Want to stand out from the pack?

By CBA/ABC National Student 2013

Getting involved in law-related extracurricular activities can get you noticed.

Want to stand out from the pack?

Photo of Heather Beyko by Marnie Burkart / Jazhart Studios

Finding articles is tough. Twelve per cent of Ontario law school graduates were unable to get articling jobs in 2011, according to statistics from the Law Society of Upper Canada. The articling crisis, coupled with increased enrolment in law schools, makes the search for positions a fierce competition.

What’s a law student to do? Get involved in law-related extracurricular activities.

While your grades will prove you are capable of academic excellence, extracurricular activities will help you stand out from the pack. Get you noticed. They'll show that you are already active in the legal industry and boost your employability among recruiters.

Four students share their insights on what participating in extracurricular activities has given them.

 

The Writer

Heather Beyko
University of Calgary
Year of Study: 3
What’s next? Articling with Calgary Legal Guidance in June 2013

Heather has been writing and editing for the law student newspaper Moot Times since first year, using the opportunity to sharpen the communications skills she gained through previous education and work experiences and apply them to her legal education.

 “Not only has working on the Moot Times given me the opportunity to refine my editing and writing skills, it has also introduced me to a great team of people dedicated to providing important, useful and interesting information to the rest of our fellow students.

I believe my involvement in the publication has set the stage for me to cultivate my writing skills for years to come. There is a great demand for legal writing in the industry and sharing new information is of utmost importance in the learning experiences of legal practitioners. 

In addition to this, potential employers have taken notice of my writing and this in turn has helped me stand out and get noticed for what I love to do.”

Heather’s advice: Do not compare yourself to other students! This in and of itself can be debilitating. So long as you focus solely on yourself and your efforts, you will have the confidence needed to navigate your three years of law school, and following this, in your practice.

 

The Mooter

Chris Kinnear Hunter
Osgoode Hall Law School
Year of Study: 3
What’s next? Articling at Lenczner Slaght LLP, August 2013

As the son of two litigators, it’s not surprising that Chris followed in the family tradition and entered law school after earning his Bachelor of Arts at McGill. It is also not surprising that Chris gravitated to mooting in his first year — a testament to his interest in litigation. This year, Chris and his mooting teammates won the distinguished 2013 Lenczner Slaght CBA Gale Cup.

Chris Kinnear Hunter

Photo of Chris Kinnear Hunter by Paul Eekhoff.

“I knew I was interested in litigation and mooting seemed like the closest thing. At the same time, it also stemmed from a bit of frustration with the academic approach to law that dominates the classroom. Academia is great, but I also wanted something practical. 

Each fall, Osgoode holds the Lerners Cup, the school’s major intramural moot.  At the time, [my first year], I don’t think I fully understood what ‘mooting’ was all about, other than that thing you were supposed to do if you wanted to be a litigator.  In hindsight, I think there are a great many avenues that can lead one to litigation, but from the moment I stood up to argue for the first time, I knew I was hooked.”

Chris’ advice: Law school isn’t a one-size fits all deal — it’s a product of what you make of it. Once you know what you want to do with your degree, go develop the important skills you’ll need to do it that you might not get in class.

 

The Activist

Sasha Cragg-Gore
McGill University
Year of study: 3
What’s next? Working as a summer student for Legal Aid Ontario at the Brampton Criminal Court and then back to McGill for a final semester (McGill’s program is 3 1/2 years)

Sasha has been doing community work for many years. Law is an extension of his desire to be involved in the community, helping people that are facing difficult circumstances. His work with legal clinics has allowed him to get more out of his education and has given him a taste of what practising law in particular areas would be like.

Sasha Cragg-Gore

Photo of Sasha Cragg-Gore by Spyros Bourboulis.

“I saw getting involved with legal clinics as a natural way to transition into something more closely related to my legal education. I also wanted experiences that would help me contextualize, question and challenge what I was learning.

I have always enjoyed having a variety of projects on the go. It keeps my feet on the ground when I’m working through classes which tend to be much more theoretical. I am also able to get more out of my legal education when I have a solid sense of what practising law in particular areas would be like.

At the legal clinics I have had the privilege of helping people, on occasion, resolve huge issues and challenges in their lives, and there is nothing more rewarding than witnessing the appreciation they feel for your help.”

Sasha’s advice: This may sound strange, but I think it is important to shut some doors early on. We all have a sense of what we are good at and what interests us and it is important to trust that feeling. By shutting the door on certain opportunities that do not suit or interest you, you are able to open up your time and energy to the things that do suit or interest you.

 

The Leader

Erin Kizell
University of British Columbia
Year of study: JD candidate June 2013
What’s next? Articles at Kent Employment Law, a boutique law firm.

Knowing few people in Vancouver, Ontario native Erin Kizell threw herself into volunteering and extracurricular activities as a means to meet and connect with fellow students. In second year she found a good fit at the Law Student Society on the Academic Issues Caucus, eventually leading a team and working with faculty and staff as VP Academic.

Erin Kizell

Photo of Erin Kizell by Ventury+Karpa

“I have loved working closely with the faculty and being exposed to the behind-the-scenes policy making at the law school. I have contributed to the changes in the first-year curriculum, credit allocations for upper year courses, examination policies, and the creation of new courses. I have participated at Faculty Council, and built friendships with the other members of the LSS. I have also built strong relationships with faculty members and staff that will last well beyond my time at law school.

Participating in extracurricular activities, like the LSS, builds soft skills that are useful in a career setting. Employers recognize this and these activities can help students get noticed by those who make the hiring decisions.”

Erin’s advice: Get involved. Volunteer at legal aid clinics, attend school-sponsored social events, join sports teams and clubs, network with practising lawyers, and become an active participant in your school’s LSS. Most importantly, enjoy the three years you will spend at law school.

 

Katya Hodge is a writer and editor at the CBA.

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