Final Thoughts

Hard to believe 1L is officially over for me and my peers. As we await our first year marks, I’m impressed at how far we have come since September, how much we learned, and how much we all grew into our role as law students.

As I look back, I have to say: it was hard. There were definitely times where I (and many of us apparently) felt like we were simply not cut out for this and dropping out seemed like a legitimate option. There were times where you’d look up from your factum or your transnational law paper at 3 am, eyes bloodshot and blurry and you’d think “is this really what I want to be doing with my life? Do I even want to be a lawyer anymore?” Day after day, we’d drag ourselves in, sleep deprived, over-caffeinated and still so unbelievably behind on our readings. It was literally a Type A’s worst nightmare.

But despite all that, first year was such an amazing experience. Because even though there were definitely those times, there were also lot’s of really awesome times. I couldn’t participate in every single club or event or social, but looking back I actually did quite a few things in my short time at Allard Hall (aka Peter A Allard’s School of Law) and I want to lay them out here for those looking to get involved or try something new. Going into first year I decided that I didn’t want to take on too many things and spread myself too thin. First semester I spent way more time studying, reading, and freaking out about school. By second semester I decided to lay off on the readings a bit (never thought I’d allow myself to do that), to get a little more involved and to have more fun. And I actually enjoyed second semester way more, felt a little more competent and on top of things, and felt more confident during my exams. Every person is different so do what works for you; however if you want my advice (and 1Ls will take all the advice they can get even if conflicting) I think it’s best to stick with 2 extra curicculars max and to really focus on figuring out how to do law school as a new degree with its own unique challenges, first. Once second semester comes along you’ll be in a better position to make adjustments.

LEO – Legal Education Outreach 

I joined LEO at the beginning of the year because it was sold to me as a very low commitment activity that was fun. And they were right. LEO basically sends out a group of law students with a (pre-made!) lesson plan to a grade 12 crim class where they present some legal topic (ours was the difference between criminal assault and the tort of battery), answer some questions, and go home. That’s it. You only have to do one presentation and it entails meeting with your group the day before to delegate who says what and when, going to the presentation and doing it. It’s so low commitment and so much fun that most of us were actually sad that we only got to do it once. I think the new heads of LEO for next year are thinking of giving law students more options so that they can present on an ongoing basis if they so choose to,but as far as I know, it’ll still be pretty low commitment. If you’re looking to get involved but the thought of getting behind freaks you out, sign up for LEO — you seriously won’t regret it.

Women’s Caucus

I also joined the WC in 1L not really knowing what to expect but it’s grown on me so much that I’m actually one of the two incoming presidents of the Caucus for next year. So, welcome and please join us! The Women’s Caucus focuses on women in the law, with a special subcomponent of the Caucus dedicated to Aboriginal women in the law. The Caucus attempts to raise awareness and to give women the support they need in a field traditionally dominated by men. We also fundraise a lot to support women in our communities. In the Fall we did a clothing donation and bake sale for women of the DTES, and in the Spring I ended up accidentally spearheading a campaign that turned into a huge success and will be the project of the incoming 1Ls next year. The fundraiser was called TMI – Time of the Month Initiative – and for the whole month of March we collected new boxes of pads, tampons, wet wipes, tissues, and feminine hygiene products in general. We also collected monetary donations and at the end of the month we drove it over to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre where we made a pretty large donation on behalf of the UBC Law community. It came about as an idea from a post I saw on fb, and I just decided to go for it.  That fundraiser is my proudest UBC Law achievement thus far. The WC also hosts the Women In Law Dinner which is an amazing, inspiring, and totally practical event. Law students get to mingle with accomplished and powerful women lawyers and male lawyers who support women in the law.  Next year we hope to make the Caucus more accessible to men by giving them opportunities to be involved. I think that a lot of the time, men shied away from attending events or joining simply because they were unaware that they were invited or welcome. Although the WC does focus on women in the law, we are open and welcome to everyone who is passionate about these issues and who wants to help; the commitment level ranges from very intensive to very low.

Law Revue 

I cannot say enough good things about the LR. Unlike the (more boring ;P) Law Review where you review others’ work and groan at how many grammatical errors there are, the Law Revue is literally your high school acting class meets SNL (when it was still good) meets MadTV. When I was in high school I was too scared to try acting because I was worried I’d be bad at it so I stuck with the dance class. In grade 12 when I finally went for it and took the acting class I regretted not taking it sooner. So when I found out that UBC Law had an acting club I signed up without asking a single question. The commitment level might change slightly next year, but basically what it was like this year was you signed up and then nothing happened until December. There was a writer’s meet up where we were encouraged to show up and throw ideas around and brain storm. Then again, nothing happened until the second brain storming session in January. Skits had to be sent in by the end of February for Directors’ approval and the show was in mid March. On the Friday before the show we showed up, got our scripts handed out to us, and we got to work. We rehearsed all weekend and put on our first show that following Monday. Yes, a lot of things went wrong but Tuesday’s show was epic. And the whole experience? Priceless, amazing, hilarious, frustrating, the best thing I did all year. The LR is what pulled me through out of my “I suck at everything, I’m not cut out for law school” slump. I found my niche and my crowd and finally felt like I was good at something again. Because that weekend was more stressful than it needed to be we are planning on better spacing out some of the key events like script writing and rehearsing. But really, the commitment depends on your role in the LR. We have all kinds of positions (writer, actor, singer, dancer, etc etc) so if ANYthing about theatre appeals to you, we want you in our club.

LSLAP – Law Students Legal Advice Program 

My experience with LSLAP was very brief but super busy and exciting. I learned a lot and I gained quite a few skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise gained from going to classes alone. At LSLAP you serve underprivileged people in the community by tackling their legal problems under the supervision of a lawyer. You learn to do client interviews and intake, how to manage files, research legal issues, write up various legal documents, make all kinds of important legal calls, give advice, and I even had the chance to go to court and represent a client. It was very stressful for me at first because I didn’t receive any formal training and a lot of the learning comes from simply diving right in and making mistakes. It’s fast paced and can get overwhelming if you’re not organised. However, it’s an experience like no other and really gives you a taste of the legal profession. You have to sign up in September if you want to be a clinician so don’t miss the deadline!

Similar to LSLAP is  Pro Bono Students Canada but I never did that so I can only say that my friends who tried it really liked it.

Socials and Events 

I didn’t go to very many socials or events in first semester. I remember going to the Boat Cruise and catching some of the Guille Debate which I now wish I had just sat in on because it was so hilarious. In undergrad I studied a lot and the relationship was pretty clear: the less I went out, the higher my grades were. In other words, more studying = better grades. Law school, as I found out, is a bit different. While studying is definitely important, it doesn’t always pan out the way you think or hope it will. In December for example, I really studied hard for this one exam and walked out of it feeling pretty confident. I also totally freaked out about another course, ended up using someone else’s CAN and was sure I bombed. When my marks came back I had actually done pretty poorly on the former and got one of my highest marks on the latter. I was totally annoyed and totally frightened: my marks were so random. Not to mention the fact thatI felt like no matter how many events I had skipped, no matter how hard I had worked, I still felt overwhelmed, stressed, and like I had no control over the outcome of my marks. So in second semester I decided to go to more events and just relax a little. I still worked hard but I didn’t sleep deprive myself just to finish every Dickson J judgement. I learned to work smarter, not harder, and it allowed me to chill out a bit more which in turn helped me feel better, more positive, and more in control. I got to know my peers better and I got to feel like part of my law school community. I found new support systems and made stronger connections. Although I couldn’t make it to semi-formal, I did go to the trike race and it was so much fun. We in the legal community work really hard but we also party really hard too, and seeing your professors in tight and bright clothing with swim caps and goggles on tiny trikes racing towards the finish line while your peers pelt them with water balloons was such a surreal moment — is this really happening?! THIS IS AWESOME

There are a TON of clubs, sports teams (I didn’t even touch on those!), events, and things throughout the year that come up and that are totally worth checking out. 1L is a learning experience for all of us, and the learning curve is very steep. You wade into first week and splash around enjoying the shallows and the sun until BAM you’re knocked off your feet and swept in. For the first month or so you may feel like you’re drowning, struggling to keep your head above the turbulent water. At times it may feel like you’re the only one drowning as others float by effortlessly (how are they doing that!?) but trust me, it’s not just you. At some point you may even feel like giving up and letting the water enclose the top of your head but you cannot let that happen. KEEP KICKING. Gasp and fight and curse the waves but keep kicking. Because one day the waves will stop slapping you across the face and you’ll find yourself riding the waves instead. You’ll still topple over sometimes, you’ll still choke on salty water and get blinded by it, but you’ll learn to get back on that board and back to surfing faster and faster each time.

And that’s what 1L is all about — it’s 1L of a ride.

MOOT: Tips and Tricks

On Thursday I did my moot and it was awesome. It was tons of fun, totally different from anything I’ve ever done before, an experience that all law students should have, AND it actually wasn’t as scary as it sounded at first. Even the people who had horror story experiences came out alive and now have a better idea of whether litigation is something they want to do or not.

Counsel, Co-Counsel, and Learned Friends

Just like everything in first year law (and beyond apparently), a lot of the time you’ll feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. For someone who likes to be in control, getting over this and just learning to ride it out is something that I’ve gotten way better at, but still struggle with. From the original read through of the assignment (so are we arguing FOR this guy or..?) to the basics of HOW to actually structure a factum (font? 12pt? 11pt? Double spaced? Double sided?) you constantly wish someone would just tell you what to do and how to do it.

Embrace it. By the time moots have some around, you’ll have experienced the infamous baptism by fire many times. It’s pass/fail and no one fails. So relax and don’t be scared to ask questions of your peer tutors, profs, and older friends.

The moot is a big deal in the sense that everyone talks about it, knows about it, and has war stories from it. You will be getting a lot of advice and all the stuff that people told me in the weeks leading up to it was helpful. At the end of the day, you just have to DO it to see what it’s really like. So I’ll leave that part to you. But before I sign off, I do want to give you some morsels of advice that I personally learned from doing my moot last night – things no one had told me, and things that might be helpful as you prepare


I got to briefly hold our factum baby before submitting it. It was beautiful

 It’s about the judges

 The oral part of your submissions/case is really about the judges getting clarification from you on certain points. Maybe there was something in your factum that didn’t make sense. Maybe they didn’t understand how you went from one point to another. Or maybe they are convinced by a point but they want you to REALLY convince them. The best way to prepare is to actually anticipate questions they might ask you and prepare answers.

Write out your  intro and a conclusion — those you might want to just read (but maintain eye contact and don’t be super monotone!) – however, everything else should be structured around questions that you might be asked.

What happened to me was that I basically re-wrote my entire factum in anticipation for this epic oral speech I thought I was going to give. My paragraphs flowed from one to the next in a chronological order that was persuasive, bold, and passionate.

It was a winner yet I never got to read it. I read my intro, laid out my arguments, and got interrupted. When the judge asked me a question I made the mistake of saying “it’s in my factum, let me just find it” – DONT DO THAT. They want you to ANSWER the question like a human being, not a robot search engine. Don’t look it up, don’t try to go back to speech reading, remember, it’s not about your fabulous speech — it’s about them. Give them what they want and be flexible! This means you have to know your arguments inside out. But that’s fine, because after spending so many coffee-induced nights writing and re-writing your parts of the factum, you will know your arguments, whether you want to or not. Help the judges see it your way.


awaiting the arrival of the judges…


Bring water

Not only does it get hot under those robes (refer to next heading), but the fight or flight experience of it all makes your palms sweaty and your mouth dry. When you get up there to talk it might feel like your tongue is swollen and can’t fit in your mouth — having some water on hand to take a sip will help immensely. Also, being able to sip water in case of (or in order to avoid) a coughing fit will save you tons of time and embarrassment

Trust me on this

Go easy on the layers

Like I said, it gets hot under those synthetic robes and the anxiety of it all will have you pretty hot already. I am someone who is PERPETUALLY freezing, so if I was hot, you know it’s serious. While you do have to dress professionally, your clothes will cover you from neck to knees/ankles depending on the robe you get. I wore a suit jacket/blazer but if you wear a dressy shirt and black pants/skirt, you can probably just ditch the suit jacket/blazer before getting gowned.

Don’t forget to be formal

Speaking of professional dress, remember to be professional in your interactions with the lawyers prior, during, and after the moot. At my moot, we had found the room and got settled in before the lawyers arrived. We moved desks around, placed a water bottle in front of each judge’s chair, and got ourselves organised. When they came in, we had our gowns on and zipped up. We didn’t stand or anything but we did say hi, and engaged in some polite small talk. The moot commenced shortly after that where we were expected to address the judges as My Lord and My Lady. I kept forgetting to say it, but technically, every time you address them after they’ve addressed you (usually after they ask you a question), you’re supposed to say it. I didn’t and the world didn’t end but it’s just something to keep in mind

After the moot they might invite you for drinks. The venue will usually be Koerner’s or some other pub on campus/close to the law school. They pay for it, so don’t stress about the tab, just go and have some fun. You can drink but remember to only have as much as you can handle so that you can still act professionally


But then again, no need to be super formal

 In general, I found the whole moot experience less rigid and formal than I expected. Before you ever moot or have a court experience, you have all kinds of images in your head. The fact that we have to gown and repeatedly say My Lord/Lady makes it that much more serious and formal sounding. But surprisingly (and maybe it’s because it’s just the 1L moots), the way I conversed with the judges was not that much more formal/professional than the way I conversed with lawyers at wine and cheese events or with my professors in class. Obviously its not exactly the same type of conversation as a casual wine and cheese because in this situation you’re trying to prove a point so you’re actually speaking more persuasively and formally; but ultimately, if you’ve had a professor like Edinger who uses the Socratic method and expects you to know your case(s), you’re set. They’ll ask you to focus on a certain aspect, ask you to clarify a specific thing, maybe ask you a hypothetical, ask you for the facts or the provision and how it relates to another etc. If you’re prepared, you’ll be fine. Just speak with them like you would with your professor when they’re grilling you about a case — judges actually like engaging in a dialogue and we were encouraged to be conversational and non-robotic. And remember, because it’s about them, just do your best to follow their lead


Remember to take one serious and one silly photo! Ours was a murder trial: pew pew!!

Get organised

As with law school in general, I cannot stress the importance of being organised. Have your book of authorities tabbed, both the Appellants’ and the Respondents’ factums on hand, marked off if needed, ensure you have the Act/provisions you’re expected to tackle and any provisions mentioned in any of the other cases especially if they are used in your or “your friend’s” factums. Sometimes a judge will ask you to go back to your factum on page x to ask for clarification or to point something out. Being able to find it quickly and be right there with the judge is not only important for the sake of flow, but you’re also under a time pressure so being able to answer questions quickly and move on is key. It also makes you look professional and organised which never hurts. What’s also not a bad idea is to know the facts, decision, ratio, court, and judge who wrote the judgement (and any important dissents), written out on a separate sheet of paper. A judge might ask you to remind them what a certain case was about or how and why some case that you mentioned, applies to the case at hand. Being able to answer those questions is important and being organised helps immensely


Write stand alone arguments

As I already mentioned, my oral arguments had flow and were written the way I write my papers. This was a mistake because I kept getting interrupted, which prompted me to use all of my best arguments to answer the question at hand, and then when I was given the opportunity to continue with my oral submissions, I didn’t know where to begin. The best thing you can do, is to have a sheet that’s full of anticipated questions and ready-made answers, and another one that has stand alone arguments/paragraphs that can be read either together as part of one large “speech” or separately. Know how to come back to your oral submissions, where and how to pick up, and how to keep making your case without repeating it. This is the hardest thing to do and I still don’t know how to do it but it’s something you should keep in mind because getting interrupted happened to all of us and it’ll probably happen to you too. If you oral submissions are too rigid and your paragraphs too interdependent, you will struggle finding flow again after you’ve been interrupted.

Keep it in perspective

It’s easier said than done but the reality is: it’s a pass/fail assignment. if you legitimately try, you work hard on it, and you show up, you will pass. If your factum has some holes in it, the worst thing that’ll happen is that either the respondents or the judges will shine a spotlight on them. You don’t get your factum marked/returned to you for a few weeks after the whole moot experience so no, you don’t get feedback on your factum before you go into the moot, and any mistakes you make with it will have to be salvaged at the moot. This not only goes for the arguments themselves but for the formatting too. Do your best, ask for examples from older peers, and then just DO IT. There is no room for perfectionism here — nor is it expected. I had to keep reminding myself that there really wasn’t anyone up for first degree murder and no one was paying me to win. Once you put it in perspective, you can focus on the actual experience, give your brain the chance to learn something from the experience, and to have fun. And honestly, I had a blast as did most people. Most of us are here because we like to argue and we like to be right. You get 30 min to prove your point.

Go out there and show them what you’ve got!


“Without deviation, progress is not possible” – Frank Zappa

With second semester underway, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my first semester and discuss some of the important things I learned and some of the things I will be doing differently this time around.

Law school is hard.

This is both true and false. First semester of first year is hard. Definitely. It’s hard not because there’s hundreds of pages of reading per week, not because the material is insanely complex – although it can get tricky at times- not because there’s Latin involved. Law school is hard at first because no one tells you how to do law school. By the time we get into law, most of us have been deeply lulled into the usual and familiar routines of a degree we chose and are good at. For me, it was psychology. By 4th year I was a pro at doing multiple choice. I knew what I had to read (everything) and how much (until I knew the theories and people by heart). I knew that psych consisted of a lot of memorisation and memorisation takes time. I knew that there was a strong correlation between skipping out on events and parties to get an extra evening of studying and getting those A’s; so while my volunteer activities were many and vast, my work-life (im)balance always favoured the work side.

Law school does not follow that formula.

Coming into law school I was definitely tempted by all the clubs, the parties, the lunch time events. And I did allow myself to indulge on more than one occasion. However, not knowing how to navigate this new field, I relied on my old study/learning methods and went hard. I had never had more than 5 classes in undergrad — I now had 7. I knew that if I was going to read every case and textbook chapter (and I was going to, because that’s how it was done in undergrad), I couldn’t take on too many other things. There would be time for all that, I reasoned, and learning the law was my priority now. At first, it was great. I was even ahead. But as the judgments got longer and more complicated, as the number of assigned readings increased, I started to fall behind and get stressed. I remember November rolling around and blinking in shock as 10 page papers were assigned to us – due in two weeks – for which we were expected to (you guessed it!) do more readings ON TOP OF the usual pile of readings. End of semester couldn’t come any faster. It was brutal. And even though you have all the support in the world, and even though all the upper year students are telling you to relax and take it easy, you couldn’t. Well, at least I couldn’t, and I know a bunch of my colleagues couldn’t either. You can’t just throw a bunch of Type A’s into the fire and expect them not to try and extinguish it.

So here’s what I learned.

First semester is hard because you don’t know what you’re doing. Learning about a subject is hard when you’re not told how to learn it (in the most effective way possible). Coming into law school with a degree or two under your belt, there is this false sense of “I’ve done this before, I’ll know what I’m doing, I’ll be fine”. And while study habits like persistence, diligence, organisation etc do carry over from your previous degree(s), the truth of the matter is : you have never done this before. You won’t know what you’re doing, you won’t know how to do law school, and the learning curve is steep and bumpy. Even I can’t tell you how to do law school because it’s different for every person. I got a lot of amazing advice from big buddies, peer tutors and friends and I still struggled. First semester is tough and it simply has to be because you learn how to do law school your way through the struggle. It’s part of the learning process (something said to us over and over again, but it didn’t make sense until now) so embrace it and roll with it. Your December exams are fail proof for this reason. You’re not expected to do well, honestly. The only person expecting you to do well is you because that’s what you’re used to. Go easy on yourself.

However, there are some universal truths.

For example, using a CAN as a supplement to notes and readings will save you a ton of time. In my first semester I read every case. It didn’t matter if it was 2 page torts case or a 25 page Dickson judgement for Con Law, I read my cases and I read all of them. I read them on my own, using only my reading and comprehension skills while trying to convince myself that this is what that LSAT section had been trying to prepare me for all long. Did I always understand them? No. One time I spent 6 hours reading a Constitutional case, thought I finally had a handle on it, went to class and realised that I had understood it all wrong. I was shocked, confused and really worried especially when the rest of my class seemed to be getting it right on the mark. Then I discovered the CAN database and realised what the rest of my classmates had known for weeks: a good CAN will help you immensely. Did I suddenly stop doing readings and only rely on CANs? No. But did I cut my note-taking time down in half because someone had already taken thorough notes on the background stuff of the subject matter that I could read through, make sense of, and copy-paste? Yes. I had a really strong aversion to cutting corners in first semester and I’m glad I did. Learning to read cases and get through them are important skills to learn and master. Once the papers came around and we have to read cases as part of our research, many classmates struggled because there were no CANs for those cases and no case-briefs. You had to read the judgement to have an opinion on it. Learning to do that over the course of two months was invaluable.

Ultimately though, 

law school is not like my undergrad. Law school is not about memorisation; in law school, you bring all of your notes and cheat sheets with you. Because of this, skipping out on weekends simply to study your head off does not give you the reward-return you’re expecting. At least, it didn’t for me. Law school is about knowing the law and knowing how to apply it to various situations and fact patterns. It really frustrated me how little of what was in my head could be put onto my crim law exam, for example, simply because what I was being tested on and what I had spent hours poring over did not match up. First semester taught me to study smart, first and foremost, not to just study long and hard. It taught me not to cut corners but to be efficient and weary of how I use my time and how much of it. This semester, I am much more involved in school events and am feeling much happier and balanced. While I still prepare before each class, I don’t read every case and I don’t take a million notes. I avoid re-inventing the wheel by using good CANs that someone else has put effort and time into, and then I supplement them with my own notes, hypotheticals and useful bits. I learn differently, I ask different questions, and I focus my energy on the important stuff. As a result, I have more time for myself and I use it to do yoga once a week at the school. I also work out twice a week on my own time, see my boyfriend and best friends much more frequently, and am much more likely to agree to a coffee or a lunch date. I am more active with the Women’s Caucus and will be spearheading an event with the other 1L representative, have signed myself up for LSLAP and the UBC Law Ambassadorship Program. I was in the UBC Law LipDub and on the Law Faculty team at the Faculty Cup event and have made an effort to attend as many law firm events as I am interested in.

I already feel much better about my law school experience, and I think many of my classmates do too. It’s not easy, but with persistence and the willingness to adapt you come out much stronger, self confident, and ready for whatever law school throws a you.


“luck is preparation meeting opportunity”- Oprah

I’m going in for my first law school exam today. 

I know, I know. They’re fail safe. They’re only an hour. They’re not worth anything.

It doesn’t mean I’m not super nervous. I did an undergrad in psych and I can’t say I’ve ever felt really nervous before an exam. You get a little flutter, just enough to keep you alert and energised so that you don’t end up sloppy or asleep. It’s the Yerkes-Dodson optimal stress theory. As someone who performed on stages her whole life, optimal stress for optimal performance is my default.

But then the LSAT happened. The first time I went to write the LSAT I had a panic attack. I’d never experienced a panic attack before so I was unsure as to what was happening. I just remember being so terrified of going into that exam, crying uncontrollably, and being unable to breathe. It was terrible. Obviously, the story ends well, considering I’m in law school, writing this, however, that experience never left me. And now with these law school exams lined up and waiting, I’m not so much nervous for the actual exams, I’m nervous for myself. Will I crack under the pressure? Will my brain and body fail me? Will my computer decide to crash instead?

This blog post really has no point other than to get my 1L thoughts “on paper”. I AM nervous. I am a little scared. But I’m also confident that I’m going to be okay. I mean, I did the readings, I went to class, I studied the concepts and the cases and I did my best to prepare. Exams are a way for profs to ensure that what they put out, is what comes back. If I totally missed something or misunderstood it, it’ll be a good check in to help get me back on track.

In the end, they’re just exams I guess. Even the hardest exams I wrote in undergrad, even the ones I did really badly on… I still made it out alive. I still got into law school. It’ll be fine.


“All great achievements require time” – Angelou

This blog post, being that it’s the first one of 2015, is going to be about resolutions: everyone is making them (maybe for the 5th or 6th time this week), most people have already broken theirs, while others struggle to hold onto their well-intentioned goals for themselves. There are many others who never make resolutions to begin with, for various reasons, and they scoff and laugh as they continue to devour delicious left overs and one too many Ferreros (which were on sale after all and had to be bought in copious quantities).

For me personally, I wouldn’t be able to live without goals and goal setting. It’s really the only thing that legitimately gets me out of bed (other than a sunny day and a wide-open, blank schedule). When you set a goal, you have something to work towards, something to motivate you, to keep you focused, keep you determined. Success comes much easier when pursued by means of a goal — it’s like when you shoot a basketball at the net: if you close your eyes and just throw, you have a much smaller chance of getting it in then if you plant your feet, align yourself, look at where you’re shooting, and aim for it. Thoughtful, SMART goals (remember that from high school?) really do get a person far and are worth making if one wants to see any form of progress or success.

But most of us at Law school are Type A’s and we know all of this. We make goals all the time, blast through them, and then make new ones. We wouldn’t be in law school if we weren’t the goal-setting type. So I know that most of you have either publicly or privately made some goals for yourself that you are currently pursuing. But can I suggest a goal? Maybe something you haven’t thought of?

Last year on January 1st, right before bed I took a small piece of paper and wrote down the best thing that happened that day. I wrote about something that made me happy, some good memory that I wanted to remember. I then folded the paper and dropped it into a big, clean, empty jar. It was casually dubbed my “happiness jar” and I continued to drop notes into it – at first daily, but then, unfortunately, only when something good happened – all year. A few days ago I dumped the notes and read them and I was surprised at not only how many things I totally forgot about, but also by how much happened in just one year. How many small, good, lovely moments filled 2014 that would have been forgotten had they not been documented in some way. So although you’ve probably resolved to drink more water or work out more or actually read ahead and contribute (such a 1L thing to do), resolve to start your own happiness jar and to actually fill it. Psychology studies show that those who take a few minutes every day to reflect and to think about what they’re grateful for are happier, healthier, and more successful.

And honestly, whose own resolutions aren’t associated with at least one of those?


Life of a Judicial Intern

Another law student has previously blogged about being a judicial intern with the UBC Law Externship Program (here), but I thought I would share my experiences as a student with the program this year. I should begin by saying that I second all the sentiments shared in the previous post.

The Externship Program provides law students with a rare opportunity to work with judges and to be immersed in the provincial court system. Students conduct research for judges and observe trials and. Even better, we receive course credit for the term (16 credits total).

I was placed at the provincial courthouse on Main Street, and rotated briefly through North Vancouver. This means that I had a lot of exposure to criminal and family law, as well as lawyers in action. Poverty, mental disability, and drug addiction, were all themes I observed as a regular courtroom watcher. As a result of the Externship, I am more aware of the reality of access to justice issues.

QCCA memorable experience of the Externship would be travelling on the circuit court to Haida Gwaii for a week to observe court operations in Queen Charlotte City and Masset. This visit was generously funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia (yes, this means all expenses are covered!). On circuit, I had the opportunity to learn about justice in underserved communities. I became a temporary member of the circuit team, getting to know the judge, lawyers, clerks, and sheriffs, who work in smaller communities in B.C. This was really a once in a lifetime experience, with fantastic photo ops to boot.

Masset2_Externship If you are curious about the Externship, the program director is Professor Judith Mosoff who can be reached at Last year, the application deadline for second-year students was March 1, 2014 (the information for this year has not yet been released). Of course, I would be happy to answer questions as well 🙂

Thanks for reading!




“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Mandela

On Friday, UBC Law had the honour and pleasure of hosting the Honourary Justice Abella from the Supreme Court of Canada. The event was hosted by PBSC and it was probably the most excited I’ve seen my colleagues since the Boat Cruise at the beginning of the month. The talk itself was fantastic to say the least and I left Allard on Friday afternoon feeling really refreshed and inspired.

You see, I’ve been struggling for the last month trying to figure out how and what to write about for this post. It’s my first post as the 1L rep and oddly enough, my usual ability to pop out good, stimulating writing has just seized up. As the 1L rep, I’m expected to write about my perspective with respects to law school and the UBC Law community — and I have tons I want to say! But because these last two months have been such a whirlwind of events and experiences, attempting to synthesise all of it into one, succinct, page-scroller blog post has proven to be quite the challenge.

 So I decided I’m not going to try and make that happen anymore. I’m just going to write and follow my gut because that’s what the Honourable Madam Justice Abella advised us to do. And let’s be honest, if a Supreme Court judge tells you something, you do it. It’s the law.

(…. I had to)

 Let’s all just take a collective breath, step back, and realise where we are. School-wise I mean. Now, you might not be someone who thinks every achievement warrants celebration and applause. You might not even think that getting into law school warrants any special recognition. But I think that getting into law school — especially a prestigious one like UBC — is a big deal. And so I want to take this opportunity to say, if you’re in law school, congratulations.

 In the last 2 months I’ve found myself and my peers getting increasingly overwhelmed with the chaos that is first year law and I think it’s easy to forget that many of us are living the dream of our younger selves. Most, if not all, of us have worked extremely hard to be exactly where we are and it’s important to give that achievement the recognition it deserves — on various and multiple occasions if necessary. I look around me, and we all make jokes about it, but there’s an air of dejection and hopelessness. And I get it. It’s difficult to feel proud of yourself when you’re working hard but not getting the results you want. It’s easy to slip into feelings of incompetence and despair when you feel like you can’t handle what’s being thrown at you. But it’s in those moments that it’s important to remember that you are here. You are in the 10% that UBC chose. Someone in administration thought you had the skills, intelligence, and determination, among other things, to do exactly this. And for that, you should be proud.

 I’m in no position to give any kind of advice or wisdom considering I’ve just started out, but one thing I have been told on numerous occasions is that law school is a process. What’s happening is exactly what’s supposed to happen, so trust the process and most importantly, trust yourself. Be proud of the achievements you have already accomplished and use them as ammunition for the challenges you currently face. What surprised me the most about UBC Law is the overwhelming feeling of solidarity, community, and support. There are tons of resources, from mentorships and buddy systems to random upper years giving you advice on the bus; no matter where you go, there’s someone willing to help. So don’t forget to seek out that support when you need it to keep yourself feeling sane and optimistic.

 (And if you still feel like you need a good cry, come find me and we’ll cry together. I always feel so energised after a good cry!).

As we proceed into the last month of school before December exams (I know right?!), just remember how lucky you are to be here, at UBC Law, living the dream of your younger self. You owe it to your younger self to enjoy this experience as much as possible. You owe it to all of those who supported you and who currently support you, to love what you do. And if all else fails, think of your most hated class in high school or undergrad and just think:

At least you’re not doing that anymore.

Life on Exchange – Seth Whitmore

UBC Law student Seth Whitmore reflects on his experiences on exchange
in Paris at the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) 

Life on Exchange

If you are currently sitting in Vancouver and wondering “Should I go on exchange?”, the only right answer is “Yes, of course you should!”. Exchange provides UBC Law students with the amazing opportunity to spend a semester or two abroad at another school and experience a different way of life and teaching. Given the career demands of most lawyers, it will be years (if ever!) before many of us have a similar opportunity.

If you are anything like me, that’s all the convincing you needed. If so, stop reading and go explore your exchange options at:

If, however, you require a little more convincing, read on as I briefly explain various aspects of life on exchange and why it is great!


Academics at Sciences Po are treated very differently than back at UBC. Some of the differences are strange and confusing, while others are great. In the strange column is the fact that there is no add/drop period (you can add courses and switch if there are conflicts, but swapping one course for another is frowned upon) and the rule that if you miss more than two classes in any course you fail that course.

But these French eccentricities are more than made up for by the things that make academics at Sciences Po great. For example, I am writing this post after having had lunch with a professor at a brasserie where we discussed my term paper. I’ve never done that in Canada! Sciences Po is a very internationally focused school and has a large number of non-French professors. This semester I have Italian, American, German, and French professors. As a student this is great as I am exposed to different teaching styles, ideas about the law, and evaluation methods. Finally, the course selection at Sciences Po is great. It offers a mix of lecture and seminar courses, a large number of comparative law classes, and a diverse subject mix.

Daily Life

The view from my walk or bike ride to school

The view from my walk or bike ride to school

When not in school, doing homework, or travelling, there is a lot to do in Paris. Like schools in Canada, Sciences Po offers a huge number of extra-curricular and athletic activities including pottery, art history, moots (exchange students are welcome to try out for moot teams here), ultimate-frisbee, basketball, and polo (ridiculous, I know). I will warn you, however, there is no hockey option.

Every week, the school hosts a variety of talks, seminars, and symposiums on topics ranging from politics in the EU to experiences of arranged marriages in other parts of the world. A list of events happening at the school is emailed to students weekly to make it easy to stay on top of what is happening. Finally, for international students hoping to improve their French Sciences Po also offers free French classes for all ability levels.

Aside from all of the organized school-related events, it has been easy to keep busy. I’ve been able to explore some of the city’s many museums and galleries, enjoy the city’s café culture, indulge in French cuisine in the brasseries, go to concerts (two of my favourite Canadian bands have already come through Paris this fall), see the Eiffel Tower and the city’s many other tourist attractions (traps), have picnics and explore parks such as the Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, go running along the Coulée Verte (Paris’ answer to the High Line), take a riverboat tour of the Seine, get around Paris on the Vélib bike sharing system, go on a walking tour of Montmatre, eat all the croissants, baguettes, and pain au chocolat I can get my hands on, shop at the city’s many markets, and make great new friends from Paris and all around the world.


Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro

One of the great perks of being on exchange in Europe (and only having class Monday through Wednesday!) is how easy it is to travel. Living in a transportation hub as well-connected as Paris is also a plus as I have been able to get direct and affordable trains and planes to every city I’ve wanted to visit. As much fun as it is exploring and getting to know Paris, it also exciting to see what the rest of Europe has to offer.  So far I have been able to visit Mike (another UBC Law student) in Bern, Switzerland, spend a long weekend in Berlin, and enjoy fall reading week from the comforts of Croatia and Montenegro. Over the next two months I will also be heading to London, Fes, Marrakech, and Oslo.

Convinced? Good. Now go pick the part of the world you want to explore and get your applications ready!

Is Law School Stress a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

The topic in my Ethics and Professionalism class recently was mental health and fitness in the legal profession. The guest lectures and discussion revolved a lot around issues of alcohol and substance addictions in the profession. One student commented that in the “swag bag” given to first years during orientation, there were brochures about depression and substance abuse and related support resources. This student found the inclusion of such material helpful as a way to pre-emptively address what is an unfortunate problem in the profession, but also “weird” as some sort of odd omen of things to come, namely stress.

This comment reminded me of something I’ve been thinking on for some time now, and that is the question of to what extent, if any, the stresses of law school are a self fulfilling prophecy. For starters, here is a quoted Wikipedia definition: “A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.” To me, the main thrust of a self-fulfilling prophecy is expectation. I expect X to happen; therefore, my behaviours, affects, and attitudes directly and/or indirectly make it more likely for X to happen. I expect law school to be stressful; therefore, my behaviours, affects, and attitudes make it more likely that law school is stressful.

Is this something that happens? I think it is. By no means am I suggesting all the stressors that one can come across in law school are explained by this phenomenon. But I do think part of the stress is caused this way. The relevant expectation related to stress in law school is the expectation of importance: the importance we as law students think we must place on various aspects of law school. First and foremost, the importance placed on grades: in my experience both as a student and as a peer tutor, I can see the high levels of stress caused directly by the expectation that grades are incredibly important. There is a dangerous leap a lot of us students make, often unconsciously, from seeing grades as important for creating certain opportunities to seeing grades as the sole means of creating worthwhile opportunities or even as a reflection of self-worth. When everyone talks about grades and what numbers are needed for what doors to open, the expectation is formed that grades are the be all and end all of one’s law school experience. (They are not). The same process can apply to any other aspect of law school: the importance placed on certain kinds of jobs, certain kinds of employers, the OCI process, etc.

Related to the concept of a self fulfilling prophecy and expectations is the concept of a script. In psychology, there is the concept that we learn certain scripts about how the social (and natural) world around us works, and hence we shape our behaviours, affects and attitudes according to this script. There is a script for what happens when you ring up your groceries at the cash register, about what a date looks like, about how a job interview is supposed to unfold, and etc. If our script of law school is that we are “supposed” to be stressed, then we are much more likely to act, feel and be “stressed”. The distinction I’m attempting to draw is between the script that says: law school is going to be inevitably stressful, so you should act/feel/be stressed and then combat that stress, vs a script that says: law school is not inevitably going to be stressful, but if it is, we’ll deal with the stress if and when it comes up. I think pre-empting our expectation of law school with the expectation of stress is more likely to bring about stress. This is akin to caregivers and parents telling children that they must eat their vegetables. The child, before she has had any chance to form a script about how eating vegetables is supposed to go, is being given negative signals: that vegetables are something different, something she must eat, and why must she be told to eat them unless they are somehow bad. And lo and behold, the child dislikes her vegetables. The same goes for warning children they may find math difficult and observing that they end up finding it more difficult than other subjects, having formed the expectation that it is so.

I think there is also a cultural component at play. Those who know me know that I’ve had an eclectically multicultural upbringing, and while that makes me the perpetual outsider, it also has made me an acute observer of the social world and always interested in culture, understood by me very broadly as all the stuff in a human’s mind. One spectrum on which cultures can be studied runs between the poles of individualism and collectivism. In an individualistic culture, the individual is the unit of social measurement and focus, with his or her rights, ambitions, perceptions and value more in focus than the group, community or relational bonds among individuals. One key assumption of an individualistic culture is that the individual is capable of generally controlling the world. I think as law students, we may have too much of an individualistic culture when it comes to the degree to which we can control certain outcomes. We think it is wholly in our control to achieve grade X or job Y, and so our stress comes from the fact that if we do not achieve grade X or get job Y, it must mean it is our shortcoming. We do not sufficiently account for the myriad other factors at play which affect such outcomes, like statistical realities of grading, subjective perceptions of job applicants, the breakfast we had that morning, the weather (seriously, look at the research literature on the link between hot days and murder rates). Couple this illusion of ultimate control with the expectation that grade X and job Y are supposed to be important enough to stress about incessantly, and we have a problem.

I realize I’ve discussed some incredibly complex concepts in some incredibly simplified terms, but as always with this blog, my intention is not to answer questions, but to raise them, ponder them, and ultimately leave them with the reader.  I’ll cheesily end with a favourite saying of mine which to my mind sums up the enormous power that expectations can exercise on the course of our lives. ‘Our greatest fear is that our stories tell us’.

Summer in Calgary

This year I spent my summer working in a law firm in Calgary. While I didn’t grow up in Calgary, and have only had a brief opportunity to work here in the past, it is certainly a place I am starting to think of as Home. I know I’ll miss the City when I return back to Vancouver to finish up my last year of law school (already!).

For those of you who have never been, are curious, or simply miss Calgary, I thought I would share some photos from my summer so far with you!


The Bow’s “Wonderland” Sculpture 

IMG_8038 Chuck Wagon Races at Stampede

IMG_7695Fort Macleod


Downtown Calgary