Reflections of Ex-Intern, Greg Ong

I wasn’t in law school. I had no prior experience in the legal industry. I didn’t have any defining achievements to speak of. Yet, for some unknown reason (planetary alignment perhaps), the partners at OTP Law Corporation decided to take a gamble and offer me an internship. This is the account of my month-long internship with them and why you, too, should apply for a spot there.

I had gotten interested in interning here easily enough, research on a separate project leading me to this firm’s website and its numerous awards in pro bono work (bonus points to the enterprising applicant who figures out how long that list actually is, not all of their achievements are actually reflected on this site). Reading the reflections of interns past, I became curious about interning at OTP too. Indeed, my own reflections here will be directed to all of you other aspiring lawyers looking for a suitably enjoyable and interesting internship.

The application process is easy enough, simply submit your cover letter and CV through the website. For this stage, it really helps to look around the website and get a feel of what they do before writing a cover letter. The cover letter is essentially your chance to stand out from the hoard of law students desperate for an internship, tailoring it to the firm definitely won’t hurt your chances of securing an interview. If you’re lucky impressive enough, they’ll schedule you for an interview with two (sometimes three) lawyers. This isn’t as scary as it sounds, they ask you some general questions to get a feel of how you think (standard General Paper techniques should suffice here) followed by an informal chat to get to know you better. For successful applicants, they tend to arrange internship dates at the interview as well, so it’s important to go in knowing which month (they prefer taking in interns on a per month basis) you’re available for.

 

Now that you know what to do to get an internship here, you might be asking why you should dedicate a full month of your holidays to this firm over others. OTP is a small firm, about as small as they get without being a sole proprietorship. While this might be a turn-off to those who prefer chasing after larger and more well-known firms, it’s important to note the many perks of being an intern in small firms (I write this after having had further internships, these are my own observations and might not be indicative of the dynamics between all large firms or all small firms).

First off, the smaller size means you get to know everyone in the firm, from the partners to their supporting staff. This translates into a very open environment where you can approach a grizzled veteran of the industry just to clarify legal points or ask questions about being in practice. In larger firms however, it tends to become much more hierarchical with a distinct wall of associates and trainees limiting your contact with the partners.

Moreover, when working on cases you get involved in every step of the way, from drafting letters and doing legal research to filing court documents and attending client meetings. This allows for a much bigger perspective on the kind of work that goes into each case. In contrast, the work at a larger firm is much more segmented, where you address a specific part of the issue before they point you towards a different case and a different task. Working there is essentially being a small cog in part of a much bigger machine. Tasks assigned to you takes on a much more specialized and less personal form. While this is by no means a bad thing on its own, I do feel that the exposure one gains in learning all the different aspects in a single case is an essential experience to have.

For all the litigation lovers out there, OTP might be the firm for you. In the month that I interned, I had the opportunity to attend a mediation, a Court of Appeals hearing and a High Court trial. While having this holy trinity of court experiences in a single month is definitely out of the norm (planetary alignment again perhaps), this is certainly an indication of the volume of litigation work that they have. Behind all the glamour of attending court, I also got to experience the preparation that leads up to it. Whether it be reading the filed affidavits and statements to catch up on the case or making bundles of documents for court, the people at OTP would always go out of their way to make sure I was as involved as possible in the run-up to court proceedings.

Overall, I would have to say that my month here in OTP has been nothing short of fantastic. This glimpse into the realities of the legal profession has been incredibly insightful and has left me wanting more. I’d like to extend my gratitude to all members of OTP Law Corporation, they’ve certainly gone the extra mile to ensure that my internship was as enriching and educational as possible.

To all of you prospective interns out there, good luck.

Greg Ong
Awaiting Admission to University of Liverpool in Sep 2015
Internship period Apr 2015