Category Archives: Student Perspectives

Student Perspectives: Mischa Smolkin

“Stay in your own lane”


These five words allowed me to stay (relatively) sane throughout my first year of law school.

One of the amazing things about Allard, and the law profession generally, is the sheer amount of support available to you. As a 1L, for example, you’ll immediately be provided with a legal buddy, a peer tutor, a CBA mentor and section mentors who will be eager to give you tips and guide you through your first year. Add that to the advice you will receive from your amazing career advisors, your orientation week leaders, the Allard Ambassadors, your professors, upper year friends, lawyers that you will network with and fellow 1L classmates… and what you end up with is an overwhelming amount of advice and information of what other people are doing.


Pretty soon, these strangers will feel like family.

Now, don’t get me wrong: the wealth of resources available to students is phenomenal. But, it can also be dangerous. Indeed, as an impressionable 1L, it can be very easy to get caught up in the hype and do something just because “it’s what I’m supposed to do” or just because “everyone else is doing it.” And believe me, you will always know what “everyone else is doing” because law students often deal with stress by complaining, and talking and complaining and talking and, after that, just a little bit more talking.

It is for this reason that I wanted to pass along some of the best advice I got from a 3L student last October, upon me asking her for advice. “Don’t listen to anyone’s advice”, she told me. And while I don’t fully endorse this position because I believe in the merits of these resources, I do think it carries an important message: you got accepted into law school for a reason. The admissions office does not make mistakes; they wanted you and they believe in you. And given that they wanted you, you should have some confidence in your ability to succeed and that you belong here.


Professors are always there for help!

Another quote; this one from a provincial court judge: “Law school is like a puzzle. In 1L all the pieces are turned over and you have no idea what is going on. At this point, you’re just trying to figure out what your picture is going to look like”.

Everyone goes through 1L without a clue of what they are doing. Eventually, you figure out what works for you, develop a system and thrive. In other words, the picture starts to come together. But here’s the thing: there is no one way to complete the puzzle. Everyone has different methods, different interests, different goals, different philosophies and studying strategies. And the most common mistake that myself and some of my classmates made in 1L is to look at what someone else was doing and immediately feel as if we were deficient for not doing the same. For a long time, I was too afraid to deviate from what everyone else was doing to listen to myself. I eventually realized, this is a big mistake.


Lean on your friends, and be there to support them too!

I can’t stress this enough: yes, your classmates are amazing individuals. Talk to any one of them for long enough, you are guaranteed to come away with at least a few things you admire about them. But even more importantly: you are not your classmates, you are you and you belong here. Be happy for what they are accomplishing but don’t make the mistake of thinking it somehow makes you less impressive unless you try to replicate what they are doing.


“Well, I’ve put in over 60 hours of library time this week.” – Your classmates are motivated and hard working. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t; even if you spend less time in the library. Only you know how hard you need to work and only you know if you are working hard enough. Stay in your own lane.

“Wait…you’re not doing LSLAP?” – Your classmates are competent and making a tangible and positive impact on the world. Good for them. This doesn’t make you a bad person if you don’t participate. It also doesn’t mean you aren’t competent and don’t make an impact on the real world. There are many ways to get involved. Stay in your own lane.

“I’ve already got over 400 Linkedin connections” – Your classmates are charismatic and excellent networkers. That’s awesome. Maybe you don’t have a LinkedIn page or haven’t made any law firm connections yet, that’s fine. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure law firms don’t make hiring decisions based on your success on LinkedIn. Maybe you are naturally introverted, that’s also alright; lots of successful lawyers are too. Maybe you don’t really want to make these sorts of connections; that’s ok too. Diversity is the spice of life people! Just because your friends want to work in a big firm, doesn’t mean you should feel stupid for not wanting that lifestyle. Stay in your own lane.

“Have you finished CANing?” – Your classmates are organized and well prepared. I, personally, never finished a CAN (the package of notes you’ll take into your exams) until the morning of my exams. Other classmates had completed their CANs before exam period even began. Guess what? We all performed well. There are many ways to learn and many ways to prepare. Stay in your own lane.

By now, you probably understand my unbelievably repetitive point: everyone feels like an imposter in 1L, but you are not an imposter. You got here because you are intelligent and a good student. Why, after all this time, would you let yourself be influenced by what others are doing? Again: this doesn’t mean you should ignore the resources presented to you. Quite the opposite: I implore you to use the vast resources at your disposal, collect as much information as you can but do not forget the final and most crucial step: use your intelligence to decide what advice is right for you and don’t hesitate to disregard the advice you don’t want to follow. 

Take everything with a grain of salt (even this post), remind yourself you belong here and, of course, stay in your own lane. And if you need positive reinforcement, come talk to me.


Law School may seem daunting, but trust me: you are in for 1L of a ride!


Mischa Smolkin

Student Perspectives: Andrew Smukowich

Personalizing your law school experience


Law school provides such a wide range of extra-curricular activities and areas of study that it is easy to recognize that everyone develops their own particular experience at Allard Hall. This really allows you to pick and choose what is important to you. This type of flexibility is something that can help you focus on your interests and gain insight into the direction you may wish to take after the program. There is a multitude of things to do outside of the classroom like providing legal access to people in need, joining one of the many clubs, or just playing some organized sports for fun!

However, this personalization does not only come from extra-curricular 11221864_10153228984620791_6300526693630600575_oactivities but also the courses you will take or a specialization you will choose. Although this is something that is not chosen in the first year it is worth considering from an early stage. All of these choices will determine your unique experience at Allard Hall. The takeaway is that there is no correct way to go through law school, there is only the way that is right for you.

Student Perspectives: Rosalyn Chan

0Ls – Welcome to Allard Hall!


I am very excited for you (maybe even slightly jealous) as you begin this journey and are looking forward to the next three years. Here I am, an incoming 3L, about to embark on an exchange for the first semester (something you should all do!), thinking about the limited time I have left as a student at UBC. Time truly does fly. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot wait to never have to study for exams again and make another CAN, but law school isn’t all studying and classes. There actually are a lot of fun and games involved. I would say that 49%* of your law school success will depend on your ability to keep a healthy work/play balance. It is entirely possible to have a social life every week and still get great grades. It doesn’t have to be law school all the time. In fact, it shouldn’t be. What will work for you will be different than what worked for me, but I’ll give you my tips anyway:

Get involved:


Law Games 2015: We didn’t win any sports but we certainly looked good!

You have already read some posts on ways to get involved through different clubs and Law Games (come to this – ESPECIALLY if you are athletically inclined), but there are many other avenues to making Allard Hall your home. Bonus: these require zero commitment and lots of free food and libations. Last year, I was the LSS, as it was then, Vice President Student Affairs and had the privilege of planning all the Friday Socials (firm sponsored mingling events on, who-woulda-thunk-it, Fridays) and other LSS run events like the infamous Boat Cruise (tickets ALWAYS sell out so get them early!), Movember, Semi-Formal, and the Trike Race (I’m going for a three-peat this year). I cannot encourage you enough to attend these events. You will feel at times throughout the year that you don’t have enough time – like you just need to get back home or to the library to hit the books again. That feeling is a complete lie. Don’t give in. Fight the urge. Give yourself a very well deserved break, even if only for an hour. The books will always be there when you’re done having some laughs and making some memories.

Take care of yourself:

You are going to hear this over and over again, but make sure to stay healthy!

  • Get a good sleep every night: If you know me, you know that I am a night owl. Coming to school every single day for 9am classes, ready and alert, was definitely a challenge for me (no, 9am isn’t that early, but if you factor in a commute, now I’m not whining). So, I just started going to bed earlier. There was hardly a night, unless there was an event, that I didn’t go to bed between 10-11pm. It made all the difference.
  • Move: Whether you join the Beavers/Honey Badgers, play basketball, lift weights, go for runs, just move. And schedule this time in so you make sure you do it. No one wants to repeat the freshman 15, except this time it isn’t from eating res café food and drinking too much – it’ll be because you neglected to make time for your body. Get moving at least a couple times a week – it’ll clear your head and get you ready to read more of Lord Denning’s streams of consciousness.

Get away from the books (and maybe even Allardites):

  • Take one night/entire day off school stuff, every single week. During 1L, I took every single Friday night and most Saturday nights (lots of times, all day Saturday) off from the books. Knowing that I was going to have a break coming really helped me push through those days during the week when I felt like I was getting overwhelmed. MAKE SURE YOU DO THIS GUILT FREE! Don’t spend your night/day off feeling like you should be doing stuff. Think of it like giving your brain a sleep so that you can work harder when you actually have to get back to it on Sunday.
  • Spend time with non-law friends/family! Even if you’re not from Vancouver, don’t forget to call/FaceTime people from home. You have no idea how refreshing it is to have non-law related conversations every now and then.

…But not for too long:


We’re so eager to meet you we already made you a drink!

Beyond just getting involved, hang out socially with your classmates. These are the people that understand exactly what you’re going through and will understand what you mean when you ask about whether there was consideration or what the mens rea is. Like Jamie said in a prior post, these people are going to be your rock for getting through the slog of cases and exams coming your way. They will also be your future colleagues and professional network. Get to know them. Also, utilize your upper years! We’re all more than happy to give you advice on certain professors’ styles or hand down our CANs – we’re also more than happy to grab a coffee or a beer (or a gin and tonic). ALSO, hang out with the professors. Some of them come out to the Friday Socials and various other events. Some will invite your class over for dinner or go for drinks with a group of you. We have some great faculty – get to know them.

Take it one step at a time:


Don’t forget to have fun!

The hardest thing about work/play balance is constantly thinking about your entire to-do list from now until the end of next April (or even until you land a job next, next October). Take it all once step at a time! You will worry yourself sick for things you cannot, and do not need to, control at this very moment. For example, right now, all you need to think about is clearing your schedule for Orientation Week and having fun! If you’re a calendar kind of person (you should become one if you’re not already), fill out all the things you need to do with deadlines, and just think about your day one at a time. Don’t think about April exams when you haven’t even gotten your first LRW assignment. Don’t think about OCIs (blah) when you’re trying to study for your FAIL-SAFE December exams. Take it one day, one week, at a time. You will thank yourself for not freaking yourself out.


Look at all the fun we’re having!

The last piece of advice I want to leave with you is to do what works for you (except actually go get involved and go to events). These are just some ideas of things that I have done for the past two years to be successful at the whole work/play balance phenomenon. No one needs to tell you twice to work hard, but HAVE FUN! Don’t leave law school thinking it was the worst three years of your life because it certainly should not be that.

I am looking forward to meeting you during Orientation week! Make the most of your summer and don’t try to pre-read for classes or whatever silly thought you might have about that…


*Disclaimer: there is no scientific evidence to back this claim up.

Student Perspectives: Ian Davis


“Striking a balance between purpose and practice is a key to success”

Nietzsche famously remarked: “If we have our own why of life, we shall get along with almost any how.” Never mind the historical uses and abuses to which Nietzsche’s maxim has been put, the point is well taken. In law school, as in life, few challenges are conquered (still less conquered well) without the motivational thrust of commitment to a purpose.

It is then no accident that the law school requires that a statement of purpose accompany your application. Stripped down, I suspect that the bulk of them came in the following form: I want to study law (how) because I want to x (why). Of course, x varies: I want to study law because I want to make a lot of money, or because I want to promote social justice, or because I want to wear a suit, or because I want to vindicate the innocent, or because I want to object in court, or because of some further combination. Whatever your why, I encourage you to revisit it once first year gets underway and several times thereafter. Commit to it. And rely on it if (or when) the how becomes insufferable.

Yet don’t be afraid to revise it. Another approach is available. It takes the following form: I want to study law (how) because I want to study law (why). To be sure, this why strikes one as boring or unhelpful in a statement of purpose. But it should be no less compelling. Of things worth doing, some have intrinsic value, some have merely instrumental value, and yet others have both. What value does the study of law have for you?

Whatever your answer, you’ll have to square it with the tension between the two approaches that pervades the law school experience. For example, sharing work may or may not foster learning for learning’s sake, but it may or may not translate into great exam scores and initial job prospects. You might like nothing more than to explore law and literature but the business law firm that you’re interested in working with may or may not balk at the sight of it on your transcript. However you weigh the instrumental and intrinsic value of the study of law, I think you’d do well to adopt and stay true to an approach that reflects your own considered judgment. Again, in law school, as in life, striking a balance between purpose and practice is a key to success.

Congratulations, welcome, good luck and enjoy!


Ian Davis

Feel free to contact me via email at

Student Perspectives: Rachel Lehman

How-To: Get the Most Out of Orientation


Hello Class of 2018!

I hope you are all getting excited about starting law school. The next month will fly by, and before you know it you will be arriving at Allard for your first day of Orientation. By way of background, I am heading into my third year at Allard, and I held the position of Orientation Coordinator last summer. When James asked me to write this little “how-to” guide I was very excited to share some thoughts with you. So, here’s my short and sweet guide to getting the most out of Orientation Week 2015:

1. Do a little bit of prep.
You’ve probably already heard the list of things you really don’t need to do before you start law school. Thankfully, that list includes reading case law, networking, and basically anything to do with schoolwork or jobs. But, there are a few things you can do before September, and if you want to be able to fully enjoy Orientation Week and the first few weeks of school, it might be a good idea to do a bit of prep now. If at all possible, I would try to sort out your living arrangements now. If you’re planning to make a big purchase (like a laptop) before starting classes, I would start looking into this now as well. Even if you’re waiting on student loan money to come in, it’s a good idea to do research now before you start getting busy with classes and events.

2. Clear your schedule during Orientation Week.
Although the Orientation Week schedule includes some downtime, it’s a pretty jam-packed week. If you can, try to organize your schedule so that your main focus can be attending Orientation Week sessions and getting to know your future colleagues.
That being said, if you can’t attend the evening events, don’t sweat it. There will be tons of time to bond with your fellow 1Ls in the future.

3. Get ready to introduce yourself… A LOT!
One of the most important purposes Orientation Week serves is to introduce you to your future friends and colleagues. It sounds a bit trite, but many of the people you meet during Orientation Week will be a part of your life forever. Although there’s no need to find your best friends on day one, you’ll enjoy Orientation much more if you go into the week looking to make connections with your classmates.

4. Don’t forget to introduce yourself to non-students.
When I did my BA at UBC, I barely interacted with anyone who was not an undergrad student. I never talked to my professors, and had almost zero contact with staff members. When I started at Allard, I quickly learned that limiting my social group to only include students would be a huge mistake. The faculty and staff at Allard are exceptionally kind and helpful, and they want to get to know each of you. Same goes for the many guests that James has invited to come speak to you during the week—if you’re interested in something a guest talks about, make the effort to go speak to him/her after the session.

5. Keep an open mind in terms of picking optional sessions to attend.
When I arrived at Orientation Week I thought I wanted to practice family law and participate in the Innocence Project while at law school. Less than two weeks later I realized I wanted to practice corporate/commercial law and join Law Review. Perhaps you know yourself a bit better than I did, but regardless of how sure you are that you want to practice ‘X’ law and join ‘Y’ extracurricular, you might change your mind. If you get an opportunity to learn about a club that you hadn’t considered joining, take it.

So, those are my top tips for getting the most out of Orientation Week. Basically, if you go into the week with an open mind and do a tiny bit of prep, you will have a great time. And, because you’re reading an optional blog during the summer before you start law school, odds are you are a planner (or possibly, you are extremely bored, in which case this post is likely only making matters worse for you).

Looking forward to meeting you in September,


Student Perspectives: Jamie Hsu

Collegiality at Allard School of Law

Succeeding at law school can take many shapes and forms. Whether its academic success, taking advantage of the numerous opportunities and clinics to pursue your passion, establishing long-lasting relationships that are both personal and professional or one of the other ways that comprise the long list of different ways to succeed, there is a common enabling factor: the culture of community and support at Allard Hall.

10547839_10155344001085043_1917914970287575107_oThere are numerous ways this culture of community manifests and several start with your choices. Take advantage of the peer-tutoring program, go to your professor’s office hours, have a weekly night of drinking with your friends, share notes and study together; everyone is better off if you buy in. The faculty, the staff and especially the upper-year students are more than willing to help out. It’s a system of pay it forward and we’re happy to pass on what we know because what we know was passed down to us.

The truth about law school, especially first year, is that it is very rare that there is anything you do or go through that somebody else hasn’t done or experience in some fashion already. As such, you’re faced with two choices: (a) Draw from the resource that is the unbelievably diverse, kind and intelligent community around you or (b) go it alone. Given the fact that you’ll spend most of law school getting B’s, I would take this last chance to go with option A.

Excited to meet you all in the fall, enjoy the rest of your summer.

James Hsu, 3L.