Monday, August 29, 2005

The Smell of Fall

When my fiancee opened the window this morning she remarked, "Do you smell it? It's starting to smell like fall."Alas, it seems like the last rays of summer are fading fast. A new semester is just around to corner. I will soon be, officially, a TwoL.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

On Campus Interviews (OCIs)

For those who are unaware: second year law students are preparing for interviews for next summer. Yes, summer 2006. I know, it's crazy. Summer 2005 hasn't even ended and we're toiling away to secure a job for next summer. For this super-early hiring schedule, we can thank the Americans. Before 1998, this process was slated for February and students had another term of marks on their transcripts. Then a few New York firms moved across the border and to prevent them from snagging the cream of the Canadian crop, Bay Street firms adopted their hiring schedule.

Honestly, I don't have much to say on this topic. I can tell you that our deadline for submitting applications is Sept. 12. About 45 firms and 10 government agencies will be coming to Queen's to interview us in 7 - 10 minute intervals. Also, we have 13 days longer than our compatriots at UofT to put our applications together. (But not really - because even if they don't get them to their career office, they can still send them themselves. All the deadlines have been set by the LSUC.) Lastly, I can tell you that this process will determine the future careers of some law students. But I can't tell you who. Not yet.

Last year, more than 116 students applied for positions and 46 were successful. Similarly, in 2003 more than 100 applied and 45 accepted positions. Grades are important, but not everything. I know of one student with straight As throught first year and didn't secure a job through OCIs. In the end, however, employment was found. The OCI process is not the be-all-and-end-all of finding a job. Most upper year students found law jobs for summer 2005, although I know a few who didn't. You know, I think I'm going to stop here and pass the baton to a couple students who have already published their advice:

Derek McKee wrote last year:
If you want to know about a particular field, the best way to learn of opportunities is get involved, now. Waiting for the perfect Pumpkin Law firm to recruit you is like waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Become a Pumpkin activist, start a Pumpkin business, write an article on Pumpkin policy. Get a research job with a Professor X. (Even if this professor is not so hot in the classroom, s/he might be great to work with.) This is how you will meet Pumpkin lawyers and learn of opportunities in the Pumpkin field (or patch, as it were).
Before applying to the big firms, ask yourself this: What about myself will be expressed in this job? Another way of asking this question is: if this job were an extracurricular, would I want to join it? It's true that some people have a passion for corporate law or great big financial transactions; more power to them. But I suspect that most law students don't have such an interest. They try to invent one, because they've convinced themselves that this is their best and only option.
Incidentally, Derek has his own communications company. Check it out.

Michelle Dean wrote in 2003:
[T]here's room for lots of different types here and there's no particular reason to think you don't "belong" or aren't "worthy" unless it's informed by some larger assumption about what being in law school entails. And more often than not that assumption isn't made from experience but from expectation.

[L]et me offer the advice that the Zen Buddhist in me (battered though she is) tries to remember once a day: don't listen to anyone, don't try to be anything, just be. That's the only real way to get through law school.
Sounds like good advice to me. OK - I'm going to go revamp my CV (again).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Listserv "Apple Debate"

Over the last few weeks, every Queen's law student has been receiving emails about Apple Computers. It started when a new student was concerned that buying a Mac and expressed his fears to us all. Before he takes (took?) the plunge, I guess he wanted feedback from us seasoned students on the potential hazards of using a machine made by the iPod people. (BTW, according to Wikipedia, the term "podcast" comes from "broadcasting" and "iPod", but I have heard other etymologies of the word.)

Predictably, many Mac owners have responded with an enthusiastic BUY. From recent news on the customer satisfaction of Mac owners, this should come as no surprise. The surprise is that so many students actually care about this. It has actually escalated into a "debate"! And no, law students don't debate about everything under the sun. Topics of most listserv messages are mundane topics like Room For Rent or Ride to Toronto.

Apparently, buying the right computer is a big deal. Maybe it speaks to a new generation of politically-savvy consumers. Maybe these (us) Mac buyers are in tune with sites like that peg Apple Inc. at 99% supportive of the Democratic Party. Who knows? Or maybe we buy Macs out of plain old fear. In a previous life I worked in sales. My "mentor" informed me once that 95% of purchases are based on fear. Fear of [blank]. In this case, it could be fear of buying a piece of crap. Fear of viruses. Or maybe fear of not looking hip and cool to his new classmates/ drinkmates.

Honestly, I really don't care if he gets a Mac or not. Just like I don't care that the firm Bereskin & Parr is full of Macs. I just hope that he's happy with whatever he gets. Computers are tools and, ultimately, anything currently sold in electronic stores will satisfy the needs of what we do in law school. Heck, a Palm Pilot + keyboard would be sufficient.

Happiness is key. The other day I was going to get groceries and I saw a guy carrying a newly-purchased iMac. He had the biggest smile on his face. The smile said it all.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A nice story

Recently published in the Toronto Star:
This story started when I was helping my aunt process her immigration papers in Mississauga.

I was unfamiliar with all the paperwork, and quite frankly felt defeated. So we tried seeking out immigration consultants for help.

However, their fees were too much, and my aunt couldn't afford them. At one point, we sat in Square One mall crying because my aunt would be sent back to India.

Then a young man walked up and asked if he could help us. I told him our troubles, and he handed me a card. He was a law student from York, and he worked at one of their legal clinics, which also specialized in immigration matters.

We took the long bus ride to York's campus and our troubles were solved. Another bonus was that their services were free.

I know that many people in society look down upon lawyers as money grabbing types, but this experience changed my view at least.

One stranger's gesture changed my family's nightmare. Thank you for your help.

Jade Singh, Brampton, July 26

I'm sure some lawyers are "money grabbing types" but, thankfully, not all. Kudos to our anonymous Osgoode student for helping to improve the public perception of the profession: way to go!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

On Podcasts

With the CBC lockout (not strike - thanks Robin), I've been looking to other sources to fill the airwaves. Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground produces a fantastic podcast full of humour and wit. After his recent episode, I'm inclined go and read Double Billing. Here are a few other podcasts/ links (some law related, some not) that might be of interest. If you have any trouble loading them, you're free to send me an email asking for help (no guarantees that I can solve the problems).

The Law Report (Australia)
Law School Podcast (US/ Missouri)
Ambivalent Voices (US)

Ad Absurdum (Canada) (directory)

If you haven't noticed, there seems to be a void of Canadian voices on the law. I included Ad Absurdum for a bit of CanCon, but it's not law-related. Any Canadians law students out there want to start a podcast? Anyone? Anyone?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Today is a Good Day

Today I had a little adventure. I went exploring on the Net. I know, "adventure" is a bit of exaggeration for sedentary clicking from one link to another. Especially since my mouse didn't even get close to anything lurid. All the same, it felt like an adventure. I discovered new websites a la Christopher Columbus. He got credit for discovering something that was already known, so why shouldn't I?

I won't keep you in suspense. Here are my finds:

A New Student Blawg

Mr. Osgoode just wrote his first entry a couple days ago and it seems promising. A quote:
Having stayed up late last night to finish Scott Turow's famous autobiographical novel, One L, I have decided that I too would like to keep a log (or blog) of how my first year at law school unfolds.
A New Prof Blawg

In my surfing/ exploring I clicked on one link, then another, et voila, I found myself someplace completely new: an awesome blog about white collar crime.
Internal corporate investigations are all the rage these days as companies seek to demonstrate their level of cooperation as part of an effort to forestall criminal charges. Corporations almost routinely turn over the results of their investigations to prosecutors and civil regulatory authorities, and the reports usually contain statements -- many of them personally incriminating -- from employees about their knowledge and participation in transactions under scrutiny. What if an employee lies to the internal investigators in an effort to obstruct that investigation?
I'm riveted. You're going to have to read down to "What If You Lie in an Internal Investigation?" to find the answer.

(BTW, check out the JD versus LLB post for some new comments.)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Power & Control

In my research I came across the following scene:
During a shareholders meeting to decide the future of the company, the President/ CEO disagrees with the majority of shareholders. After a vote which would replace the President, he decides to discount proxy votes (rendering him the winner). Shareholders object. President turns towards Corporate Counsel and queries:
"You know the law, I will take my direction from you. What should I do?".
The guy (Corporate Counsel) could know just as much, if not less, than the CEO about the legal procedures on counting proxy votes. However, at that moment, his direction determines who controls the company. That's power. (And I don't think I want it.)


Just in case you're wondering how it turns out:
- Corporate Counsel agrees with the President and they declare proxy votes invalid.
- Shareholders take President to court.
- Court says President abused his powers and declared him in breach of his fiduciary duties.
- Corporate Counsel is left immune from prosecution.

If you're interested: Blair v. Consolidated Enfield Corp., [1995] 4 S.C.R. 5, 1995 CanLII 76 (S.C.C.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Anti-Bush sentiment on the Net

Like many bloggers out there, seeing "Bush Indictment" as the #1 search entry on Technorati today made me smile. Hoax or no hoax, I'm still smiling. In the last day, at least 98 bloggers have posted about indicting the "moron". Here are some exerpts:
Oh, and of course, a criminal is still a criminal, even if they are not caught. If a "Bush indictment" isn't actually happening now, it only means he isn't being indicted, but he is still a criminal.
It appears that this hoax originated with an article by a Pravda reporter containing fictional articles of impeachment and indictment for Bush for the crimes of corruption, vote fraud and war crimes.
A bunch of lily-livered liberals, malcontents and other shady characters have set the blog world ablaze by driving the phrase "Bush Indictment" to the top of the Technorati ratings. How droll.
So, as the result of many hours of work, similar to the recent Google Bomb that connects Bush's bio for the search term "miserable failure", Bush has lost another battle in cyberspace ("Political Netwar"). But I have to wonder: does it really matter? Howard Dean won the battle on but he couldn't even win the Democratic nomination. How many of these anti-Bush cyber-rants actually materialize into action? [Smile sagging.]

It seems like the Democrats are losing the war fought in our wallets. The recent scandal at Air America shows how difficult it has been for them to drum up cash. Al Franken (and I'm a fan) has admitted that he expected ad revenue to come flooding into the station, but it hasn't. And if you look at the companies listed on, there leaves little doubt that Corporate America is mostly crimson. [Smile gone - back to normal.]

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

JD versus LLB: Results

With 65 votes tallied, it looks like the JD is preferred over the LLB. Almost half of you voted for the JD while only 26.2% voted for the LLB. Interestingly, 26.2% don't care. If you haven't voted yet, click here.

Of course, this was not a scientific study and I hope no one takes it too seriously. But with UofT abandoning the LLB and Osgoode (the school, not the building) teaming up with NYU to offer JDs, this is a pressing issue for Canadian law schools.

Personally, I would prefer a JD. Describing a law degree as a "bachelor's" degree does not do it justice. A commentator noted that a student can enter an LLB stream after only 2 years of undergraduate education while Americans must complete 4 years to enter a JD program. While that may technically be accurate, it does not reflect reality. The vast majority of Canadian students in the LLB stream have completed a 4 year undergraduate degree and prospective students with only 2 years may enter UofT Law and receive a JD. The fact that Americans must complete a 4 year program while Canadian students have the potential to enter law school after only 2 years is a distinction only in admission requirements, not a distinction in the value of the degrees. UofT explains:
The University of Toronto feels that the J.D. degree designation more accurately reflects the educational accomplishments of the vast majority of the Faculty's graduates who enter with at least one university degree (approximately 20% now enter our law school with graduate degrees as well). In addition, the J.D. is viewed as providing our graduates with a more competitive degree designation. This is particularly important for the increasing numbers of U of T students and graduates who choose to work or study outside Canada.
These arguments apply equally to students at Queen's and other Canadian law schools. Furthermore, if 20% of students enter with a graduate degree, probably +95% enter having completed an undergraduate degree. (In Queen's Law '07, I can only think of a few who don't.) By giving them yet another bachelor's degree, aren't law schools sending them off into the world at a disadvantage? I would estimate that the average age of British law school graduates is about 23 while the average age of Canadians is 26 or 27 (the same age as American graduates). Aren't those extra years of study worth something? UofT notes:
[T]he LL.B. is typically granted after completion of a legal education that is obtained following graduation from high school, which is the case in virtually all other Commonwealth jurisdictions.
One argument is that Americans know that the Canadian LLB is not equal to the British LLB. I would say that is false. An American who knows the British system would understand that an LLB is only at the undergraduate level. mgcsinc said:
[B]e careful not to clump US and UK law training into one bunch. UK law training is at the undergraduate level and leads to a bachelor's degree in law (LL.B), whereas US law training is a three year graduate program leading to a doctorate in law (J.D). The US considers its law program far superior to that of other countries (and in my opinion, it is).
If we say that the Canadian schools use the LLB system, aren't we saying that it is like the British system? mgcsinc considers the American program far superior to other programs. While he may be unaware that +95% of Canadian students have the same experience as American students, how would he know when we're designating our degrees LLBs? If you need assistance with a Study Permit to study in Canada, check this out.

I'm surprised that 26.2% of you don't care. The letters on our degrees are meaningful. When a doctor includes letters like MPH or FCCM after their name, it communicates that he or she has earned a specialty or a degree. On an international level, "LLB" communicates that we have completed a Bachelor of Legal Letters degree, potentially after high school.

Offering JDs in Canadian law schools is not following the American lead. It is accurately reflecting the experience of Canadian students. It seems to me, and 47.7% of you folks, that we should adopt the JD.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Taking Notes: Pen vs Laptop

I got an email recently asking about laptops in class. Here's my response:

As far as using laptops in class, there seem to be two schools of thought. The first camp comsists of diehard pen-and-paper users, and there are a few at Queen's. In fact, I would have to say that some of my brightest, sharpest classmates stick strictly to taking notes with ink. But they are the minority. By far. The second group, more than 80% of students, come to class with a computer. Queen's will even lend laptops to students through the Office of Equity to make sure that any student who wants to take notes on a laptop will not be "disadvantaged". However, it is not clear who is at a disadvantage. Laptops come with problems, it is not clear that the benefits of bringing one to class outweigh its potential detriments.

One problem with bringing a laptop is that it can be distracting. All the classrooms are WiFi enabled so instead of paying attention, you can surf the web, write emails, send instant messages, or read blogs (like this one). You can circumvent this problem by disabling your WiFi card, but few students do.

There are other hazards. I know many students who play video games in class. Some just play hearts for 5 minutes while others spend the entire time building and conquering empires. Another hazard is that computers crash (even Macs). If you need to restart your laptop, for whatever reason, you will end up with a gap in your notes. You may lose all your notes if you haven't saved your work. For these reasons, some students purposefully leave their laptops at home. I think each student must decide on his/her own. If the pitfalls outweigh the advantages, perhaps taking notes on pen and paper is a better idea.

In some cases, you won't have a choice. A few profs have decreed that their classrooms are computer-free. This seems rather patronizing and dictatorial for my taste, but I can see the reasoning behind the rule.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Theme for Orientation

As far as I know Queen's doesn't have a theme for orientation. But another school does. This is from Jeremy Blackman's blog (the infamous creator of Anonymous Lawyer):
A reader at law school in Canada writes with a request:

I'm in charge of the orientation week for the incoming class of 1Ls at my school this Sept, and we don't have a "theme". It was going to be .08: Push It To The Legal Limit (dunno what the [Blood Alcohol Content] limit is down there, in Canada it's .08) - but this was deemed politically incorrect. So, if you have any ideas for a theme (2007 was: "007: Licence to Practice")... it would be much appreciated.

I wrote back with some thoughts, but nothing all that thrilling, so (with his permission) I thought I'd throw it out there and see if anyone had any ideas.

I started thinking about things with the number 8... #8 in the Canadian constitution is about search and seizure, but that's not that funny... 8 reindeer on Santa's sleigh, but, again, not that funny... the recent Live 8 concert had a tag line that's actually pretty relevant -- "The Long Walk To Justice," but "Live '08: The Long Walk To Justice" only makes sense if someone knows that's the concert's slogan, and I'm guessing most people don't. I thought of Eminem's movie 8 Mile. "'08 Mile: Lose Yourself in Law" seems not horrendous, but I'm not real happy with anything I was able to think of.

So maybe you can do better. Send me any ideas and I'll pass them along to him, and post them here.
My vote goes to "Live '08: The Long Walk To Justice".

The letters on your degree