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