Saturday, March 30, 2013

Week 17 and losing track

I have apparently received my own email address at our firm. Unfortunately I have not been able to confirm or log in, as the change is supposed to take some time to take effect.

* * *

Went to court for a civil case. First time doing that, as our firm usually does family law. Civil cases have the role call at 2.16, but it turns out the greffier was the one I usually see in 2.17. Woot, familiar!

The case was a bit complicated, and we only got our mandate yesterday, so I had a day to get up to speed.

Met the lawyers for the opposing parties. One of them looked a bit like Kent Nagano. It was surreal.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Week 16

It's been quiet these days at the office. The dreaded 6-day trial isn't happening, as the file is being settled. Most files do get settled before the trial, and judges are generally happy when you can figure things out by yourselves.

On the other hand, I've been kept busy running to the courthouse almost daily since Thursday last week, trying to get a divorce certificate.It takes 30 days before the courthouse issues a divorce certificate. This is because you have 30 days to appeal judgments, which means a divorce ruling isn't "final" until the appeals deadline has passed.

At any rate, we needed this divorce certificate NOW. Checking the court plumitif showed that the certificate had been granted, so I was promptly dispatched to the courthouse to pick it up.

Of course, nothing is simple, and at the Courthouse, I was informed that the note means a divorce certificate has been approved to be issued (which was last week), but it hasn't been made yet.

OK, well, I need it urgently, so is it possible to have it quickly, pretty please?

It turns out that the lady who does them is pretty busy, but it'll be ready by the middle of the next week. Can I talk to the lady? Actually, she just left.

It was 3:50 PM.

That was Thursday of last week.

On Friday, I made a trip again. This time, the lady in question was absent.

Monday afternoon, courthouse again. Oh, she was there this morning, but left for an appointment. Can anyone else help me? No, she's the ONE person who prints the certificates.

Tuesday, I decide to stay in the office and give her a call. Calling her extension brings me to her voicemail. I call the general line for that service counter, hoping to talk to someone who can get her one the phone. Lo and behold, she's the one answering! Can she help me?

No, glitch on the computer system, she can't access the court record. Ugh.

Wednesday. I go there. She's not there. Again.

Finally Thursday morning, I get a call. I got my divorce certificate!! Would I like to have it mailed?


Saturday, March 09, 2013

Week 14: TGIF, after 12 days of work

Today was actually a quiet day, which meant I had better start working on my own file before things get crazy next week.

Being put in charge of a file in the middle of proceedings is horrible. It's not like starting a case, where everyone is on the same page and you know exactly what's going on in the file.

Starting in the middle means reading all the previous proceedings and trying to understand what's going on. And then having to go to court, probably some time next week, with a camera to take pictures of the documents that are in the court file and which I don't have.

Why a camera, you ask.

Because ordering a photocopy will cost you $3 per page. And you can't take the file away to photocopy documents yourself.

* * *

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Week 14 still

Things I will need to do: hand in mid-internship evaluation by next Friday.
Apply for a background check and hope that there's no deadline to submit the certificate.
A stiff drink.

Today has to be the most ridiculous days I've had at court. We went in, Power Lawyer and I, at 9AM for role call, to present a motion. Since we served our notice of presentation Tuesday, we were at the end of the list, so had to wait until about a hundred cases got called, then it was our turn.

Get in the courtroom with the judge, there's already some cases before ours, plus since we've scheduled 55 minutes of pleading time, we're put at the end, after the shorter motions.

So we just waited until all the cases are over, which actually didn't take that long as there weren't that many today. We then looked for the opposing lawyer, who wasn't in the room, and it turns out that she was in another courtroom, and she was actually triple-booked, with two cases pending in this room.

The judge was not particularly happy, as we were wasting valuable court time, and she couldn't refer any of us to another judge.

With all this, we were not able to get started before lunch break, and had to come back at 2PM. Unfortunately, the judge wasn't there, and didn't get there until 3ish, as she had another case to deal with.

Our own 55-minute thing ended up being much more than that, as we had some trouble figuring out the exact facts.

There was a lot of back-and-forth, but the judge was not convinced. We ended up being at court until 5 PM, which is really late for court, and didn't even get a ruling.

We were told by the judge to come up with a consent agreement by tomorrow...

Week 14

I think I'm starting to lose it. Can't remember what I did Monday, tho I did mean to post. It was a busy day. Some kerfuffle with a trial that was set for this week, but the opposing party wanted to postpone, and Power-Lawyer thought no way, so back-and-forth of motions to postpone, motion to strike, culminating with my being called at 4:21 PM with "Hey, I just emailed you a document, you have... um... 9 minutes to serve it".

Today got pretty crazy too. i was informed by PL that she has a 6-day trial coming up next month, and that is going to require a full month of preparation (serious. no kidding) which means I'll pretty much have to be working full time with her on this.

And full-time with PL means me, her, and pizzas, which is never a good sign, because last time that it was me, her, and a pizza, I ended up leaving work at midnight and a half. I guess I might as well pack my favourite pillow and a sleeping bag, cuz I'll be living at the office for the foreseeable future.

Wednesdays are also billing days at the office, and since we have a new software and I seem to be the only one qualified to use it, I was providing PL with tech support.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Week 13: Trial (Part 2)

Not much happened yesterday (Saturday), went to work at noon-ish, left work at 8PM, still haven't finished drafting, waiting for Power-Lawyer to review my drafts, then I'll have to go back today, finalize everything, print the motion and the exhibits, and have the client sign.

So we go back to the story of the trial last week, where I had left off at lunch break in the previous story.

We went back to the hearing in the afternoon, and the Judge took it surprisingly well, and the hearing moved on. The opposing party had his cross-examination.

One important thing for a witness during cross-ex, or any examination, is to answer the questions, even if you don't like them. If you try to dance around the question, the Judge isn't stupid and will call you out if you do it often enough. And if you still don't get it, the Judge might call a break, tell your lawyer to explain to you what a cross is about and how you should behave, and lemme tell you that a lawyer does NOT like to be held responsible for that kind of behaviour, and WILL give you a good talking-to.

The cross ended, and it was our client's turn to testify, which went fairly well.

The trial went on for the rest of the day, then the next.

Then we moved on to pleading, and it was lunch. We had 3 hours in front of us before going back to court, as the Judge promised us a "plan" at 2PM.

The Courthouse is conveniently located right outside Chinatown, which means you have a large selection of restaurants for these long lunch breaks. And lucky for us, the hearing ended at 11:30, so we were just ahead of the 12:00 rush when everyone who works around Chinatown go for lunch.

I was then left alone with the client for quite some time, and it got slightly awkward, since she started worrying about the verdict.

I therefore spent the rest of lunchtime giving her a pep talk, and trying to reassure.

We went back to court to get our judgment. It got pretty emotional at some point, which I didn't expect. The judge actually took the time to explain the new realities following a separation and how things should be done in the interest of the children.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Week 13

One thing I have now learned is that when you have some free time at work, enjoy it while it lasts. You never know what the world is going to throw at you next.

My Maitre de stage told me on Thursday he was going to have a meeting with a client the next day, and I'm going to be handling his file. Great! Finally something to do! I was starting to get bored, actually.

Of course come Friday, I had somehow forgotten about the meeting, and was minding my own business when Power-Lawyer walks in. That was a bit unusual, because it wasn't 11 yet, and she rarely comes to the office.

And when her first sentence to you is "JC, are you ready to work?" on a Friday morning you know you might be in for the weekend.

What I didn't know was, it was about to get much worse.

Power-Lawyer was preparing for a trial the next week, so she wanted me to start preparing some last-minute exhibits, and dig up some old information regarding assets. The file is an old one, and has been passed around in the office as previous lawyers left. 

So I'm going through some old papers, trying to figure out what they're for, and my boss reminds me we've got the meeting.

Oh. Right. Meeting then, with a client. I'm pumped!

Meeting done, back into the office, Power-Lawyer is on lunch, so I go off as well, thinking about this new client's case. There are some urgent issues, so we probably have to move quickly, and be ready to file a motion by the end of next week, if possible. I'm going to be busy!

Well, I had no idea.

Back from lunch, I hear that one of Power-Lawyer's clients just had all his property seized by the opposing party, and we had to prepare an Opposition to seizure to be served on Monday.


Power-Lawyer was enlisting another lawyer's help to draft a motion, and I was given a research assignment to come up with case law saying what the opposing party did was illegal.

One hour of research, another hour or so drafting a long letter to the opposing attorney, then took over the other lawyer's draft motion for a couple of hours.

Of course, I wasn't done, and there was still an affidavit to draft, and Power Lawyer wanted the client to sign this weekend, so at 6:30 PM on a Friday I had to bring everything home and keep drafting.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Week 13: trial!

Sat on my first trial ever yesterday and today.

Which also happened to be the first trial ever of Nice Lawyer, whom I was accompanying.

That's not unusual in family law, though. People usually settle, and you might practise for two years before you actually have a real proper trial of your own. And it takes about a year to get a date for a trial.

It was a custody case. I was all prepared with my laptop to take notes, we had a pretty good judge, trial was set for about two days, judge was a bit surprised that it was going to take that long given that there were no other witnesses except the two parties.

One thing I noted was that witnesses don't sit. They just stand there, facing the judge, although there is a little bench thing that they can sit on, but they just stood there for an hour and a half and talked. 

Note to self: cut fingernails the day before going to court and taking notes on laptop. I was making a helluva lotta noise typing, and I could've sworn the judge was staring at me for a while. I never noticed before how loud I type...

We took a break around 11. Went off to lunch, back at 2pm, and the parties tried to work things out.

Meanwhile, I was sent off to find a judgement by a Judge Maun, or Mann, that our judge mentioned but nobody quite understood the name and nobody wanted to ask the judge to repeat it.

Go off to floor 11, realize it's the wrong floor, trying to remember the floor the library is on, think it's 19, but then there's no floor 19, stops at 17, so I guess must be 17, get off at 17, run around in the halls because disoriented by the elevator's placement, find the CAIJ, chip card to enter, chip card for turnstile, grab a computer, log into CanLii to search caselaw...

ok now what... who was the judge?

GB Mann, nobody with that name. Whip up the Google-fu. Judge mentioned he died in 2000, so the ruling must be from 1998, 1999. Google judge superior court deceased 2000, somehow come across this bio, no idea what search terms and cannot replicate results, but at least I've got the name of a judge that sounds about right and it's Maughan.

Somehow I find the reference to the case, which is a "Droit de la famille 3213", which as it happens doesn't turn up in search. I want to try another database, I know the CAIJ has free access to paid ones, except I don't know how to access them. There are usually research assistants there to help you, but this happens to be lunch time, so their offices are all empty.

I finally manage to find one in an office at the very end of the hall, learn how to access the databases, find out how to charge my chip card, printing is 30 cents a page. Ugh.

Print, run down, find everyone discussing, trying to come up with an agreement, hand over the document, lawyer reads, find out it's not much use after all.

Oh well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Week 13

Almost halfway through!

Time really flies, and I'm really starting to feel it.

I'm getting especially nervous looking back at the past 3 months and trying to figure out what I have actually done. Been to court a couple of times to ask for a postponement, file a consent agreement, sat on an interim, asked for a date, and still I don't know what the date was for.

I had a stark reminder of the intricacies of file management yesterday when Power-Lawyer called me in a bit of a panic, wondering what the F. had happened in one of her files which was set for a trial in early March. Which I guess is pretty much next week.

She had just printed out the file plumitif, which is the court record of things that happened in the file, and on it was written "inscription rejected - [our client's name]", except we never filed an inscription that day, and it was the opposing party's inscription, and now the court clerk says we don't actually have the dates for the trial, and what the fuck, and it says inscription filed 2 weeks later, which was our inscription, but I can't find the documents in my physical file which means there's nothing to prove we filed anything.

All in all it was a very uncomfortable ten minutes, while I tried not to panic as well, and tried to figure out what was going on, I see on our office server that there are backs saved in the client's folder, but nothing for the actual motions those backs belong to, and the backs are dated the same day the plumitif says we filed them, but then where the heck are these documents, someone must've typed them up and printed it from somewhere, and I don't know where our receptionist/assistant keeps the old court logs, so I can't even check what I filed at court that day.

And please please please let this not be my fault.

The problem was resolved a few minutes later, or at least part of it, as Power Lawyer actually found said documents in the folder, which was good for me cuz it means it's not my fault, and both our hearts got a bit of a workout.

On the other hand, I'm not quite sure what she's going to do with the trial date...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Week 12

Practically spent the whole week helping another lawyer with her upcoming trial. Which is a nice change from Power-Lawyer, who prepares for days and nights at a rhythm I can't quite keep up with. Although I guess we can still end up preparing the night before this trial.

Anyway. I'm about to reach the halfway mark of my internship, and a trial is a nice way to mark the event.

I was given the task of coming up with cross-examination questions, and as usual, the instructions are pretty much "Give me 20 questions, everything is in the file." Except that said instructions were given by Nice Lawyer, who is not quite so blunt, which means it took me a minute or two to understand that she was basically asking me to read the file and make questions.

Coming up with cross-ex questions is much harder than I thought. The main problem is that in Family law, a lot of situations is your word against theirs. People seldom communicate in writing, so there's nothing to show that the person you're examining is lying.

In my mind, the best questions are the ones where the person looks bad no matter what answer is given.

When does the baby go to bed?
You don't know? You're the father/mother, how could you not know? Don't you put her to bed?
She sleeps early? Then what were you doing on that day at that activity, so late in the evening with the baby?
She sleeps late? Do you always put a 2-year-old to bed so late?

* * * 
We had the client in yesterday to prep her for trial. Prepping for trial is very similar to prepping for high school oral presentations. Everyone has their script, and you say it out loud pretending you're in front of the judge. 

The hardest part was to make the client understand that in a chief examination, lawyers aren't allowed to ask leading questions. You have to make them understand that when you ask "Describe your relationship with your ex" you actually mean "tell us why that person shouldn't have custody". 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Week 11: training

Our lawyer-in-chief just acquired a fancy file-and-time-management software for the firm, and we're getting 3 days of training to learn how to use it.

And being the stagiaire, and having unfortunately gotten the reputation of being somewhat techy, it pretty much means that I'm getting 3 days of training so I can spend the next month teaching everyone else in the office how to use it.

Power-lawyer has, naturally, decided that her client files were more important than this.

In other news, we also got a VPN installed, and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief for having caught up a little bit with technology.

In other other news, one of the lawyers has a court date tomorrow, and I'll be making puppy eyes and ask her to bring me, plz plz, with a cherry on top!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Week 10

Week 10 finally ended after 12 consecutive days of work.

Monday started with a hearing for a Leave of Appeal. The basic concept is, some decisions can be appealed "de plein droit", without needing to get anybody's permission, while other decisions can be appealed if you get an appeal judge's permission. A hearing for Leave of appeal is when you present your case to a court of appeals judge and hope to get permission to appeal.

The Court of Appeals is in a pretty impressive building a block away from the Montreal Courthouse. Everything looks pretty impressive, down to the judge who sits down, gestures vaguely towards your proceedings, gives you an annoyed look, and asks you what you want from him.

Good thing I was only watching, cuz I'd have been muy muy thrown off and would've run off to hide in a hole.

A hearing takes pretty much forever, and we were there all morning. The judge then took a break to read everything, came back at 2PM and ruled. No Appeal.

Power-lawyer was not happy, but in this business the show must go on and you have to move on.

She had another court date on Wednesday, so we moved on to that. There really isn't much to say, except that prepping for court means I'll be at work until 12:40 the night before the hearing, helping out on case law, exhibits, and so on.

Wednesday, spent the whole day in court, 9 to 4:30. The Courthouse being what it is, by the time we were referred to a judge, waited for the judge to read everything, waited during breaks, lunches, and so on, you get about 3 hrs of face time with the judge. From 9 to 4.

That was basically my week. Thursday and Friday were pretty quiet, given that all the big things were over.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Week 9: Everything a blur

Things are picking up!

Week 9 just finished today, 8:30 PM. The week was bu-zay.

I'm still not too sure what went on at the beginning of the week.

I was working in a file with Power-Lawyer, where we had to send out subpoenas.

I guess that's what I must've been doing at the beginning of the week, drafting subpoenas for banks and accountants, asking them to provide us the documents. Actually, technically, since they're subpoenas, so you're really telling them to send someone to court with the documents, but most people will just fax you the stuff you want, please leave me alone, I don't have time for court.

That resulted in a kerfuffle with our Senior Lawyer.

And this is why: the main printer in our office is a printer-scanner-copier-fax machine, and it only does one task at once. So our SL was NOT particularly happy to have the main unit tied up as it was receiving about 200 pages of documents, which in the end turned out to be more like 500 pages.

We were getting the docs piecemeal, so every 10 minutes or so, our SL would drop a pile on my desk.

And as the faxes came in, I was slowly being overwhelmed by piles of documents. Oh. My God. I'm going to have to go through all this.

Things don't always go smoothly, though, when you work with Power-Lawyer. To wit: some manager at a bank we subpoenaed called to let us know the docs were ready, but there were too many pages to be faxed, (200 pages only, the other guy did it, c'mon, you can do it too!), so could we please send a courier to pick them up. I arranged the pickup with our receptionnist-slash-office-manager (AKA the master-of-everything-that-needs-to-be-done), then let Power-Lawyer know the docs were coming in.

I didn't exactly expect her reaction.

"Wait, how come WE have to pick it up? Nononono THEY have to send it to US! The burden is on THEM. Call them back and tell them to pay for the courier themselves, or if they don't, then they can send someone to court."


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Week 8

Bits and pieces from week 8 of the legal internship.

There is a supermax security prison about 45 mins north of Montreal. From what I've heard, it's the highest-security facility in all of Canada.

How to get things done:
  • > "I need copies from the court file, can you call and ask how soon we can have them?"
  • ... later ...
  • < "Um... they just told me the lady who does the copies has a 2-week backlog, and a rush will get you the copies in 'a couple of days'."

  • > "Well, I'm filing my appeal Monday, so fax them a letter saying you'd like the copies and someone will come tomorrow to pick them up."
Leave of appeal must be submitted in 2 copies at the court, and every party must be served a copy. Which means you'll need: 1 original, 1 court copy, 1 copy for your own files, 1 copy for opposing party, 1 copy for the children's lawyer if the kids have a lawyer.

Printing out 150 pages in 5 copies and putting them together into a court-ready package will take you about 3 hours.

Don't start drafting a letter at 6 PM thinking you'll get it done by 6:30. You won't.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Week 7: The busiest one yet

Quick recap: for the past month and a half, I have been doing my mandatory legal internship at a small family law firm. Having started in early December, most of my time there to date fell right in the holiday season, so things were rather quiet.

Now, it seems business has picked up, and boy, there's a lot to do.

MONDAY was quite uneventful; I don't remember exactly what I did, probably helping our resident power-lawyer prepare some exhibits. (The young, no-nonsense, geddit-done-I-don't-have-time-to-waste type).

TUESDAY tldr: paperwork, run to court, had lunch at 4.

Tuesday started with a run to the local print shop, to have the exhibits bound. We usually staple them, but this was close to a hundred pages of financial documents. All tagged, in yellow tags please, and printed in triplicate with backs. The bailiff will be picking it up as soon as I'm done, so please hurry, it has to be served today to the other party. And while I'm at it, why not get photocopies of this 50-page document, in triplicate please.

Went, bound, came back, was ushered into our conference room for our scheduled training session for one of the legal databases we use. It was a waste of time.

Next thing I know, I'm being given 4 new motions to serve by fax (to the other party), so triplicate, true copy, fax cover sheet and backs. As I'm sending out the first fax, bailiff shows up, and I'm like "Crap, he's supposed to pick up two packs of exhibits, and I've only got one ready!" (the other one was still in the triplicate-true-copy-cover-back-fax pipeline).

So I'm rushing to make photocopies, true-copy-stamp them, put together with the 50-page document, only to realize I've got the wrong motion, go back, copy the right thing, put together, hand to bailiff, who asks me if I've got 2 backs, and I'm like "WTF nobody told me you needed two backs for the bailiff!". Back to the copy room to photocopy the back, realize the printer is receiving a fax so is tied up, lose my mind, print copy from computer, send bailiff on his way, WHEW.

Of course in all this commotion the copy room is a mess and I've still got 3 docs to fax. This was eventually resolved, and I give all the documents, properly put together and stapled to Power-Lawyer, thinking I can finally take a breather.

"Are you going to court now? I need these filed TODAY. You better call a cab to get to the courthouse." It was around 2 PM. I hadn't had lunch yet. It takes less than 30 mins to get to court by public transit. I resignedly grab the court work and head out.

All this to say that I had lunch at 3:45 PM that day.

WEDNESDAY Asked to stay later to help with preparing exhibits. Left work at 10:45 PM, which was not great cuz I was supposed to accompany another lawyer to Valleyfield the next morning.

THURSDAY Woke up at 5, took the metro at 6, the 485 bus at 6:30, arrived at Fairview at 7:09, picked up by the lawyer and she drove us to Valleyfield. We were back at the office by noon, and I was pretty much out of it the whole day. Everything was fine and dandy until about 6PM, when, just as I was starting to enjoy my impending freedom, my maitre de stage slapped me with an emergency research assignment for tomorrow, because Power-Lawyer was told by a judge that her client was going to be ordered shared custody, and she had until tomorrow to change the judge's mind.

I was luckily allowed to do the research from home, sent out search results at 9, asked if they needed anything else, reply only came an hour later, but by then I was already asleep.

FRIDAY Had to go to court at 9 AM because Power-Lawyer was still caught up in St-Jerome, get a txt asking if I'll be back in time for the consultation I was supposed to sit in at 10...

I did make it, if you're wondering.