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Summering in the Time of COVID-19

The first day at a new job is always exciting. It was especially exciting for us, McKenzie Lake’s 2020 summering class. Nobody could have anticipated how this pandemic changed every facet of daily life. We (Aaron, Wincy, Olivia, Audrey & Jonathan) had spent the last three months quarantined in our homes following public health guidelines and writing our law school final exams at our kitchen tables. We were very excited to start our summer at McKenzie Lake.

On our first day, we arrived in the lobby of Talbot Centre around 8:15 AM, but we took separate elevators in order to accommodate social distancing. We noticed plenty of hand sanitizer around the office and that staff and lawyers were wearing masks. As part of McKenzie Lake’s commitment to keeping its staff safe and to better serve the needs of its clients, the firm installed glass barriers at work stations. During our first few weeks at the firm, we were able to meet many staff and lawyers working from the office while observing social distancing.

Without a global pandemic, we might have chosen to go out for lunch Downtown to celebrate our first week at the firm. Instead, we ordered delivery from a local restaurant and sat far apart at the large table in McKenzie Conference Room A. Although none of us anticipated that our summering experience would happen during a global pandemic, we still felt a stronger sense of community within the firm.

In the end, most of the summer remained unchanged – we assisted with legal research, drafted memos, and prepared materials for our clients. While there have been some changes, the McKenzie Lake team is still working hard for our clients, whether at the office or from home. We are so fortunate that McKenzie Lake took the public health guidelines seriously. This way, we were able to spend time in the office, getting to know the friendly staff and lawyers we were working with (from 2 meters away). The lawyers and staff at McKenzie Lake have been very welcoming. Their warmth and friendliness can be felt through emails, telephone calls, and Zoom meetings.

There are a few opportunities we have missed out on as a result of COVID-19, including:

Filing court documents.

We were told that before the pandemic, students would regularly be sent over to various courthouses in the surrounding area to stand in line to file materials with the court. We are told that this process could take over an hour. None of us were upset that we missed out on this experience.

Attending and observing court.

With the courts closing and being in the slow process of reopening, we did not have an opportunity to attend motions, assignment or assessment court. For those interested in litigation, any opportunity to attend and observe court proceedings is always a valuable exercise, however, most of these functions are either suspended or being conducted virtually.

Meeting clients.

We have had the opportunity to help with a variety of files, but due to public health guidelines, we have not been able to meet many of our clients in person.

Altogether, we have missed the human element of practicing law. With the assistance of modern technology, correspondence with clients has never been easier. But there is something special about meeting face-to-face – and we have missed that this summer. Once it is safe to do, we look forward to meeting the clients whose cases we have been working on. It will be a privilege for us to meet you!

When we enthusiastically accepted our offers to summer at McKenzie Lake, we did not anticipate it would happen during a global pandemic. However, our experience has been filled with meaningful connections, creative solutions, and no shortage of legal research. It was excellent to be able to come into the office every day and help the McKenzie Lake team with meaningful advocacy.