Monthly Archives: September 2010

Another great week

Law school has been full of surprises, and this week was no exception.

The week kicked off with a UBC Law Wine and Cheese on Tuesday evening, essentially a career fair for law students. Held in downtown Vancouver, the Wine and Cheese brought together many of the larger law firms from Calgary and Toronto, recruiting UBC Law students to work in those cities. As with most networking events, I thoroughly enjoyed this one: I am a social person, and genuinely interested in learning about the various firms. Plus, like my law school classmates, the lawyers that work for these firms are some truly exceptional, interesting people.

Back in class this week, many of us are starting to get a handle on the rigours of law school. Reading and briefing cases has become much easier. I was back in Ontario for the weekend, so a long plane ride home afforded me the chance to do a lot of reading. Thankfully, as a result, I’ve finished all the assigned readings until the end of the month! A certainly welcome move, as it afforded me time to focus on my other committments this week: serving as an elected rep on the Law and Business Society, fundraising for the CoRe mediation clinic, and attending the first meeting of the UBC Law Review.

Last night, to top it all off, the Law Students’ Society hosted their annual boat cruise. Approximately 250 of us headed out of the Vancouver harbour for a beautiful, clear evening of dancing, discussion, and socializing. One of my small-group peers was able to secure VIP tickets for most of us at the Republic downtown, so the fun continued long into the evening. (I made it home at a (relatively) decent hour, but my housemates … some of them still haven’t made it back yet.) All in all, it was a great celebration to end another great week.

Here we go!

We’ve made it through the first two weeks! I think that deserves a pat on the back because things move fast around here. Orientation seems like a distant memory and we are in the thick of it now (already!).

Last week was a tad hectic. There was a moment when I turned to a classmate and muttered “And I thought the first week was busy…” My new friend looked at me and kindly said, “I think you’ll be even busier next week.”


So what do I mean when I say things are a bit hectic these days? Well, I’ve been spending lots of time on the things you’d expect: reading and prepping for classes. But there is certainly a lot more than that going on. At the start of UBC Law, you may very well find yourself blown away by all the extracurricular opportunities you are presented with. For example, there are a number of programs that allow you to dive right into legal aid work (in your very first month of law school!). To name just a few, there’s CoRe, Pro Bono Students of Canada, and the Law Students Legal Advice Program. On top of these, there are sports teams to join, the Law Review to edit, the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies to be a part of, moots to compete in, and many (MANY) meet and greets to attend.

Plus, let’s not forget the four long days of classes each week. All of this adds up! With this in mind, allow me to pass on a few preliminary lessons I’ve learned about time management thus far:

1)   You can’t do it all, and you’re not expected to (thankfully).

2)   It can seem a bit overwhelming. Before you even get a good sense of what law school is going require from you, you’re given the chance to sign up for a thousand different things that all sound good.

3)   Take a deep breath and pick a few things that you’re interested in, and go for it! According to all the upper year students I’ve talked to, you won’t regret it.

4)   Having Mondays off is a godsend.

5)   At the end of an especially long day, there is no shame in eating dinner from 7-11.

First full week, first full weekend

One of the orientation activities was a speed-dating “meet the profs” session, where we ran between rooms every 15 minutes to meet each of our six new  professors. I was not the only one impressed with the teaching calibre. Many profs are authors or editors of our course texts, and  all have spectacular professional backgrounds. At least two of my six – that we know of – have clerked for the Supreme Court. At least one has made a movie.

After O-week, we jumped right in to our classes, and the professors held true to expectations of calibre. It’s interesting to note that the classes I thought I’d like the least – criminal, for example – are taught by some of the most engaging professors, which makes them that much better.

Readings were assigned promptly. Six courses of 20-30 pages per class, per lecture, adds up quickly. Never have I seen such social people work so hard during a first week of classes, but we rose to the challenge. Our work ethic was surely helped by the course material itself: each and every course opened up a whole new path of thought, information, and perspective to explore.

Classes weren’t the only thing that filled our time. We’ve already had two law firms (Boughton and BLG) host social events for us to attend after classes. Lunch hours were packed with info sessions for extra-curricular activities, often with overlapping schedules. And the Law Student Society‘s “Clubs Fair” was surely the end for many of us: from the hockey team to the Law Review, many of us walked away over-committed, as there were simply so many great things to get involved with.

Thankfully, following our first full week was our first full weekend. The UBC Law schedule gives us three-day weekends every weekend, and our first was certainly a godsend. It was kicked off by a giant class social at a bar on Granville Island on Friday night, but many of us spent the rest of the weekend individually re-grounding and re-connecting, getting ready for the times ahead.

UBC Law Orientation

Orientation week was a blur.

It was a fun, engaging, and absolutely jam-packed blur. For nearly a week, we were kept busy with a mix of welcome lectures, advice-laden sessions, and team-building icebreakers.

At times, we’d find ourselves squared off in a cheering competition; at other times, we were given riveting lectures on the law by Profs Nikos Harris and David Duff. Some sessions missed their mark (at times, there was just too much advice) but many others hit the bullseye (the closing banquet and the following social night at Mahoney’s topped my list).

Perhaps most importantly, we got to meet our “small groups,” the 20-25 students we’ll take each and every class with this year. Out of the 184 students entering this fall (more than 2,000 applied, we were told), these are the two dozen students we’ll be getting to know the best.

It’s a humbling experience, getting to know talented students who attend law school. We have fine arts majors and finance students, yoga teachers and former government employees, as well as a predictably healthy share of political science and philosophy students.

Just as I’d hoped, every one of them was very intelligent, interesting, and had their own spark of something special. And also as I’d hoped, it certainly seems that we all share the desire for our UBC law experience to be a collaborative environment (as opposed to an uber-competitive, dog-eat-dog environment you can find at some schools). So far, so good!

First Impressions

I admit it: I didn’t sleep particularly well the night before the first day of classes. I laid in bed going over one unlikely situation after another, wondering what in the world I was getting myself into. I arrived for orientation with my eyes a tad blood-shot and my heart pounding, only to discover that there wasn’t much to get myself worked up over.

I enjoyed my first three days of law school so very much, I was honestly surprised. This left me feeling somewhat guilty about my apparently low expectations, when I realized I had made some false assumptions about what the next three years would be like.  Last week made me reconsider at least two of these presumptions.

First, I expected the classroom dynamics to include a hefty dose of competitiveness. I remember telling a friend of a friend that I would be starting law school in September, and his response was “I hear if you drop a pencil during an exam in law school, the person sitting next to you will kick it out of reach.” All I could manage in reply was a squeaky “Really?”

He continued: “Yeah. And that people tear pages out of books on reserve in the library!”

Well, friend of a friend, I’m not sure where you heard these things, but you were wrong. The orientation activities, getting to know the group of people I’ll have all my classes with, and the vibes I got from upper year students have put these notions to rest. Sure, in some ways we’re competing, but the tone so far has been one of collaboration and camaraderie.

Second, I’ve always seen the legal profession as being a bit of a man’s world. While I am not yet in the work force, what I’ve seen from UBC Law in terms of diversity, I’m really happy about. Five of my six professors: women. At least half of the distinguished speakers last week: women, and diverse women at that.  More than 50% of my classmates: women. Going beyond gender, we seem like a good mix of backgrounds and perspectives.

There may be one more day of orientation left, but for the most part introductions have been made and tomorrow we’ll roll up our sleeves. Tonight, I expect to have a good night’s sleep and will be bright-eyed and ready to go!

I’m Somebody. Who Are You?

It is nearing the end of the first day of the orientations program that all incoming law students at UBC go through. I was only a little excited about the program beforehand (up to this morning, that is), but as soon as it started my enthusiasm grew exponentially.

The incoming law students have all been divided into eight small groups. These appear to take on the name of a historical figure in the British Columbia legal system. Some groups seem to have learned a lot about the origin of their names; all I know is that mine is named Goye, so I suppose it will make a sort of project some blustery Vancouver evening to find out more about him. These groups will, they tell us, become a highly useful source of camaraderie for studying and what not, since we have all eight classes together. It was a bit overwhelming to remember all the names and backgrounds. Tomorrow they are to have a group dinner for everyone at a restaurant on Broadway. I almost wish they would wait a fortnight or so and have it when we know each other better and can discuss our professors in privacy, but I bet I’ll like things as they are when I go tomorrow.

We also had a fine introductory presentation, the first twelve minutes of which being a rather informative session on the history of the first nation upon whose land our law school sits. Then we heard presentations from a few people involved in the legal profession in British Columbia. I’m entirely new to everything about law, never having so much as given it a thought till recently, so names like de Jong meant nothing to me. Yet each one of them proved a fascinating and engaging speaker. I must admit to having wondered, throughout the day, whether I was indeed in the right program, as one does when starting something so new and different. As I listened through the speeches, I began to feel altogether more excited and free from inhibitions. It really helps me to feel that I’m worthy of accomplishments when those profiled talk about how they felt in the moment where we are now, a week before classes are to start.

At the barbecue which followed, I couldn’t help but wonder whether one of our sponsoring law firms’ heaviest clients was a doughnut chain, for the doughnuts at the barbecue came in addition to those presented along with coffee at the small group introductions. They are, to be sure, excellent doughnuts. But more importantly, I had conversations in depth with a graduate in computer science, a student in the First Nations program, and a student originally from the Ukraine, all of whom demonstrated the sheer wealth of background and diversity in our class. I came in thinking everyone would have a degree in political science, but I met students who can boast of five-to-ten-year careers in large computing corporations and in public interest and social services, and whose commerce backgrounds are impressive to the utmost, and some English majors who came straight to law school without doing anything spectacular in the interim.

For now, I’m very pleased with the day and ready for another. Tomorrow we shall have more lectures, which means more of a summary to come.