Sassy Associate

Here you sit. Reclined on your black premium leather officechair, legs extended and crossed in front of you with your feet restingacross the middle of your yet-unscratched blotter. Save for your feet,the computer monitor, and telephone, your expansive desk that cradlesyour sitting area is totally clear.

The last voices of the day drift off down the hall and into the elevator bank. The only discernible sounds that remain are the hum of fluorescent lighting and the ventilation system’s quiet sibilation. You begin to reflect on the day’s events and how you finally made it to the 50th floor of the Commonwealth’s tallest building, which scrapes Toronto’s skyline and houses your Death Star law firm. A smile crawls across your face.

Day one for hotshot first-year associate litigator has come to a close. Besides Bymark’s $40 hamburger and some of Tuscany’s finest red, you’re filled with satisfaction. You’re happy.

The day’s events pass across your inner eye as fast as they seem to have happened.

9 a.m. — Meeting with the director of associates in the spacious J.J. Finnegan boardroom, commandingly overlooking the courts and City Hall: continental breakfast, greeting, general introductions, itinerary for the week’s training, coffee.

10:15 a.m. — Meeting with the director of human resources in the slightly less elegant but still imposing Castleworth room C: assistant assignments, security passes, lecture on political sensitivities, stiff warnings against inappropriate behaviour and dress, coffee.

11:30 a.m. — Meeting with the director of knowledge in the sci-fi-inspired video conference room: computer passwords provided; briefing on the firm’s databases; guest appearances made by the director of library services, the director of office services, and the director of information technology; coffee.


Impressive direction. Great coffee.

Then off to lunch at Hy’s with your department mentors. Well, sort of — that was supposed to be the plan. But Jennifer Wong, your junior mentor, was pulled into a discovery at the last minute, so she couldn’t make it. Your senior mentor and firm partner, Nicholas Roberts, was a flat out no-show — no explanation given. So in place of Hy’s, you were carted off to Piazza Manna, hands held by the firm’s pensions lawyer and an articling student. No problem.

No problem? Maybe not yet. But if only you could see what’s waiting for you on the other side of your orientation. Next Monday morning, there will be no continental breakfast served, no meeting in the J.J. Finnegan boardroom.


Instead, you will find, sitting where you now sit, 16 volumes of transcripts to be summarized and with undertakings charts to be completed by Wednesday, according to the sticky note left on top. Apparently, the litigation has been ongoing for eight years. You need to figure out the lay of the land in eight hours.

Before you’re able to take off your coat, Jim Broadsides (aptly named) will flag you down across the hall. You’re now drafting a notice of application and supporting affidavit to obtain letters of request for Jim’s U.S. client for Friday. You don’t know what a notice of application is, let alone letters of request.

As you settle into your black premium leather office chair, having removed the transcripts and taken off your coat, Elizabeth Slaughter (also aptly named) will be at your door. Elizabeth is speaking at the upcoming conference on water law, navigation, and fishing in the Arctic. You’re now researching and drafting her presentation for next Tuesday.

By about 11:35 a.m., Richard Dick (a.k.a., Double D and newly minted partner) will ask you to present to the litigation department on Thursday the latest Supreme Court of Canada case on exceptions to the nemo dat qui non habet principle. Gently, you’ll try to explain to Richard that your plate is a touch full right now and that if you could only have until early next week, you’d be more than happy to take on the assignment. Double D isn’t listening. You’re presenting on Thursday.

And the whirlwind won’t stop there, not for a long time.

So enjoy your moment of reflection now, hotshot first-year associate litigator, as you sit alone in peace, walking through how your first day calmly took you from Piazza Manna to computer training to dinner at Bymark with the director of associates and your first-year colleagues. As your first weeks eventually turn into months and then years, you’ll be paid and fed well — and you’ll earn it. With any luck, you’ll be able to bring those important to you along the way and maybe even remember why you went to law school in the first place.

Primo J. Mendes is a senior associate in a big Death Star Toronto law firm. He will be your mentor, young associates. He can be reached at  [email protected]

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