We understand that the route from application to in-firm interview to cocktail party can be long, hectic, and nerve-racking. How do you go through it without coming out the other end as a frazzled, nervous, and thinly-stretched applicant? Get prepared by reading our tips and advice section learn about what type of attire is appropriate at an in-firm interview, how to address your cover letter and how to get some great on-campus interview tips. It will let you know what it takes, and how to get it done.
We hire first year and second year law students in accordance with the Law Society of Upper Canada's recruitment guidelines. Please submit your application through the viDesktop Portal.
Your application has two main parts: the cover letter and the resumé. The hardest thing to do well is your cover letter, so we'll spend a little time giving you a few letter writing fundamentals with the help of a 1921 textbook, "English Composition" (which proves that good writing never goes out of style!). Here's an excerpt from that text:
A business letter is written to ask for, or to give, definite information. The style, therefore, should be simple and clear-cut. It is imperative that business letters should be absolutely correct in details of form and expression; that they should be clear in the wording of the message to be conveyed; that they should be concise, so as to include every detail necessary to a full understanding of the message; that they should be courteous; and, finally, that they should indicate character, so as to be effective in securing the attention of the reader.
As trite as the advice sounds, it's very hard for students to get the cover letter right. Let's examine some of the common problems with the "five Cs".
Each year, we receive letters that begin "Dear Ms. Grange" (Kim Grange is the student director at McCarthy Tetrault) or "Dear Mr. Leo" (hopefully we don't have to point out why this is wrong!). In addition, letters are often plagued with spelling or grammatical errors, or references that appear to be about some other firm.
Bear in mind that you're studying to be lawyers, not secretaries. Secretarial work is a whole other skill set acquired with years of experience and training. Chances are you don't have that skill set. So you have to compensate by being extra diligent in double-checking your information, spelling, grammar, name and address. By the time you're finished this process, you'll be cross-eyed and in poor shape to proofread. In the best possible world, have someone else proofread your letter for you. If you can't find anyone to help you, at a minimum you should make sure that you don't edit your work the same day you create it. Get the letters and envelopes done, put them away for a day, and then review them with a fresh eye.
We know you're smart so there's no need to use big words in your letter to prove it. You may think that you have to use fancy language because that's the way lawyers talk and write. That's not the case; at least not at Cassels Brock. We work hard to make our communications clear. Our clients tend to be sophisticated business people who don't have the time or patience to decipher cumbersome, archaic communications. Our students and lawyers all receive training on how to write well. If you send a letter to us that's clearly written, you're one step closer to being our kind of lawyer!
Here's a bad example: I have utilized and honed said skills in a variety of milieus.
Here's a good example: I used the skills I learned at the Legal Aid Clinic in a number of other positions.
The general rule to use is: "Would you speak to your mother that way?" If you wouldn't utilize said skills to her, please don't use them in your letter to us.
There's no reason why your cover letter should be more than one page long. Don't use it to reiterate the contents of your resumé. Don't use it to describe yourself. Hopefully, after we read your resumé, we'll say: "This is a bright and dynamic individual." By the same token, it will sound egotistical if you describe yourself that way in the letter.
American law firms seem to like cover letters and resumés that are each one page long. We don't know of any Canadian law firm that demands resumés be restricted to one page. Maybe we're nosier here: we want to know what you do in your spare time! So restrict your cover letter to one page but don't feel as restricted with your resumé. By nature of their point form set-up and headings, resumés are a quick read, so if they're two pages, that's quite all right.
Courtesy is good, as long as you don't go too far with it.
For example, don't write like this:
I have long admired Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP. Cassels Brock is without a doubt one of the country's pre-eminent law firms. It would be an honour and a privilege to work at a firm of your renowned calibre.
We hope you'll agree that the above paragraph is a bit much. On the other hand, if you'd like to state a specific reason why you want to work at Cassels Brock, please do so (e.g. "I would like to practice widget law, and I note that you have a significant widget practice").
As you read this, you're getting a glimpse about our personality. Your letter to us should give us a small glimpse of who you are. If you follow tip #2, you won't sound pompous. If you follow tip #4, you'll hit the appropriate tone.
There is no one sort of person we're looking for at Cassels Brock. The most important thing we can tell you is to be yourself.
The people with the real insight on how to handle a Cassels Brock OCI are the people who did it the best: our students. We asked our 2014 summer students to share their insights with you. Here are some tips from our students on how to handle the OCIs.
Tips & Insights
Spend much of your preparation time familiarizing yourself with your own resume. Though this may seem like an obvious exercise, you will not always be prepared to speak on an experience in as much detail as required during an OCI interview. Jot down some of the tasks you performed and learning lessons you took away, so that you are able to speak to each item when asked.
Robyn Blumberg (Osgoode)
Above all, keep smiling, exude positivity and try to enjoy the experience as much as possible. You will make a great impression on every firm if you seem like you are genuinely happy to be there. Although the interview process can be nerve-wracking, focus on the fact that you’re meeting with bright, personable and interesting people who are excited to get to know you better!
Jenna Clark (Dalhousie)Prepare diligently for your interviews, but try not to sound too rehearsed. When you come to the firm for an interview, always be courteous and genuine with everyone that you meet. Do your best to keep your energy levels up, maintain eye contact and smile. Everyone knows that this can be a stressful time, so don’t worry if you are nervous, just try to stay composed and confident throughout the process!
Michael Garbuz (Toronto)
The interviews fly by, so do your best to quickly turn it into a friendly, yet professional conversation. Do this by asking genuine questions about your interviewer’s experience at the firm. Smile, project confidence and have fun.
Benjamin Goodis (Windsor)
Don’t over think it or dwell on every conversation you had. Be confident, charismatic and show that you are competent. Take a real interest in the people that you meet. The rest will work itself out.
Lauren Grossman (Toronto)
For the ladies: keep an extra pair of nylons in your purse. It will save you the hassle (and the unnecessary stress) of trying to find a new pair when they inevitably rip during the interview week.
Amanda Metallo (Osgoode)
Be enthusiastic (authentically, of course) about the firm you are interviewing with, and express any interest you have in the lawyers and their practice areas. Ask questions during the interviews that show you are actively listening. Also, take advantage of the time with your articling student guide – it is invaluable in many ways.
Chad Podolsky (Toronto)
Even though the process can be tiring, make an effort to ask a lot of questions and really find a place where you fit with the people. Your future self will thank you.
Andrew Chan (Toronto)
Spend your time discovering which firms you want to work for, rather than casting a wide net. It’s a near perfect experience to be in an interview with authentic enthusiasm for a firm and a practice area. It’s tiring and slightly depressing to be in an interview with a firm to which you are ambivalent.
Arend Hoekstra (UBC)
Try and put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes – they’ve been at this all day as well, and have likely made even more small talk than you. Make a positive impression by bringing tons of energy and enthusiasm to your interviews.
Alexandra Murphy (Queen’s)
An important component of the in-firm interview process is the dinner. While candidates should be conscious of projecting an interesting and professional image through discussions with the lawyers, it is equally important to be engaged, collegial and appropriate in conversations with other students. Positive behaviour, such as introducing a lawyer to a classmate of yours that they may not have met or engaging a seemingly uncomfortable student in conversation, will get you noticed as a team player and a leader.
David Kelman (Osgoode)
Make use of your breaks! Get away from all your friends and classmates to refocus and ensure that you’re ready to present the best version of yourself.
Kwaku Tabi (Osgoode)
Here are a few things you can expect at our in-firm interviews.
|You can contact Shannon a few days before your interview (e-mail is the best) and she'll tell you who's interviewing you (the interviewers are always subject to change due to unexpected shifts in their schedules).||
When you arrive at Cassels Brock, you'll be directed to the student reception area. Some of our articling students will be there to greet you. If you have any last minute questions about the firm, ask them.
|It's important to keep your energy level up. As demanding as OCIs were, the November interviews are more demanding because they're two days in length. We'll have juices and snacks in the student reception area.||
We keep a first aid kit in the student reception area. If those new shoes are giving you blisters, help yourself to a bandage. If Bay Street is turning your stomach, help yourself to an antacid.
After your interview, our former articling students are available to take you on a tour, introduce you to more of our lawyers, and to answer any questions you might have.
If you feel you need more information about us in order to make an informed decision, don't hesitate to let us know and we'd be pleased to see you again at your convenience.
Tips & Insights
Jeremy Bornstein (Western): Prepare by getting to know the firm and the people in advance so you can show that you want to work there and that you would be a fit.
Chris Selby (Western): Try to connect with your tour guide at the firm. They can be a great resource during your visit to answer questions that you may not be comfortable asking lawyers.
Clara Lee (Windsor): Wear comfortable shoes. Work them in before you realize that walking around in new shoes for 3 days makes for unhappy feet.
Stephanie Voudouris (Osgoode):Bring lots of bandaids! Also, when you have a free minute, take the business cards you’ve received and try to write down some key words about the conversation you had with that person. This makes it easier to send thank-you emails later!
Max Rothschild (Dalhousie): Relax the weekend before. There’s a very good chance you won’t end up sleeping the Sunday night just based on nerves/anxiety. You want to keep yourself healthy and have your wits about you, especially on the Monday.
Samuel Yorke (Toronto): Make sure you bring a “Tide to Go” to the dinners!
Jessica Lee (Osgoode): If you live far away from the financial district, I would highly recommend staying with a friend or family member downtown or splitting a hotel room in the area with a few friends on the first two nights of in-firm week to reduce anxiety and exhaustion on those very important days. You may have early mornings and late nights and you want to make sure you get as much sleep as possible! Trust me, your mind and body will thank you!
Luke Gill (Toronto): Don’t schedule too many, there are a lot of names and faces too remember. I’ve heard 4-6 is the maximum, but even that might be pushing it. And if you forget who is who you might send a follow-up email to a lawyer about the baby pictures you looked at when you definitely did not look at ANY baby pictures with that person.
Jared Puterman (Osgoode): Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right balance between confidence and enthusiasm, I suggest the latter.
Leonard Loewith (Dalhousie): Don’t feel you have to spend every minute “selling yourself” – be honest, be friendly, and don’t worry if conversations seems very light/casual.
Kyle Simpson (Western): Try to meet as many people at the firm as you can, including any articling and summer students that may be helping out during the in-firm process. The more people you are able to meet, the better you will be able to gauge the firm culture and whether the firm would be a good “fit” for you. While it can be a busy few days, try to relax and be yourself, and remember that the interviews work both ways – both sides are trying to find the best fit. Lastly, always be polite, smile, and try to keep your energy level up.