Monthly Archives: October 2011

Expectations and Surprises: Who Knew?

Until I started preparing my applications last year, I believed that ‘law school’ was simply the institution an individual attends to gain a legal education. Au contraire mes ami(e)s. Law school comes with its own baggage (enough to keep airlines in business for years). Mentioning this institution to friends, family and acquaintances may render you some sort of ethereal glow in the eyes of others as people seem to be in awe of your future life in Law and Order. Disclaimer: this may be a gross exaggeration but there is truth to the claim that there are expectations and connotations associated with law school.

Let’s play a little word association game. Ready? Okay, let’s start and end with one, well two, words—law school. Typical answers may include: stress, reading, competitive, stuffiness, intensity, expensive, prestige, difficult, reading, lawyers, advocacy, and, did I mention, reading? All of
these potential answers are true, or, at least after a month of going to law school, that is my impression. During orientation week, as 1Ls we were encouraged to share our expectations of what law school would be like and my peers mentioned many (if not all) of the above descriptors. So if you thought them, you are not alone. For those of you that have, I would like to take this opportunity to help you explore your expectations.

The main thing to always remember is that all of these preconceived notions oversimplify law school. After a month and a bit of school, I realized many of these expectations were not an accurate depiction of law school. Yes, you have to read. Yes, at times, there is stress in your life. No, it is not easy. However, law school is not impossible and can actually be fun.

My personal expectations of law school envisioned professional attire, long-winded excurses between colleagues in to the meaning of law, and the end of my social life. Further, I expected to be completely overwhelmed with new terms, subjects, ideas, and ways of thinking. I worried about not keeping up. The point was that I had a view of exactly what law school would be like and for the most part, I was wrong.

I have been pleasantly surprised to find that my fellow colleagues and professors are actually people too. I could start up an intense debate about the newest Supreme Court decision just as easily as I could stir up a debate about the latest pop culture phenomenon. At the Orientation Banquet, half of my small group discussed, in-depth, the latest Harry Potter film. Imagine my excitement to discover that the legal profession does not (contrary to some opinions) attract automatons or people with the personality of a shark.

There is a sense of community at UBC, which has been a great comfort as I moved here from Toronto, leaving all my friends and family behind. No matter what initiative or idea I may have, there is always someone to share the opinion or at the very least is willing to discuss it.

This diversity is no better expressed than during clubs week. I think I signed up for every activity. I did not care what it was, I wanted to be involved. Some of you may be wondering if undertaking this blog is included in my haphazard extra-curricular frenzy. It was not. I wanted to share my experiences with those of you out there who may have trepidations. There are all kinds of options open to all students, and you are
able to shape your law school experience as you choose. If you like athletics, we have a rugby team. Have an interest in knitting? Got you covered.
We have environmental clubs, women’s interests groups, yoga sessions, the school paper, LSLAP (law students legal advice program), PBSC (pro bono students Canada) and many more. Apple may have an app for it but we have a club for everything.

There is no one definition of law school; it is what you make of it.  So if you read this as you, possibly, prepare to apply to UBC’s Faculty of Law (do it), remember that this next chapter in your life will be written by you. You get to choose your path, and you need not worry about LAW SCHOOL as everyone else conceives of it. So, yes, you may have certain beliefs and expectations about law school but those are yours and they
are subject to change. Sure, classes and courses in 1L are set but you are free to arrange the periphery however you choose.

Just remember, no matter what your expectations of law school, in some way it will surprise you.

If you have any questions out there you’d like me to answer or address in a subsequent blog, please feel free to shoot them my way.

Life as an Exchange Student

Hello from lovely Manchester. Currently lovely because it does not look like it’s going to rain today – the definition of a good day in Manchester. I am a 3L student at UBC but at the moment I am on exchange to the University of Manchester for first semester and I thought I would share how the experience has been thus far.

In a word, amazing. To be fair, classes started on September 26th, so I have only been in school for about three weeks…but on the bright side, classes started on September 26th, so I have only been in school for about three weeks. The great thing about doing an exchange through Go Global, whether you’re a law student or any other student at UBC is that you have the privilege of experiencing an international education without paying the international fees. So far, the professors have been great, the classes are interesting and I am studying with a large international class, I was told in orientation that approximately 1 out of 4 students are international. My flatmates (roommates) are also international students, one from Nigeria and the other from Indonesia, I am therefore constantly learning something new about places I have yet to travel to.

Speaking of travel, Manchester has one of the main airports in the UK and is central enough to facilitate easy travel. I have already been to Italy and Edinburgh and have booked trips to Prague, Barcelona and Dublin. Jealous? You should be.

Back to the educational part of this trip, the reason I am here, of course. A full course load is three classes and I only spend about 7 hours a week in lecture. The rest of the time is in seminars or the library, a seminar here would be similar to a tutorial session back home. There is a fair amount of independent study and a heavy load of reading. Manchester is one of the few universities in the UK which allows for fall assessment instead of requiring exchange students to return in January to write the exams. Therefore, I am writing major term papers for all three of my classes which will be based on a question assigned by the professors.

The most interesting class that I am taking would be Counter Terrorism. We have weekly seminars which are essentially hour long debates on the readings and we are pre-assigned which side to take. It definitely forces the students to come up with arguments that might be against their personal beliefs and so far the debates have been extremely interesting. There are no marks allocated to the seminar and so the environment is relaxed but students still take the time to come prepared with arguments.

Manchester itself is a great city, very vibrant and young because of the University and always has something going on. But if you think you can handle the rain just because you’re from Vancouver, think again. There are days of rain here where the rain pours down in buckets and the wind whips it at you from all angles, making an umbrella utterly useless and this is a normal rainy day. I have also heard predictions of snow for the end of October…so that should be fun. Although, my flatmate from Indonesia has never seen snow before and is ridiculously excited for the first snow fall, seeing it from her point of view will be a pretty amazing thing.

Till next time, cheers love!

Introducing the Dual JD-MAAPPS (Asia Pacific Policy Studies) Program

Hi UBC Law blogosphere, my name is Nicco Bautista. I’m in my second year of the dual JD – Masters of Arts in Asia Pacific Policy Studies (MAAPPS) program here at UBC.

The UBC Law blog already has a few 2L contributors who will share their law school experience. I’m going to take the opportunity as one of the two JD-MAAPPS students in the school at the moment, (shout out to Theressa Etmanski in 3L) to give prospective and current UBC law students a glimpse into the joint program.

Details of our program can be found here:

On campus interviews (OCIs)  for summer 2012 positions have just ended, and while we await call-backs from this nerve-wracking experience, it’s also a good time to laugh at some of the humorous aspects of the process. Take for instance, the need to explain to each employer what exactly the JD – MAAPPS program is. As one recruiter said, “that’s a lot of letters…”

The easiest way to explain the program is that it is designed for individuals who wish to craft policy or work with legislation relating to the Asia Pacific region. The program gives students the opportunity to learn the wide theoretical foundation from JD training, and enjoy focussed practical experience in policy-making and government interaction through the MA’s thesis or practicum options. Those who pursue a practicum are expected to work in the field for 3-4 months, whether that is in a law firm, think tank, government agency. Students of the joint program are also expected to complete 30 credits in addition to meeting the graduation requirements of the JD.

In essence, you do about 4.5 years worth of work in about a 3-4 year period. Meaning you’ll sleep less, eat more instant noodles, but also travel and work in some interesting places across the Pacific Rim and just be a more interesting individual over all. Or so I hope.

Introductions aside, the blog will shed some light upon the amazing opportunities Theressa and I enjoy as joint-program students. It goes without saying that for those interested in an Asia Pacific law practice, admission into one of the finest law schools in Canada, coupled with focussed instruction in one of the premier graduate policy programs, with both strategically situated in the hub of the Pacific Gateway, is a career path you must definitely explore!

In the next entry, I’ll chat about how the MAAPPS curriculum affects the job hunt and recruiting cycle for students looking to practice law.

September Summary: Becky, Vancouver, UBC, Biopsychology

Never in my life have I been repeatedly asked the same questions so many times as in the first week of law school. These questions are standard and so frequently repeated that by the end of the first day of orientation a new friend suggested to me that it might be faster to simply write on all of our foreheads the following information: name, hometown, undergraduate university, and undergraduate degree. These four questions are the basics that you find yourself asking everyone, even as you feel a small twinge of guilt for being so unoriginal and barely scratching the surface of who your classmates truly are. For a while, I attempted to switch it up by asking people what their favourite band was, but let’s face it, that’s basically impossible to answer without having the time to develop a series of flow charts and highly complex ranking system.

If you talk to someone longer than the amount of time it takes to cover the Fundamental Four, the next question is often “So, why law school?” Several of my small group members have concrete, concise answers for this and I am slightly intimidated by their conviction in the fact that this has always been where they belonged. My own path, on the other hand, has entailed a series of events which culminated in the decision to go to law school.

I first had a taste of what it might be like to practice law in grade 7 when my class did a mock trial. I was one of the defence attorneys and standing in the heritage court downtown in my gown, I felt completely in my element. In high school I somehow wound up in almost all science courses and entered university as a science major, unsure of what I would do after I graduated. After two years at UVic, I decided to transfer to UBC and get my B.Sc in psychology, which I thought would eventually lead to a Ph.D in clinical psychology. I really loved a number of my upper-year courses, but after a year of volunteering in a lab cleaning rat cages and observing their sexual activity (I wish I were joking about that, but unfortunately I’m not), I became somewhat disenchanted with research. Around the same time, I took a forensic psychology course with a truly phenomenal professor and my interest in law was reignited. As a result, I decided to write the LSAT and take it from there.

The last stop on my way to deciding that law was probably for me was in late April 2010 when the class average for an 8 credit stats course was dropped to 72% from 81% at the very end of the year, thereby violating several university policies (fact: they were supposed to have scaled throughout the course). A fellow classmate and I wound up fighting the head of the department on the issue and successfully had our class’s average raised 5%, a pretty significant victory considering when we went into our first meeting with him we were promptly told that while he “sort of” felt bad for us, there was no way he was going to change it.  Regardless of the outcome, I thoroughly enjoyed researching my case and became even more interested in the possibility of doing it for a living.

Long story short, my path to law has not been a straightforward one. There are no lawyers in my family, no philosophy or political science courses under my belt, no debate teams, nothing; simply a string of relatively random experiences. I’m interested to learn more about my fellow 1Ls’ journeys as the year goes on because we are definitely an eclectic mix. So, on that note (yes, I am predictable…), why law school?