Issue Archive

Monday, 27 February 2012 08:04

Articling how-to

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As law societies grapple with a crisis that could change articling forever, students are still looking for their own ways to clear the final hurdle to a career in law. Staff writer Michael McKiernan asked articling students past and present for their advice on setting up articles away from the mainstream and at smaller firms.
As law societies grapple with a crisis that could change articling forever, students are still looking for their own ways to clear the final hurdle to a career in law. Staff writer Michael McKiernan asked articling students past and present for their advice on setting up articles away from the mainstream and at smaller firms.
Monday, 27 February 2012 08:03

The muscle behind EthicalOil.org

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Chiquita Brands International Inc. was likely hoping for a merrier Christmas. Maybe a few of its bananas stuffed into the stockings of Canadian kids along with the mandarin oranges or a few eaten as an alternative to shortbread cookies. Instead the company got a lump of coal courtesy of a University of Calgary law student who decided that rather than take a three-week party break with her friends, she would spend the holidays punishing Chiquita for a perceived attack on Canadian oil.
As the muscle behind pro-Alberta oilsands web site EthicalOil.org, 26-year-old Kathryn Marshall in December organized a national boycott that damaged Chiquita’s market share north of the 48th parallel. Marshall believes it is hypocritical for the company to not use oil
products originating from Canada while publicly supporting oil-producing
nations with deficiencies in their environmental practices and human rights policies. “Going to school in Alberta you just start thinking a lot more about the oil and gas industry because it’s all around you,” the London, Ont., native said as we sat in a downtown Calgary hotel restaurant full of people in suits likely discussing said lifeblood of Canada’s richest province. “You start to also see through some of the myths and stereotypes and misconceptions of the oil industry in Canada.”
Marshall’s interest in the movement was piqued after reading conservative pundit Ezra Levant’s book Ethical Oil. Levant then asked her to get involved in his new grassroots advocacy organization Ethical Oil Institute, for which she now serves as spokeswoman. “She doesn’t seem to follow the norm of a person who is only 26,” says Levant. “In other words, she doesn’t seem like an ‘Occupier’ or a passive protester, but someone who instead works toward forging change.”
Like anyone of her generation, Marshall is fully immersed in social media. She blogs regularly (kathrynmarshall.com)
and tweets constantly (@KVMarshall). Plus, she writes a regular column for 24 Hours, Vancouver’s free daily newspaper.
Marshall has also become a regular face on various television political panel discussions on all three major news networks. Back in December she debated Green Party Leader Elizabeth May on CTV about the oilsands and the role of Canada at the United Nations climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.
Because she was already adept at both traditional and social media, Marshall was able to get the Chiquita boycott pumping at full capacity in a matter of days.
While all this advocacy work is going on, Marshall is completing her law degree. She will begin articling at 14-lawyer Vancouver firm Webster Hudson & Coombe LLP this spring, with a goal of becoming a litigator.
Those who have dealt with Marshall, however, see a political career in her future. She completed a degree in political science/women’s studies at the University of Western Ontario in 2008. In the summer of 2007, she began getting to know the workings of Ottawa as a communications intern for Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Monte Solberg. As well, Marshall spent the summer of 2010 working as an intern in the Vancouver office of Minister of Heritage James Moore.
Marshall’s political gene comes from her mother, who was a city councillor for the town of Westminster near London when Marshall was growing up. “I was 16 and going to political meetings where it was all 50-year-old men there,” she says.
After her stint in Ottawa, Marshall moved to Vancouver and spent just over a year as a development associate at the Fraser Institute think-tank, where she worked on major fundraising projects and learned even more about public policy. “Watch out for Kathryn Marshall, who will one day be prime minister of Canada!” the institute’s vice president of development, Sherry Stein, declared in an e-mail to 4Students, probably only half-kidding.
Before that seemingly fated-in-the-stars political career takes shape, Marshall declares she will have a career in law. “I’ve always been interested in advocacy and policy and law. I think law is a great career if you want to be an advocate for a whole bunch of issues,” she says. “You can have effective change when you are a lawyer. That’s why I chose to go to law school.”
Marshall targeted Webster Hudson & Coombe as a desirable employer because of its size and because it does a lot of litigation work. The firm was not planning to hire a law student this year, but that changed when the lawyers met Marshall. “Once we met her, we realized right away that we were going to hire her,” says Jack Webster. “The thing we like about her is she has another life. She’s not your typical law student. She’s not just in it for the money.”
In Webster Hudson & Coombe, Marshall says she saw a firm that was the best fit. “They do interesting work. They do a lot of litigation, which is what I want to do. It’s important to find a firm that’s a good fit because you’re spending so much of your time there. You want to make sure that these are people you can work with and that it’s an environment that fits your personality.”
Marshall also says she feels the West is a good fit for her, though she prefaces that by saying her heart will always belong to Ontario. Marshall loves the spirit of Alberta. “Calgary attracts this young, go-getter personality. Not that there aren’t people like that all over the country, but I think it is very much part of the western mentality. You come here to make something of yourself.”
Marshall is already doing that. Leading the boycott of Chiquita bananas raised her profile considerably in short order. “She already has a very important nonpartisan political career: defending Canada’s oilsands against those who, for whatever reason, prefer conflict oil instead,” says Levant. “I do not know what her partisan plans may be in the future, but I have no doubt she will be involved in public policy, given her talents.”
Part of what drew Marshall to EthicalOil.org is her interest in women’s rights. As much as she seems to be fighting to protect Canada’s oilsands, she is battling countries like Saudi Arabia and their attitudes towards women. “I care about human rights. Gender apartheid is happening in Saudi Arabia and just because they are a giant oil-producing nation doesn’t mean the world should ignore their human rights record,” insists Marshall. “Let’s start’s talking about it.”
One of the reasons Marshall moved west was to get a look at life from a part of the country where perspectives differ from Ottawa, which she said operates in a bubble. If a political career is in the offing, the experience that comes with viewing the country from other areas will come in handy.
Everyone 4Students talked to about Marshall agreed Ottawa likely hasn’t seen the last of her. “I think a career in politics is something that goes through her mind. She clearly has a strong interest in politics, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that one day she makes that jump,” says Solberg. “Whatever party she decides to work for — the Conservatives or whoever — I’m sure they would welcome her.”
The Christmas holidays were barely over when Marshall and EthicalOil.org found themselves in a fresh battle, this time with those opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline project for northern British Columbia. On Jan. 3, EthicalOil.org began a six-week radio and newspaper advertising campaign to contest “foreign special interest groups,” which it says are interfering in the project that would link Alberta to the West Coast. The pipeline proposal was scheduled to go before public consultation on Jan. 10.
Just like with Chiquita, Marshall isn’t shying away from the debate over foreign funding for environmental groups. In fact, the opposite is true. Even before the two campaigns began, Marshall spoke of how she was not afraid of arguments. “When people tweet me, I tweet back. I don’t care if someone doesn’t agree with me,” she explains. “When someone doesn’t agree with me that’s great. It means I can have a debate with them and try to persuade them. It’s fun for me. Some law students — some people — aren’t comfortable doing that. But I love it.”
Photo: Gavin Young
Photo: Gavin Young
Chiquita Brands International Inc. was likely hoping for a merrier Christmas. Maybe a few of its bananas stuffed into the stockings of Canadian kids along with the mandarin oranges or a few eaten as an alternative to shortbread cookies. Instead the company got a lump of coal courtesy of a University of Calgary law student who decided that rather than take a three-week party break with her friends, she would spend the holidays punishing Chiquita for a perceived attack on Canadian oil.
Monday, 27 February 2012 08:02

Distant shores

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In July 2001, 14-year-old Navratan Fateh arrived in Canada from the Indian state of Punjab with his parents and younger sister. They settled in Surrey, B.C., and the young teen soon loved his new home, developing a fascination for the Canadian education system. He found it more organized and analytical than India’s system, as he was encouraged to express his creativity rather than memorize facts. But then came the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Being Sikhs, Fateh’s family feared that they might face possible repercussions in Canada so they moved back to India once he finished Grade 8.
But Fateh was determined to return as an adult to the country he fell in love with. So after his 18th birthday, he contacted a lawyer in Vancouver to find out how to appeal his immigration status. He studied Canadian law to figure out how he could get back into the country, and fought his immigration case for two years before winning his judgment on humanitarian-and-compassionate grounds. “If I didn’t have legal
knowledge, I would be like, ‘OK, well the law says you stay [in Canada] for three years or you go back, and that’s the end of the story. But there is an exception [on] humanitarian-and-compassionate grounds,” says Fateh. “You’re supposed to raise the argument, build your case, and if you build your case well enough you might fit that exception, it’s one out of 10. But the other person wouldn’t know that exception, he would just accept the facts. Somebody who knows the law would be like, ‘I can do this.’” It’s because of this experience with Canada’s Immigration Appeal Division that Fateh decided he wanted to use his legal education to help those without any knowledge of the law.
Once he obtained his BA and LLB from Chandigarh, India’s Panjab University’s combined program, he returned to Canada in June 2011 and enrolled at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law to complete his LLM. He was also elected president of the Graduate Law Students Association. Fateh chose U of T because of its course-intensive program, where he will receive 20 credits for courses and four credits for his thesis. This style of program appealed to his interest in human rights law since it allows him to take upper-year courses on narrow subjects, such as human rights and international politics: dilemmas in action and evaluation, a course taught by former Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff.
Fateh says he developed a fascination for human rights law from witnessing so much injustice while growing up in Punjab. “With my jurisdiction being India, I’ve seen a lot of human rights abuses. Between 1990 and 2000, the law was developing in a way that if somebody was a human rights lawyer, he would just be killed or disappear,” he recalls. “There are a lot of torture stories, I just grew up with them.”
Although he doesn’t have much desire to go back to India to practise law, he still wants to help those who have legal issues there. After graduation, he plans to take on the role of a liaison between Canada and India, assisting those who are unfamiliar with the law. He aspires to open his own practice in Canada and dedicate part of it to the Indian community, including travelling to India to settle clients’ cases if necessary.
One example of a case that has ties in Canada and India is the murder of Jassi Sidhu, who was killed in Punjab in 2000 following her marriage to an Indian man her family allegedly didn’t approve of. Her mother and uncle, who live in Maple Ridge, B.C., were arrested in January and face extradition to India where they are wanted on charges of conspiracy to commit murder. The concept of honour killings is something Fateh is familiar with — in fact, he’s writing his thesis on the topic. He says his family’s law firm receives multiple cases regarding honour killings each month.
The case of a Montreal couple and their son convicted of killing their three teenage daughters and the husband’s first wife in what have been characterized as honour killings has brought this issue into the spotlight recently. Fateh says the notion of women being murdered by their family members for allegedly bringing shame onto the family is becoming more prevalent in Canada. Ultimately, he would like to help the Canadian justice system understand honour killings and improve the laws surrounding them.
In deciding what to do post-graduation, Fateh says the law school didn’t push him in any particular direction. In his experience, he says U of T’s law faculty supports its international students whether they want to practise in Canada or return to their native country. U of T law dean Mayo Moran says international students seek a variety of careers after graduation and the faculty strives to help them achieve their goals. “People do a whole range of things,” she says. “So what we try to do is to give students a great sense of the range of things that they can do and then try to facilitate what they want to do, rather than trying to get people to either stay here or go away.”
Foreign students come to study law in Canada for a variety of reasons. 4Students spoke to various international students who said Canada’s post-secondary institutions offer a better education than what’s available in their native countries. In addition, they said, Canadian law schools don’t just take their money and tell them to return home, nor do they pressure them to stay here to practise law. Canada is also a democratic society that some international students may not be accustomed to.
Third-year law student Gjergji Hasa says he hopes his degree from the McGill University Faculty of Law will allow him to help people in his home country of Albania. He left Albania during the 1997 civil war after winning a scholarship to a school in Romania. In 2004, he moved to Canada and went to McGill’s admissions office to apply to the law faculty but was told he needed a Canadian undergraduate degree, volunteer experience, and the ability to speak French — none of which he had at the time, he couldn’t even speak English then. So he completed a political science degree at Concordia University in Montreal with a minor in French and got some volunteer experience.
He says he always had his sights set on McGill because “it has a lot of international students as well, it has an international character, it is well known internationally, and I wanted to work in the international field.” McGill has a large global community; nearly 19 per cent of its student body is international students. In October 2009, law students started a popular blog called Legal Frontiers, which features articles written by students and professors about issues in international law.
Like Fateh, Hasa also plans on being a liaison between Canada and his home country. He seeks to remove the political corruption in Albania and improve its economy. “In Albania, I think that people have had enough. They want things to change but things cannot change from the bottom up only or from the top down only,” he opines. “The will of the politicians and the culture that is created is far from where it should be. So being an example and simply delivering what people want would be the first change that needs to be made.”
He began his bid for change by sending letters to Albania’s head of the rule of law, advising him of his wish to eventually play a complementary role on the Albania judiciary and bring its institutions to higher standards. His professors at McGill and even Federal Court Justice Michel Shore have expressed interest in his plans. Shore advised Hasa not to go back to Albania right after graduation though, as it could be dangerous for him. In the meantime, he says he will work for an international institution in Canada and help Albania from the outside before going back.
“There is a lot of work to be done out there,” Hasa concedes. “In Canada we’re very, very, extremely fortunate to have what we have. I see people complaining and whining about what is not being done. It tells me that they haven’t seen outside of Canada and what is actually happening.”
Unlike Hasa, Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere has no desire to move from his native country. He received his BA and LLB from New Zealand’s University of Otago in 2007, and then clerked at a court and practised corporate civil litigation at a law firm. After working in the profession for four years, he decided to pursue an LLM from U of T. He enjoyed studying the law and wanted to increase his legal education so he chose Canada because post-graduate degrees from overseas are highly regarded in New Zealand and the justice system is similar to the one he knows quite well. “New Zealand’s got quite a tradition of heading to Canada actually, I’ve had quite a few colleagues that have come over here,” he says. “I think the general reason is because the Canadian legal system is actually quite similar to New Zealand, coming from that Commonwealth tradition.”
Studying in Canada is also much cheaper than going to other countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States, he adds, and he is fascinated by the Canadian legal landscape. The biggest difference between the two countries, he notes, is that New Zealand doesn’t have a federal system of government like Canada, which took him some time to figure out.
Rodriguez Ferrere says there seems to be a lot more pressure at law school in Canada as opposed to back home. “[E]verything that you do at university, at law school, is solely focused on what you’re going to do afterwards. It’s certainly a consideration and everyone wants to get into practice after they do law school in New Zealand as well, but it feels less of a pressure-cooker environment than there is over here. It seems to be over here that everything is driven towards getting a job on Bay Street, and if you don’t then you’ve failed,” he explains.
He says he hasn’t been directly encouraged to practise in Canada, but just being in classes with other JD students who are so driven and determined to go into private practice creates an intense environment. “I haven’t met anybody that isn’t going into practice after law school,” he says. There seems to be an expectation in Canada that law graduates will go into private practice, whereas that expectation doesn’t really exist in New Zealand, he adds.
However, Rodriguez Ferrere isn’t worried about getting hired on Bay Street since he plans to return to New Zealand after graduation. He says he doesn’t want to go through the process required for students with foreign law degrees to qualify to practise in Canada, which would include writing several equivalency exams and obtaining a work visa. He’s also more inclined toward academic work rather than returning to private practice.
For more information on how to qualify to practise law in Canada if you received your law degree in another country, visit the National Committee on Accreditation’s web site: flsc.ca/en/national-
committee-on-accreditation.
Distant shoresIn July 2001, 14-year-old Navratan Fateh arrived in Canada from the Indian state of Punjab with his parents and younger sister. They settled in Surrey, B.C., and the young teen soon loved his new home, developing a fascination for the Canadian education system. He found it more organized and analytical than India’s system, as he was encouraged to express his creativity rather than memorize facts. But then came the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Being Sikhs, Fateh’s family feared that they might face possible repercussions in Canada so they moved back to India once he finished Grade 8.
Monday, 27 February 2012 08:01

The pros and cons of...

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Practising in Vancouver, practising corporate-commercial law, human rights law, criminal law.
Monday, 27 February 2012 08:00

Holding on to the dream

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After completing dual law degrees at McGill University and an LLM from the University of Toronto, I opted to pursue a doctorate in law in 2009. At the same time, my long-time friend Shai Korman was equally busy pursuing his own career in the field of communications and government in Washington, D.C. We were moving in different directions, as is often the case with childhood friends. We grew up together in Montreal and have been writing and playing music together since we were 14 years old — me on guitar and Korman on drums.
We had girlfriends and then wives, mortgages, babies, and all the other responsibilities that come with adulthood. But the one thing neither of us was willing to give up was music. Life just doesn’t seem complete without it. Live music reveals an aspect of ourselves that we can’t get out in any other way.
My latest band, What Does it Eat (whatdoesiteat.com), is the continuation of a long history of creative collaboration. Various projects and groups carried both of us through our undergraduate degrees at McGill and my time at law school. We’ve released two independent albums and played many venues around Montreal, even ranking ahead of Arcade Fire in a battle of the bands (though neither of us won that night).
Life moved on, with Korman moving south of the border, and me stopping in Ottawa and then Toronto. But we could never abandon our partnership. Working by telephone and e-mail, we have now put together a collection of eight new songs on our newest album, Hot Points. We recorded the album over five years in five different cities: Toronto; Parry Sound, Ont.; Montreal; Washington, D.C.; and Arlington, Va.
This record retains much of our distinctive songwriting style, described by T’Cha Dunlevy of the Montreal Gazette as producing “fun, thoughtful tunes.” Our quirky lyrics are still set to poppy melodies laid over deceptively sophisticated chord progressions. Our latest effort has seen a development in production, moving from a bare-bones folk approach to a lusher sound, incorporating more electric and electronic elements.
Although I’m a new dad and hope to become a law professor in the very near future, neither fatherhood nor academia will impede my love of music because there is always time for my passion.
To celebrate the release of Hot Points, we’re planning a show in Washington in the spring and hopefully a show in Toronto shortly after. We’re also working on a 20-minute song cycle about secondary sitcom characters from the 1980s and ’90s entitled, Sidecar: The Musical.
Not your average lawyer, that’s for certain!
Photo: Naomi Lear
Photo: Naomi Lear
After completing dual law degrees at McGill University and an LLM from the University of Toronto, I opted to pursue a doctorate in law in 2009. At the same time, my long-time friend Shai Korman was equally busy pursuing his own career in the field of communications and government in Washington, D.C. We were moving in different directions, as is often the case with childhood friends. We grew up together in Montreal and have been writing and playing music together since we were 14 years old — me on guitar and Korman on drums.
Monday, 29 August 2011 10:51

The elusive brass ring

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The elusive brass ringA growing shortage of articling positions has left hundreds of law grads saddled with the prospect of having run up massive student debts for a shot at a profession that has no room left at the inn. The problem — primarily concentrated in Ontario, although British Columbia appears to be experiencing a minor shortage as well — has a simple explanation. More prospective lawyers than ever before are seeking entry to the legal profession, especially practitioners trained outside Canada. Stats show that in 2006, the Law Society of Upper Canada accepted 1,400 registrants to its licensing program. That number spiked to 1,750 in 2010. Meanwhile, in 2008, 5.8 per cent of applicants failed to secure an articling position within their first year of eligibility. That number rose to 12.1 per cent in 2011.
Monday, 29 August 2011 09:00

A dose of reality

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A dose of realityI couldn’t have imagined how much a trip to Kenya would affect my life. After meeting some courageous Kenyans who welcomed me graciously into their lives, I was fortunate enough to spend time with them and gain insights on life, humanity, dignity, and faith.
Monday, 29 August 2011 09:00

The pros and cons of . . .

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Practising in Calgary, practising personal injury law, practising in Trois-Rivières, practising litigation.
Monday, 29 August 2011 09:00

What clients want

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What clients wantMore than a few times as I’ve wandered the halls of the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria during my first two years of law school, my grey hair has caused otherwise intelligent (I’m sure) people to mistake me for a professor. Of course, they rarely make that mistake after I open my mouth during class, when it quickly becomes apparent that I’m like every other student trying to make sense out of this mystifying thing called “the law.”
Monday, 29 August 2011 09:00

Yes, councillor

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Yes, councillorSince late 2008, the Bowmanville, Ont., branch of the Clarington Public Library has been like a second home to Osgoode Hall Law School student Corinna Traill. After winning her spot at Osgoode, she decided to move home to her parents’ house in the town east of Toronto, and make the 80-kilometre commute for class. With the law school undergoing major renovations, and its library severely shrunk, Bowmanville filled the gap for Traill’s study space.
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