Monthly Archives: January 2013

Tales from Abroad – Second Installment

Second term is well underway back at UBC, and consequently my Facebook news feed is filled with posts about readings, dull lectures, and assignments. Meanwhile, I am enjoying my morning coffee on the front deck of my new flat in Christchurch, New Zealand, figuring out how I’ll spend these next two weeks before classes start here for me. Every time I check in with my friends  I know that in May I’ll be paying for all my bragging when my friends back home are on their holidays and I’m still in class, right now I’m feeling like the cat that got the canary.

I was just checking out Beverly’s post on the debate over whether or not to get a law job after first year or whether to travel. Spending time abroad with your studies is a great way to get the best of both worlds (if you’re one of those ambitious folks who must have it all).  UBC has so many opportunities to do things that are outside of the box. There are the many exchange programs offered through UBC Go Global, judicial externships, and the many legal clinics including the First Nations Legal Clinic and the mediation clinic. All of these provide a varied experience from the usual day-to-day of lectures and readings, and they’re certainly not the only way to gain some law school credit for doing something out of the ordinary.

Off for a few more adventures before I have to hit the books!

Enjoying some less than summery weather in Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand.

The Learning Curve

Earlier this month, I found myself having a conversation with some friends regarding our general state of shock over the fact that we are now halfway through our law school experience. This milestone caused all of us to reflect on our time at UBC Law and there seemed to be one thing in particular that was at the forefront of our minds: the differences between first and second year. It might seem as though not that much could change in a year, but there were many marked shifts that all of us had picked up on, and we weren’t just thinking about the fact that the Law Café is now fully operational (now we really have no reason to ever leave the building…still undecided as to whether this is a good thing or not).

The main difference that I would like to explore here is the way that you learn. I still remember sitting down with my first ever case (Kelsen v Imperial Tobacco) and not knowing where to begin. December instilled a small amount of confidence that we could at least make it through a law exam without fainting, but I think for most of us, we still felt a little bit like Bambi (wide-eyed, shaky, excited, nervous, you get the picture) until we got our April grades back and saw what changes we had made worked, and those that didn’t. This was so important because it enabled us to start to truly figure out what professors look for when we are writing an exam, and in turn this greatly influenced the approach to studying.

I can distill the idea behind this change down to efficiency. In first year, I think the intense fear and confusion as to how to approach law school exams probably led a lot of the class to get bogged down in a lot of irrelevant details when reading. I enjoy Lord Denning pondering the majesty of the British countryside while setting the stage for a judgement as much as the next person, but truth be told, that probably isn’t what your professor is going to be looking for when you only have 3 hours and a fact pattern that seems impossible to unravel. By second year, you develop the ability to scan for the ratio faster, become more intuitive about the facts that are going to actually be worth knowing, and learn when using other people’s CANs is (and is not) a good idea.

I have often heard people comment that second year is harder than first year. From an academic perspective, this is probably true. The spoon-feeding days of first year are long gone and it is sometimes only when you are a day into studying for an exam that you really start to get a picture of how the cases of a course tie together. However, I don’t think that this year is harder on the whole. Yes, the volume of reading is greater, but you can get through it faster. Yes, the courses are harder in terms of the law being more challenging, but they are courses that you have chosen and thus are more likely to be interesting to you.

So, 1Ls, fear not, because it only gets better from where I stand – especially because now that you are more adept at handling the workload, you can more fully enjoy all of the social events that law school has to offer (Mardi Gras masquerade this weekend anyone?)

FREE public lecture

I came across the following event and it caught my eye. I thought it may be of interest to other students of law, who are similarly intrigued by considerations surrounding international law and global justice. Rather than write about another captivating event after the fact, I thought I’d first share the opportunity to attend with all of you!
Maybe I’ll see you there!

Just a quick housekeeping note – although this event is in fact free and public, please make sure you reserve your seat online, at the following link.
Reserve online here.

Fairness and Legitimacy in International Law-Making
Thursday, January 31, 3:30 pm
IRMACS Theatre, ASB 10900, Burnaby campus

Dr. Thomas Christiano, Philosophy, University of Arizona, will be speaking at the President’s Dream Colloquium on Justice Beyond National Boundaries.

Sample of Thomas Christiano:
A Democratic Approach to the Legitimacy of International Institutions

YouTube Preview Image

Dr. Thomas Christiano’s Lecture Abstract:
I will explore one of the main worries concerning the idea that state consent is at the basis of the moral legitimacy of institutional law and institutions. One frequent charge against the legitimacy of contemporary international institutions such as the World Trade Organization is that though they were consented to by member states, they are the product of wealthy countries taking unfair advantage of poor countries’ vulnerabilities. This charge is intuitively quite strong but it is rarely given a careful theoretical articulation.

I will construct and defend a general moral conception of fairness as a standard for assessing agreements like contracts. In my presentation, I will give an account of the nature of unfair advantage taking in the making of agreements and criticize the traditional common law standard of fairness in agreements as the avoidance of force and fraud.

My argument defends an egalitarian and procedural account of the standard of fairness in the making of agreements. The idea is to characterize an ideal in which agreements are fairly arrived at when the parties have equal opportunities to avoid the agreement. Unfair advantage taking takes place when and to the extent that one party takes full advantage of the lesser opportunities of the other party to extract benefits from the agreement. The better-placed party need not entirely erase the differences in opportunities in order to avoid unfair advantage taking. It need only make a reasonable contribution to the enhancement of the capacity of the other party to have a say in the making of the agreement.

I will proceed from a defense and articulation of a general account of fairness and unfair advantage taking and then applies it to the special context of international agreement making.   This context is distinctive in a variety of ways that are relevant to the assessment of the fairness of the agreements and unfair advantage taking.

My presentation gives an account of the distinctive characteristics and then shows how the basic standards of fairness apply. I then proceed to determine whether and how unfair advantage taking in the process of securing the consent of the state parties can reduce the legitimacy of the institutions that are created through the unfair process of agreement.  Once fairness is thought of as a constitutive part of the legitimacy conferring process of international law making, the notion of legitimacy must itself be enriched in various ways the paper articulates.

I will also makes some recommendations for enhancing the legitimacy of the process of institution building in international law-making.

The Great 1L Debate

I realize the title is a tad exaggerated, but the Great Debate I am referring to is the question that some 1Ls may soon be asking: should I work or travel this summer?

Around this time of year, there are more publicized employment opportunities available to 1L students. Postings from Toronto law firms, international as well as public interest organizations, and more, are appearing on the Career Services website. However, there is the allegation that law students will have lots of opportunities to work, and fewer opportunities to take a large quantity of time-off to travel, later on.

The prospect of acquiring law-related experience is attractive. I personally have never had any sort of law firm experience and, while I have favorite law subjects, the idea of working in any area of law is enticing at this point.

On the other hand, a wise, upper-year student once said, “I will have the rest of my life to be a lawyer, but I won’t always have four months off to travel and see the world.”

I have been told that an interesting summer job or an interesting travel experience would make great interview dialogue. The important thing is to do something during your 1L summer that you can talk about with recruiters, interviewers, and of course, your friends!

For now, I am still keeping both avenues open. I still have months to decide, after all. I’m applying for interesting positions through Career Services while [regularly] checking TravelCuts, Expedia … you name it. Whether you decide to work or travel during your 1L summer may ultimately depend on a number of other factors, such as past work experience, finances, etc. If you are going through the Great Debate right now, I strongly recommend discussing your 1L summer options with the Career Services Office. They are wonderful and will provide you with lots of ideas!

In a perfect world, I would get to do both.


“Weep not for roads untraveled”

“Weep not for roads untraveled.

Weep not for paths left alone.

‘Cause beyond every bend,

is a long, blinding end,

it’s the worst kind of pain I’ve known.”

These are some wise words from a song by a wise band, singing about what I can only assume is law school. Or maybe love. Most likely law school. The first two days back from our holiday break reminded me of this song as we got our exams back and opened the floodgates of memory to go over our December efforts and figure out why we got certain things wrong and other things right. Of course, that is the main point of the December exams process: learning how to study, how to take law exams, and what to do and not do. However, whether the ‘roads untraveled’ were those extra sample exams you never got to, or the ‘paths left alone’ were the extra CANs you never looked at, it can be hard to pinpoint what it was you could have done better. I think it’s very easy to get wrapped up in thinking there were dozens of things you could have done which you missed, which leads to thinking you now have to do all of them to succeed. There’s been much discussion of people vowing to do this, that and the other come April. Many of us are, somewhat stereotypically, type A, ambitious individuals who are used to be being perfectionists. So, it’s natural for us to have a tendency to linger on any imperfections and try to ameliorate them by employing the maximum number of possible remedies.

I think a good strategy is to resist the urge to dwell on all the possible things that one could have done, and instead actively find the most effective improvements. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the techniques and technicalities of studying and CANing, allowing the focus on areas of conceptual confusion and the mastery of materials to wane. The best way to use the December practice run is as a springboard to jump forward, and not a road looking backwards. Effective, focused evaluation is good; re-questioning every step is likely going to end up being fruitless.

When the training wheels come off in April, I reckon there will be enough ‘worst kinds of pain’ known to most of us. So, there’s no need to create more out of this round. Study smarter, study better, and sprinkle in some fun in there if possible.

I’ll also take this opportunity to wish everyone a great start to the new term and a very happy new year! I hope 2013 will be one filled with happiness and success for everyone!

It’s 2013!

Here’s hoping the break from school has given you time to relax, reflect and reconnect with all those you hold dear!

Regardless of how fruitful or fruitless 2012 has been for you, remember the wise words of Winston Churhchill:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Wishing you all the courage to continue, along with a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

– n