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A Law Student’s Guide to the Galaxy

By Chésa Abma-Slade, Michaela Pomponio, Joshua Regnier, and Katie Curry - August 19, 2022

Not all adventures play out on battlefields or in outer space. Some unfold in unsuspecting places, like the law offices of MT+Co. This is one of those stories…

Four wanderlust students from different backgrounds arrived at MT+Co. in May 2022, unsure of the adventures and challenges that lay ahead. All they had to lean on was their lived experiences, a willingness to learn, and one another. Their goals were simple: learn about being a lawyer, build relationships with the amazing people and clients at MT+Co., and catch as many epic experiences as possible along the way. Ultimately, the summer was a time to test their resolve – were they sure they wanted to practice law? And was MT+Co. where they wanted to do it?

The four adventurers made it through the summer, with plenty a tale to share. Let’s meet the cast of characters and see what lessons they have learned.

Josh

Origin: UVic Joint Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JD/JID)

Superpower: Deep listening

Wisdom: The communities we serve are our greatest teachers and mentors.

Highlight:

“I came to law school with a very specific goal: to support the revitalization of Indigenous legal orders and the implementation of UNDRIP. I never expected to be doing this type of work in my first summer in a law firm. But, that’s exactly what I did. In different ways, with different lawyers, for different communities, I got to do what I came to law school to do. And I loved it. There are far too many highlights to write about in this blog, but here is one that really stood out for me.

Throughout the summer, I supported a First Nation with their community engagement regarding resource development in their territory. I was first brought on to the file to help develop a presentation about the Nation’s legal options in the event they chose not to give their consent to the project. Over the next few months, I was fortunate to visit the community multiple times as our legal team delivered this presentation to council, elders, youth, and the broader community. My final visit was an open house where I had a chance to answer community members’ specific questions about their legal options. Our role in the community engagement process felt important and was warmly received by the community. The opportunity to learn from and support the Nation’s leadership was an absolute highlight of my summer at MT+Co.

Our approach throughout was to emphasize the empowered position of the Nation as they have many options, they hold the decision to give their consent or not, and their Indigenous legal order is an important factor in making their decision. This aligned with other work I did this summer, such as research on consent-based decision-making frameworks, analyzing current consent agreements, attending negotiations about consent provisions in benefit agreements, and the nitty-gritty of drafting consent provisions in contracts. I’m so grateful to everyone at MT+Co. who made space for me and took me under their wings this summer.”

Michaela

Origin: Peter A. Allard School of Law (aka UBC)

Superpower: Eagerness to learn

Wisdom: It’s called the practice of law for a reason” – Tamara Napoleon. As a summer student, you may feel like you’re fumbling along, unsure about everything, and underqualified to do anything. Get comfortable with that feeling. No matter how senior and experienced you are, there is more to learn. It is the humbling thing about the law. So, read up, ask questions, seek feedback, and learn from your mistakes. 

Highlight:

“Before my summer at MT+Co., I operated in a space adjacent to the business world – working in an accounting firm, working for an environmental start-up, taking some business classes, etc. However, with an undergraduate degree in Justice Studies, I hadn’t yet had the chance to explore businesses – their personhood, relationships, and transactions. Eager to get involved with the Business Law and Transactions group (in part because their name “BLT” is a favourite sandwich of mine), I was so excited to be put on a deal that aligned with my summer term. This deal was my first exposure to and involvement with share purchase agreements and due diligence. I was paired up with junior lawyers (shoutout to Carson) and given small tasks that eventually built into substantive parts of the deal. The team invited me into client meetings and had me correspond with other parties on the deal (e.g., lawyers, accountants, etc.). Instantly, I was treated as a valued member of the team and trusted with important work. These testaments to the lack of a social hierarchy at MT+Co. encouraged me, a novice, to trust my gut when assessing risk. For example, I flagged and relayed potential risks to my team and, with their feedback, worked to hone my risk assessment tool – a key tool in the lawyer’s toolbox. Not only did I hone skills, learn the lifespan of a deal, work with a great team, and assist a wonderful client, but I helped build something. How incredibly rewarding!

In addition to the deal, I worked on a handful of other projects from drafting SCC intervener forms to attending meetings about tripartite coordination agreements. I witnessed and, for a short time, participated in the novel, creative projects of my colleagues’ legal practices.

Throughout this summer, I confirmed for myself that MT+Co. is where I wanted to be. This is an environment that facilitates learning. This is a team that supports each other in an unparalleled way. This is the meaningful, soul-feeding work I want to be doing. So, if I had to restrict myself to one highlight for my summer experience, I would say it was affirming for me that MT+Co. is where I want to begin my career and grow as a lawyer.”

Chésa

Origin: UVic Joint Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JD/JID)

Superpower: Gaiʔ ata ʔeyʔ šqal’o’wen to work with good mind – good feelings

Wisdom: Relationships are the most important aspect of any work you do.

Highlight:

“I came to law school hoping to advance the interests of Indigenous peoples through the practice of Indigenous legal orders and to contribute to healthy and flourishing communities. The area of law the Indigenous Law Group at MT+Co. operates within aligns with the change I hope to contribute to in this world.

Over the summer, I gained an abundance of knowledge and was challenged daily with different legal questions and tasks. It’s amazing how much growth can occur when you are encouraged to take things head-on but also have a foundation of support to fall back on if you happen to stumble (which is inevitable as a student).

One highlight of my summer was working with a Nation exercising their inherent jurisdiction over child and family services and enacting a child and family services law rooted in their Indigenous legal order. This work challenged me to think through questions relating to the relationship of Indigenous, Provincial, and Canadian Laws. I also learned so much by sitting at tripartite negotiation tables. However, the most significant learning came through the honour of being welcomed into one of the longhouses in the community to witness the cultural work, heart, and dedication that the Nation and community pour into protecting and uplifting their children, youth, and families.

Through this experience (and many others), I watched how the folks at MT+Co. work in true partnership with Nations to support them in reaching their goals for the future in ways that align with their distinctive cultural and legal practices.

My summer far exceeded anything I could have dreamed of for a first law student position. I received mentorship from lawyers that I hold up with the highest respect. I went from thinking through complex issues relating to UNDRIP and the reinvigoration of Indigenous legal orders in the classroom to having the opportunity to contribute to the incredible changes to our legal landscape taking place on the ground. Most importantly, I am grounded in the belief that I am entering the field of law to uplift Indigenous communities and families, and MT+Co. is a place where I feel supported in this.”

Katie

Origin: The Fraser Building (aka UVic)

Superpower: Running up mountains; Boolean searches on CanLII

Wisdom: Ask what a “deal” is before it’s too late.

Highlight:

“MT+Co. told me I could choose my own adventure. I had the perfect team by my side to make this happen. Michaela, with a knack for business; Josh and Chésa, with a propensity for Indigenous law; my team gave me the space to get my hands dirty across the firm. I set forth with one mission: learn as much as possible, and try everything once.

I could not have had more support in this mission. Throughout the summer, I tried almost every type of legal work. I did furious research, drafted affidavits and petitions, and intervened at the BC Court of Appeal with the litigation team. I advocated for UNDRIP compliance in the regulatory context with the Indigenous Law Group. I assisted with various corporate and commercial transactions in the BLT and even helped to ‘close a deal.’ I met with clients, helped draft policies, and dealt with disputes with the employment lawyers. I travelled to an Indigenous community, met the chief, and heard over and over how proud they were to have MT+Co. as their lawyers. I nurtured my existing skills, gained new ones, and dipped a toe in every area of MT+Co. law.

But the greatest thing I learned from MT+Co. is the value of doing work you believe in, for clients you believe in. During the OCI process, my greatest fear was that I would end up doing work that didn’t align with my values. MT+Co. taught me that legal work can and should fill you with purpose. Spending my summer working for Indigenous organizations and forward-thinking businesses, helping them to achieve their goals, using the law as a tool to advance reconciliation, pushing the boundaries of what I thought the law was capable of… well, it was pretty much the best.”

Conclusion

It’s clear that the four students accomplished their goals throughout the summer. They learned about the law, about the firm, about one another. And most importantly, they learned about themselves. Despite choosing their own adventures throughout the summer, they built bonds that will stand the tests of a lifetime. And none of this could have been possible without the warm, generous, and trusting support and mentorship of every person in the MT+Co. mothership.

One thing stands clearer than all else: no matter where the next leg of this adventure takes these students, they will always have a home at MT+Co.

Want More?

While this adventure has come to an end (at least for now), there are many who remain to tell the tale. If you are planning to set out on a summering or articling journey, equip yourself with the knowledge you need to plan your best course. Email people@millertiterle.com



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