Friday, September 29, 2006

On Cheating – Afterthoughts

Last night I stumbled upon, yet another, TV show focused on a stereotypical, unscrupulous lawyer. The show is called Shark.
A group of young prosecutors are about to have the learning experience of a lifetime because, though Stark is seeking to redeem himself, he has no intention of cooling his underhanded approach to cases…
The devilish lawyer, played by James Woods, uses his "trickery" and "underhanded approach" as a prosecutor because, as the story goes, he has seen the light. He hasn't "seen the light" in the sense that he will shed his immoral ways. No, he has "seen the light" because he will use his so-called skills to put accused individuals behind bars. So that's OK.

In last night’s episode, his young, slick disciples try to mimic his tactics, but they get caught. The judge is not impressed. And how does this senior, experienced lawyer react?
Stark: I’m not angry with your conduct. Next time, don’t get caught.
Hear that? What wonderful words of advice from a mentor to a group of young lawyers. I can almost feel the embers of another Enron catching fire - Hollywood style.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

On Cheating

A couple things recently got me thinking about cheating and plagiarism in law school. First, I came across a Reuters article about cheaters. According to the article, a recent survey of 5300 students in the US and Canada found that 45% of law students admitted to cheating. 45%! Furthermore, the nameless journalist (although, I'm not one to criticism him or her on this point) quotes Donald McCabe, a Rutgers University professor as saying that:
[I]t's likely that more students cheat than admit to it.
Okay. So what do they mean by "cheating"? The survey defined "cheating" as including:
(a) copying the work of other students,
(b) plagiarizing, and
(c) bringing prohibited notes into exams.
I have to admit, I have a hard time believing that the number is so high. Each one of these three is very serious. I would be surprised if a student were merely borrowing notes from another student and misunderstood it to be "cheating". One comment sheds some light on why the students are cheating:
[B]usiness school students described cheating as a necessary measure and the sort of practice they'd likely need to succeed in the professional world.
And law school students need to cheat to refine the skills that they will need to succeed on Bay Street?

Second, the Assistant Dean sent out an email over the listserv reminding us about Queen's University's Code of Conduct. Sometimes I like to believe that law school students do not need to be reminded of things like:
The following conduct is unacceptable and constitutes an offence within the University community:
(e) all forms of academic dishonesty such as plagiarism, cheating, furnishing false information to the University, forgery, misuse of university documents.
Do law students need to be reminded of such things? Yes, it seems like we do. Let me share a story.

Last year, I took Legal Ethics (great course, BTW). In one of the first classes, my professor reminded us that plagiarism was forbidden. He wanted to make sure that we understood because the previous class he taught, a student actually plagiarized an entire paper (for Legal Ethics!) and handed it in. My professor was forced to give this student an "F". Personally, I think the student got off easy. So we were forewarned. After the course, I was looking at the grade distribution and I noticed that, again, one student got an "F". I can't confirm that another student plagiarized a paper, but our professor did say, during his mini lecture, that he couldn't see another reason to give a student an "F".

In Randy Cohen's book The Good, the Bad & the Difference: How to Tell the Right From Wrong in Everyday Situations, he has a nice take on cheating and plagiarism:
As unlikely as it may seem, a paper is not merely a dreary obligation to be discharged but a chance to learn, and that's what your pro is trying to get you to do. (page 219)
While I'm on the topic (and I hope I'm not on a soapbox here), we read an insightful article in Legal Ethics on what to expect as a Bay Street lawyer: On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession. You may be able to find it here, QL or WL. Take the article with a grain of salt. It is simply one lawyer's experience.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Location, location, location

When my wife and I came to Kingston to look for an apartment, we made a choice. (I'm slowly getting used to referring to her as my "wife" - it feels good.) After we boiled down the options, we had a choice between a larger apartment in a residencial neighbourhood or a smaller place downtown. We chose downtown and we couldn't be happier.

We live above a coffee shop, a stone's throw from the water. My route to class includes the farmer's market (on Tuesdays and Thursdays), a statue of Sir John A. MacDonald, beautiful parks, and the courthouse. I'm looking forward to the next 7 months - especially with the turning of the leaves. Kingston is full of historic little gems. Real estate agents know what they're talking about: location is key.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Macs in the classroom

During class yesterday, I was looking around and I couldn't help noticing how many Macs were in the room. I did a quick count:
PCs: 29
Macs: 12
Wow - that's almost a 1/3 of all the laptops!

In fact, Apple may be the most popular brand in the classroom. On a second count, I noticed, 9 Dell, 10 Toshibas, a few Sonys, a few Thinkpads and some other brands. I can't be sure however, because PCs all look the same. :)

In first year, I counted only a few Macs in a similar-sized class and slowly the numbers are going up. There have been some headlines on digg about Macs (or rather Mac OS) increasing their marketshare and decreasing their marketshare. A survey of two classrooms in one law school is hardly scientific, but from where I sit, Macs are hot.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

To Moot Or Not To Moot

Today and tomorrow are the tryouts for the moot teams at Queen's. I remember when I tried out last year (and the year before). I had no idea what I was doing but I managed to get in on my secound try. I can honestly say that mooting was one of the most rewarding experiences at law school. If you have any questions about the process, this (brand new!) FAQ page may help. Good luck to all!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In 3rd year, they bore you?

Most of you have probably heard of this pithy adage:
In first year they scare you to death.
In second year they work you to death.
In third year they bore you to death.
I remember (way back when) reading about the number of suicides in law school. Articles in the news described students who hadn't performed up to their academic standards (or those their parents') and took their own lives. It made me think. It was one of the reasons why I came to Queen's - a law school that is known for its collegial atmosphere. Now, as a 3L, I can confirm that the student body at Queen's is amazing. What a great, supportive group of individuals.

As a 3L, aren't I supposed to be bored to death? Thus far, I can't say that I have been bored. I have a presentation coming up this Friday and I am feeling the stress. Where is the boredom "they" promised? I suppose I should blame my experience. I have been thoroughly indoctrinated with the notion that I should do my best on whatever I do.

My articling position is secure. Unless I decide to pursue an LL.M. or other graduate work in the future, my grades this year shouldn't be very important. Yet, here I am, focused on my presentation. Maybe I'll be bored next semester.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I, Google

I have a confession: I'm a long-time Google junkie. You name it, I've tried it: for blogging (of course - now improved), for mail, for photos, for organizing my life, for organizing my PC (Macs have spotlight which is, arguably, even better than Google), for word processing, for my homepage ("IG" actually stands for "I, Google"), for virtual travel, and other things.

With a few exceptions, I have been impressed by the results, the speed and the simplicity of Google's tools. In addition, I have come to appreciate their outside-the-box approach to business and their sense of humour. Google's success story has been told over and over.

Addiction 01: Search

In my undergraduate days, I taught a course for new students on how to effectively use the "World Wide Web" and, of course, I covered search engines. At that time, Google was the new kid on the block and it was competing with so-called "metacrawlers" and the like. (BTW, here's a classic video from the CBC reporting about "Internet".) Now, Google has overtaken all their competitors and it is by far the #1 search engine on the planet - you can even search from your cell phone.

Addiction 02: Mail

When Google launched Gmail in 2004, I happened to know someone working at Google and managed to get one of the first invitations. At the time, I felt like a lucky golden ticket winner heading to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. When it launched, each user was allotted 1GB of space - 250 times more space than was offered by Yahoo or Hotmail - but 1GB is not so large compared with the +2.7 GB offered today. (Lycos recently released a new email service with even more space, but the GUI is not nearly as functional as Gmail.)

Addiction 03: Business Model

OK, this is not so much of an addition, per se, and more of a I-can-justify-my-addictions-becuase-they-have-such-an-innovative-business-model.

The "don't be evil" model has received much media attention, both negative and positive. One version of the story states that the mantra was written on the whiteboard prior to a meeting with marketing team. I also really appreciate the initial Dutch Auction IPO when Google went public a couple years ago. I'm actually surprised more companies haven't followed suit.

Addiction 04: Calendar

When Google's new calendar site was released publicly in April, I was literally jumping up and down (my wife thought we had won the lottery or something). The ability to quickly add events from mail is brilliant. The users of Digg regularly report new features and ways to use Google Calendar more efficiently.

My only quibble with Google Calendar is that they provide free SMS reminders to cell phones in the US but not in Canada. I'm waiting for these amazing SMS reminders to expand to Canadian cell phone providers. Hopefully that will be soon.

Addiction 05: Homepage

IG or "I, Google" is my homepage - a have completely customized page with modules galor. I would recommend the weather module, a webcam, Gmail, Gcal, news modules (depending on interests) and a couple fun modules.

Addiction 05: News

I'm a news junkie and Google News is the first place I go. Using AJAX and Web 2.0 technology, the page is completely customizable by region, search terms (for example: "law student" -tv), and # of stories. It is not infallible but a good place to start the day. True to their business model, I believe they try to be fair (although they still have some ways to go).

(Former) Addiction 06: Maps

Google Maps was the first place I went to ... until Yahoo Maps Beta. Yahoo saw what Google did well, added some great features, and put together a great product. Maybe Google Maps 2.0 will bring me back.

One of the great things that has come out of Google Maps are the mashups like Beer Hunter. Looking for a 2-4 of beer for Homecoming? Beer Hunter can help you out. Of course, party safe.

So what's behind Google's success anyhow? In a NY Times article, he postulated that:
The Miracle of Google = youth + freedom + equality + bottom-up innovation + user focus + don't be evil


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Just Married! (And other adventures)

What a month! What a crazy, life-changing month. Since I last posted, I have accepted an offer for an articling position, tied up all loose ends at work (and briefed the incoming lawyer who took over my files), moved into a downtown apartment in Kingston, and tied the proverbial knot in Tofino, BC.

I am pleased - no, absolutely, over-the-moon thrilled - to share with you that my fiancee is now my wife. If you have been following the news over the last few weeks, you may be aware that Tofino has been going through a bizarre crisis: the rainforest town ran out of water. Of all our Plan B contingencies, we never would have expected a water shortage leading to a potential evacuation of the town. Thankfully, just in time, the evacuation was averted and we had a beautiful wedding ceremony on the beach. (If I have time, I'll post a pic of my black velvet flip-flops and other wedding stories later.)

And in other news ... yes, I accepted an offer to article with a mid-size firm on Bay Street. Again, I am absolutely thrilled to start my legal career at the firm. From the moment I walked in, I felt like it was perfect fit. I will try to post more about the end of the whole process later. In the meantime, let me just say that I have a renewed confidence that things work out. I have many intelligent, skilled friends who are still looking for articling positions but I have no doubt that everyone will find his or her niche.

An intelligent, gorgeous wife, a fresh semester, an articling position on the horizon ... life is great. Rollin, rollin, rollin...