“Dear LiL: I am looking forward to starting my articles next month, but I don’t know how I should be preparing to ensure I start off on the right foot. Also, how should I be preparing for PLTC and the bar exam in BC?” Signed ~ Putting the Right Foot Forward
Dear: Putting the Right Foot Forward,
Firstly, congratulations on making it this far! You have come a long way and are now approaching the final hurdle before you are finally called to the bar. Take a moment to appreciate how far you have come.
Here are some of my tips on how to get prepared for articling, PLTC and the bar exams.
Enjoy your Pre-Articling Down Time
First and foremost, there is only so much you can do to prepare for your articling year. Enjoy your pre-articling down time. Life as an articling student is challenging and demanding. Take time now before you start to relax and enjoy some down time if you can. You want to start your articles fresh and energized.
Plan your daily schedule, and then plan and schedule as if your day will be interrupted every day. Unfortunately, life as an articling student often means you are often at the beck and call of others and subject to their schedules and demands. It could be a run to the courthouse at 3:52 p.m. with an urgent filing or a Friday evening research task that needs to be done by Monday morning. Whatever it may be, it will pop up out of the blue and interrupt your day. It is important to be able to adapt to schedule changes and be flexible with your time and commitments.
Focus on Learning
It is no secret that most lawyers and articling students strive for perfection. While it is important to do good work during your articles, you have to accept that you will make mistakes. Try not to get discouraged. When you are starting out, the articling year feels like a long time, but it will go by in the blink of an eye and by the end you want to know that you have put your all into learning as much as you can. Articling is a great year to practice and try things out before becoming a lawyer and trust me, you will miss the articling student safety net when you are first called to the bar. Remember, most mistakes can be fixed, learn from them, and move on!
Be flexible and Open Minded
The type of work and tasks you will receive during your articling year can vary a lot. Remember articling is about learning, but it is also about finding out which areas of law you are or are not interested in. Be flexible and open minded to all types of work, tasks, and areas of law. You may find out that you really enjoy practicing in an area you hadn’t considered before, or not enjoying practicing in an area you had expected you would enjoy.
Articling requires adapting to difficult and challenging situations. Your capacity to withstand difficult and challenging times as an articling student will stay with you. Work on building flexibility, adaptability, and perseverance – it will get you through your articling year.
Get Familiar with the PLTC Practice Material Early
Familiarize yourself with your PLTC course material as soon as you receive them. PLTC will go more smoothly if you do the assigned reading on time and know where and how to find things in your materials.
Learn Practical Skills at PLTC
PLTC is intended to help you gain competence in the more practical aspects of law after having learned the theory in law school. My best advice is to listen carefully to your instructors, follow their instructions, and enjoy (as much as possible) the opportunity to practice those practical skills in mock situations.
One Step at a Time
On a final note, remember that most articling students start out feeling intimidated and apprehensive about the year ahead. Stay focused on taking things one step at a time. Before you know it, you will be nearing the end of your articling year looking back on how far you have come and looking forward to being called to the bar!
About the Author
Natasha Cookie is an associate at Harper Grey and practices in the firm’s health law and insurance law groups. Originally from Ireland, Natasha attended law school at University College Dublin Sutherland School of Law. Natasha completed her articles at Harper Grey and was called to the British Columbia Bar in 2022.