10 Things I’ve Learned After a Year of Articling

Ashley Donald – June 2017

  1. Every family has their own unique challenges. Whether issues in a relationship arise because of money, substance abuse, illness, or any other of a million possibilities, I am certain that no two families, or relationships, are alike.
  1. Though no two families are alike, you are not alone in your separation or divorce, and there are more commonalities than differences. We find clients are better able to cope with the changes and stresses of separation when they seek help from mental health professionals, and reach out to family, friends or support groups (just be sure to read Anne’s blog post from February 2016 before posting on social media).
  1. You can overcome this hurdle (or mountain), whether it is the end of a relationship, or a serious injury. Most often, we see clients at one of the hardest points in their lives. One of the best things for us, as lawyers, is to see those same clients at the end of the divorce or personal injury journey, and to see them flourishing. You can get through this, and you will with the right plan and support system.
  1. Anything that is in writing never gets deleted or forgotten. I am still blown away by the emails, text messages, and Facebook messages that separating couples or separated parents send each other, that end up in front of us, and in front of the judge. You should assume everything you send will end up before the judge, so text and type accordingly.
  1. The court process is not the ultimate solution. By using alternative dispute resolution strategies, like collaborative law, four-way meetings, or mediation, you can craft your own solution that is unique to your family and is workable for both parties. Because each family has different incomes, activities and challenges, a cookie-cutter solution may not be enough. Negotiating outside of the court process allows more freedom and creativity. The reality is that most family law matters settle outside of court because of this.
  1. I’ve learned to own my mistakes. I remember an old coach who use to say that if you are going to make a mistake, you might as well make it at 100%. Mistakes happen. This is life. In my year of articling I have made numerous mistakes, mostly small, a few not so small. Owning them, and learning from them, has made me not only better person (I’d like to think), but also a better lawyer. The reality is that we, as lawyers, are not perfect and will make errors. Accepting them, fixing them, and moving on from them, are essential for building trust with clients, peers and partners.
  1. Pushing your comfort zone and personal boundaries can be so rewarding (like admitting you screwed up, for example). Whether it’s physical or mental, you can accomplish more than you probably think. Over the course of the last year, I have had to push my own mental boundaries to accept, retain, and analyze more information than I ever thought possible (even more than law school!). It is pretty incredible what you can learn and how you can grow in supportive environments.
  1. Work-life balance, and finding a company that allows for work-life balance, is essential for mental and physical health and growth. I’ve been lucky enough to coach soccer for two teams throughout my articling year. I’ve learned a lot coaching – and have been able to use some of those skills and strategies in my day-to-day work. Coaching makes me a better employee and lawyer. Spending time relaxing on weekends with my family, friends and spouse, also makes me a better employee and lawyer.
  1. Similarly, you want a lawyer who has work-life balance. You want a lawyer who is well-rounded, not only in skills and knowledge, but also in life. MDW Law is a firm that supports the mental, physical and emotional sides of their employees. This is something I’ve learned in the last few years, and something I have come to truly treasure. When your lawyer is healthy physically, mentally and emotionally, he or she is better able to support you, plan with you, advise you and fight for you. Each member of MDW Law is supported by the others. It is a unique environment that allows for progressive and creative thinking that is moving family law in Nova Scotia forward. I’m proud and humbled to be a part of it.
  1. Coffee is truly man and woman’s best friend (sorry doggies).
Share this with others