Another new year, another new class! To the 2Ls and 3Ls, welcome back. To this year's 1Ls, the class of 2017, welcome to the UofA!
Make the best of it for the next three years.
Another new year, another new class! To the 2Ls and 3Ls, welcome back. To this year's 1Ls, the class of 2017, welcome to the UofA!
Make the best of it for the next three years.
In just a few days, a new semester will start, and it seems as good a time as any to recognize that the world of legal education is changing faster than any of us can really keep track of. When I went to law school - not as long ago as you might imagine! - we made notes in class by hand, and were lucky if we had access to one of the few computers available in the law school's shared facilities. Quicklaw was in its infancy; Westlaw didn't even exist. CanLii was a glimmer in someone's imagination...
Today, students have access to a host of supplemental learning aids, and the rich variety of available resources is only going to keep growing. The development of the flipped classroom, amongst other things, has created an incredible variety of podcast and other online material for students to use in helping them to decipher difficult topic areas. I'm pleased to say that I've added to this myself. Just this year, all of the material I developed for my Flipped Classroom in Evidence was placed online. These capsules were created, and make the most sense, when watched within the context of the Flipped Classroom, but frankly, I think they can help anyone learn about Evidence law.
And this is hardly the only resource available. Those of you taking Administrative Law would be wise to bookmark Craig Forcese's Bleaching Law website. He's posted an incredible array of material that explain difficult admin. law concepts in a way that can only supplement and enhance your classroom experience.
Really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Though it's mostly an American site. Check out Legal Ed Web, a "gathering place" for videos of this type which includes Craig's videos, and soon enough, mine as well. It has an amazing array of material relating to a growing assortment of law courses.
Legal education is no longer confined to what you hear in the classroom and what you can find in the library. It is now very easy to supplement your learning experience and bolster your understanding just about anywhere you have a connection to the internet. I look forward to seeing how this experience will evolve.
Jim Prentice recently made headlines by announcing that if elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta among his first acts as premier would be to pass an Accountability Act setting term limits for elected members of the provincial legislature. In the following days Prentice equivocated about whether the limit – two terms for premier and three for MLAs – would be established by law, or simply as an internal rule of the PC Party. Regardless, he maintained that legislated term limits for elected representatives would be constitutional. He is wrong.
Presumably inspired by the American constitutional restriction limiting the president to two terms in office, the Prentice proposal, if enacted as law, would restrict the ability of Canadian citizens to seek elected office in Alberta. Term limits would be novel in Canada. They are certainly foreign to Canada’s parliamentary tradition perhaps because, unlike the American system, there is no such thing as a set “term” in Parliament or legislatures. Even with the adoption of fixed election dates, the principle of responsible government demands that a government only lasts as long as it retains the confidence of the legislature. Especially in the context of a minority government, there may be only months between elections – Canada experienced three federal elections between 1962 and 1965, for example.
Moreover, many of Canada’s most admired and successful politicians have been longstanding politicians. A recent poll of experts listed Peter Lougheed, Bill Davis, and Allan Blakeney as Canada’s greatest premiers. All three lead their governments to victory in their third election as premier. Term limits may also advantage the governing party by preventing opposition members from accruing legislative experience and gaining public notice. Gary Doer lost three elections as opposition leader before becoming one of the most popular premiers in Manitoba’s history. Sometimes experience is precisely what voters are interested in. Sometimes tired governments need replacing. A democracy entails voters deciding whether to prefer longevity to fresh perspectives.
Although our history has been marred by restrictions on women, aboriginal peoples, and some minorities from voting and seeking office, the right to elect and be elected, are now fully protected by section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of … a legislature assembly,” the Constitution reads, “and to be qualified for membership therein.” The French version of s. 3 is even more direct: "Tout citoyen canadien a le droit de vote et est éligible aux élections législatives fédérales ou provinciales."
To date, courts have mostly focused on the first aspect of the Charter’s “democratic rights” – the right to vote. A handful of cases, however, have made clear that the right to run for office is equally as important to our democratic foundations.
As Justice Iacobucci explained in Figueroa v Canada, 2003 SCC 37: “The right to run for office provides each citizen with the opportunity to present certain ideas and opinions to the electorate … the right to vote provides each citizen with the opportunity to express support for the ideas and opinions that a particular candidate endorses. In each instance, the democratic rights entrenched in s. 3 ensure that each citizen has an opportunity to express an opinion about the formation of social policy and the functioning of public institutions through participation in the electoral process.” “The fundamental purpose of s. 3,” he concluded “is to promote and protect the right of each citizen to play a meaningful role in the political life of the country. Absent such a right, ours would not be a true democracy.”
Prentice defends his plan as necessary to promote “turnover in the political process.” Whatever the merits of that goal, it certainly is not sufficient to justify infringing the clear wording and underlying intent of the Charter. Of course, the right to run, like other Charter rights and freedoms,is subject to reasonable limits demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. In Alberta provincial laws currently restrict Senators, members of the House of Commons, and inmates from standing for election to the provincial legislature (see, for e.g., s. 56 Election Act, RSA 2000, c E-1.). Those types of limited restrictions – which speak directly to the legitimacy and functioning of the assembly – have been upheld as reasonable (see Harvey v New Brunswick,  2 SCR 876). Blanket term limits, by contrast, would broadly deny the right to run for office on the basis of an arbitrary time threshold of, at best, debatable value. Enacted as law, the Prentice proposal could not survive constitutional scrutiny.
In a much earlier constitutional case from Alberta (Reference re Alberta Statutes,  SCR 100), Chief Justice Duff reminded that democratic governments “derive their efficacy from the free public discussion of affairs … from the freest and fullest analysis and examination from every point of view.” The “right of free public discussion of public affairs,” he held, is “the breath of life for parliamentary institutions.” To sustain that breath of life, our legislatures must be the products of free elections in all senses of the word. As for Prentice’s concern about renewal in politics, Canadian electors have tended to exhibit remarkable wisdom in knowing when a candidate’s time has passed.
A version of this post ran in the Globe and Mail as "We don't need term limits. Voters take care of that"
causation (in tort), and
Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges.
Spoken by a bandit in the classic (movie) "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948)
The Advantages Of Education. A Tale For Misses And Their Mammas.
The Adventures Of A Pin, Supposed To Be Related By Himself, Herself, Or Itself.
The Adventures Of An Irish Smock, Interspersed With Whimsical Anecdotes Of A Nankeen Pair Of Breeches.
The Adventures Of An Ostrich Feather Of Quality.
The Adventures Of A Watch!
The Affecting History Of Two Young Gentlewomen, Who Were Ruined By Their Excessive Attachment To The Amusements Of The Town. To Which Are Added, Many Practical Notes, By Dr. Typo.
Yup these and 100 others are real titles from 18th century England!
Both the CBC and the climate are in a state of crisis. Broadly speaking, the solution to each problem is the same: tune in, connect the dots staring us in the face, and demand change. To develop this suggestion further I've analyzed a recent CBC Radio interview with University of Toronto geography professor Danny Harvey, who has brought a motion before the National Energy Board urging the Board to reconsider its refusal to date to consider the climate change impacts of oil pipeline proposals. Read more here.
As the beginning of the school year draws ever closer, I know I have not been the only one contemplating the predicament our young 1Ls will find themselves in this September. This has been a topic of discussion amongst my colleagues, fellow classmates, faculty and professors too. Below, I’ll post the email conversation between myself and Professor Peter Sankoff (who may well be teaching some of your Criminal Law classes!). We discuss what its like to be a 1L and offer some tips for how to make sense of the wealth of information and advice you’ll be getting from professors, faculty and upper years as you begin your law school careers!
Hope you enjoy,
Dear Professor Sankoff,
I can only speak from my own experience from the most part, but I think most law students will identify with at least parts of my experience.
I really felt like I had to figure out how to be the Ideal Law Student in that first couple of months of school and I really didn't know how. Between El Hacko, First Friday Back and all the other early LSA events and Career Day, Networking workshops and OCIs, Clubs Day and SLS, guest lectures, and getting to know all these new classmates and professors I was very very overwhelmed. I looked to others to try to find out what was important. Should I volunteer with SLS? For which projects? Should I join a club? Which clubs? Should I go out for drinks with the LSA or my cohort? How important is it to make friends? Do I need to go to career day? Do I need to be looking for summer work in October? How should I take notes? I wandered around our little Law Centre essentially wondering "Am I doing it right? Am I a law student yet? Am I ok?"
If I had treated the transition into law school the same way I treated transitions in my undergraduate studies I could have saved myself a lot of stress. I know myself quite well. I'm introverted, I love to work alone, I know what I'm interested in, I know how to study and take notes and read and manage my academic and personal life. I even knew what I wanted out of law school- I wanted to continue to be academic but I wanted my focus to shift to a more well-rounded education. I wanted to volunteer and get some practical experience, I wanted to be a part of things I might not get the chance to be a part of as a lawyer in private practice, I wanted to enjoy what I was learning about. By the end of the year, I was doing what made a lot of sense. I studied alone or with friends outside the faculty, I attended class as regularly as possible, I took notes when I thought it was important to do so, I've still never been to an LSA event, I love my volunteer work with SLS and WLF and feel its entirely manageable even on top of my studies. I do what works for me, what has always worked for me.
For some reason though, starting out I was very worried about what everyone else was doing, which is completely unprecedented for me. I've never been afraid to be different than others, I've never been scared to do things my own way. Starting law school is the only time I've been so desperate for validation from others that I'm competent and capable of succeeding. For some reason, I didn't think the things that have worked for me in the past would work for me in law school and I felt like I needed to find the new "right way to do things" before it was too late! I don't know why this happened to me (although I've always suspected that I studied so hard for the LSAT that I inflicted some permanent damage upon myself).
It may have been because this was the professional degree I'd always wanted, every other part of my education has been a means to the end that is being a practicing lawyer. I didn't feel like I was switching schools so much as I felt I was starting my career. Since my father is a lawyer I grew up with an understanding of the fact that the legal community is small and your reputation is very important and it starts in law school. Law School has always been the Big Leagues in my life and all of a sudden the opinions my peers would have of me were very important to me.
Another factor I think contributed to making the transition so much more difficult was that I felt I was finally among academic peers. I'd taken for granted being at the top of my class throughout my life but I knew with 178 admitted from 1425 applicants the class is comprised of people who were always at the top of the class like me. I used to have unfailing confidence in my academic abilities, I knew I could succeed at anything I put my mind to. That confidence was - poof! - gone, as soon as I started law school. One of the biggest messages I got from orientation is "your grades will drop", so failing or being at the bottom of the class was a real possibility in my mind and that was very new for me. Sure my study methods had always brought me success in the past, but how could they succeed against all these new people I had to compete with?
I also worried I wouldn't succeed or fit in because of my age, but in hindsight I think most of us will find a way to feel isolated for some reason or another. Professor Henderson would talk to us about imposter syndrome- the feeling that you were accepted into the faculty by some sort of mistake or oversight and I certainly was not the only person who identified with that. For all of us, starting law school brings about a lot of uncertainty and any insecurity can be magnified a thousand times in an intimidating new environment.
Moving forward, I don't anticipate anywhere near the amount of stress starting 2L as I experienced starting 1L. Law school will continue to be stressful and there's a lot of work to do and I'm sure I'll still burn out from time to time, but I don't see myself fretting at all about LSA events, when and where to volunteer, how to learn, or anything like that. I credit that absolutely to simply having regained my confidence in myself. I'm not sure how it disappeared or how I got it back, but at this point I simply feel self-assured and that I will be able to succeed (even if my definition of succeeding these days is closer to a 3.0 than a 4.0).
Does this seem to you to be the standard reaction you see from 1Ls? Do we all seem to have little identity crises?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,
Thanks for your email. I am very excited to be having a conversation about these issues.
To answer your main question: Yes - this is the standard reaction we see from 1Ls - and, quite frankly, though I went to law school a long, long time ago, it was very similar to the reaction I had. No matter how much we try to tell everyone to breathe; no matter how much we warn you about taking on commitments; no matter how much we tell you to believe in yourself.... the pressure is very strong, and it creates the insecurity and uncertainty you write about.
You raise a number of interesting points, and have described the 1L experience eloquently. I want to touch on a few, and ask you a few questions as well. First, it has always seemed to me that 2Ls and 3Ls play an interesting role in this 1L experience - sometimes harmful, sometimes helpful. To be absolutely clear, I don't think that upper year students do any of what I'm about to describe out of malevolence! Nonetheless, I do feel that upper year students see the new crop of 1Ls and approach them a bit like an 8 year old who sees my 5 year old daughter trying to ride a bike for the first time. The 8 year old - meaning no harm whatsoever - comes up and helpfully says things like "You just have to balance yourself and push the pedals - it's easy!". The comparison, of course, is for the 2L or 3L, who says things like "You don't really have to read all the cases - just get the CAN!" or, "don't worry about missing a class here and there" or... all the other sorts of advice that for a 2L or 3L is probably appropriate BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALREADY LIVED THE 1L EXPERIENCE. They forget that a year or two ago, they were the ones arriving with the deer in the headlights look. (Actually, my advice to all 2Ls and 3Ls about what to say to 1Ls is the same: offer comfort, support and a willingness to talk if needed - but try not to offer too much in the way of advice.)
Does that seem familiar? Does that occur? My worry is that upper year students actually compound the problem of the 1L experience - again, totally unintentionally – by telling 1Ls all the things they "should do" if they are going to succeed. This includes things like joining clubs, taking on heavy SLS responsibilities, doing a million activities - all things that a 2L or 3L can handle, but all things that might turn out to be disastrous for a 1L who needs most of their time just to survive the first few months. Since coming to U of A, I can't tell you how many 1Ls I have had in my office in November who looked ready for a breakdown. Yes, their studies were tough - but again and again, the problem was their overcommitment to various things, brought on in part by encouragement from upper years who said "you have to do it! You need it on your CV!" Strikes me that this kind of pressure is not a good thing for students starting such a difficult program.
I have another question for you. I've been teaching for a long time, and I've come to accept the fact that students are 10x more likely to take the advice of their peers over the advice of their Professors. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but I don't think it's a big one. I do find it odd, however, that most of the Profs have been doing this a lot longer than the students, and though I realize we are "on the other side of the podium", we do have considerable experience in seeing what works for students. Yet, time and again, I feel it's hard to get those messages taken seriously, and I'm fairly certain that messages from students about "how to survive" or "how to succeed" tend to have greater impact. Is there a way to bridge that divide? Maybe a skit in law show?
PS. What's your most hated gym exercise? Mine is squats. Won't do em, no matter how good they are for you.
It's absolutely familiar and it does occur a lot. I got the "just get CANs and join 50 things" brand of advice as a 1L and I know the 1Ls this year will get the same advice. And I agree that it is absolutely not the advice 1Ls need to hear.
I also definitely agree that students are far more likely to follow advice from fellow students than from professors and it doesn't surprise me at all. It's no different than how my younger sisters would take advice from me in a heartbeat while years of nagging from my parents would never get through. I think its very simply that we don't take advice as seriously from those who are in a position of authority because we have preconceived notions about authority figures and we prescribe biases to them before we even meet. Of course professors are going to tell you to do all of the readings, attend all of the classes, etc. They have to say that! We trust students to tell it like it is because, the way we see it, they don't have the same obligation to say certain things.
And maybe we don't but we are absolutely biased. I work with SLS and I asked all of them for their advice for 1Ls and 90% of them said "Work with SLS!" I'm sure if I asked the cast of Alawddin they'd say you simply can't go through law school without being in Law Show. And I totally understand why we say those things. I've found CANs that have absolutely been very helpful study tools (but none are as useful as being engaged in class). And I absolutely love SLS, just as other students love their extra cirricular activities. We all love getting involved, getting involved is great. But the problem this creates is that one poor 1L asks 10 upper year students for advice and what they hear is that they have to join 10 different clubs- no one is telling 1Ls to overcommit but when we all tell them different things they feel like they have to. The 1L doesn't have time to learn a whole lot about these things before big deadlines come by. Career Day and Clubs Day come up painfully fast and they feel like they have to make a decision or miss their chance to do all these things they apparently have to do! Meanwhile, they haven't even gotten the hang of reading cases. It's no wonder they are overwhelmed.
The advice 1Ls need to hear is that they are going to be ok but they need to figure out on their own what study habits and activities are going to work for them. I think a collaboration like this where both professors and students are weighing in is a great way to get good information to 1Ls in a way that they are going to accept and find helpful. We lend each other credibility and hopefully we'll be able to provide advice that is more balanced and encourages 1Ls to make decisions that are best for them personally as opposed to decisions that have worked for other students. I think if faculty and upper years jointly offered their thoughtful, objective support, 1Ls would benefit.
Thank you for your input,
PS Squats are my FAVOURITE! I love squats. Dead lifts are way harder, they feel super awkward and they make me so sore for so long. Right now I'm working from a powerlifting program - "Wendler 5-3-1" - to try to get all of my lifts up, so I have squats and deadlifts and bench press and overhead press in my routine, its AWESOME. Totally love it.
What I wouldn't be caught dead doing in the gym is lunges. I see people at the gym who will do lunges all the way around the track with free weights and I'd just rather die. That's the only exercise I just blatantly refuse to do.
I'm not sure what part of your email makes me more sad. The part that recognizes that as a Professor my students think my advice is irrelevant, or the part that recognizes as a parent my kids will soon think my advice is irrelevant. This is some seriously depressing stuff.
I guess on a certain level I am pleased to hear that my impression about the transfer of information from upper years to 1Ls is correct, though I was kind of hoping I was wrong. I feel bad for 1Ls. I wish there were more mechanisms in place to protect them from their own inclinations. For example, at my law school 1Ls couldn't do clinic in their first year, or were restricted to extremely small roles. Sure, clinic is great fun, but it also takes up a ton of time, and can lead to the stress problems you talk about in your email. It seems to me that we both agree that one of the most important messages is: THINK VERY HARD BEFORE YOU TAKE ON EXTRA COMMITMENTS, and I would add DON'T BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE OR YOU WON'T GET A JOB (mainly because that's just not true...). Do you feel those messages get through enough? I've definitely heard them thrown out once in awhile, but I'm not sure they're being sold as hard as they should be. By the way, I don't want people thinking I don't like these extra-curricular things like Law Show, SLS or clubs. They're great - and everyone should do them. But law school is three years long, and there's plenty of time to try these things out. I'm not convinced first semester of first year is the time to fill your calendar with commitments.
P.S. I finished a powerlifting 5-3-1 series in June and really enjoyed it. It has screwed up a lot of my senses about "what a lot of weight is", and going back to reps of 6 has been a bit of a struggle. I worry if we keep talking about weightlifting, we may lose readers, so let me just leave you with a separate question. Have you seen, or have any interest in seeing, Boyhood? Just curious…
Hahaha, it is sad but true, Proffessor!
I think you're right that the main message should be that you don't need to take on everything at once, you don't need to do everything and you don't need to be worried about your CV in 1L- you have a long time and a lot to learn before its time to be thinking about jobs and articling and such. Unfortunately, I don't think these are the main messages 1L's retain in the first month of September. I felt that messages like "your grades will drop and that's ok" or "your reputation starts here" or "it's important to get involved" get a lot more airtime; it would be nice to see that change. It's not that these messages aren't true- they are. It's just that they add to the anxiety 1Ls are facing when what they need is permission to take their time and ease into the faculty. I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggest that the grades and clubs and jobs are not at all the problem, its just the pressure to join clubs AND keep your grades up AND start developing your resume in the first month of school before you've gotten your bearings can be really stressful and against the best interests of new students.
Now, my advice wouldn't even be not to do any of that stuff in your first year; just to be very selective and remember that less is more. If you can choose just one or two commitments in the programs you are most interested in, you'll meet new people, learn a lot and feel fulfilled by your law school experience. Start small! Many clubs offer roles that don't require a lot of time commitment and can be very flexible to work with your studies. These smaller roles are a great way to start out as a 1L trying to get involved. It's easier to add on new commitments if you're not feeling challenged later on than it is to back out of commitments you've already made. Finally, don't be afraid to just sample different clubs in your first year. There are always all sorts of events going on around the law school that are run by different clubs and there will always be posters and announcements throughout the Law Centre to keep you in the loop. Just attending events and guest lectures and supporting faculty groups is a great way to develop interests in certain groups that you may want to pursue in your upper years.
PS I'd love to do powerlifting meets someday so getting my lifts up is going to be really fun. Weightlifting is the best.
I hadn't ever heard about this Boyhood movie you mention, I had to go look it up, but I would absolutely see it. Between the years of 2002 and 2014 when the movie was filmed I've grew from being 7 to being 20 so to watch someone go from being 5 to 18 in that period on film will be like watching my childhood. I can't imagine watching the film without feeling some kinship with the actor growing up. Sounds like a really interesting idea to base a film around simply watching someone grow up. Sounds like the film will pass the Bechdel Test too, so it meets my feminist standards!
This appears to be the end of our discussion of 1L Life but fret not! A second part remains in progress, so stay tuned!
Thanks for reading, 1Ls! See you soon.
Michael Krauss, who teaches at Geroge Mason University School of Law, my law school, has some advice to incoming first-year law students. Read the whole thing, but his punch line(s) is:
Are you interested in pursuing Justice, in making the world/your country/your state a place governed by the Rule of Law, freer from predators and safer from tyrants than it currently is? ... IF so, welcome to law school, we need you badly, you will find your studies fascinating and enriching, and you will be able to make a real difference in the world. There is no subject more difficult than Law, because of its encyclopedic nature (nothing is irrelevant!). And there is, I think, no subject more important today.
On the other hand, if you’re in law school because you didn’t know what else to do after your BA, because you hate Math (and erroneously think Law doesn’t require Math skills) and the sight of blood, therefore couldn’t be a physician, and have no goal other than to make a lot of money, and if you dislike work but have always relied on your IQ and adrenaline to ace all your courses, well, you chose the wrong generation to go to law school. Get thee out now whilest a partial refund of tuition is still available.
How do you write a bad brief? Easy! Just follow these 12 simple rules:
Make it a “long,” not a brief. ...
Throw issues against the wall. ...
Flunk the giggle test. ...
Commit purposeful errors. ...
Make unreasonable arguments. ...
Be bombastic. ...
Lay on the legalese. ...
Load up the citations. ...
Quote like crazy. ...
Don’t analyze. ...
Tell no story. ...
Read the details of each point here.
All right, its been a few days so I’m prepared to offer my advice to the Keeners who may have felt perturbed by my cliffhanger in my earlier advice article. Hopefully the last few days have been (perhaps uncharacteristically) relaxing for you. Here are a few recommendations I have for those who have I-just-can’t-wait-(exactly)three-more-weeks-for-law-school-itis (ok, so its a good thing I never went into medical school).
Also, for those of you who identified more with the Savourer side of things, take a look at this advice too! These activities are great ways to get a little more excited about the fall to come.
Ok so you were unsatisfied with my “binge watch Netflix series” advice from last week, but movies and tv shows can be a source of law-related R&R. Movies like A Few Good Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Liar Liar, Chicago, Erin Brockovich and The People vs Larry Flynt are personal favourites of mine but there are countless more. Some other examples: Legally Blonde, A Civil Action, The Lincoln Lawyer, 12 Angry Men, Philadelphia, The Verdict, Kramer vs Kramer, and The Paper Chase. From critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated to goofy and self-deprecating, there is sure to be a law-related movie to suit your mood.
And then there’s books! There are books that are actually just about what its like to be in 1L (for example, 1L by Scott Turow). As much as law students are a very diverse group, its amazing how common both the education and the emotions law students experience are. Reading about others experiences will prepare you and empower you to face the challenges ahead of you. Legal Fiction is its own genre as well. Authors like John Grisham, Lisa Scottoline, Scott Turow and Michael Connelly write innumerable novels for those who are legally inclined. For help picking one out, just browse legal fiction on goodreads.com.
2. CASE STUDY
Law is largely a case study degree. This means that most of what you learn in law school you learn by reading court cases, getting to know them, identifying principles they use and discussing them in class. Learning to read cases is one of the biggest adaptations new law students have to make. So if you’re eager to get started, reading some cases can be a good exercise that will help you out a lot once law school starts. Some easy picks in my opinion are the Carbolic Smoke Ball case and the case of the Snail in the Ginger Beer. These cases are iconic Contract and Tort law cases, respectively, and you are bound to come across them in your first year. FUN FACT: The annual law school formal is named after the Carbolic Smoke Ball (us law students think we’re pretty clever). You may read the Moore Cell Line case in Property; it’s an interesting and controversial case that decides the ownership of an individual’s cells. Criminal and Constitutional Law have a lot of famous cases that you will study. Although Criminal case R v Ewanchuk is a grim sexual assault case, it is extremely influential, took place in Edmonton and had an… interesting… journey to the Supreme Court. Constitutional Law also has a wealth of interesting cases to read. My recommendation would be the Persons Case in which the Privy Council (the highest level of court when Canada was not yet independent from Britain) decide that women fall within the meaning of the word “persons”. These are a few of my favourite cases to read so if you’re looking to practice reading court cases before the start of the term don’t hesitate to give them a look. They may be difficult to understand and digest at first but trust me, by the end of your first year reading cases becomes second nature. Practice makes perfect, so why not start now! Plus, even if you don’t understand the cases fully on your own, you will almost certainly go through each of them in class and get to know them very well with the help of your professors and classmates.
3. THE INTERWEBS
Something I can say about many of the students and professors at the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta is that we are very friendly and a lot of us are mildly addicted to social media. One of the best ways to prepare for law school is to reach out to those of us that are already there and see what we’re up to! You could also reach out and see if you can meet your peers who are also going to be starting law school this year.
Facebook - on Facebook there are groups for each graduating class. Your class (of 2017) already has a group on Facebook (and may I say, its quite a fine looking group so far!). My class (of 2016) and the class above me (of 2015) also have Facebook groups. These groups always have posts about what’s going on in the law school, helpful tips for fellow classmates, funny anecdotes, textbooks etc. being bought and sold. It’s a great way to chat with your fellow soon-to-be 1Ls and the current upper year students and get the heads up on what will be going on in the first few weeks of school (I know the Law Students Association, or LSA, is already gearing up for your Pre-Orientation!). There are also Facebook groups or pages for many of the special interests groups within the faculty. The Women’s Law Forum has its own page, Student Legal Services and PBSC have pages, there are pages for specific areas of law (health, sports, entertainment, environment, etc) and there are faculty and campus wide pages too (for example, Overheard at University of Alberta is always good for a laugh or two). In sum, there is no shortage of Facebook pages available to help you connect with your future peers.
Twitter - oh how I love twitter. And many of our Faculty of Law here at the U of A do too! You can follow Peter Sankoff, Moin Yahya, Steven Penney, Eric Adams, Timothy Caulfield, Cameron Jefferies, The LSA, the Women’s Law Forum, Outlaw, Don Iveson, and of course, me! There are absolutely tons of amazing practitioners, special interest groups, news stations, celebrities, interesting people and university of alberta groups that run awesome blogs on twitter. Being a part of the social media conversation with a diverse group of members of the legal community is a great way to get excited for law school.
Faculty of Law sites etc. - there are a lot of websites run by different members of the university of Alberta’s faculty of law. Student Legal Services has information about their services and the law in Alberta regarding various topics. This blog at ualbertalaw.typepad.com has many faculty contributors that post a huge variety of interesting legal information (and Better Call Saul trailers). The faculty website has all sorts of information on student life, courses, professors and scholarships, as does the general university website. Some professors also run their own websites-for example, do you have Professor Sankoff for Criminal law? You can get a head start on learning the law and getting to know his style by going to his website and watching his Criminal Law Capsules! Other interesting and helpful websites include the Black’s Law Dictionary (for when you come across latin or legalese in cases and get completely lost, don’t worry, it happens to us all), CanLII where you can find copies of countless statutes, cases and regulations in Canada, the Supreme Court and Alberta Courts websites post recent judgements, etc. The internet is a beautiful, magical place.
My favourite piece of advice, as little as you may want to hear it, is simply to relax! However, for those of you with the Keener attitude, relaxing might be easier to digest if it celebrates academia. That doesn’t mean it has to be law school related! Take a break and do crossword or sudoku puzzles, play chess, watch Ted talks or Cosmos or cool documentaries (a couple I’ve watched recently are Furever and Blackfish because animals are awesome.)
You got into law school and with that as a basis its pretty safe to say you’re a smart cookie. Spend your last few weeks pre-law school basking in your own smartness (and learn something that didn’t come from a casebook or statute for possibly the last time in several months). You’ve got three years ahead of you to learn about law daily. Take this time to enjoy learning whatever it is you love to learn about. Learning is awesome. And you’re awesome!
There you go Keeners. Hope this list helps you have fun in the last few weeks of twiddling your thumbs until you finally start law school. I know how hard you worked to get here and I sincerely congratulate you and look forward to seeing you on campus soon! Keep reading the blog for more advice and information about law school from yours truly and faculty too!
Did you know there was a shooting of an unarmed african-american youth a few days ago in Ferguson, MO? Did you know there have been two days of protests and/or riots depending on who is doing the reporting? If not, you would have a good excuse, as the mainstream media has been busy with more important things like Robin Williams and whatever else gets more ratings. (Don't get me wrong, I liked the great legendary comedian actor).
Anyway, if you want to know what is going on, twitter is the place to be. There seem to be opinions all over the map, but at least there is discussion and reporting. In fairness to some of the media, there is a bit more coverage coming through, but very slowly.
In what is an interesting genre-bending mix of science fiction and speculative history, Naomi Oreskes' and Erik Conway's The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future asks, from the vantage point of the year 2093, just why it was that the people of Western Civilization, who knew so much about the causes and consequences of climate change, did so little to combat it, especially when it was still possible (way back in 2014) to forestall its most severe effects.
It's a good question. The authors' answers, on the other hand, are somewhat muddled. They first wag an accusatory finger at climate scientists and the nature (the very epistemology) of Western science itself. In my own view, set out in my latest Sustainability Matters column (here), this goes a bit too far, and ignores the excellent interdisciplinary climate science and climate science advocacy being conducted in Canada and the E.U. in particular (see e.g. this comment in the journal Nature published in June as an example par excellence).
Oreskes and Conway come much closer to the mark with their notion of the "carbon-combustion complex," or the "interlinked fossil fuel extraction, refinement, and combustion industries, financiers, and government 'regulatory' agencies [the 'Alberta Energy Regulator' anyone? How about the National Energy Board?] that enabled and defended destabilization of the world's climate in the name of employment, growth, and prosperity" [emphasis added].
But Oreskes and Conway let ordinary citizens almost completely off the hook. After all, the very premise of their Baconian question—i.e., that knowledge didn't translate into power—presupposes that scientists and other academics are doing their job. The real question is whether anyone is paying attention or much cares. And if not (which is assuredly the case), then why not? This is the question we need to address, and urgently.
How not to impress a trial judge (or pass a law school exam):
Lawyer 1: The law in this province on issue X is set out in the 2011 decision A v B in our CA
Lawyer 2: The law in this province on issue X is set out in the 2013 and 2014 decisions of the SCC, so if the 2011 decision means something different, it's no longer good law. And, not that it matters, but the 2013 and 2014 decisions of the SCC were appeals from decisions of the CA of this province.
Lawyer 1: The 2011 decision is still the law in this province because it wasn't referred to in either of the 2013 or 2014 SCC decisions. (DC: Lawyer waits for judge to respond. Judge doesn't; so Lawyer continues). But, even if it isn't the law on issue X, we're relying on it for a completely different point which is "this". (Lawyer waits for Judge to respond. Judge doesn't. Lawyer moves to next point.)
(The new "This" wasn't mentioned by lawyer 1 before, though it was by lawyer 2 who'd said it was the law in the province, if the facts made that proposition applicable. The 2011 decision? It's authority for "this" only in the sense that it cites the earlier SCC case which is the authority for "this".)
I remember the summer before I started my first year of law school very well. My attitude would alternate between two very different positions. For fun (and practicality) I’m going to address these different feelings as two entirely different people (which is basically what it feels like anyway): The Savourer and the Keener.
The Savourer couldn’t believe what she had gotten herself into. She was amazed she actually got into law school amongst all the other incredibly brilliant applicants. She was amazed that her last round of Faculty of Arts finals were over and done with. She was NOT ready to give up summer and enter the scary world of case books and ratios (ok she didn’t even know what those were, to be perfectly honest). She knew (or at least thought she knew) how much work was in store for her and wanted to soak up every last academia-free moment.
The Keener, on the other hand was so excited to be going to law school. She wanted to be a lawyer since she was a little girl. She busted her butt studying for the LSAT (to the point where she’s pretty sure she went a little bit crazy). She felt so lucky to be continuing her studies in her hometown. She was simply filled with anticipation: she didn’t know any other law students, had never taken any law classes and knew next to nothing about most areas of law. She had no idea what to expect, but she was giddy nonetheless.
Now, just one year later, I have quite a bit of advice I would have loved to have received. Here is what I would have done if I had known then in my pre-1L summer what I know now in my post-1L summer:
My 5 pieces of advice for the Savourer:
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of hobbies. I love music, I play guitar, I knit, I make art, I lift weights, I run, you get the idea. Since I’ve been in law school these things have fallen into the background of my life for better and for worse. Now, this isn’t necessarily because law school is overly time consuming (although it is). It’s also simply a matter of moving forward. In my spare time now I spend my time differently, my interests are different and my priorities have changed. I will always love all of those hobbies though, and I try to make time for them when I can. Spend time enjoying those hobbies that you love most and I promise, when law school gets busy you’ll look back on your endeavours as time well spent.
2. HANG OUT WITH NON-LAW FRIENDS
I’m lucky enough to be studying in my home town, so moving on from the Faculty of Arts to the Faculty of Law in no way affected my proximity to high school friends, family, under graduate colleagues, my boyfriend, etc. I underestimated the effect it would have in how much time I would spend with them though, especially on-campus friends. All law school classes are in one building, the Law Centre. So while I used to run into acquaintances and friends all the time in my Arts degree as I traipsed from the Turtle, to CCIS to ETLC, in law school it can be tough to see your favourite SNAILS (Students Not Actually In Law School). Make sure you make some time for them as you enjoy the last of your summer weeks!
I know a lot of you are party animals. I know how easy it is for your schedule to go insane over the summer to the point where you’re basically nocturnal. In the last few weeks of summer, I highly recommend trying to re-establish a sensible schedule (keep your class times in mind). Otherwise, all your pocket money is going to be spent in the Gavel in return for a share of Steve’s heavenly supply of hot caffeinated beverages.
4. READ FOR FUN!
Ok so maybe some of you are not quite the nerds that I am but hear me out: law school requires a lot of reading. In fact, I can confidently say that most of my time in my first year was spent with my nose stuck in one book or another (either online or in print). If I could go back and take a second shot at my pre-1L summer I would have read as many interesting, non-law related books I could get my hands on. Nowadays, I just can’t seem to find the time for books that aren’t written in legalese.
5. CONGRATULATE YOURSELF
When I was The Savourer it was often because I was really nervous about what law school had in store for me. What if my grades drop? (They probably will). What if I get really busy and stressed? (You probably will). What if I don’t like all of my classes and professors? (You probably won’t). Now I’m not going to tell you that law school isn’t hard or scary or boring or stressful, a lot of the time it is. But I’ll tell you something I wish I could have believed when I was just starting out: You can handle it. So my final, most important piece of advice for the Savourer is to relax and be proud of yourself. Being accepted into law school is an amazing accomplishment. Pat yourself on the back, binge watch your favourite shows on Netflix, and don’t worry yourself over the year ahead. You earned it and you’re going to do great.
As for my advice for the Keener, for now, I only have two:
Seriously. It’s super exciting that you’re going into law school but you’ve got three years for case books and statutes. Have some fun. It’s summer, for goodness sakes!
2. STAY TUNED
Not satisfied? I’m not surprised. Keeners will be keeners. I’ll post my best advice for those of you who are itching to learn about the law and law school next week! Until then, you’re just going to have to be patient and relax.
Looking forward to meeting and welcoming you all,
Sara McCourt, former 1L
One of the greatest pitchers of all time, Greg Maddux is now in the BBHoF! Not bad for a guy whose scouting reports were not very positive. One issue with his plaque: there is an error (grammar) on it. As one of the comments in this post states, more errors on his plaque than his typical season. Here is his interview: