How It All Began
Last year, a bright and enthusiastic law student, Ruchi Punjabi, approached me for volunteer work. At first, I was reluctant. I had never taken on a law student before. However, after some thought, I agreed to take her on. We visited court hearings together. I also taught her the basics of legal research. I thought it was so much fun being her mentor that I decided to take on more students this year. I dedicate this program to Ruchi, who is now an articling student.
A bit about Ruchi Punjabi
After graduating from the University of Waterloo with a B.A. (Honours) in Legal Studies, Ruchi received a J.D. from both the University of Windsor and the University of Detroit Mercy as a student in the dual program.
She went to law school with the ambition of helping disempowered groups who encounter barriers to accessing justice. She has already begun working towards achieving that goal through her involvement at four different clinics in two countries. As a Summer Law Student in 2016, Ruchi worked under the supervision of lawyers at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly and Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto. Throughout law school, she was committed to her work at the Community Legal Aid clinic in Windsor and at the Veterans Law Clinic in Detroit. At the Veterans Law Clinic, Ruchi was very successful in helping her clients obtain benefits for their service-connected injuries and disabilities.
Ruchi will be articling at Keewaytinok Native Legal Services, a community clinic in Moosonee funded by Legal Aid Ontario. The position was one of the Law Foundation of Ontario’s highly competitive Connecting Articling Fellowships. At Keewaytinok Native Legal Services, Ruchi will be dealing with tenant rights, criminal injuries compensation, social assistance and disability law. In the long run, Ruchi hopes to be a Legal Aid lawyer and continue advocating for underprivileged individuals.
About the Program
The Pre-Law program is a volunteer/mentoring program aimed at 4th year students who are contemplating applying to law school. The program runs from May 1 to July 30, 2017. The schedule will be flexible, based on the students’ availability.
I would love to mentor enthusiastic undergrads who are thinking of law school. I am offering a mentoring program where the student signs up for a total of 10 hours of work, mostly in legal research, and also possibly some public speaking engagements in the community. In return, I will be teaching the student how to do legal research, as well as giving the student some insight into the legal industry, how to prepare for and succeed in law school, what bar exams and campus recruitment processes are like, and what comes after law school. The highlight of this program will be field trips to the court house, where we will attend real hearings in downtown Toronto courthouses, at 361 and 393 University Avenue.
All group sessions are led by me (Heather Hui-Litwin). Each session is one to two hours except for the court visit. We will meet during the weekday hours if possible. If not, we may schedule a Saturday morning. The court visits must be on a weekday.
Session 1: The Legal Process. This session will introduce you to the fundamentals of the legal process, including a discussion on the fundamental concepts of the common law system.
Session 2: Legal Research and How to read case law. During law school, we’re thrown into reading decisions written by judges, right from day one. It’s overwhelming when you’ve never read a case before. They are usually lengthy and often confusing. And even words that look like English can have a different legal meaning. We’ll take a few cases and read through them together.
Session 3: Rules of Engagement-Overview of the Rules of Civil Procedure (Superior Court). This session will provide the bird’s eye view of the Rules, beginning with the pleadings and ending with enforcement. If time permits, we will also visit rules from other courts, such family law and small claims court.
Session 4 (2.5 -3 hours): The highlight of this program will be field trips to the court house, where we will attend real hearings in downtown Toronto courthouses, at 361 and 393 University Avenue.
Session 5: How to prepare for and succeed in law school, what bar exams and campus recruitment processes are like, and what comes after law school.
Comments from past students
After each session is over, I invite students to tell me what they thought about the program. Here is what they wrote.
Eddy wrote: “I had the opportunity to participate in Heather’s pre-law mentoring program this past summer, and it was a fantastic experience that deepened my understanding of basic legal concepts. Heather serves as an expert guide to walk her students through the fundamentals of legal research, how to read court decisions, the meaning and implications of certain legal terms, and how the law functions as a business within our current jurisprudential system. During the program, I had the opportunity to go to civil court, a high profile criminal court case, as well as tour the Osgoode Hall Law Library in downtown Toronto. It as this kind of experiential, hand-on learning that made the program so enjoyable and so valuable for me. As someone about to begin my first year of law school, I can think of no better preparation than this program – highly recommended!”
Abi wrote: “I’ve participated in this program for the summer of 2017, and it was great! Heather is very knowledgeable, and she really wants you to learn. She makes the program very interesting! I’ve learned so many new information that I didn’t know beforehand. Also, one of the best parts about this program is connecting with other like-minded individuals. I met other students, who are planning on attending law school, and who have gotten into law school. Heather also connected us with her previous student, who kindly imparted her knowledge about law, and she answered all of our questions! Networking is an essential part of being a lawyer, so being in this program puts you one step closer to your career goals!”
Natalie wrote: “I was a part of Heather’s pre-law mentoring program in 2018, and it was a very rewarding experience! The program gives great in-class overviews about legal concepts, legal research, the field of law, how to prepare for it, and what to expect, as well as a courtroom visit that gives you a better understanding about the legal system and courtroom processes in general. Heather is an amazing teacher, who’s very personable and willing to answer questions. This program is highly recommended if you want to gain some first-hand experience in the field in an enjoyable and interactive way.”
Prinsa wrote:”The pre-law program was a very unique and fun experience to get a better sense of how the law system works in Ontario. Every aspect of the program was so informative and eye opening that I truly enjoyed every minute of the program. I was able to learn about law terms, how to research cases online, how to case study, see lawyers and judges in action and much more. My favourite part of the program was going to court and seeing real life murder trials. This exposure demonstrated the realities of being a lawyer and why as a lawyer it is important to grow your knowledge about the latest cases. One thing that surprised me was seeing how slow cases progress in court. It was also surprising to see how little the judges are involved yet how intimidating they can be. Another thing that took me by surprise was how quickly lawyers have to think and respond to questions from the opposing council or the judge. To further enhance the program, I think a mock trial would help set us in the correct mindset of what it is like being a lawyer.
Andy wrote: “The summer of 2018 I was granted the opportunity to be apart of Heather Hui-Litwin’s pre-law mentoring program. Throughout the duration of this program, Heather examined the hierarchy of Ontario’s provincial and Canada’s federal legal system. With this examination, students learned about legal jargon and the specifics to how cases are decided by courts. In addition, Heather demonstrated where one can find free legal advice (clinics) and even ran mock tests on what we learned that were similar to the ones taken in law school. Furthermore, Heather organized a field trip in which the group toured Osgoode Hall and was even able to attend some court hearings. Overall, I had a splendid time being apart of Heather’s program. I learned a lot and with Heather’s help, I gained insight into the legal field and what is in store after my bachelor’s.”
(Applications are closed for this summer 2018.)
The ideal candidate has completed at least Third Year, has attained at least a B+ average, and is interested in becoming a lawyer in the area of litigation. The application should include a cover letter, stating why you are interested in this position, any community volunteer work you have participated in, and a list of public speaking engagements. Please also send in a CV and your transcript (a photocopy of the official transcript sent to the student will suffice for initial application stage). All documents should be sent by email to email@example.com, with subject heading “Pre-Law Mentoring Application”.