Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Exams with Pen & Paper

Unfortunately, Queen's does not allow its law students to write their exams on computers. We use the traditional method of pen to paper for sprints of 2 or 3 hours. The only exceptions are take-home exams that can be submitted electronically. But only a few profs have used this method.

I was speaking to a friend of mine and the LSS has looked into switching to a computer-based examination system. They couldn't find a solution. The reasoning is two-fold: 1. the school doesn't have the resources to provide computers for each student to write the exam, and 2. there currently isn't secure software for Macs and PCs so students could use their own machines. Pity.

If anyone knows of software that may solve this problem, please let me know and I can pass it along. (Hey, it worked for the web designer request. Thanks Frank.)

I have a law school friend in the States who writes his exams on typewriters. Students bring heavy duty earplugs so they can concentrate. I think I prefer pen & paper.

Web designer with spare time?

I'm bored with the look of this space. Please contact me if you have any ideas on how to improve this site.

Monday, February 27, 2006

UBC Students Vote for J.D.

UBC students recently had a vote to change to the J.D. From a discussion board on lawbuzz.ca:

The law students at UBC voted strongly in favour of changing the degree to JD.

This is at least the second time UBC has considered switching. A blawger from UBC (his website has since been passed to a student at Western) wrote back in October of 2002:

Currently there is a curriculum review here at UBC law. Inevitably this will contain some discussion on the continuing debate of whether UBC, and by extension other Canadian law schools, should issue the LLB degree upon completion of law school, or the JD degree. This debate has largely been heightened by the U of T's decision to offer the option to students to receive a JD upon completion of law school.
A nice history of how the American schools switched from the LL.B. to the J.D. is available from the University of Miami. An excerpt:
Although by the early 1960's the structure and organization of legal education had evolved to a relatively consistent three years of graduate level work, protest against the J.D. , a change which both proponents and opponents labeled semantic, persisted. Eventually the number of schools offering the J.D. produced a groundswell strong enough to withstand the vocal and in some instances derisive opposition as well as the resistance of what law faculty termed the "leading" institutions. As the benefits of joining the ranks of the professional schools convinced students, faculty and alumni, many of whom sought retroactive degrees, the J.D. prevailed.

The precedent of the shift from the LL.B. to the J.D. illuminates the manner in which academic controversy stalls movement for years, even when the change is nominal. The J.D. may or may not be responsible for the clarity of law's professional status, its parity with medicine, or its preeminent position in many universities and in the professional world. The Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, lists starting salaries for law graduates in 1993 averaging $37,000. with some starting salaries at $80,000 (Fullerton 1996,9). Despite an elite status, law school has become more inclusive; the participation of women has grown from 4% of the student body in 1967 to 43% in 1995 (ABA,1995,67). There obviously are many factors which account for the ascendancy of the legal profession and no study examines the status of the profession before and after the adoption of the J.D. to determine the effect of the degree. What can be seen, however is that most of the predictions put forward by J.D. proponents have become reality, while the concerns of the opponents seem insignificant in retrospect.

More details about the vote at UBC Law to come...

Mac Viruses?

USA Today reports that:
Windows-based PCs have felt the brunt of attacks for years because those machines command more than 95% of the worldwide market. Macs mostly have escaped the attention of hackers. Until now.

"Unless they consider themselves very savvy, Mac users should run anti-virus software just like Windows users," says Larry Seltzer, security center editor at news site eWeek.com.
For Queen's students, software for Macs is available for free. The anti-virus software from Symantec was updated on July 4th, 2005.

Weird Legal: Divorce Court, PA

The voters of TheCarConnection.com's poll made "Divorce Court" in Heather Highlands, Pa. #2 on the list of wildest, weirdest and wackiest street names in the US.

Speaking of voting, Queen's Law is in election season. Today there is a "meet the candidates" event for the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) and tomorrow the candidates for the Law Students' Society will be making speeches in the lounge. Both groups have influence over the law school, each in their own way. For example, the SGPS have formed a committee to investigate the feasibility and implications of switching to a JD.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Success of Canadian Women

On the front page of Metro Toronto yesterday has a photo of our gold medal winners for the women's curling team. The article underneath (as well as countless articles in other publications) noted that 14 of our 19 medals have been won by women. In fact, Canadian women are #1 in the world. I say: praise for Canadian women!

This month is also Black History Month and Black Canadian women have also made significant inroads. A small publication that is available by small donation in downtown Toronto describes the success of Dr. Jean Augustine - the first Black woman elected to Parliament in 1993.

At Queen's, one of the most popular clubs at is the Women and Law Club. It is open to men and women, and they have some of the best parties. In addition, they are active in the community and they are organizing a project with Habitat for Humanity.

Canadian women figure prominently in parts of the legal community. Here are some interesting facts on the subject:

  • The new Dean of UofT Law is Ms. Mayo Moran. Other law faculties that have a woman at the top include the University of Ottawa (Civil Law Section), UBC, the University of Calgary, the University of Moncton, and the University of Montreal. (I should note that the Dean of UBC Law, Mary Anne Bobinski, is American.)
  • The President of the Executive Committee of the Council of Canadian Law Deans is a woman: Ms. Nathalie Des Rosiers. And its Executive Director is Ms. Julie Dagenais Blackburn.
  • Our SCC Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin, has been at the helm since 2000 and she may stay in her position until her mandatory retirement date in 2018. Four of our nine Supreme Court justices are women - the highest percentage of women on a country's top court.
  • Finally, our fearless leader, Ms. Jackie Swaisland, is President of Queen's Law Students' Society.

Indeed, Canadian women have much to be proud of. With that said, there are still many areas where women have little or no presence. I don't have any statistics that can back up this claim but I would venture that the vast majority of Bay Street partners are men. (Anybody know any relevant statistics?)

On the political front, the new Conservative Cabinet includes only 6 women. That is down from 9 female cabinet members under Paul Martin.

Hopefully, we will see many more successess by Canadian women in the future.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Reading Break & Mooting

We have reached the half way point of the semester: Reading Break. Most of the courses of Appelate Advocacy (a requirement for second year students) have completed and the basement of the library is not so full of competitive mooters.

Mooting is big at Queen's. Over the summer I was talking about mooting with students from other law schools. My impression was that Queen's has more moot teams than Osgoode, Ottawa, Calgary and Dal. Queen's competes in domestic moots, American moots and International moots. One recent graduate described his experience on the Laskin Moot team as his best time in law school.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Shout out

Adam Letourneau is a force in demystifying Canadian legal education. Not only does he have a great blawg where he posts about grades, getting motivated, and everything related to law school, but he also has a book: So You Want to be a Lawyer, eh? (Great title, eh?)

I have to admit, I haven't read the book. But based on the information that Adam has on his website, it looks great. Many of the questions I had, way back when, are answered in Adam's book. In fact, this space spawned from my frustration at not finding quick answers to these questions. In the US, there are websites that give the skinny on every law program out there. Some sites are more focused on rankings and statistics while others share personal stories and the qualitative side of the story. Adam's book fills a void in the market and it will hopefully help students make informed decisions about coming to (and succeeding at) a Canadian law school student. Best of luck Adam!

Friday, February 17, 2006

The JD debate heats up

As often reported in this space, Canadian universities are considering switching to a JD. U of T did it 5 years ago and their student newspaper, Ultra Vires, has published an article by Amy Smeltzer on the changes across the country. Here's an excerpt:

Student societies at four of the five other law schools in Ontario committed to seriously considering following suit at a tele-conference of law society presidents on Feb. 7, says Chris Lee, president of the Student Legal Society at the University of Western Ontario. Only the University of Ottawa, which was absent, did not commit.

Despite strong arguments in favor of adopting a J.D., [the student presidents of Western and Queen's] say that without the support of other law schools, the move could be a public relations disaster.
Smeltzer notes that this is a student-driven initiative across the province. Acknowledging that some law schools deans are for the change and others are against, the push is coming from the students.
Western Dean Ian Holloway says he will support the students, although he doesn’t think a shift to the J.D. will change international demand for Western students. “I personally don’t think it’s a good idea, but if the decision is taken to do this, then I certainly will do my best to make it a reality."
There are certainly members of Queen's faculty who share Dean Holloway's opinion on the issue, but our Dean is staying out of the fray. Considering that he actually paid U of T the $150 fee to convert from a LL.B. to a J.D., there is little doubt where he stands. But this is a student issue and Dean Flanagan (a.k.a. "Flanny") is leaving it up to students to decide. Way to go.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

In 2nd year they work you

As the saying goes: in 1st year they scare you, in 2nd year they work you, and in 3rd year they bore you. Hence my infrequent postings. That said, 2nd year has been great. We choose our courses. The work is more interesting and, I have found, more satisfying.

We just reached the mid-way point of the semester. Next week in "reading" week and I'm going to take a break. That may mean that I spend more time posting. :)