Fighting the fight against a lack of information on Canadian Law Schools.
UG CGPA: ###
LS Class: ####
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.