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Insights from my summer with CiteRight

Like a lot of students, I too found myself jobless at the beginning of this summer. Fortunately, the opportunity to work with CiteRight came out of the blue

My professor and the Law Librarian at Windsor Law, Annette Demers, reached out to my class on behalf of CiteRight, who was looking for a summer research assistant. I applied and was offered the job, winning them over with a strategically placed Dad Joke in my cover letter. 

(Spoiler alert: they decided to keep me around for the school year as well!)

I’ve been working for CiteRight for almost three months now, and it’s been great. My colleagues have cultivated a very positive work environment; they make it a priority to give me new learning opportunities, and I feel like they’re genuinely interested in my growth and development. My manager is casual but very attentive, perpetually concerned with my mental health and making sure I’m keeping a healthy balance between work and school. It’s the most supported I’ve ever felt in a job.

The cool thing is, I’ve never met any of them in person. I recently moved home to Sault Ste. Marie to finish my last year of law school online, but they’re all based in the GTA. Everyone has been working remotely since before they hired me, so there just hasn’t been an opportunity for us to meet. We’re still working remotely, but hopefully there will be a day in the not too distant future where I get to visit the office. 

Teamwork and technology are what make the dream work. I have video calls with my colleagues almost daily, but we conduct most of our business through instant messages on a virtual workspace. In some ways, it still feels like a normal office environment. We still take time for “water cooler” talk and joke with each other over chat. Despite the screens and distance between us, we’ve still been able to get to know each other pretty well. So well that I was even invited to watch a colleague’s live-streamed wedding a few weeks ago! 

I’ve gained a lot from this experience that I didn’t expect to. I’m using my legal education in ways that I had never previously considered, helping to develop tools for lawyers that will make their jobs easier. It’s a niche market that I hadn’t thought much about before this, but of course there’s a demand for smart solutions in the increasingly technology-dependent world of law.

So what exactly have I been doing for the last three months? Well, I’m glad you asked. Ladies, men, and non-binary friends, allow me to present...

Things CiteRight has taught me that I never really expected to learn:

  • I’m becoming a master of court operations. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been tracking all COVID-related changes to court procedure, so I’ve read and catalogued just about every existing practice direction from every court in Canada in pursuit of that. 
  • I’m also becoming an expert in electronic filing in Canadian Courts. My major project this summer was putting together the CiteRight E-Filing Toolkit: a free resource which consolidates all information available online through the courts relating to electronic filing. It’s still in its first iteration, but we already have tons of ideas on how we can make it more useful for practitioners... Stay tuned for that.
  • In the course of working on these projects, I’ve even learned a little bit about web design. We built our COVID-19 and E-Filing resources from scratch, so I’ve gotten to see the various stages of development and all of the work that goes into producing tools like these. 
  • I’ve been involved with the software development team, doing beta testing and quality assurance on new versions of CiteRight.
  • I’m learning quite a bit about marketing, including how to run a social media campaign.

Despite all of that, the greatest insight that I’ve taken away from my experience so far is this: a law degree can take you to a lot of different places besides a courtroom or a law firm if you just think outside the box. Fellow students, I’m talking to you— your law degree is like a Swiss army knife that can serve you in a variety of different ways. Take our CEO, Aaron Wenner, for example. Aaron is a lawyer, but he saw a need in the legal community that wasn’t being met and decided to do something about it. Relying on his own legal knowledge, he created CiteRight to fulfill that need.

Maybe you’re questioning whether private legal practice is really the thing for you. Or, if you’re like me, maybe your interests are so specific, yet varied, that you can’t imagine finding a job that will allow you to meaningfully engage with them all. If that’s the case, I implore you to take the time to consider some non-traditional legal careers. Law school sends us all down the same path, but we are an incredibly diverse group; what works for the majority isn’t going to work for everyone, so don’t be afraid to try and blaze your own trail. You can always find your way back if it doesn’t pan out.

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