Daniel jumps into the pressure cooker known as the Course aux stages, the regulated process by which ambitious law students do their best to secure articling positions at prestigious firms across Quebec. Daniel interviews a second-year McGill Law student, Elisabeth Novak, a third-year University of Montreal student, Hanane Loumi, and his own articling student, David Chun, and gets them to share their hopes, fears, backgrounds and what they hope to get out of a career in law. Key lessons about mentoring, intentions, stress management, career expectations and finding work-life balance are shared. Daniel also gives his views on what makes for the best candidates.
Full Episode Transcript
PART 1: ELISABETH NOVAK
Daniel : Hi, and welcome to Viva Voce. I am greeted today by my guest Elisabeth Novak who is a law student at McGill Law.
Elisabeth : Hi, thank you for having me.
Daniel : Thanks for being here. How are you feeling?
Elisabeth : Excellent.
Daniel : Good.
Elisabeth : Yeah.
Daniel : So you're at McGill Law?
Elisabeth : Mm-hmm.
Daniel : What year?
Elisabeth : Second year.
Daniel : How's it going?
Elisabeth : It's going really well. Yep, it's ... Second year is a little more fun than first year, I must say. First year was very difficult, very interesting. It was a brand-new experience. Second year, I have a tighter hold on the reins a little bit and I think I'm feeling a little bit more comfortable in the school.
Daniel : Wow, well God bless. Imagine what the third year is gonna be like.
Elisabeth : Exactly, a walk in the park, no.
Daniel : So you're gearing up to do the Course aux Stages?
Elisabeth : I am, yes.
Daniel : And how do you, how do you feel about that? You nervous?
Elisabeth : I'm a little nervous, of course. Just mostly because it's a very big time commitment. It's also something that might set me off, set me up on my career path, you know, for the next five, six years, who knows? Even longer than that?
Daniel : Maybe your whole life.
Elisabeth : Maybe my whole life, exactly. So it's definitely a decisive moment in my life, I must say. But I'm excited for it.
Daniel : Good, and I believe you're excited. It's, so then, what type of practice do you wanna go into? Have you thought about that? I know it's hard when you're only in second year, but where does your, what does your heart tell you?
Elisabeth : I would like to go into corporate law, as I did do a BCom at McGill before coming into law school, and every single class I've taken that has any, you know, resemblance to what I studied in my BCom, I noticed that right away my, I'm passionate about it, my eyes light up, I'm just more keen on learning. So, for example, I just had a class on Mergers and Acquisitions, and I thought it was one of the most interesting classes I've ever had. So that's, that's definitely on my radar, I think that's where I'm gearing up to go into.
Daniel : Gearing up for the Course aux stages, I mean, I know from having interviewed many students that were interested in articling at my firm, and having heard other stories, some good, some not so good, and something that often comes up is, what do I bring to the table besides good marks?
Elisabeth : Mm hmm.
Daniel : You know, who am I, and so maybe, if you could tell the little bit about, I mean to the audience, how you answer that question when you ask yourself that question. What do you think you bring to the table that will distinguish you? And I know that's a, can be stressful.
Elisabeth : Well, you know, it's interesting because, especially at McGill, we are taught to think of that from the get-go because first of all the application process for McGill is not as centered on grades as other schools might be, it's obviously very important, but they look for very well-rounded people. So from the get-go, you learn how to, I guess, market yourself a little bit, even in your application and your personal statement, to showcase other attributes and, you know, the legal profession, as I've been told over and over again in the past year, it's long hours, there is still a lot of teamwork involved, especially in your first year as you're learning from each other. There's gonna be more senior people at the firms who are maybe lending a helping hand to newcomers, and you have to be willing to accept that you're gonna make some mistakes along the way, but ultimately you're gonna learn. And so I think that well-roundedness, being comfortable in a competitive environment, as well being comfortable working with other people. And yeah, I think that's mostly, that that's the most, I think that sums up what you're looking for when you hire someone.
Daniel : Speaking of competition...
Elisabeth : Mm hmm.
Daniel : How does it feel to read about you, your hockey, your competitive hockey games when you're parents are ... Let me redo this.
Elisabeth : Okay, yeah, yeah.
Daniel : Okay. So speaking of competition, do you have any experience in a high stakes competition?
Elisabeth : Yes, as a matter of fact I played hockey for around 13 years of my life. I really-
Daniel : 13 years?
Elisabeth : Yes, 13 years.
Daniel : Lucky, lucky number.
Elisabeth : Yeah, 13 years, because I started, yeah, I started around the age of eight and finished when I was 21, that was two, I'm 23 now, so that was two years ago. And it was honestly the best time of my life. I really, really enjoyed getting on the ice, having absolutely nothing to worry about other than doing my best on the ice in that hour, and getting the, getting the puck in the net, that was it.
Daniel : Well, considering that you sound like you know what you want, you did the BCom.
Elisabeth : Mm hmm.
Daniel : Now you're at McGill Law and you really want to go into corporate law.
Elisabeth : Mm hmm.
Daniel : Why corporate law? What do you think, what attracts you to that?
Elisabeth : There's a few things that attract me. First of all, I'm really keen on delving in and you know examining the anatomy of a deal.
Daniel : The anatomy of a deal.
Elisabeth : Yeah, you know-
Daniel : I like that.
Elisabeth : Funny enough, that was the name of the class I had taken, and I can't believe that I just used that term right now, but it's so perfect.
Daniel : Like the fingers of a deal.
Elisabeth : Yeah, exactly.
Daniel : The guts of a deal.
Elisabeth : From start to finish, you're dealing with these big corporations who started off with one little idea and who became these, you know, mega-monsters and now they're either being sold or they're merging with another company, and you know, you're looking for synergies, et cetera. But you also have to make sure it's done properly, it's done ethically. And yeah, so I think that's kind of what's getting me excited about it. Also, on another note is that I think, slowly but surely, there might be some changes in terms of gender equality. It's not great yet. But I think that my generation is gonna be the one that's going to be able to make some changes, especially in these big corporate firms. There's new initiatives, a lot of new initiatives, starting recently in the past decade, and I'm excited to see if the culture can change and improve.
Daniel : You know, I find that very compelling, I mean, I'm a man. And I'll never know what it's like to truly be in a woman's skin. But I do consider myself a feminist. I grew up with very powerful women in my life, my mother is my hero, and so I'm privileged in that regard. One thing I noticed when I was at L'Université de Montréal in law school, it was like 60%, 70% females. Are you seeing the same thing at McGill?
Elisabeth : Absolutely, it's probably 70% female in the Law School, but when you look at, for example, equity partners, only 20% are women. And so it's, you have to wonder why that is. And a lot of that is just because of the culture right now, well, the culture that has persisted over the past several decades. And slowly but surely, there are initiatives that have understood that, and are trying to address that, so that attrition rates aren't as bad as they are right now. So women are not staying very long, if they do enter the corporate world or a big law firm, they're not necessarily staying for very long. And I, that doesn't sit well with me because I don't think it's because they don't like the work they're doing, I just think that they're not in an environment that can let them grow, that can let them have a family. Yeah, and so I think that's something that I'm, I'm looking to join a firm also that has taken that to heart, and that is showing initiative when it comes to involvement of women.
Daniel : Speaking of the involvement of women, and powerful, successful women, would you mind telling me, your mother.
Elisabeth : Yes.
Daniel : She is a politician, I understand?
Elisabeth : Yes, mm hmm.
Daniel : It's Kathleen Veil?
Elisabeth : Weil, it's pronounced Weil.
Daniel : Weil.
Elisabeth : Yeah.
Daniel : I'm sure she gets that all the time.
Elisabeth : All the time. Well, in French it's Weil.
Daniel : Ah.
Elisabeth : So, it, yeah, it's very normal in English, everyone says Veil.
Daniel : Oh, I'm sorry, Mom.
Elisabeth : She'll, I'm sure she'll forgive you.
Daniel : And she is a member of the Barreau?
Elisabeth : Yes, yeah, and right now she is Députée de Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, NDG. And up until the recent elections, yeah, she was a Minister in the government, in the provincial government, yeah.
Daniel : Those must be big shoes to fill.
Elisabeth : Yeah.
Daniel : I mean, I, again, I'm still a bro, a dude. Though I can say even to anyone who's listening that it's sometimes difficult to emerge from the shadow of your parents.
Elisabeth : Mm hmm.
Daniel : Especially when they're public figures. What does your father do?
Elisabeth : My father was at for a very long time, and now he's more involved in the startup world. Yeah, he's a, he's doing great things, I'm really enjoying watching the projects that he's doing.
Daniel : So, I imagine he's a successful person.
Elisabeth : Yeah.
Daniel : And, I mean, not to get too therapy with you, but, I mean, do you, because right now, you're, you're an adult, you're a woman at this point, you're 23.
Elisabeth : Mm hmm, 23, yeah.
Daniel : Though you know they say today, you know, kids are only adults at like 30 or something.
Elisabeth : Right.
Daniel : But do you, do you worry about your individuation through this process that you're embarking on at the Course aux Stages?
Elisabeth : Well, you know, speaking of filling shoes, my parents are honestly some of the most supportive people, the most supportive people I've ever met. I love them to death, we have an amazing relationship. They've done nothing but push me in the right direction, but, you know, softly. They've never, they've never encouraged me to go one way or another, this was completely my own path. But they are supporting me every step of the way, and honestly it's, it's done nothing but help me because I have these amazing role models to look up to. And when I'm worried about something, or when I'm not feeling confident about something, I turn to them and they just give me the confidence boost that I need. I know, but, in all honesty, yes.
Daniel : No, that's just, it sounds credible. I've worked in Family Law my whole life and I've seen all different kinds of families. So, I can smell when someone's saying the truth, I think. And that's
Elisabeth : Yeah, mm hmm.
Daniel : You know, I don't want to say things that are just kind to you, but I mean it, because I have interviewed, I don't know, a little over 100 people at this point likely for the firm, and I like when you say that, and I think this would probably be good for your colleagues, other students to hear. It's a competition with yourself, with no one else. Don't compare yourself to other people. I think that's something that I wish I understood at your age, and that this is your choice and you're in control of it. And it's ... I've got a curve ball question for you.
Elisabeth : Okay.
Daniel : Okay? So there's a train full of people and it's on the train track.
Elisabeth : Okay.
Daniel : And it's going onto this bridge that was unfinished, right? So the entire train is gonna fall into this cliff, and everyone on the train is gonna die.
Elisabeth : Okay.
Daniel : And you're standing far away, and you're looking at this from a cliff somewhere.
Elisabeth : Mm hmm.
Daniel : And you realize that there's a lever right at the bottom of this cliff.
Daniel : And the only way to hit that lever, and then switch the track, so that the people on the train are saved, they don't go off-
Elisabeth : Right.
Daniel : The cliff, the other cliff that you're looking at, is to push this person right in front of you-
Elisabeth : Oh, wow.
Daniel : Off the cliff, so they fall to their death onto the lever, but you save the train.
Elisabeth : Right. And you get, you ... Okay, so-
Daniel : And you have no other option, what would you do?
Elisabeth : And-
Daniel : Would you push, or would you-
Elisabeth :-How many cities are around?
Daniel : Oh, context.
Elisabeth : Yeah, I need some context. Are there, are we in the mountains? Are there cities at the foot of the-
Daniel : It's roadrunner territory.
Elisabeth : It's roadrunner territory.
Daniel : In the middle of nowhere.
Elisabeth : Mm hmm. Do I have to be the one pushing, or can I jump?
Daniel : Ah. Okay, you win, you win. Okay. You're gonna be a good lawyer.
Elisabeth : Alright.
Daniel : Yeah.
Elisabeth : Thank you, thank you.
Daniel : Lovely, this was a great pleasure, Elisabeth.
Elisabeth : Yes, this was a lot of fun, thank you.
Daniel : Okay.
PART 2: HANANE LOUMI
Daniel : I'm with my guest, Hanane Loumi. How are you?
Hanane : I'm well, Me Goldwater.
Daniel : I'm well, thanks for the title, but call me Daniel.
Hanane : Oh, okay.
Daniel : May I use the familiar form?
Hanane : Yes, absolutely.
Daniel : Great. So, Hanane, I understand you have friends who call you "Hanane la banane"?
Hanane : Yes, that's right.
Daniel : Why?
Hanane : Well, because it's spelled the same way, only the H replaces the B. It sounds similar.
Daniel : Oh. Very funny.
Hanane : Yeah, it's a joke since I was 5-6 years old.
Daniel : It's a good joke but Hanane is also a good name. So, Hanane, are you a lawyer? What are you?
Hanane : I'm and 3rd year law student at University of Montreal.
Daniel : 3rd year. University of Monteal?
Hanane : Yes.
Daniel : I went to University of Montreal.
Hanane : Yes, I know.
Daniel : It's a fine institution.
Hanane : Yes.
Daniel : So what kind of practice interests you?
Hanane : Practice in law?
Daniel : Yes, in law.
Hanane : Honestly, I am totally open to everything, that's the truth. When I went into law, I did not know much and I learned I like certain aspects over others. Family law, professional responsibility, medical liability, they interest me, which goes along with the rights of persons, everything with respect to consent, protection of reputation, dignity, un bit of all that. It's a little cocktail, but I am open to other things too. For example, labour law, I haven't yet taken a class in it but I'm sure I'll adore it.
Daniel : So we're talking about the Course aux stages today.
Hanane : Yes.
Daniel : The Course aux stages usually starts in 2nd year, yes?
Hanane : Yes, normally, you can start the Course aux stages in 2nd year.
Daniel : Did you try it in 2nd year?
Hanane : No, I didn't.
Daniel : No? Why?
Hanane : I didn't feel ready for various reasons. I didn't feel ready becayse I have the impression I did know myself enough yet. I think that, when you enter a process like this, you must do a lot of introspection and know yourself well, your weak points, your strong points. Definitely know why you are doing the Course aux stages. And I had the impression that I didn't want to do the Course aux stages just because everyone else was doing it, I wanted to have a real reason to do it and know myself better before doing it.
Daniel : I think that is a very wise decision. My firm signed the entente on the Course aux stages. Now that i have the privilege, the obligation, the burden sometimes, to interview many potential articling students, who are in their 2nd year, their 3rd year, I remark that, yes, sometimes I have a student that might be 19 years old.
Hanane : Yes.
Daniel : They might be brilliant, intelligent, ambitious, but they're 19. Sometimes the students I interview already have a degree in something else and it's later in tier lives that they are trying to become a lawyer. Obviously, they have an advantage because they know themselves better. As my father says, "bread only rises in the oven at a certain time". Something like that, I'm paraphrasing.
Hanane : Your dad is wise.
Daniel : My dad is the wisest man I've ever known, I'm very fortunate. Speaking of experience, what are the things that could add to your profile as a lawyer?
Hanane : In general, I have a lot. I have done volunteering since I was 11 and I've worked since I was 15.
Daniel : Ok.
Hanane : But with respect to legal experiences, I have a little less, though I have some. I have already prepared a Pro Bono event when I was working in an organization that helped Syrian refugees with Maître Lamoureux from Norton Rose Fulbright and three other lawyers whose names I do not remember. They were women, they were really nice. It was to educate Syrian refugees who had just arrived on their labor law and their right to immigrate. There are also other legal experiences that I have, like my first year of law, as soon as I returned to law, in October, I enrolled in an organization called Quebec, Intercessor for Justice, which no longer exists today, it was a telephone line. So, I received calls and I gave legal
Daniel : It's touching for me because, maybe I'm a bit sensitive as a person, as a lawyer, but you've had that kind of experience, helping vulnerable people, especially people who want to integrate in our community here and so it's all to your credit. Considering you are in the third year now, and that you are going to start the Course aux stages, what are the things you are looking forward to? What are the things you are not looking forward to?
Hanane : Honestly, what I'm looking most forward to is, and it may look like I'm repeating myself, but it's true, it's really about getting to know myself through the process. I cannot wait to see what kind of person- I have already experienced stress, I have already worked under pressure but I think that the Course aux stages is another thing, it is a completely different experience. It's really going to reveal a lot about myself. What kind of person will I be when I'm completely out of my comfort zone? When I have to look at my phone every two minutes, see if I have calls from law firms. What will I do if have an appointment at the same time from two law firms. How will I feel? What choice will I make? So that I can not wait to see, what kind of people will come out of there.
Daniel : I imagine that, at this point, you have friends who have already done the Course aux stages.
Hanane : Yes.
Daniel : And it can sometimes be traumatizing for them.
Hanane : Yes.
Daniel : So, if, and I imagine the chances are slim, but, let's say, you are refused. You do not get any articling position, no big firm, and you go into bar school without an articling position secured. How will you manage?
Hanane : Honestly, the experience itself is worth it, whether I come out winning with an articling position or I come out... I'm not going to say loser, I'll say winner still because I will have gotten to know more about myself, and would have gone through a wonderful experience, having learned. I mean, just go through this process, I will be ready afterwards for all sorts of interviews. All sorts of interviews, I should be more ready to pass them. So, in any case, I will be happy. Besides, it is only a tiny fraction of students, students who are taken by the big firms. So, I'll just be another person who is not taken, but who actually is more representative of the statistics than the students who are hired. So it does not bother me at all.
Daniel : You know, I'm gonna leave you with something that you make me think of. There is a Greek myth about Pandora and Pandora's box. Pandora, in Greek mythology, was the first woman and she had this box, and when this box was opened, everything in the world, everything you can imagine, all the nightmares, all the horrors, came out of this box. And you couldn't close the box. And that's why we use that metaphor, Pandora's Box, you know, we just opened Pandora's Box. What people forget is that the last thing to come out of that box was hope.
Hanane : Oh, wow.
Daniel : And I find that is what keeps me going when I feel discouraged, so I think that you give me hope because I think you're gonna be a wonderful attorney.
Hanane : Thank you so much. It's a pleasure coming from you.
Daniel : Thank you, Hanane.
Hanane : Thank you.
PART 3: DAVID CHUN
Daniel : Hi, welcome to Viva Voce. I'm Daniel Goldwater, your host. I am joined today by my guest, David Chun who is my Articling student. Hi David, welcome to the show.
David : Thanks for having me.
Daniel : How are you feeling?
David : I'm feeling great, happy to be here.
Daniel : Good, as your mentor of sorts at the office, do you ever find that I'm a bit rough with you, or what's, what's the-
David : Well, it's a bit of the role of a mentor, sometimes a little bit, but I think that we have a really good rapport and we have good debates, and I think that's important in our work environment.
Daniel : Well said. We are, I'm an attorney, you're gonna be an attorney soon enough.
David : Soon enough.
Daniel : How far are you into your Stages right now?
David : I'd say I'm about halfway through. I'll be, I'll finish my Stages at the end of February and then be called to the bar soon thereafter.
Daniel : I think you're gonna be a great attorney.
David : Thank you.
Daniel : So, I interviewed you during the Course aux Stages process. How did you find the interview? I think we had two interviews.
David : We did have two interviews.
Daniel : And how did you find that?
David : The first interview was really relaxed. It was an interview with you and one of your colleagues, another attorney at the law firm. It was a very relaxed interview. Obviously there were questions that were challenging, but I didn't feel too stressed out about it and it was something where we could actually talk about our mutual interests and also, you know, my skillsets that I had and what I could offer to the firm.
Daniel : Were you nervous going in?
David : Obviously I was nervous going in, I don't think, I think a little bit of nervousness before an interview is normal, and I, I was nervous, but I was confident as well.
Daniel : Yeah, I think that my colleague said about you after you left the interview, that
David : Interesting comment.
Daniel : Yeah, it's a playful expression, but I got the point, and I think you're well, you're very presentable, but I won't flatter you. I want to ask you a bit more. You went to what university, what was the first university you went to then?
David : So I did my undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics, and I also did a minor in Middle East Studies at McGill University. And then afterwards, I did my law degree, Bachelor of Law is at L'Université de Montréal.
Daniel : Since we're talking about the Course aux Stages, could you share a bit of your experience with it?
David : Well before maybe we talk about my experience with the Course aux Stages, maybe for our viewers it would be good to talk about what the actual process is. I think the Course aux Stages, well, the Course aux Stages, to explain it first and foremost is a process whereby all of the law schools in Quebec, the students graduating either in their third year or in their second year, apply to a process whereby different law firms offer internship positions, or Articling positions, to some of the most talented students from Law Schools across the province, and these students compete amongst themselves at a certain period of time, which is I think during the month of January and February, to get an Articling position, which is the necessary last step before being called to the bar as an attorney. So to move on from that, my experience, my personal experience with the Course aux Stages. I think the issue with the Course aux Stages, before I talk about my personal experience, is that there's a preconceived notion that the Course aux Stages is purely for students who want to go into corporate law. The universities are perhaps guilty of this as well, they have a tendency to, you know, to push students towards this perspective. But the nice thing about my experience from the Course aux Stages, was that is wasn't that whatsoever. I knew that I wanted to go into Family Law, so I targeted the firms that I was looking at on that basis. I saw Goldwater, Dubé was an option and being at Goldwater, Dubé is, you know, in majority a Family Law Practice. I chose to submit my candidacy to that firm and I thought it was quite enjoyable.
Daniel : It's a little provocative when you put it that way, that there might be, I mean, I don't wanna put words in your mouth, but it's almost like you're implicating, you're suggesting that there's some complicity perhaps, and not to use too heavy a word.
David : Right.
Daniel : With the academies and big law, as you said, to try to encourage them to go into Corporate Law. If I may just maybe put my perspective on it before it, and for you to comment on, that I feel as though, a person who's already gone through it in my own way and is older than you, that it's also that you have, you know, you have, these are young people and they don't necessarily know exactly what they want to do with their lives. You had the benefit of going to McGill prior.
David : Right.
Daniel : And so, not a lot of students necessarily have an undergrad, and so they're not at the same stage in their lives. But could you expand a bit on that, in terms of how you feel it's more of a corporate law focus?
David : I don't wanna, you know, chastise the universities either. I mean, I don't necessarily think that it's a bad thing to want to go into Corporate Law. I just, what I mean to say is, that I think that the process needs to be a bit more diversified and I think that people need to get perspective that, you know, there's so many fields of practice that are open to them and the Course aux Stages process, while it is an incredible learning experience, is one of the avenues through which they can, students can, you know, find their path and find their best, the field of practice which is best suited to them. So in that regard, there's this emphasis I think, or perhaps it's pressure that students feel going into university, and I'm speaking from my, you know, time at University at Montreal, that, you know, Corporate Law is the way to go. And so students feel pressure to choose classes that will allow them to bring that to fruition, even though it might not be in line with their own interests. And if they discover that later on, I think that can be detrimental to their learning, and perhaps their careers.
Daniel : Well, I mean, speaking for yourself and the notion of learning about yourself through the Course aux Stages, because I imagine you discovered things about yourself.
David : Definitely.
Daniel : What things did you discover?
David : Over the Course aux Stages process? There is ... The one thing that I would say, it wasn't, I don't really think it was the Course aux Stages process that taught this to me, but I think it's what came after the Course aux Stages that I learned, I think, that I became much more tenacious, much more, you develop a thicker skin.
Daniel : Mm hmm.
David : And I think that going into Law School, you're green, you don't have the ability to deal with a lot of stressors. And I think if anything, that's probably the biggest takeaway from the Course aux Stage process. You have tight deadlines, you have to submit applications, you have to go through interviews, you have to manage your schedule at the same time as dealing with the exams. So I didn't really, I didn't realize that as I was going through it, I think I realized that more after, I realized that afterwards when I was at the Barreau oh that, you know, well, look at this, I've gotten through this entire process and I find myself more resilient to the stress of the Barreau as a result.
Daniel : But now that you've gotten more of a carapace, now that you're halfway through the Stages at the office, have you found that your stress levels, your stress management, has changed?
David : Definitely. Going in, I was an extreme, I was, even with that resilience that was built up through the Course aux Stages process, so obviously a new endeavor to start your Articling term, and not having the practical notions, the practical knowledge of Law and the procedural elements that you would expect from a practicing attorney of multiple years of experience to have garnered over time. I think that was a huge stressor for me, and I think that as time went on, and in such a short period of time, approximately three months, I've been able to not only deal with those pressures, but also to do so more gracefully.
Daniel : I mean, there must be sometimes some personalities, maybe my own, that might sometimes rub you the wrong way.
David : Well, okay, fine, I mean that's fair, and I'll be more, you know, candid about it. I think, you know, I think everybody knows that your mother, Me Anne-France Goldwater has a larger than life personality, and the expectations that she has are quite high.
Daniel : My mother?
David : Yes, so, she happens to be the founder-
Daniel : You're talking about my mother?
David : I am talking about your mother, the founding partner of the law firm.
Daniel : Oh right, okay, so go on, go on, okay.
David : Yes, so let's say her expectations are extremely high and I think that obviously there's a certain standard that the firm wants to, you know, the firm wants to maintain a certain standard of excellence, and your mother and Maître Goldwater, she requires, you know, Articling students to live up to that standard, so sometimes there can be, it can be a bit-
Daniel : Say it.
David : There can be a bit of friction.
Daniel : Okay.
David : Yeah, there can be a bit of friction between, you know, the work that's done and the work that's expected, and in between it's a little bit, it can be a bit, she can be a bit abrasive at times.
Daniel : Abrasive, yeah, she's my mother and I love her to pieces, abrasive or smooth. And so going forward, now that you're halfway through your Stages, what are you hoping to achieve in the second half of your Stages?
David : I think, in the second half of my Stages, I really wanna perfect the, and build on the toolkit that I've already established in the first half. I think that the one- There's nothing that you can do in six months, I mean it's very difficult in six, in a six month period, to be able to learn all of the ins and outs of the practice, but I think it's about learning how to learn, and I know that's perhaps seems to be a cliche answer, but I think it's really true in the context of our practice that it's to hone and perfect the skills that I have developed in the first half. Whether it be, you know, drafting procedures, whether it be making representations before the court. Whether it be even just building a level of confidence to be able to do all of this, I think that's something that I want to really try to perfect going forward.
Daniel : You know, speaking of going forward and your development and coming maturity, even though you're already mature and, but everyone is always maturing, I think, you alluded to the fact that you have a spouse. You're married, aren't you?
David : I am, yes, I am happily so.
Daniel : Okay, very, I'm very happy for you. And there's a lot of talk at the academy that you know, and at the Course aux Stages, and at l'École du Barreau-
David : Right.
Daniel : About work-life balance.
David : Right.
Daniel : Have you been feeling perhaps, as much as you're willing to share, any stress there, that you maybe don't have enough time for the woman that you love, or the friends that you want to hang out with? Like, do you feel sometimes a little alienated or in a bubble?
David : I think it's a necessary learning curve. I think there's an adaptation period that is, that comes with the territory. You don't choose this profession because you want to have, you know, tons of free time. I think you choose this profession because you love the law and you want to be a practicing attorney. And you also need to manage those expectations. And you need to realize, as well, that you're going to be working long hours. Now, that is to say, I, a lot of my friends who aren't doing the Articling right now have it a lot worse than me, so I guess that that kinda gives me a perspective on, you know, my experience and has made me realize that even though I've had to adjust to longer hours and perhaps, you know, have less free time, I think I've been able to strike a pretty good balance in my personal life and my work life.
Daniel : Well, I'm happy to hear that. And you talked about your friends having it worse than you. I mean, I hope your friends aren't watching right now, and being like, ah, he's throwing us under the bus. Nah, I'm teasing. But you say, I imagine having it worse, vis a vis this work-life balance is what you're referring to?
David : Well, and also in terms of the work that's being done. I think that's one of the biggest advantages of working here, at Goldwater, I think that having ... Being at a firm where there are not as many lawyers as say like a big box law firm, and not to denigrate big box law firms, because obviously they're great places to learn for, you know, for Articling students as well. I just feel as though in a shorter period of time, I've been able to really touch a greater diversity of elements at the practice that I think are going to allow me to perhaps to develop at a quicker rate. I'm just saying this from my personal perspective, and I don't know what other individuals in my position are doing at other firms, but from what I can gather from conversations with friends, I feel that I'm in a lucky, I'm lucky, I'm in a good position.
Daniel : I've never heard the expression, big box law firm. It has a certain resonance, I mean, I'm familiar with the expression, the seven sisters that refers to seven national firms-
David : Right.
Daniel : In our country, in Canada. And just to share a little bit, because I think it coheres, when I was in the Academy, I was, I was ignorant that that even existed.
David : Really?
Daniel : Because I grew up with the mentality of the boutique law firm.
David : Of course.
Daniel : I didn't even understand, I was so naive, I didn't understand that there were large law firms out there who have a global footprint, a national footprint, with plus 500, plus 1000 lawyers.
David : Right.
Daniel : I couldn't wrap my head around it. And I find sometimes, especially from the big box comment, and don't worry, I'm not trying to put pressure on the comment, because I know that sometimes there's a feeling out there that what the big firms do is just big law, and a lot of the, the jokes are the, that we get out there, not in the legal culture, but in the wider culture, about attorneys. We've all heard lawyer jokes.
David : Of course.
Daniel : And there's this notion that, you know, it's all about suits and status and serving the powerful. Do you find that, now that you're closer to becoming an attorney, that that is accurate? About the profession itself? About the preconceived notions of the profession? About the profession serving the powerful.
David : No, definitely not. If you take a look at, you know, the kind of clients that we would represent at our firm, they span the entire spectrum. So I think this perception about access to justice, obviously, is something that's a very important in our society today, I think that we need to be really mindful about it. I think that the courts need to take a position, and they are doing so, to become, you know, more transparent with the public. And so, but I don't think, I think that perhaps it's the role of lawyers, it's the role of attorneys going forward to have this kind of rapprochement with the public and to demystify the profession, so that these preconceived notions don't persist into the future. Are they justified? I don't know that they are, I don't think that, you know, that this view of attorneys as being these like all powerful individuals who are really looking out for, you know, for their own interests is totally accurate. Of course, you know, the exception is not necessarily the rule, of course, these things do exist, these people do exist. But I don't think that they, they represent the profession as a whole.
Daniel : Thank you, David, for sharing yourself with me and our listeners. I think your future is full of promise.
David : Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed the interview with you today. Cheers.
PART 4: DANIEL GOLDWATER
Robert : Hi there, and welcome back to Viva Voce. I am, quite obviously, not Daniel Goldwater. I am his producer, Robert Hiltz, but I am joined by Mr. Daniel Goldwater himself. Hello, Daniel.
Daniel : Hi, Robert, it's actually Maître Goldwater to you, dear citizen.
Robert : Ah, right, I'm sorry, I am a lowlier being.
Daniel : Not you're not, we're all on the same level. I just have this professional title.
Robert : Right. Alright, so we're here talking about the Course aux Stages, something you never did.
Daniel : That's true, I did not do the Course aux Stage when I was in law school, thank you for pointing that out. Sometimes that makes me feel like an imposter, but there you have it.
Robert : There you have it, but all the same, you got your law degree, you are a member of the bar, and now you are actually running a little stable of Stages yourself.
Daniel : Yeah, it's a funny thing, I sometimes feel privileged that I get to put these young, ambitious law students through the pressure cooker of my interview style and then select the best of the bunch.
Robert : What are you, when you're starting with the best of the bunch, like what are you looking for in an intern?
Daniel : The things that I'm looking for, number one, I'm looking for people who quite frankly are not BS-ing me. Who really want to practice at my firm.
Robert : Right.
Daniel : That wanna practice, most of what we do is family law, we do other sorts of things, but I want to feel the authentic drive to work in my firm, not just any firm for the sake of having a Stages, that's number one. Number two, I wanna see if they're likable. I mean, I have to work with these people.
Robert : Right.
Daniel : You know, there is a certain chemistry, so it's hard to put your finger on, it's not to say that I favor a certain type of personality. Sometimes I'm very surprised by how much I like this person for their types of, their interests, their manner, so there's a sort of hard to qualify X-factor there.
Robert : Right.
Daniel : And the third thing is I want fearlessness and humility at the same time, which is very hard. And I feel bad for these young students, I have to tell you, in that I wanna feel that I often tell myself, would I, if this person were a peer in a file against me, would I be intimidated, but would I also feel that they're not a jerk?
Robert : Right. So, you've been doing this, what, three years now?
Daniel : Three years.
Robert : What, now that you're on the other side of it, what do you know now about the Stages process that you didn't know before, like what have you learned?
Daniel : Well, one thing that I learned is, maybe this is more about me, but I can say that I've done this now with colleagues, so it's not just me, it's actually really emotional for the person interviewing these young law students because if you see it from our perspective, it's almost like this conveyor belt of young, intelligent people that have great career ambitions, and you're interviewing them back to back, over the space of a week, you interview sometimes about 15 or 20 people, and you hear their stories and you compare and you contrast. And you do hold power over their fate, and it does kinda keep me up at night, and my colleagues have said the same thing, so it's emotional. The other thing that I've noticed is controlling for bias is so important. I've actually taken some online courses on best interview practices, and my firm, I'm proud to say, even though it's a bit of a cliche, we're very multicultural at our firm. We have many different representations, representation from many different cultural minorities, obviously different languages, and I always want to make extremely certain that I'm not kidding myself, that I'm not selecting this person because they remind me about something that I like, or that they are, maybe they're just particularly nervous, or they come from some different community or different class origin, I always do my best to take that very, very seriously, and to talk it out, after, with my co-interviewer and make sure that we're, we talk it out to make sure it's not just guiding us invisibly.
Robert : Right, so your firm's fairly new in the Stages process, you've only been doing it three years. Why did you, why did you sign up for it? Like, why did you want to be a part of it?
Daniel : Well, the Course aux Stages is often associated with the large, national firms, or enterprise level firms, there are some boutique or medium sized firms that are there though, we are one of the few in that cohort. Part of it is, I wanted to represent for Family Law, to be frank. I think that there is something in the academy that the expectation, the cliche, is to work at a, what we call it, a white shoe firm, one of the seven sisters, the large, national firms, that often do serve business interests, or they do regulatory matters, which are all great practices, nothing wrong with that. But very few large firms have a Family Department, and I think that, my hope is that to present our firm and see that along the list of career options, that you can do this sort of thing, and also be in, compared to the large firms, that this is just as legitimate and noble a pursuit for your career as doing something that might be a bit more traditional. I'm proud of that.
Robert : Are you surprised by some of the candidates you get? Like, are people interested in Family Law more than you expected?
Daniel : They are, I have to admit sometimes, they do have some cliched answers, and I think they know that. You know, if you ask any young person in law school, why do you want to go into Family Law? I like people, it's more human, it's more sensitive. Those are, I have to tell you, kind of boring answers, even though it might be true.
Robert : Right.
Daniel : I do look for something that's a bit more compelling. I do respect the fact when they will talk, sometimes, about their family story. I find that demonstrates an authenticity, it demonstrates that there's a personal engagement beyond something just theoretical. And the other thing, though, that I really wanted to see when they talk about this, is that they understand that this is really frickin' tough as a practice. This is not about just helping families through a rough time, and you're not necessarily gonna get the proximity and the gratitude to maybe helping children through things. And it's actually ... It's, there's a lot of controversy, there's a lot of confrontation. And I say this to them, you have to like confrontation to do this in litigation. Obviously there's a place for mediation, and there's a place for negotiation, that still means confrontation.
Robert : While we wrap up, or just before we wrap up, is there anything in this whole process that you think you'd change about the whole Stages process?
Daniel : The things that I would change ... I have to say it's actually very well built, after seeing, you know, the way it's constructed and going through all the nuances. I think it's disciplining to the firms to have this regulatory framework about when the students apply, when we hold the interviews, and to make sure that the offers are made on the same day. This is part of the rules on the Course aux Stages. The only thing I think I would change, and this is not necessarily about the Course aux Stage itself, it's more about the culture of it, is I ... I hope that these students that are applying have the courage to show who they are, and also to admit sometimes that they don't know exactly what they want to do.
Robert : Right.
Daniel : I find often they have to, they just have to put their best foot forward and demonstrate that they're invincible or something to us, and I find there's great strength in vulnerability. I think some of the bravest, most courageous people I know, can say, I'm not exactly sure what I want to do, and this is what my hopes are.
Robert : Alright, well, thanks for coming on your own show. It's been a pleasure to have you here.
Daniel : Yeah, well thanks for inviting me.
Robert : Anytime.
Daniel : Okay.
A second-year law student at McGill law with a Bachelor of Commerce, Elisabeth is a former competitive hockey player with good diplomacy skills and a heart of gold. Her desire is to make it in corporate law.
Hanane is a third-year law student at University of Montreal. Born and partly raised in Algeria, she has done a lot of volunteer work, even helping Syrian refugees better understand immigration law and labour norms here in Quebec. Passionate about helping vulnerable people, she hopes to practice professional liability law or family law.
Articling student at Goldwater, Dubé, David Chun chose family law to make a positive impact on people’s lives, especially when children are involved. He speaks English, French and is getting better at Mandarin.