By Chris MacDonald
Before joining Rogers Partners in the summer of 2020, I had three predictions about articling:
First, it would be challenging.
Second, I would need to learn to adapt (and quickly).
Third, I would develop both professionally and personally as a result.
Looking back, these predictions were spot on, at least in a broad sense. I was wrong, however, about the ways in which I would be challenged, the steps that I would need to take to adapt to my new role, and the extent to which I would develop as a soon-to-be lawyer and a human being.
Socializing over the Internet
When I started my articles, it was easy to see that our firm was a tightknit group. Before the pandemic, my colleagues would often grab a bite after work at the end of a long week, or have lunch and catch up with each other during the day. Unfortunately, since starting at the firm last summer, I have yet to meet some of my coworkers in person.
While Zoom has made some things easier and more efficient in the legal world, it simply cannot replace the cadence of live conversation or the feeling of sitting with others at a restaurant. When things begin to reopen and we are able to return to the office, I look forward to cashing in on the dinner IOUs my colleagues have given me over the past few months!
Almost every assignment I was given was foreign to me when I started as an articling student. I had lots of questions and spent plenty of time arranging meetings with my colleagues to get their input on the legal issues and tasks I was grappling with. I quickly learned that gaining expertise and sharpening one’s skills as a lawyer is, quite literally, a conversational process.
While it was convenient to be able to have these conversations via email, Zoom or over the phone, I definitely prefer face-to-face conversations. To that end, I can’t wait to be able to simply knock on a colleague’s door when I have a question or want to bounce an idea off of them.
Routine, Self-Discipline and the Art of Organization
Under normal circumstances, work life and home life are separated by physical boundaries. At home, the boundaries between work and home life can become blurred. For example, as one of four brothers, I can basically guarantee there will always be someone who wants to throw a football, play a game or just hang out during any given day.
To stay on task while working from home, I have developed a system of organization that I repeat each month, each week, and each morning. Having this routine allows me to set clear boundaries between work time and relaxation time, while keeping track of my progress.
At the beginning of each month, I map out the substantial tasks I want to complete on a large calendar. Every Monday, I develop a more nuanced plan about the work I’d like to get done on these projects throughout the week. Every morning, before I jump into my work, I write down two to three smaller goals to achieve or tasks I’d like to complete that day, and make sure to schedule in breaks.
It feels good to cross things off my list each day, and even better to have a go-to technique that provides structure, routine and predictability to each day while working from home.
More Puppy Time
On a lighter note, the quality of the breaks I enjoy throughout the day has been second to none! While I have yet to confirm the policy at our office building on pets, I am certain that my family’s new puppy, Arnie, wouldn’t make it past the front door even if they were allowed (his personality rivals that of the Tazmanian Devil from Looney Tunes).
At home, we have an open door, pet friendly policy that Arnie takes full advantage of. Whenever I need a break, I am guaranteed to be met by an endlessly energetic, loving and curious companion. Thanks Arnie!
All-in-all, there have been far more positives than negatives when I reflect back on my articling experience. In facing the challenges that have come with articling remotely head on, being flexible and forgiving with myself while learning the ropes, and asking lots of questions, I have developed routines and skills that I know will serve me well as I continue my legal career as an associate.