COVID-19 has drastically changed the LAWS Summer Job Program this year, with far fewer placements being available to students and the majority of those placements operating virtually. As such, we are grateful to those employers who have continued with the program in 2020, especially those who are joining us for the first time. One of these new employers is Counter Tax Lawyers, a boutique law firm in Toronto specializing in tax litigation.
Inspired by the global Black Lives Matter movement, Counter has asked themselves what actions they can take to support the movement and create greater equality. Already at the core of Counter’s values are diversity and inclusion. The firm believes in collective intelligence and values the different backgrounds and perspectives that each of their team members or “Counterpart” brings. So in order to take action and promote the Counter belief that everyone is stronger together, Sean Monahan, an Osgoode student who interned at Counter this summer, proposed getting involved with LAWS. “We wanted to introduce a high school student to Counter and have a positive impact on their life,” Sean stated. After all, in the words of Seth Godin, a past guest on Counter’s podcast:
The other thing that’s worth saying is none of us are going to live forever and all of us have a chance. That chance comes with obligation that we won the birthday lottery. We were born in the right place at the right time in the right country with the right resources. One of our obligations is to make our community better. We get an enormous number of privileges. It seems to me that those things come with obligations.
As a result of all of this, Counter got on board with the LAWS 2020 Summer Job Program.
The LAWS Summer Job Program provides LAWS high school students with engaging and inspiring early work experiences by exposing them to professional workplaces and introducing them to positive role models. Placements are between four and eight weeks in length and take place in July and/or August. This year, Counter had the pleasure of working with Romone Williams, an incoming grade twelve LAWS student at Westview Centennial Secondary School. During Romone’s four week placement at Counter, he was tasked with important work for the firm, such as helping lawyers format and send charts to their clients, drafting general tips for Counter’s clients related to examinations for discovery, working with the marketing and communications department to publish internal articles, and building a server with Counter’s IT department.
Just as Romone contributed to Counter’s workload, the firm invested its time during Romone’s placement towards his professional growth. Jennifer Mak and Sean Monahan, Romone’s main supervisors during his placement, helped Romone improve his cover letter, resume, and soft skills. One highlight of the summer was when Romone stepped out of his comfort zone to lead a Daily Huddle, a meeting consisting of all Counterparts where they socialize and share progress on their work, by facilitating the conversation and hosting a “get to know me” quiz. Counter also setup coffee chats for Romone so that he could gain insight on the different types of work that take place at the firm, such as that of paralegals. Through this diverse experience, Romone has honed in on computer engineering or law as his top career choices.
For employers who are unsure of taking on a LAWS summer student, Counter has just a few thoughts to share. In the words of Peter Aprile, Counter’s founder:
I see that Counter’s participation in the LAWS program gave us something that we value. I wonder whether people miss or overlook the value that they will gain. I believe that a law firm – and a legal community – filled with people that bring different backgrounds, experiences, and gifts helps to increase our collective intelligence. It helps to see and think in new ways. I think it makes us better litigators and better humans.
Counter believes there’s an obligation in law to think about how to give back and strive for greater equality in the legal profession. LAWS is just one of the opportunities to put your words into action. As evident through Counter’s experience with the LAWS Summer Job Program, a LAWS summer student is rewarding both for the student and the firm. “I am grateful to LAWS and Romone for the things that they gave to us,” states Peter.
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