Monday, December 12, 2005

Choosing Corporate Law & Selling Out

I stumbled across this article recently published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Ms. Su may be a law student living on the other side of the planet, but I think her concerns of joining the corporate world speak as loudly in Canada as in the Philippines.

The title of Ms. Su's article is "
Selling out". After she graduated from law school, she "sold out" to a firm that primarily does corporate law.
I had joined the ranks of the stalwarts of capitalism, joked a friend.
Her article starts in a defensive tone reacting to criticism and ends in an attack of the critics. Part explanation, part excuse, part truth telling, Ms. Su's piece sounds painfully honest. In her introverted quest to figure out how she got to where she is, she asks many questions that I imagine go through the minds of law schools students around the world:
And what’s wrong with corporate law anyway? Did I just sell my soul to the devil? Is a life revolving around Starbucks latte and macchiato and fax machines and e-mails the epitome of greed and evil? In any case, I never said I would be here for the rest of my life.
I've asked myself the same questions. Many students who take jobs on Bay Street or Wall Street or wherever, seem to have the same thought: it is only temporary. I will develop the skills I need to do what I really want to do. And then (as the story goes), they/we get brainwashed by corporate culture and peer-pressure.
Those who went into corporate law, like the many others ahead of me, did not sell out because that is where they could make the most out of their talents or maybe that was where they were needed. Those who opted to work in government but cheat the public out of justice every single day do.
Her reasoning reminds me of a shocking article I recently read, On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession, by Professor (and former law firm partner) Patrick Schiltz. His article (you can find it on either Quicklaw or Westlaw) describes how the mentalities of students change when they join a law firm. A secondary source, available online, describes what can happen to a 25 year old associate (Ms. Su also happens to be 25 years old) in a big firm:
For perspective, consider a twenty-five year-old lawyer who bills 2400 hours a year for 20 years, a total of 48,000 hours at an average billable rate over that span of $300 per hour. At age forty-five, that lawyer may inventory his life: gross billings, $14.4 million; at or near the top of the pyramid structure that supports what Professor Schiltz describes as the "skim"; divorced; estranged from children; hypertense; depressed; a reputation as a hardball player; transitory transactional relationships; a luxurious home and car plus a sport utility vehicle; an ample taste for fine wines and cigars; and a question: What have I done with my life?
The questions Ms. Su asked apply to the North American context, so I wonder if the inevitable decline into an "unethical profession" applies to a Filipino context. Ms. Su ends her article by sharing her dream. What she really wants to do with her life is:
... to enable the poor to live in castles.
Nice dream. It would be interesting to see where she is 20 years down the road. Will she be the lawyer who beats the odds and helps poor people better their lives, or will she confirm Schilz's forecast and sell out?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Good Luck on Exams!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Daily Distraction: Photoblogs

If you haven't been outside in the fresh air for a while, at least take a minute and look at the gorgeous vistage on Sam Javanrouh's photoblog called Daily Dose of Imagery. He's a Toronto resident who is a candidate for Forbes' Best Photoblog (alas, they don't even have a category for Law Blogs). So if you like what you see, you can vote for him here (currently, he's way out in first place).

The City of Toronto should pay Sam Javanrouh. He's probably already done more to improve Toronto's image than the ridiculously expensive Toronto Unlimited campaign (that was sadly managed by a company in New York).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Profs coming & Profs going

It was publicly announced today that our renowned Criminal Law expert, Professor Gary Trotter, has been appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice. I have to admit, this news is bittersweet. It is a wonderful opportunity for now Hon. Mr. Justice Trotter, but many students (including myself) will be sad to see him go. He is a very popular professor ( gives him 4.7 out of 5 with 29 responses), known for his collegiality, dedication to students, and first-hand stories that bring the material to life.

This is the second judicial appointment of Queen's faculty in recent past. In November, 2004, former Dean Alison Harvison-Young was appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario. (So, I suppose some individuals could have their preliminary hearing before Trotter and then their trial before Young.) The result is that Queen's needs fresh faces in the faculty. Hopefully professors who are interested in Queen's as more than just a stepping-stone to somewhere else.

Prospective faculty have been touring the school the last while and more candidates will be coming to visit next semester. One of the things I really appreciate about Queen's Law is the concerted involvement of students in the process. It is not simply rhetoric when the Dean says: Students' voices really matter. Our opinions are taken seriously.

Good luck to Professor/Hon. Mr. Justice Trotter! I wonder if I'll ever see you in court (be easy on me). And good luck to prospective faculty. I hope your contributions to the school are commensurate with the fulfillment you receive from teaching.