What I Wish I Knew in Law School

May El-Abdallah is a former articling student at LAWPRO. This article originally appeared in the 2012 Student Edition of LAWPRO Magazine.

Law school can be a steep learning curve, and stepping into the world of practice can seem even more daunting. One of the most common complaints I hear from recent graduates is that they feel under-prepared to deal with the day-to-day realities of practice that they are confronting as articling students or recent calls.

While there may never be a substitute for hands-on learning, here are a few lessons my colleagues and I wish we had learned in law school to make the transition into the world of ‘lawyering’ easier.

Courses that teach practical skills really do make a difference
That legal writing class might just turn out to be the most important course you’ll take in law school. Writing academic articles on complex legal topics won’t necessarily prepare you forthe days when you’ll need to draft a factum in a succinct and straightforward manner. Drafting is an art. It’s worth taking the time to hone the skill before entering practice. The same goes for advanced research techniques.

Ask questions & seek a support system
Your time as a student is the perfect time to be asking as many questions as possible of professors, principals, peers, and others. After all, you are there to learn. Don’t pass up an opportunity to discover something new out of fear or embarrassment. . . .

Know where to go for help
. . . The Law Society of Upper Canada provides how-to guides for topics ranging from administrative law to wills and estates. Many professional organizations, such as the Advocates Society, also provide resources for members. The practicePRO website provides useful precedents, such as retainers and statements of account.

Pay attention to the process
Whether you are volunteering at a legal clinic or preparing for a moot, get in the habit of document ing your steps. Not only will this make you familiar with the processes, it will provide useful training in documenting files.

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