Lessons in law: Learn from those who went before you
Don’t have a mentor? This is the next best thing: Four lawyers at different career stages share their insights about how to prepare for the challenges ahead.
Year of Call: 2010
Position: Junior Associate
Area of practice: Intellectual Property
Firm: Norton Rose Canada
Photography of Brian Capogrosso by Pierre
Give it your all
After successfully completing his articles and getting his first year as an associate under his belt, Brian’s passion and enthusiasm for his chosen practice of intellectual property is as strong as ever. His practice is split between litigation work and commercial licensing, but if you ask him what he finds most interesting right now, he’d tell you patent litigation — specifically in the pharmaceutical sector because it brings his background in biochemistry into play. But whatever Capogrosso works on, his goal is always the same: to give it his all and produce quality work.
"There are a number of challenges that a first-year associate is going to face. One of them is the very steep learning curve. If you’re someone who is willing to take on and a lot of work and files and you’re the go-getter type, generally lawyers above you and partners are not going to shy away from giving you more responsibility."
"Every time I’m involved in a file, whether it’s a business-related file, a licensing agreement or whether it’s a litigation file, I love the challenge. It’s the fact that every time you take on something, it’s going to be completely new. There are going to be new things that you’re going to learn and new obstacles that you’re going to face…You gain a little bit more knowledge, a little bit more experience and the next time around, you get to do a little bit more and your responsibility level raises. So that’s a component that excites me."
Year of Call: 2007
Position: Intermediate associate
Firm: Field LLP
University: University of Calgary
Photography of Erika Carrasco by Marnie Burkhart/Jazhart
Find the right fit
The ability to be part of a creative solution that works for all parties and advocating for clients, whether in court or discovery or in settlement negotiations, is what drives Erika in her work. And while many of her colleagues have already been with two or three firms at this point in their career, she counts herself lucky to have found a perfect long-term fit with Field LLP, developing her legal expertise and client relationships and taking on more complex matters.
"Remember that a law degree provides you with so many options and it’s great to try and get the broadest range of experience during your articles, and you shouldn’t be afraid to make a change and find the right fit for you career-wise along the way."
“The best thing to do to get noticed in your career is to get involved outside of the files you are working on . . . whether that be joining legal organizations outside the firm, or firm committees, or pro bono work or community involvement. Just adding and building onto your practice beyond just sitting at your desk or being in court.”
Year of Call: 2003
Position: Canada policy counsel
Company: Google Inc.
University: University of Toronto
Photography of Jacob Glick by Pierre-Louis Mongeau
Be a self-starter
“Nobody cares about your career but you.” That was a piece of mentoring advice that Jacob Glick took to heart early on in his career. Accepting that his career development was up to him, Glick took stock, recognized what his interests were and where his passion lay, and embraced the broad trajectory of opportunities that came his way and led him to his present position at Google Inc.
"Remember why you went into law in the first place, because assuming that you had a passion that drove you to law school, following that passion will make you happy and probably be a better path to success."
“When I was at [McCarthy Tétrault] I took advantage of the program that [they] had for young lawyers to do pro bono activities and provided services to a bunch of technology-based initiatives. So even where my practice didn’t have law in technology as I would have hoped at certain points, I was able to continue to demonstrate an interest in that area and build knowledge and networks in that area”
Year of Call: 2003
Position: Senior prosecutor
Ministry of Justice & Attorney General Prosecutions, Regina
University: University of Canberra, Australia
Photography of Loreley Berra by Paul Austring
Love what you do
Back in the swing of things after her mat leave, Loreley Berra has found the perfect way to juggle being a Crown prosecutor and a mom to a one and three year old. Her secret? Satisfying herself that she is always doing her personal best and enjoying the career path she’s chosen. It’s not about the money for Berra; it’s about the love of the law.
"In law there is a huge learning curve. Don’t feel that you aren’t good enough because you’re learning… give yourself five years out of law school until you feel comfortable, and come that fifth year there will still be a lot of things you won’t know but you’ll likely be a lot more comfortable with your own self-confidence, with your own ability and with the prospects of where [your career] can go."
“I enjoy what I do because I feel that I facilitate the process of an individual going through the justice system. The justice system should be fair to all those involved. Fair doesn’t necessarily mean the same to everyone, but by doing the best you can as a Crown, you attempt to facilitate the fair process the justice system is aimed at delivering to all those involved. And at the end of the day, you hope that people walk away feeling at least somewhat satisfied with the process, not necessarily agreeing with process or even the result, but satisfied nonetheless.”