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. Wong" (Gail Wong is the student director at McCarthy Tetrault) or "Dear Mr. McGowan" (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.