Day in the Life of a Law Student
In this blog we will chronicle a day in the life of our law students: Stephanie Brooks and James Alexander. Both Stephanie and James worked at our firm throughout their law school careers and continue to do so as they work to become licensed as lawyers in the Ontario. Here is a typical day in the life for a law student at Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.
7:00 – 9:00 AM: Wake & Commute
Our students have said they typically begin their day between 7 and 8 AM, depending on where they are that day. If they are in the office or going to court with a senior lawyer then they may wake earlier to get ready and commute, whereas if they are working from home as they have been for the most part during the pandemic then they can afford to sleep in a few minutes later. This day in the life will chronicle a typical day in the office.
Both students love coffee and will have a few cups in the morning to get the day started. Both students drive themselves to our Brooklin office and are fortunate to not be more than 30 minutes away.
9:00 – 10:00 AM: Attend to Urgent Issues
Upon arriving at the office our students begin their day by checking emails and attending to any urgent matters. Some urgent matters may include correspondence from clients with respect to a new issue in their case or comments regarding the status of their file. Other urgent matters may include correspondence from the court, senior lawyers, third-party professionals, or the opposing party.
After attending to any pressing matters that may have arisen overnight, the students will then structure their day by prioritizing upcoming tasks by what is most urgent. This is often determined by deadlines to serve and file client materials.
10:00 AM – 12 PM: Drafting
On this day, Stephanie and James both had court materials that were up against a deadline for their senior lawyer’s clients. Specifically, Stephanie was working on an Answer and James was working on a Case Conference Brief.
Stephanie began drafting the Form 10: Answer for the file. An Answer is a court pleading that is in response to the opposing party’s Application. An Answer provides the client with an opportunity to state what they agree and disagree with in the Application and why. As per the Family Law Rules, an Answer is due 30 calendar days after receiving service of the Application.
Stephanie had begun drafting the Answer the day before, so she completed it quickly. Upon finishing the draft, Stephanie sent it to the senior lawyer on the file for review and comments. Our senior lawyers are very efficient so they typically respond with comments quickly. In this situation the senior lawyer had no comments, so Stephanie then sent the Answer to the client for their review and approval.
James began drafting a Form 17A: Case Conference Brief for the client of a senior lawyer. A Case Conference is usually the first time the parties see a judge about the issues. In a Case Conference they will be able to:
- Discuss the chances of settling their case
- Identify the issues you can and cannot resolve.
- Figure out whether you and the other party have shared all the information needed to resolve the issues
- Identify the next steps to take in your case (for example, that you and the other party need to share more financial documents), and
- Set a date for the next steps
A Case Conference Brief is due 6 days before the conference date. James completed the Brief at around 11:30 AM and sent it to the senior lawyer on the file for review and comments. He received their comments later that day and sent it to the client for review and approval.
This is just a typical day, but some of the other tasks that our law students handle include:
- Drafting correspondence to opposing counsel
- Drafting a variety of pleadings
- Reviewing financial disclosure
- Assembling court binders and briefs
- Calling clients
- Attending Rule 39s
- Drafting memos and conducting legal research
- Communicating with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, Collaborative Practice Team, or Trial Coordinator’s Office, and
- Attending meetings and taking notes
12:00 – 1:45 PM: Lunch & Team Meeting
This day in the life was a Tuesday which meant that the team members in the office that day would have lunch together. It was a nice day in the Spring, so the team went to a local restaurant near their office to have lunch on the patio.
All team members in the office typically join the team lunch unless there is a very urgent matter that needs to be attended to. At lunch, the team will catch up and discuss upcoming office events or things that people may be looking forward to.
After lunch on Tuesday’s, the firm has a team meeting. Every member of the firm attends this team meeting either in person or via Zoom. These meetings provide an opportunity for team members to share how their day is going, if they need any help with files, or if they are having tech issues. We also have a question of the day that each team member answers which provides a fun opportunity to learn more about each other. Today the question was “what are you grateful for?” to which Stephanie and James both answered with the health of themselves and their family.
In our Tuesday team meetings, we also review the week ahead which is generated from the office calendar. One member of the team will read through every item on the week ahead and the rest of the team will interject with updates if need be.
2:00 – 5:00 PM: Drafting or Shadowing
After the team meeting, our students will go back to work doing their daily duties. The task each student works on will depend on their schedule and file status. If there is an urgent deadline approaching, that task will be the student’s focus. Students at our firm will also attend court or collaborative meetings on files alongside senior lawyers. On this day, Stephanie was attending a collaborative practice meeting at the office and James was attending court in Oshawa.
Our firm is highly specialized in family law and deals with many collaborative practice files. Collaborative practice is a process where the parties and lawyers meet to try and resolve their issues outside of court. This process grants the parties a lot of autonomy in their decision-making ability and is often faster than waiting for court dates.
Stephanie’s collaborative practice meeting was being hosted in the office today. Prior to the client arriving, Stephanie and the senior lawyer met to discuss the upcoming meeting. Once the client arrived, both Stephanie and the lawyer spoke with the client about what to expect at the meeting and answered any questions the client had.
After the other party and their lawyer arrived along with the neutral professionals, the collaborative meeting began. During this meeting, the party’s discussed their goals and interests and the team brainstormed solutions. Stephanie took notes throughout and listened attentively. After the meeting ended, Stephanie and the senior lawyer debriefed. This debrief is very helpful to students because it provides them with the opportunity to ask the lawyer any questions they might have with respect to the meeting and to clarify next steps.
Our firm is also very adept at attending court for family law files. On this day, James was attending a Settlement Conference at the Oshawa Court. He arrived early and greeted the client in the waiting area. At this point the senior lawyer arrived and they remained with the client and discussed the matter, in addition to answering questions the client had about the process.
Once the client matter was called, the parties entered the court room and awaited the judge. While attending court, students are permitted to sit at counsel’s table alongside the senior lawyer and client if they receive permission from the sitting judge. James was permitted to do so and took his seat at counsel’s table.
During a Settlement Conference, the judge will hear submissions on behalf of both parties with respect to the issues of the case. James made notes during this conference and listened attentively. Fortunately, the matter was able to be resolved and the judge issued a Final Order for the parties. After the conference, James and the senior lawyer met with the client to discuss next steps and then James and the senior lawyer debriefed.
After both Stephanie and James’ meetings, they finalized their notes to provide to the client and completed any next steps delegated to them by the senior lawyers. At this point it was after 5 PM and neither Stephanie or James were up against any urgent deadlines, so they called it day and headed home.
8:00 – 10:00 PM: Work or Relax?
As law students, Stephanie and James are always looking out for correspondence from clients and senior lawyers with respect to urgent issues. It is not uncommon for clients to send emails late into the night and, for the most part, it is at the discretion of the student whether to respond at that time considering it is after hours.
Since both Stephanie and James have strong work ethics, they will often continue to work in the evening to address urgent matters or to get a head start on upcoming tasks. On this day, Stephanie began drafting client pleadings for an upcoming motion and James made revisions to a client’s financial statement.
Being a law student at Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers is a great opportunity for young, aspiring lawyers to gain valuable experience with respect to drafting, advocacy, and teamwork skills.
Both Stephanie and James are students who hold determined mindsets, positive attitudes, and lots of potential to be great lawyers in the future. We are lucky to have them on our team.
An important and long-standing tradition in the legal profession is to mentor up-and-coming lawyers through sharing our knowledge and time. If you are an aspiring lawyer, you can check out our scholarship program: Russell Alexander Law Firm Scholarship, where we award up to $2,500 to a student who has an interest in joining or studying the legal profession to offset the high costs of a legal education and support the legal field in Canada.