The Importance of the CBBO Network

By Tommy Friedlich, CBB of Ottawa Alumnus

The CBBO Network

In March 2020, just a few days before the country first went into lockdown, I was midway through my first year of Law School at the University of Ottawa. The University and law firms from around the province arrange an annual Career Fair where students can meet professionals from different firms and ask questions, network, and learn about being a lawyer. It is stressful, intimidating, and humbling to walk into a room of so many unfamiliar faces and spark up random conversations (although, not quite as intimidating as meeting parents on Visiting Day). As I walked through the entrance, out walked one of my old counselors from way back in the day. We both did a double-take, chatted for a few minutes, and he told me to come say hi to him and his firm later on. In I went, only to bump into another old counsellor, who I remember gave us all a hard time in Grey Cup practice. Suddenly, the daunting day felt a little more manageable.

The more I looked into the legal world in Ontario, and scrolled for hours down the “People,” “Lawyer,” and “Team” pages on law firm websites, the more I saw familiar names and faces. Even better, those familiar people knew other people they could put me in touch with. The CBBO network is cast wide and far, riddled with people who want to help.

As we all know, camp is a great place to mature, learn, and build transferable skills to use wherever life takes you. What’s more, however, is you unconsciously build a network of people who also grew up painting their face blue or white on that Monday morning in August or slamming on the table next to you every Friday night. These are people who you may lose touch with, but have that instant connection with no matter where you end up.

More recently in February and March 2021, I participated in the formal recruitment process for Toronto law firms. In nearly every interview I had, I was asked about camp or told a story from camp. More often than not, the interviewer would crack a smile and reminisce with me about growing up at summer camp. In two instances, Partners of law firms told me they attended a B’nai Brith Camp in Canada and we compared stories and life lessons. Yes, what they say is true, some people don’t see camp as an opportunity to gain valuable skills to help you excel in the working world. However, with some guidance from the camp administration and the CBBO mentors, you can articulate the value camp has had on your professional development. At such a young age, you hold a great amount of responsibility; from managing, training, and evaluating staff, to overseeing the health and safety of hundreds of campers, to creating programs catered specifically to your campers – all while working within a budget. The experiences and skills gained at camp are innumerable. 

My Mentorship Experience

The first person I met at CBBO as a first year A-Boy in 2008 was Jonathan Sherman. He was a Waterski Staff and a Specialist in my bunk. Many of the positions he held at camp I later filled, such as Waterski Staff, Head of Ski, and Head of Waterfront. When I was applying to Law School, I learned that Jonathan had made Partner at his firm, Cassels. I was then introduced to CBBO’s mentorship program, where I learned that Jonathan was one of the Mentors. I knew he would be a great person to get in touch with, so I proceeded to submit my mentee application. A few days later, I received an email from CBBO saying that I have been matched, and my mentor was Jonathan! 

Fast forward to summer 2020, Jonathan had put me in touch with some friends of his that worked at Canopy Rivers, a venture capital firm on Bay Street that specializes in cannabis companies. I ended up interning for their legal department and earning a course credit and valuable experience from it. Now those lawyers are in my network too. Jonathan was also instrumental in helping me prepare for my interviews over the past few months.

My story is not unique. I know many of my peers have also greatly benefitted from the advice and support from their mentors, and we all are grateful for it and awaiting the day that we can pass on the favours.

A lot of people come into Law School having never met a lawyer. I am lucky to have a few in my extended family and to have some old counselors who are willing to put me in touch with their network and give me some words of wisdom too. All of us, having spent one month, or fourteen summers, at CBBO, are a part of that network and we should be grateful for it – not everybody is as lucky. 

So, I leave you with two final remarks. Firstly, I encourage all staff and supervisors to stay at camp for as long as you can. The experience you gain each and every summer is incomparable to any internship you would receive in the city. Secondly, I encourage everyone wanting to learn about a program, job, or industry to sign up for the CBBO mentorship program and take advantage of the CBBO network, something that we are all so fortunate to be a part of.

Tommy Friedlich (Left – 2010, Right – 2021)