Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Government Side

On Monday, the Ministry of the Attorney General opened its doors to law school students. Future lawyers from all over Ontario converged on Toronto to check out what they have to offer. After the corporate law firm tour, I wanted to see how the government side compared.

Initial Impression:
Disorganized and unenthusiastic. When I arrived 10 minutes early, the organizers were discussing how there were going to set things up. They asked me to come back. Hmmmm. The initial speaker, a deputy minister, delivered his welcome address in a monotone drone that just about put me to sleep. Thankfully, caffeine offset my waning consciousness. The speach piqued when he said (with absolutely no emotion!) that he was “enthusiastic” of our future prospects at the Ministry. Ha! I just about laughed out loud. Maybe I watch too much Jon Stewart – that stuff cracks me up.

I was very impressed with the folks from the Crown’s Office. The appeared intelligent, (actually) enthusiastic, and prepared. A student from Osgoode Hall asked a rather pointed question about the moral dilemma of fighting for the Crown which was fielded by the panelists very well. One rep went to far as to say that individuals interested in fighting for social justice are hired as prosecutors (and if your passion is in defence, it’s easier to more from the crown to defence than vice-versa). Very useful knowledge.

I was also impressed with the branch dealing with constitutional claims. 18 lawyers with 3 articling students (up from 2 last year). They deal with everything from claims to freedom of speech to religious rights. That would be fun.

I have to admit, I was disappointed. These lawyers wield incredible power to effect change. They decide which cases will go to trial, and they are responsible for working with (mostly ignorant) politicians to draft sound legislation. I would HOPE that they’re sharp and passionate about what they do. Instead, they came across as comfortable bureaucrats who accepted "20 – 24 month turn around schedules". I guess I have some thinking to do.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

15,000 shareholders hire 630 lawyers to sue Deutsche Telekom

Alcohol and Lawyers

At Queen's, we have drinking parties called "smokers". I have no idea if this is a Queen's thing or a law thing, but it always involves a lot of drinking. In general, events with law students seem to involve a lot of alcohol. I read on Anonymous Lawyer's blawg that:
Lawyers are all drunks anyway. I'd bet there are less than a half-dozen partners here without a bottle of liquor somewhere in their offices. And some mouthwash, to hide the smell when you're drinking at ten in the morning.
OK then. Now I see where the drinking leads. And it seems to be a problem in Canada as well. The National Judicial Assistance Program states:
There are estimates that between 10% and 15% of the general population in Canada suffers from the disease of alcoholism. The percentage in the legal profession is higher than in the general population. A study by Health and Welfare Canada in 1993, revealed that 35% of lawyers were problem drinkers.
A word of warning comes from the Legal Profession Assistance Conference:
Any alcoholic lawyer who practices in a profession where the identification and treatment of the alcoholic is not a priority, is sentenced to a life of despair and loneliness, default and defeat, dread and death.
Yikes! So how did this situation arise anyhow? If the number is as high as 35%, we are not just talking about the guys who representing the Mercks of the world. If I were helping them plague the world with murderous drugs, I would probably drink myself into a stupour regularily as well. But 35% is more than the profligate opportunists among us. (I hope!!) Are lawyers just too stressed out and overworked? From the firm tour, it seems like many corporate lawyers are putting in 60, 70, 80 hour weeks. That's a lot, but I remember when I was working in finance we would work 65 - 70 hour weeks and I wouldn't say anyone was a drunk. Hmmmmmm. . .

Mental note: drink in moderation. ;)

Monday, November 22, 2004


Outlines, outlines, everybody's talking about outlines. In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, I spent the weekend outlining. I attempted Torts and Contract Law. Let me tell you: it was not fun. If I had the mojo, I would follow Lawfool's friend:
[O]ne of our Dean's Fellows said that they did not outline at all. I asked my classmate what 'they' were going to do at the final and 'they' said - "I'm going to use my notebook - with all my notes in it - that is what I took them for."
Alas, I'm not nearing bright enough to get away with that. Instead, as the Lawfool blogger, I will be slaving away to make heads or tails of my notes in preparation for our exams. Isn't it odd that I have such a hard time decifering my own notes? Is this normal? As I've been reviewing, I've been trying to be more explicit in my notes so that I have more context to the statement I scribble down, but still, sometime I wonder, 'what the heck was I thinking at that time?'

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Corporate Law Firms

On Friday we toured some firms on Toronto's infamous Bay Street. Our first stop was Fraser Milner. Although the initial representatives who greeted us were young and friendly, the speakers were almost all old, white men. The one exception was a woman in Competition Law who didn't even seem to get along with the Old Boyz sitting next to her. They were a pretty sad lot.

The worst part was listening to the partner handling class action law suits. He seemed to be the typical selfish, only-in-it-for-the-money lawyer who gives the profession a bad name. He started by saying that he loves his job because he gets to travel so much. Miami in winter, Europe, et cetera. Not the clients, not the issues, not what he's doing for society (which is nothing) - he likes the travel. When he spoke of the individuals bringing "alleged" injuries forward (as part of a mass group), his voice was full of disdain. How does this guy sleep at night? I kept thinking of Vioxx - would he argue that 39-year-old Janet Huggins did not die because of the drug? Guys like him represent the Merck's of the world. I know someone's got to do the job, but when they do it just for money and travel I can't respect that. Definitely not my cup of tea.

Then we went to Osler Hoskin and Harcourt LLP. Although the firms in general look the same, there was a distinct change going from Fraser to Osler's. The panelists were not old, stoggy men. Instead, they were young, dynamic, stylish lawyers who enjoyed being challenged and appreciated diverseness. It was like a breath of fresh air. Another huge plus from Osler's is that they offer guaranteed hire-back for their articling students. Unlike most firms, the students aren't all competing with each other. It creates a professional, relaxed atmosphere. I imagine everyone at Osler's loves their job.

I'd recommend the tour for anyone thinking of working on Bay Street. Before the tour, I didn't think I would ever want to end up there, but now I'm not so sure. It could be that Osler's does, in practice, all the same nasty things of the other firms, but it seemed better. Hmmm. . . . did I just succumb to their marketing ploy?

[I should add that I shared my opinions on Osler's with a classmate and he wasn't nearly as impressed. He felt like the whole thing was a show and we were the audience. He admitted that they put on a better show than the others but he wouldn't grant that they were any better of a firm. Could be . . . ]

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Sri Lanka adopts Death Penalty (again)

I was disappointed to read that the government of Sri Lanka has reimplemented the death penalty. Canada and Sri Lanka both banned it in 1976 but unlike Canadian justices, judges in Sri Lanka have not discontinued to sentence convicted individuals with death. In the last 28 years, when a Sri Lankan court used the death penal, the sentence was commuted to life in prison.
BBC article: Sri Lanka reintroduces executions
President Chandrika Kumaratunga said the death penalty would be applied for murder, rape and drugs trafficking.
I think this is grave mistake - and I'm speaking from experience. In the fall of 2002, we were living in Washington DC and I took the bus to work everyday. On October 2nd, the first victim of the “Beltway snipers” was shot dead. The next day, four others were killed, included a man who was standing at a bus stop. Neither my fiancée nor I had ever been in a situation where our lives were at risk; we could have been killed for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. During those unsettling weeks, we avoided going out in public and whenever we did venture outside, we were on edge. In the morning, I would literally hide behind the bus stop bench, and invariably the talk at work was focused on the snipers.

When they finally arrested Muhammad and Malvo on October 24th, the attention of our neighbours and the American media turned to how ensure that both men would get death sentences. Unlike my American coworkers, I don’t think capital punishment is ever justifiable. Even with the fear still fresh in my bones, I never wavered in my convictions.

American Governor Ryan agrees with me. A few months after the sniker attack in Washington, he cleared out Illinois’ death row. Many Americans realize that the death penalty doesn't make sense. According to Death Penalty Info, an American non-profit:
The abolition of the death penalty in Canada in 1976 has not led to increased homicide rates. Statistics Canada reports that the number of homicides in Canada in 2001 (554) was 23% lower than the number of homicides in 1975 (721), the year before the death penalty was abolished. In addition, homicide rates in Canada are generally three times lower than homicide rates in the U.S., which uses the death penalty.
The Sri Lankan government should rethink their actions.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Mac Software

A fellow law student/ Mac user gave me some tips that I want to pass along. His recommended open-source software (with my commentary):

Downloaded Adium today. It's a little program that combines MSN/ AIM/ Yahoo/ ICQ/ Jabber and all the other ones. I used before Proteus but I got sick of the nagware and it wasn't worth paying for. Adium is wonderful.

Firefox - I'm still very happy with Safari, but this is a close second.

Open Office - An alternative to Microsoft's Office suite. Free. No strings. If I hadn't already forked over for MSOffice, I would definitely go this route.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Queens Law Journal

Things are rollin' along at the Journal. It was funny, at the beginning many first years wanted to volunteer with the Journal. We submitted our applications, about 20 were selected, and 5 were put on the waiting list. Our first duties as volunteers was to check citations on papers submitted to the Journal. It was not a difficult task, but it was very time consuming. One editor said it would probably "just take a couple of afternoons". Yikes. Then we were to write abstracts on the papers. From my point of view, these were really good assignments, but fellow volunteers were not so cheery. All the volunteers on the waitlist have had the chance to join, if they were still so inclined.

The next time you pick up a law school journal, remember: a ton of work goes into it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

site: "Sorry Everybody"

Apologetic American

A picture that's worth a thousand words (plus 11).

Monday, November 15, 2004

Bay Street Tour

We have a tour scheduled to visit Toronto's Bay Street firms coming up. Since Orientation we've been barraged by Bay Street hype. "$1300 a week". "1750 billable hours". "Only top 5% of the class will make it". Et cetera. Honestly, I don't expect to end up on Bay Street, but it has piqued my curiosity.

I was looking at one of the firms we have slated on our tour: Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. On their website, they have a multiple choice test "to see if O, H & H is right for you". They say it's a "simple" test. OK, you have to take it. It's not long - only 12 questions. Give it a whirl! Personally, I only scored 3/12, so I guess they're not for me. :)


Powell should have left

before the election. I remember a couple of years ago he said publicly that he would not stay with the Bush Administration if Bush was elected to a second term. He got a lot of flak but he spoke his mind. Gotta respect that. Unfortunately, if he had resigned before the election, it may have swayed enough voters away from Bush . . . Ah, I probably shouldn't dwell on the what ifs. I know, only 4 more years.

When I was in Washington I actually met Colin Powell. My impression: strong and intense. He's a tall, burly man and when you see him coming, you instinctively get out of his way. Of all Bush's ilk, Powell is about the only one I respect. At the beginning it seemed like he had a chance of being the moral keel for the administration. But then it became evident that he was being ostracized for his (moderate) views. Maybe the hawkish Condi will have more clout with the old boys. Does she realize that part of the job is diplomacy?

Hmmm. Now that Powell's free, I wonder when his book is coming out. ;)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Remembrance Day

This may be my most memorable Remembrance Day. At the end of one of my classes, our prof shared with us a war story. His father was a pilot in WWII and flew many missions over Italy. Our professor spent the last chunk of class reading entries from his journal, describing his missions and the enemies he faced. Then, the journal entries ended. At that point, our professor shared with us, his father's plane was shot down.

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Baby, Baby, Baby

The law school has three new additions. Over the last two weeks, three storks have delivered gifts to fellow students. Next week we're taking the new fathers out to celebrate. Congratulations guys!!

BTW, there will be another baby in the school next year. Another student is due in April, 2005. I have heard that Queen's is exceptionally accommodating for students who have legitimate reasons not to write exams. If she chooses, she should be able to postpone her exams and write them at the end of the summer.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Education Reform

I now understand why Bush loves to cut spending on education:
Check out:

Monday, November 08, 2004

Multiplying Macs

Just wanted to let you know that in the last few months, more and more Macs have been appearing in the law school. Just within the last 2 weeks, I know of at least 4 students who just bought a Mac. It seems like they were holding out just to make sure Macs were compatible with the school.

Also, I got an email from virus/ hacker/ spam/ spyware guru, McAfee. I quote:
804,548,973 Viruses stopped by McAfee VirusScan of the past 12 months
2,356,379,550 Hacker attacks blocked by McAfee Personal Firewall Plus over the past 30 days.
Past 30 days?! So that means that everyday clients who are running McAfee's products are attacked over 78 Million times! That sounds like a heck of a lot of hacking to me. After reading their email, I got a bit scared. So, I went to their website and found more disturbing information about how slow my computer will run if I have a virus, etc. And then I realized that McAfee doesn't even sell Mac software! (Or, at least, I couldn't find any.) So, now I can breathe a bit easier. All that hacking is only on Wintel machines. Whew. ;)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Internet as a Tool for Self-Awareness . . .

or just a silly distraction to avoid reading?


You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

What's the Color of Your Blog Personality? Quiz at About Web logs and...

My Blog Personality's True Color Is...
It's all about peace and serenity.
In everything that I do, I seek calmness. I do my best to stay away from stress and conflict. And, I try to reflect these things when I blog.

You are .mpg You live life like it was a movie.  Constantly in motion, you bring pleasure to many, but are often hidden away.
Which File Extension are You?

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Nasty Bell Curve

I think this is pretty standard across law schools: we are graded on a bell curve. To a certain extent, it is up to the professor how the curve is graded. For example, at Queen's professors can give up to 15% of the class "A"s, but if they don't really see a lot of brilliance among us students, they can only dole out say, 10%.

I think it would be a lie if any law school student said that they didn't think a lot about the bell curve. Rather than being graded on what we know, we are being ranked by how much more (or less) knowledge/ understanding we have compared to our classmates. Needless to say, this tends to build an atmosphere of competition.

Thankfully, Queen's Law is one of the better schools at breaking down competition and helping to forge friendships among its students. Staff and faculty alike are sensitive to how the bell curve affects us. I've heard that at other law schools the competition can be debilitating. Instead of students helping each other, they hinder each other.

Anyhow, I've been thinking about the bell curve these last few days because, 1. we got back our first assignment, 2. we have our first mid-term exam coming up, and 3. we have a memorandum due quite soon. All of these are graded on the bell curve.

Wish me luck ;)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

(still) sleeping next to an elephant

When Trudeau said that being a neighbour to the US was like sleeping next to an elephant he did not have the Republican party in mind. But, given that this isn't an essay and I use whatever quote I want, even if it's out of context, I thought it was apt. We are, as Canadians, still the neighbours of a country run by Republican elephants - stupid, jingoistic, misguided, hateful, manipulative, killing elephants. (I apologize to all the elephants reading this.)