DLS intern Chris BurrAfter having spent the summer as a student caseworker at DLS, I have no hesitation in saying it was not only the most rewarding and enjoyable summer job I have ever had, but also that it has been the highlight of my first year at the law school.

Looking back, the developments I have made as an aspiring lawyer are almost too numerous to count: DLS has taught me a lot about the "how" of the law, not just the "what;" it has taught me about effective ways of dealing with clients, and that each client requires a different approach; it has taught me that the most sound argument is only as effective as the way it is presented; it has taught me that long, late nights and weekends pay off in the end; it has taught me that the greatest legal resource is not a book or a web site, but rather the colleague or review counsel across the hall. Perhaps most importantly, though, my confidence with the law in general has been completely transformed. I remember at the beginning of the summer, before my first set date at provincial court, I was terrified about getting up in front of the judge. I knew what I had to say, I knew it would only take 30 seconds and I had seen it done dozens of times, but as the prosecutor slowly approached my name on the list I wished I was anywhere but there. Now, just four months later, I'm excited by the thought of arguing about the admissibility of evidence with a prosecutor or taking a hard line in negotiations for early resolution. It was unexpected and impossible to quantify, but this growth in my confidence as an advocate is probably the most significant thing I will take away from the summer at DLS.

There was a moment about two days before the clinic closed where some of the other caseworkers and I were in an office, trading stories about the summer, when we realized that  we weren't going to be doing the kinds of things we'd each come to know and enjoy again for a very long time. There is no substitute for the kind of hands on, practical experience we all took out of the summer, and wherever we each end up next will in some ways feel like a step back; when is the next time we will be completely responsible for 20 or more clients, for representing them in court and administrative tribunals, for helping them in situations where the outcome can mean a significant change in their lives, positive or negative? Certainly we can look forward to this in the long term, but in subsequent summer jobs and articling appointments it is unlikely we will get the same level of responsibility and freedom to act.

In short, my time this summer was without compare, and I look forward to working with incoming students to share the enthusiasm. What I have learned will last forever as the foundation of my legal persona, and I am grateful for the experience.