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Monday, 29 July 2013 08:00

Articling is a go!

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Blakes' Kari Abrams advises resting up as much as you can before jumping into the whirlwind of your articling year.
Blakes' Kari Abrams advises resting up as much as you can before jumping into the whirlwind of your articling year.
Ready, set, go!
Monday, 22 July 2013 09:24

Tension marks TRU law dean’s exit

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TRU’s founding law dean Chris Axworthy has quit his job less than two years after the school opened its doors.
TRU’s founding law dean Chris Axworthy has quit his job less than two years after the school opened its doors.
In an unexpected move, the dean at Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law has resigned.
Monday, 22 July 2013 09:00

Money matters

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-4STUDENTS_Standard_photos_2013rebecca_lockwood_new.jpgI wasn’t one of those law school applicants who carefully calculated the ratio between tuition and the average starting salary. I didn’t pore over a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the investment in law school was a good one — I just assumed it was.
b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-4STUDENTS_2013_July_barchart.pngA law school’s academic reputation had the greatest influence on a student’s decision to go there, says a recent report from the Law Society of Upper Canada.
As they clean up, flood victims have lots of questions about their legal rights and Calgary law students are helping out with that. Photo: Andy Clark/Reuters
As they clean up, flood victims have lots of questions about their legal rights and Calgary law students are helping out with that. Photo: Andy Clark/Reuters
A group of law students at the University of Calgary is pitching in to help those affected by the recent floods in Alberta.
Monday, 08 July 2013 09:00

What do corporate lawyers do anyway?

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Corporate lawyers essentially spend their time documenting the actions of their corporate clients. Photo: Shutterstock
Corporate lawyers essentially spend their time documenting the actions of their corporate clients. Photo: Shutterstock
If you were anything like me when I was a law student, you were easily drawn to corporate law firms during career day. Free dinners? My own assistant? Working in a shiny building? Why, yes please!
New Ottawa common law dean Nathalie Des Rosiers says the school’s graduate program needs more investment.
New Ottawa common law dean Nathalie Des Rosiers says the school’s graduate program needs more investment.
After 13 years, a new captain is taking over the helm at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law’s common law section.
Monday, 24 June 2013 01:00

Getting a head start on OCI prep

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Applications for on-campus interviews may not be due for another couple of months, but it’s a good idea to begin preparing now.
The first step is to carefully consider whether to engage in the formal process, and if so, which cities, firms, and/or government offices to apply to. This process will hopefully lead to a position that will start off your career, and it’s important to go into it with your eyes open so you make informed decisions rather than assumptions.
To make sure you follow the path that’s right for you, do your due diligence, give thought to the environment you want to work in, consider the type of work you want to do, and get to know the offices you are applying to as well as possible at this stage of the process. Although everyone’s strategies vary, hopefully the following suggestions will lead you in the right direction for the simultaneously nerve-racking and exciting process ahead.
Do your research
Scour firm and government office web sites for helpful information and seek out whatever other resources are available to you. Some firms, such as Bennett Jones LLP, compile student brochures that provide a lot of information and advice that is not only useful for applying to that firm but to others as well. With this information in hand, you can cater your application to each firm individually.
Go to tours and career fairs
This is a great way to get to know the firm and demonstrate your interest. The people leading these tours and attending the fairs are more than happy to answer questions about all aspects of work and office culture. After the event, be sure to follow up with anyone you met. It’s possible your initial meeting at an event could lead to further opportunities for you to learn more about the firm and receive guidance about the process.
Seek advice from friends and colleagues
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in the years above you for information and advice. If you don’t know someone at a particular firm you’re interested in, send an e-mail to one of the junior associates or a summer student from your law school. Chances are this initiative will be well received and it may start an invaluable mentorship relationship.
Attend OCI information sessions
Keep an eye out for e-mails from your law school about information sessions being held about the application process. When you are just starting to prepare your cover letter and resume, the logistics of the process can seem shrouded in mystery. Going to these information sessions not only helps clarify the steps you need to take, but you also get advice about how to structure your application. As well, the panellists may work at firms you’re interested in applying to, so it provides you with another opportunity to introduce yourself and find out more about that specific firm or organization.
Prepare your application early
A one-page cover letter and two-page resume may not seem like much, but done properly, they can be what sets you apart and gets you the interview. To accomplish this, it can often take days of drafting, reviewing, and rewriting. Your cover letter will be particularly important for grabbing the attention of whoever is going through the applications, so it’s important to spend a lot of time on it. Before submitting your application, ask for advice from the career office at your law school. If you can, ask an upper-year student to see their letter and seek out proofreaders for their advice on form and content. If you know someone well at the firm, and have his or her permission, reference that person as a source of firm information.
No matter what your strategy, do the work now so there is as little as possible followup required once the process gets going during the term. You don’t want to end up scrambling and appear unprepared for the interviews. Instead, you will want to spend that time updating information and focusing on learning about the individual interviewers.
It is important to take the process seriously — because the firms certainly do — but enjoy it as well. This can be an excellent opportunity to discover great firms, meet interesting people, and prepare yourself for the beginning of your career in law.
Sasha Toten recently graduated from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law’s common law program. She will be starting her articles at Bennett Jones LLP in Toronto in August.
b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-4STUDENTS_2013_June_sasha_toten.jpgApplications for on-campus interviews may not be due for another couple of months, but it’s a good idea to begin preparing now.
Monday, 24 June 2013 01:00

How objective is objective enough?

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We have been discussing the notion of objectivity — what it means, its importance in law, its role in decision-making, and (especially) how we can perfect it in our own argumentation and writing — all throughout law school. This topic is never-ending. So it’s not far-fetched to say objectivity it is central to the legal profession and our education.
I was reminded of this after writing last month’s article, “When to speak up,” [http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/4665/when-to-speak-up.html] about getting political in law school. I received a lot of feedback, some of which emphasized the importance of objectivity in law.
Some people felt advocating strongly for a particular issue or making their politics publicly known would jeopardize how objective they were perceived to be by their peers and employers. Some said staying mum on particular topics enhances the impression of neutrality, which is essential to the role of a lawyer.
After all, employers, colleagues, and clients want to know they are going to get unbiased, honest work from you. They might ask what happens when a client who holds opposite views to yours shows up in your office and asks you to represent them? Would you turn away every client you disagreed with? How would your client feel if they knew you held opinions in stark contrast to their position and had publicly advocated against their interests in the past?
Another argument was made that law school is not only training lawyers, but future judges as well. To advocate for one particular side and voice opinions too loudly would hinder the development of potential decision-makers.
These are some of the counterpoints that could be made to my comment from last month, although given the breadth of the topic of objectivity, it certainly isn’t an exhaustive list.
Admittedly, these are great questions to ask as we ponder and plan our futures in this field. What does objectivity mean to our legal education and what role does it play in our futures?
Without launching into a philosophical essay, I want to try and answer some of these questions as I understand them. First, while objectivity is certainly a goal worth striving for and utterly important in the law, its absolute existence is open for debate. I think it should be noted that human beings are biased creatures — period. It would be very difficult for someone to be absolutely objective in any sphere, law school or otherwise. So is it better to pretend to be without opinion or try and identify where our biases lie?
Second is the difference between being objective and making objective arguments. In law school, we are learning how to see both sides of an issue, how to form concise arguments for each side, and how to do so using language that is concise and free of adornments, which focuses on the facts. From my point of view, at this stage we are learning a technique on how to form objective arguments rather than how to become objective ourselves.
Last month, I used an example of students making a public statement against a proposed bill. A vocal opponent may express opinions against it and that’s it. A law student, however, may consider why such a bill was proposed in the first place and formulate more nuanced arguments to address those points as well as their own in order to advocate for a side. The objectivity and strength of an argument stems from how you make it, rather than whether or not you make it.
Third, should speaking up rule out being respected and employable? To what extent does it hinder your ability to make objective arguments and act as a good lawyer?
Shortly after writing my last article, I attended a discussion panel on access to justice [http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/4668/students-encouraged-to-embrace-spirit-of-pro-bono-work.html] at the Pro Bono Students Canada annual national conference. A number of prominent legal figures were there, including Osgoode Hall Law School dean Lorne Sossin and Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and soon-to-be dean of the University of Ottawa’s common law section. That evening, we discussed a push for change in the legal profession to address this issue. All of the panellists had their own views on how to go about it, but everyone was advocating for a shift — they were speaking up.
I stopped for a moment and thought about how highly regarded these individuals are. They are at the top of the legal game so to speak and have garnered respect from all corners. And they were taking a stance.
I imagine their respect stems from their reputation as great lawyers and leaders, which would include the ability to see both sides of the coin and argue effectively. I also think much of the admiration is a result of the dedication they’ve shown to particular issues. That evening, it was clear that success in law (and respect from colleagues and clients alike) and having an opinion weren’t mutually exclusive.
This panel discussion stuck in my mind as an example of the kind of lawyer I’d like to be and the perfect illustration of the point I was trying to make last month. I don’t doubt the importance of objectivity or the role it should play in law; I hold it in high regard. I do wonder though, in this new environment I’m now a part of, how objective is objective enough?
b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-4STUDENTS_Standard_photos_2013rebecca_lockwood_new.jpgWe have been discussing the notion of objectivity — what it means, its importance in law, its role in decision-making, and (especially) how we can perfect it in our own argumentation and writing — all throughout law school. This topic is never-ending. So it’s not far-fetched to say objectivity it is central to the legal profession and our education.
Monday, 17 June 2013 01:00

Law through a different lens

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How does art come into play with the law? Osgoode Hall Law School has found a new way to intersect the two.
Visual artist Cindy Blažević has been selected as Osgoode’s new artist in residence for a term during the 2013-14 school year.
Blažević, a documentary photographer, will teach an upper-year elective course that explores justice and the law. Specifically, she has proposed to take students to the Kingston Penitentiary on the night of its decommissioning — scheduled to take place in April 2014 — and photograph its interior and interview key stakeholders.
Osgoode dean Lorne Sossin says the course will explore different perspectives on the criminal justice and penal systems, including how it looks from those involved, such as wardens, guards, inmates, judges, defence lawyers, and Crown attorneys.
“The pictures of the actual institution tell a great story of legal history, day-to-day reality in prison life, rehabilitation, punishment, all the tensions that go into the criminal justice system, and what comes out in terms of very human stories and human drama,” says Sossin.
This new program fits with Osgoode’s focus on experiential learning.
“The exhibit may be a series of photos and essays, but lying behind it will be a whole series of perspectives on justice that you couldn’t get in a classroom and you couldn’t get from writing papers,” he tells 4Students.
“A big part of law is advocacy, persuasion, telling stories, gaining new understandings of the impact of laws on people, and in all those respects art can achieve things that a more conventional approach to academic classroom settings or academic writing could never hope to do,” he adds.
Blažević plans to collaborate with students on how to conduct this artistic project. Many of her past projects — which can be viewed on her web site [http://www.cindyblazevic.com] — demonstrate a clear legal component.
She says law students can really benefit by using art to view the law.
“The law is a creative profession in the sense that you need to have a creative mind,” she says. “And when you approach anything in a different way, it shines new light on ideas, thoughts, and processes.”
Law student Pamela Hinman, who’s also president and co-founder of the Osgoode Fine Arts Collective, says it’s important for students to be exposed to the arts in law school.
“The arts can express what words can’t, and so a project like this has the potential to provide a variety of perspectives and a unique depth of understanding of law in action,” she says.
“As future law and policy-makers, I think it’s important that we’re exposed first-hand to education through art so that we can understand the value that it brings to our society,” she adds.
Blažević has been awarded project grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council to cover the technical and logistical costs of the project. Osgoode is also providing her with a stipend.
Sossin says he hopes the artist in residence will continue as an ongoing program.
“It makes very good sense to broaden how we understand the impact of law through looking at it in the lens of an artist,” he says.
Among other artistic initiatives, Osgoode has engaged B.C. First Nations artist Charles (Ya’Ya) Heit to create a carving for the new law school building.
“Through each artistic medium, I think we’re going to get better perspectives on the legal issues and better perspectives on the connection between law and society,” says Sossin.
Visual artist Cindy Blažević will serve as Osgoode Hall’s artist in residence for a term during the 2013-14 school year.
Visual artist Cindy Blažević will serve as Osgoode Hall’s artist in residence for a term during the 2013-14 school year.
How does art come into play with the law? Osgoode Hall Law School has found a new way to intersect the two.
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