

 

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Jenn, Chiara and Tracy are here to assist you in preparing your application packages to employers this summer for 2013/2014 articling positions.  Please keep in mind that the process of looking for an articling position is competitive.  Each year, approximately 50% of the third year class starts third year without articles.  Your commitment and a strategic approach will help you to secure an articling position.  To prepare your resume and cover letter, please review the Resume and Cover Letter Guide. CSO staff members are available for appointments via Symplicity to review your application materials and discuss your articling search.

 

Get in touch with Career Services

All roads lead to Symplicity (www.ubclawcareers.com).  If you do not have a Symplicity login, email careers@law.ubc.ca so that you can access our Document Library, review job postings, and make appointments with Jenn Lau, Chiara Woods or Tracy Wachmann. We look forward to helping you with your job search wherever your law degree takes you!