Fighting the fight against a lack of information on Canadian Law Schools.
UG CGPA: ###
LS Class: ####
Sunday, April 10, 2005
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping...
...and I have the pleasure of watching it all from my living room window. I've thought about taking my books outside, but decided against it because I doubt I'll get much done. So the plan is to take a good break sometime during the day and go get some ice cream. Anybody want to join me?
So I didn't answer one question that someone posted... and that is regarding jobs other than those on Bay Street. Simple answer - there are plenty. In fact, it's a small percentage of LS students that get those jobs. A lot of people decide to work in smaller firms outside of downtown Toronto. They branch out into other areas in Ontario such as: Mississauga, North York, Hamilton, Ottawa, London. Some work for the government, some do clerkships while others go back home - Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax, etc. There are plenty of great opportunities outside of Canada's financial nucleus.
Most articling jobs are offered after the student works at the organization for his/her 2L summer. For Toronto, the job application process starts as early as September of the previous year whereas others start in January. Apparently the Toronto process is pretty drawn out and brutal - hopefully next year I'll be able to offer everyone an insider's view of that!
As far as what to do for your 1L summer, I've been told that you do whatever it is that you feel like - travel, volunteer, sit at home and play video games, work - because it is the last free summer you'll get. You don't have to do anything law-related. It's not a pre-requisite to getting interviews for 2L summer jobs.
However, a few people I know did manage to score law-related jobs in the summer. A friend of mine managed to secure one of the rare 1L Bay Street jobs with a large firm so he's set for his articling, unless he does something to really annoy his co-workers there. Another friend is working for a personal injury firm in London - he's actually been working there part-time during the year and is doing legal research on the lawyers' behalf. Another friend is a research assistant for our Torts prof. And another is the director of the Dispute Resolution Centre at the Faculty of Law here. She'll be conducting quite a few mediations over the summer. I actually interviewed for this job but, evidently, was not found to be the best person for the position.
It all worked out in the end though, because I was lucky enough to be interviewed for and offered a position as a supervisor of the Community Legal Services (CLS) at the Faculty of Law. CLS offers free legal services to those that can't afford a lawyer (and students of UWO). Sometimes we have to reject taking on clients based on their finances and at times it is a little heartbreaking because even though they might own a beat up old car and/or an old dilapidated house the idea is that they could sell it/them and pay for legal services. We have to do this because we have so many clients that don't own any assets whatsoever so we want to use our resources as efficiently as we can to those that really need our help. Of course, we do have some discretion when taking on clients depending on the type of case it is. This discretion is exercised by the Review Counsel (lawyers that run CLS - there are 3, including the Director). CLS handles criminal files (summary conviction offences), small claims court files, Landlord-Tenant issues, and some other provincial offences.
Each year, CLS hires approximately 10 supervisors (this year there are 11) to work during the summer and the school year. Supervisors are paid during the summer and are expected to handle approximately 25-30 files. During the school year, supervisors are unpaid and are expected to have duty hours to supervise students in the Litigation Practice (LP) course as well as volunteers. Supervisors are expected to handle 2-3 files during the school year.
I'm really excited about this as I'll be able gain valuable litigation experience over the summer. I've been volunteering there since about October and have really enjoyed myself. Let me tell you a bit about it. As a first year volunteer, I've had one duty hour a week and I've had the opportunity to interview a lot of people who come into the office - taking down their personal and financial information (to determine whether we can accept them as clients) as well as the fact situation (reason why they came in to seek help). These are called client intakes. There's a standardized form to follow so, although it's a bit intimidating when you first start, it's pretty easy to do. This is what first year volunteers (Associate Caseworkers) typically do. If you want to get involved, you can ask the supervisor of your duty hour and he/she will let you have greater input on either a file he/she is working on or on a file that a Caseworker on the LP course is working on (typically LP course participants handle 8 files in total).
I had the opportunity to help an LP course student out on his file and we got to go to the Ontario Rental and Housing Tribunal (ORHT) for a hearing where we settled our case in mediation. This was the best experience at CLS I've had so far because, although we settled, we were ready to present our case in front of the Tribunal members. The night before we were in the CLS office working on our case - going over all of the evidence, making sure we would be asking our clients the right questions in direct examinations, anticipating cross-examination questions. I tell you, my adrenaline was certainly pumping.
So, needless to say, I'm looking forward to getting started at CLS this summer. I've just got to get through exams...
...back to the books!
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Thanks for the comments.
My favourite class is Constitutional Law. It didn't start out that way. It was a bit difficult for me to catch up on everything - a lot of people already knew the background history, which makes it a bit easier to keep up with the pace of the class - and this prof just motors through the material. The reason why I started to like it were the two Labour Law Moots that I did, actually - just using it in 'practice' was a great experience. Not into Criminal law - I know I couldn't do that. And the only other class i really like is Torts. Not into Property or Contracts either... can't explain why, just don't interest me as much.
I don't think there's much of a connection between courses that you like and how well you do in them - but that's subjective. I did better in my Crim midterm than I did in Constitutional. I just found it an easier exam.
As far as a regular day is concerned, it's busy but I don't think it's as busy as a lot of people make it out to be. I know people who are in the library all day and all night and I also know people who are done their readings by 8pm and do just as well. It depends on how you work and what you take out of each set of readings. Some people go through the readings once or twice and make detailed notes on them. Others go through them once, highlight what they consider the important stuff (such as the facts of the case and the ratio) and then just supplement that with notes from class. I, on the other hand, am a 'light' worker - I skim through the readings highlight the ratio of each case and supplement that with the notes in class. If there's anything I'm not familiar with, I'll ask the prof. Otherwise, I just use those notes and previous summaries that I've come across and I'm usually able to apply that pretty well to old exams. The best advice I can give you is to keep up with the readings - the rest....you'll figure it out. I got a lot of advice from different people when I first started out. I just took whatever was right for me....
.....speaking of which.... I better start putting that stuff into practice - exams are coming up! ;p
Saturday, February 12, 2005
STINT @ BENNETT JONES
UWO Law has a student internship (STINT) program targeted mainly at first years. The idea is to match a 1L up with a lawyer in the city and area of specialization of choice for a day. Of course, not all 1L's get their top picks so we are told to give two or three different choices for practice areas. I chose corporate law and litigation and was matched up with Bennett Jones in Toronto along with another 1L.
The STINT day was a great experience. The Director of Professional Development, Debra Forman, decided to integrate the two of us into the Articling program - which meant that we would attend the weekly Friday seminar and were given a mock assignment based on that. The assignment was one that would be typically given to articling students and associates.
I live in Burlington which is about a half hour to forty minute drive from downtown Toronto. I left my house at around 7:30am and arrived downtown and parked by 8:30am. The traffic wasn't as bad as I thought. There was certainly traffic but it seemed to be moving pretty well. I'm not sure if this is typical of only Fridays (people skipping work?) but it's not such a bad drive. [I parked in Commerce Court which, I later found out that for a work day's worth, cost me $26. I couldn't believe it. But then again, small price to pay for an informative day such as that.]
I went up to the firm's offices to arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled meeting time at 9am. My fellow 1L arrived around the same time. We were greeted by Debra Forman and taken into one of the conference rooms. For the next hour we discussed the OCI process, the summer program, articling and anything else that we could think to ask her. Then we were joined by two partners who were a part of the Student Committee and they gave us their take on the hiring process and the student program at Bennett Jones. They also discussed their backgrounds and how they came to join the firm.
At around 10:30am we were taken to the library and were shown the library resources by the Librarian. The library was ... sweet! Great lighting, dark rich woods, oh and lots of books! The librarian, Jane Freeman, knew that place inside and out and was also really helpful later when it came to working through our assignment.
At 11 - 11:15ish, we met with the current Articling students and were given time to ask questions about the program and how they ended up there. The thing that intrigued me the most about the articling program at Bennett Jones was their 'Gatekeeper' innovation. Basically this means that any and all work going to the students is given to Debra who then divides the work out equally amongst the students. She does take into account each student's interests and allocates accordingly. This program is designed to foster cooperation and teamwork amongst the students. The students were also very happy with this and mentioned that some of their friends who were articling with other firms were somewhat jealous as it reduces internal competition for work.
From noon until 2pm, we sat in the lunch seminar (pizza, salad, fruit, cookies and beverages were provided). The topic was 'Security Enforcement and Receiverships" which dealt with the Ontario Personal Property and Security Act. The speaker was a senior associate at Bennett Jones who broke the topic down into bite-sized portions that even us lowly 1Ls were able to digest.
Then we were given our assignment and sent off to the library. The assignment was a typical Fact Scenario which included ten questions to answer. A first year associate (who is a Western alum) was assigned as our mentor. She helped us out on the assignment as she was starting to learn about the PPSA herself. She mentioned that this was a typical assignment that a student or first year associate would get (though not necessarily in the form of the ten easy-to-answer questions). Jane, the Librarian, also helped by pointing to where we could find annotated versions of the PPSA and helping us search through the text to the relevant sections. This process took us a couple of hours (it would have taken us less time but we sneaked in some discussion on UWO Law profs and sneaking food into the library). We didn't write anything down, just made sure that we could answer the questions given with reference to the PPSA and relevant case law.
Lastly, we had a half hour wrap up with Debra, given a tour of the offices and were sent on our way. I had such a great experience there. Everybody was so friendly and helpful that I almost felt like I should be coming back on the following Monday to start work!
So what did I learn from that? I want to work on Bay Street. The atmosphere in downtown Toronto is just electrifying. People are dressed to the nines, always walking with a purpose. Big things seem to be happening there. I can feel that from the 34th floor of a high rise and even in the bustling streets below. It's definitely given me that extra adrenaline to kick it up a notch.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Western Law pioneered the January Term in 1999, I believe (which Ottawa later copied - largely because Dean Bruce Feldthusen is an Alum and also former Professor of Western Law). The January Term at Western Law is a specialised semester that features the "active learning" component of Western Law's curriculum - students take one specialised course in this semester while regular classes are suspended until February.
For Upper Year students, the January Term is a chance to take a month-long intensive course from a range of courses, half of which are taught by distinguished Visiting Professors.
For the 1L's, the January Term focuses on Legal Research, Writing and Advocacy (LRWA). I have to tell you, I learn a lot during this term. At the beginning of January, each small group is given their respective Fact Scenarios in their small group area of study. My small group is Torts so we were given a scenario that dealt with conspiracy to injure and interference with economic relations. Now the students aren't really supposed to know about the particular area of law they are presented with. The point is to develop the student's research skills to find out about the laws pertaining to the given scenario. The idea of the term in general is to mimic a client file from start to finish in a firm setting.
The Fact Scenario places the student in the role of an associate of a firm. The client would like to know his/her chances with regards to his/her particular problem. The first assignment is a memo to be handed in to the partner in charge of the file (small group prof). The memo is supposed to be completely impartial and is supposed to asssess the client's claims in a neutral manner, while assessing the chances of success of each claim. The idea here is to take each claim that the client brings to the firm and break them down into their individual elements and evaluate each one separately and then form a conclusion once the analysis of those elements are complete. For example, conspiracy to injure (also known as simple conspiracy) has three elements: agreement and execution between two or more to act; a predominant purpose to injure the plaintiff; and economic loss to the plaintiff attribuitable to the act. I evaluated each one of those steps in my memo and then assessed the chance of success for the claim as a whole for the client. I did the same for the tort of interference with economic relations.
Next assignment is the advocacy part. There are two evaluation steps for this stage - the factum and the moot. An addendum to the first fact scenario is handed out stating that the client filed the claim(s) and the trial judge gave a certain judgment. There is to be an appeal of this judgment at the Western Law Moot Court of Appeal. The factum is basically the oral arguments a lawyer wishes to make with the relevant supporting materials (case law, statutes, other secondary sources including academic texts). The arguments here are not impartial but must rather present the best possible case for the client. The issues are laid out in the fact scenario addendum and both sides argue whether the judge did or did not err on those issues. As in the description of the BLG Labour and Employment Moot described earlier, students are paired up in teams to prepare the factum and are given a time slot (a week after handing in the memo) against another team. A day or two before the moot (depending on when your particular time slot is) you exchange factums with the opposing counsel and provide two copies to the appellate judges (small group prof and his/her TA's). This gives each team time to look over the opposing counsel's arguments in order to strengthen their oral arguments. [On a real appeal, the respondent's lawyer would see the appellant's factum before writing his/her factum.]
Next is the moot. The appellant's side speaks first and then the respondent. Usually (in moots), the appellant gets 35 minutes, the respondent gets 40 minutes, and then the appellant has another 5 to rebut. But the teams were discouraged from using the last 5 to rebut - so it was an even 40/40 split. Students are then given a 5-10 minute break before feedback is given by the "judges". Incidentally, I used "I submit" and "My factum" a couple of times when you're really supposed to say "The respondent submits" and "The respondent's factum". But otherwise, I did quite well.
The most important thing I learned from the January Term: preparation is key - know the facts, be as thorough as you can when researching and know the cases you cite. It's amazing how often that comes up, isn't it? It's so important when preparing the memo and then going on to prepare the factum and then presenting your oral arguments. I felt quite confident when speaking during the moot because I made sure I knew my materials as well as opposing counsel's materials inside and out. I may have stammered a bit here and there but not due to not knowing what to say next. Rather, my mouth couldn't keep up with what was going through my head. I had twenty minutes to speak and it flew by. You have to prepare your oral arguments in such a way that you make sure you get the most hard-hitting points out in the time allotted because the judges will interject and make you fight for those key points.
So that was the January Term. I get back to school on Monday where my regular classes begin. I have a bit of a different schedule though - one more 8am class and one more 9am. Bleugh! Also, since we're done with Foundations of Canadian Law we have picked up an extra course in Ethics. This should be a good course since I've had to deal with a couple of ethical issues at the legal clinic where I've been volunteering (more about that later - my time there not the particular cases...because that would be unethical).
The question about Foundations - interesting course, but I don't really find it too useful. It's a history course describing the events that shaped our present legal system in Canada. The exam was closed book and not too well written in my opinion. There were just a lot of discrepancies with the questions. We had a multiple choise section and an essay to write. An example of one of the discrepancies, is that one MC question gave a list of dates and asked which was the most influential date in Canada's independence from Britain. One of the choices in the essay question gave the same thing but narrowed it down to two dates. Now, I'm not sure if I just didn't get it at the time but why are we asked to be objective in one question and then allowed to give an opinion in the next? Even if the essay question is supposed to be objective - it doesn't seem fair that quite a few marks hang on the choice of a date.
Anyway... I'm looking forward to getting back to school and starting the new semester with what I learnt from the Fall semester. I have to get my hair cut right now because I had signed up for the STINT (student internship) program at school where they match you up with a lawyer mentor for a day in your area of interest. I've been matched up with Bennett Jones for tomorrow! I'll tell you all about it over the weekend.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
HEEEEEEEERE'S... ah never mind, that's lame...
So, I'm back... from exams, from the break and from Law Games. All, in a word, fun.
Seriously, exams were fun. I'm not being cocky because I know I was riding the B-curve. I actually just enjoyed writing the exams. I realised after first semester that I enjoy law school - every single bit of it, even exams! (Hmm, have I said the word 'exams' enough?) I've never experienced that before. In my undergrad and at work there was always something that I found utterly uninteresting. And even though there was a course in my first semester (ahem, Foundations of Canadian Law) that I didn't really find too useful, it was still exciting to read about the historical events contributing to the development of our legal system.
So why were exams fun? It's almost a game. You're given a particular issue and you have to write down everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) relating to that issue. Example: person A comes to you because he/she is charged under a regulatory offence (fact scenario provided). Discuss his/her liability. The point here is that you're not defending them. You're giving an impartial opinion stating all laws that affect them adversely and positively. It's interesting to hear what some of the other students write because, even though we're essentially using the same case law and/or statutes, the approaches taken are so varied. And that was true for every subject.
There were six exams in total (Criminal, Contracts, Constitutional, Foundations of Canadian Law, Property and Torts) spread out over two weeks. So we had at least a full day between each exam day. My Torts prof told us to 'study and pass through the exam period at a steady pace because it's a marathon rather than a sprint'. I am glad I heeded his advice by spreading out my studying and still doing the things that I enjoy such as going to the gym or just letting my brain take a break by watching tv. I saw a few people all good to go at the beginning of the exam period and near the end it looked like they were about to burn out.
Other advice that came in handy concerned course summaries. Preparing in advance is so helpful because it forces you to learn and know the course material quite a bit before the exam and will also give you time to use the summarries on old exams. This way you will rely on it less during the exams and when you do need it you will know exactly what you are looking for and where to find it. Now I know that a lot of upper years go into exams with summaries that are less than ten pages in length but most of us first years had at least twenty five-page summaries. Lack of experience allowed us to fall into the habit of writing as much down as we could for use in the exam. I guess, it was more of a comfort thing - it's nice to know that you can look up the material in your summary should you need it. But that shouldn't be necessary if you've prepared and practiced with your summary in advance. This will force you to know the material in any casebook or textbook that you've used throughout the semester. They're open book exams so if you need to look anything up you'll know where to look for it in the book(s). So I guess this is as much advice to me as to anyone else.
I'm not really sure what else I can write about the exams. Although I can write about the specifics of each exam there would be no point because the concept was the same for all - write down everything. Oh and because of that there is one other thing I can say...practice writing out stuff. I got so used to typing things out on my laptop that I was a real mess when it came to actually using a pen during exams. My hand hurt and my handwriting... well, I'm going to have to practice that. You have to be quick AND neat. But that raises an interesting point: why should law students have to handwrite exams when we will never have to submit anything to client, partner or otherwise that is handwritten? (Please correct me if that is not the case, although I don't think there will be any objections.) UWO is currently experimenting with using computers in exams so hopefully we have access to that soon.
Law Games...is another post. I got back Sunday night (Jan. 9th). It's now Tuesday evening...and my head still hurts.
The answer to the question on what I gained through all those competitions is experience and confidence. It's a bit nerve-wracking getting up in front of experienced lawyers who are looking to find any little flaw in your presentation...and believe me, they WILL find more than a few. It's not just flaws in argument. Being a first year law student, I knew I wouldn't really be able to cover all the bases in a legal issue sense. It's so much more than what you say, it's also how you say it. Tone, posture, facial expression all count in the delivery. There's no one way to do something but rather there are different, yet effective, ways of delivery depending on the circumstances. For instance, you might act one way during a cross-examination with a complacent witness and a completely different with a rather difficult witness.
The most important piece of advice that I was given (that I didn't really take because I didn't want to take any more time away from school) was "Prepare, prepare, prepare! And know your case inside and out!" I really do believe that if I was 100% prepared, it would have given me that much more confidence when I was speaking to make a difference in how I was being judged.
Thanks, Mr. Black, for the book suggestion. I'm starting a reading list for the summer so that book will definitely go on there.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
This is a trial advocacy competition, and I would have to say is the most fun out of all of them. Again, as with all the previous competitions, a case is argued with teams of two opposing each other. A hypotheitical case is given and the object of the exercise is to present your case based on witness testimony. Each side brings their own witness (a friend who is nice enough to give up a couple of hours of their evening to role play) whose testimony they would present in their examination-in-chief and they would also be allowed to cross-examine the opposing witness. The format is as follows:
Opening Statement (Plaintiff)
Opening Statement (Defendant)
Cross-examination of Plaintiff
Cross-examination of Defendant
Closing Statement (Plaintiff)
Closing Statement (Defendant)
Each examination of the witness is allotted a 10 minute time limit and the opening and closing statements are allotted 5 minutes each. Since there are 2 per side, each person gets to present 2 sections of the trial. I presented the cross-examination and the closing statement for the defendant.
Before the competition, all participants attended a 'skills session' hosted by Lerners LLP where a partner of the firm gave us tips on how to approach the different sections of the trial.
The opening and closing statements are like the introduction and conclusion of an essay where a theory [of the case] is presented and restated respectively. The opening introduces the facts that the judges will hear from the witnesses and the conclusion reiterates the main facts that support your case.
The examinations of the witnesses is where the fun comes in - where you really get to play the role of the advocate. "The examination-in-chief is all about the witness" we were told. The focus has to be on them, as if they were telling a story to the judge or jury. So the questions have to be open-ended. They have to allow the witness to tell their side of the story and bring up the main points of their defence. It brings out their persona, sets the scene of the event(s) in question from their perspective and should make the listener feel compelled to side with that witness. It's difficult to do this without asking 'leading' questions - questions that direct the witness to say what you, as their counsel, want them to say. The jury can easily pick up on this and that can work against you.
"The cross-examination is all about the you." All focus goes to counsel asking the questions. The questions must be direct and to the point where the only answers required are either "yes" or "no". These questsions must paint a picture of the witness to the detriment of their case and must strengthen yours. This is pretty fun because you can be quick and snappy and ask questions that really make that witness look bad. In the meanwhile you can look like a bit of an ass but not necessarily. It all depends on how you approach it. I decided to use the slightly sarcastic confused approach when tearing apart her testimony, which worked pretty well. BUT I made the mistake of asking a couple of questions which had answers that were clearly open to debate... DO NOT make this mistake in a cross-examination because even the slowest of witnesses can run away with these types of questions and you can end up losing control of the examination very quickly.
There was quite a bit of preparation that went this on our team's part because we felt that our case must follow our theory of the case throughout. We made sure that what each of us presented in our sections would fit well together and that there was no repetition unless it was to show different sides of an issue. I would say that the examinations took the longest time to prepare for because it is tricky to formulate the questions to draw out a story in the examination-in-chief and also difficult to make sure you are asking only direct questions, while still making valid points and inferences, in the cross-examination.
In this competition you are judged on your presentation skills and how well you controlled the subject matter of your sections to your sides advantage. In this competition, individuals advance to the final round rather than teams because you are judged individually.
BLG Client Counselling Competition
This one was short and sweet. Not much preparation went into this. Basically, a team of two people would be judged on how well they interviewed a potential client from start to finish. Even the wrap-up between the two team members, when the 'client' leaves the office, is judged. The objective of this is to see how well you can interview a client in terms of making them feel at ease (small talk, explaining fees, etc), drawing out their concerns, formulating a plan of action and next steps, and then evaluating yourselves afterward.
It's quick and dirty - takes about 45 minutes to do including feedback from the judges. The only preparation we did for this was to draw up a fake information package for our pretend law firm. Since the topic for this year's competition was Sports and Entertainment Law (we were told this in the info session) my partner, Aaron Lee-Wudrick, and I decided to name our law firm PLAY LLP (Purohit, Lee-Wudrick, Andrews, Young) and we created a logo for it with a one pager inside stating what the firm did and confidentiality and lawyers' fees and all that. The judges and the 'client' were impressed so that earned us some brownie points.
And that's all the competitions that I could participate in this semester! I'm actually in the middle of exams right now so I'll try and post soon about the actual exams and the exam period. It's an experience, that's for sure.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Sam, I won't be posting any pictures because all the ones I have are of nights of drunken debauchery. I also have pictures of my girlfriend but I think she would get quite upset with me, even though it would make this site a whole lot prettier. But posting pictures is a good idea and I will try to remember to take my camera around to the law school and its events as much as I can so that I can put up some LS-related pictures.
So... the next competition...
The BLG Labour and Employment Law Moot
You may have heard the term 'moot' before. Most probably you heard it in the context of "a moot point" where 'moot' is given the definition of 'no practical importance' or 'irrelevant'. So a moot in the LS sense is essentially a mock trial. I'm not sure if students are given completely hypothetical cases usually but we were given a case that had recently been resubmitted to the arbitrator by the BC Court of Appeal - and our moot was based on an appeal of this decision.
The way it works is that there are two teams of two representing different sides. Each side is given half an hour to speak. The appellants go first for twenty five minutes, then the respondents speak for thirty minutes and the remaining five minutes are for the appellants to respond to the respondents' arguments, if they wish. The time you are given is split between the two team members however you may wish, but half an hour (or twenty five minutes in the appelants' case) is all you get. During that time the judges (3 lawyers from BLG) will interrupt you throughout your delivery and hammer away at the points that you make. This makes a lot of people nervous as the judges tend to throw you off your train of thought causing you to jump around the progression of points that you intended to make.
You are judged on how well you deliver your points and how well you handle the questions posed to you. The most valuable thing I learned from this is to be prepared. Those that know what their own points are as well as the facts of the case generally do the best. If you know your material then you will not have to look down at your paper and you will be able to speak and answer questions with confidence.
Next time I'll talk about the Cherniak Cup.