Adding value important for articling students – Osler’s Mary Paterson on XL Legal podcast

Mary Paterson

Sep 22, 2021

When working with articling students, intellectual curiosity and reliability are among the key attributes that are of importance to Osler’s Mary Paterson, partner, Litigation, she revealed during a recent XL Legal podcast.

“Consistently demonstrating intellectual curiosity can add value,” says Mary. “By probing a little about the context of a client-specific question that you’re asked, you can suggest other ways of looking at the question, suggest other avenues of research, or offer to help with the next step.

“By looking at how a question fits into the larger case, you’re demonstrating your willingness to think beyond the task. If you let intellectual curiosity infuse your articling experience, you add value. There’s always something to learn.”

Mary views reliability as being a fundamental aspect of being a successful student and a successful lawyer. “When lawyers come to you with a task, they have faith that you’ll do a good job on time,” she says. “That reliability becomes your brand in the way that you’re known.

“Some of the tasks are exciting and some aren’t. You can’t prioritize the fun tasks and leave the others to the end. You have to deliver value in the completion of all your tasks.”

Making mistakes comes with the territory. “Accept that you’re going to make mistakes,” says Mary. “It’s important to learn from these and try not to make the same mistake twice.  

“Remember that you’re not alone in this profession. There’s always someone you can reach out to for help. There are very few things you can’t think through to come up with a solution, or to at least find someone to speak to help you think through the solution”

It’s also important to show respect for everyone with whom you come in contact. “You’re now part of a team and you have to be open and respectful of everyone who’s part of that team,” says Mary. “This approach will allow you to participate in an environment that adds value.”

Finding the right balance is a further key to being successful. “Professionalism is concentrated attention to all aspects of one’s work,” says Mary. “You have to be intelligent when proposing solutions, but not arrogant. Intelligence has to be balanced with humility. You have to be timely in your deliverables, but not to the point where you rush through your tasks and do a poor job. It’s balancing these competing tensions that allow you to practise becoming a successful student and a successful lawyer.”

In wrapping up, Mary concluded: “We are so fortunate to work in an intellectually challenging and rewarding profession. You should grab all the opportunities this profession has to offer and find a path that mostly makes you happy. It will be a wonderful career to have and can lead you in so many directions.”

Listen to the podcast