Monthly Archives: November 2012

UBC <3 Law Students

As exams approach, the atmosphere around Allard Hall gets slightly more antsy and full of unpredictable energy as everyone (if they are like me) goes through a daily emotional graph mirroring the stock market with ups and downs of self-confidence, confusion and outright fear resurfacing every few hours. But there is hope! Exams will come and go so fast and then we will all be munching on our Holiday dinners.

That being said… there is so much POSITIVE energy in Allard Hall this week to help make our school a fantastic environment during this chaotic time. “We Love Law Students Week” is on!

If you are a law student… stop reading this and run to room 153 to sign up for a coveted chair massage.

If you are reading this blog because you want to become a UBC law student (like I did avidly all last year) then know this… UBC Law is the best place to go to school. Not that I have experienced any other law school, but I just know. This week the faculty has activities galore including dog hang out time, scribble boards, coffee, fruit, donuts and mingling, cookies, yoga, yelling and laughing sessions and the amazing aforementioned chair massages!

As stressful as this time is for everyone it is great to see so many smiles around and friendly nods in the library. We are all in this together and even though UBC is putting us through all of this, they have made it very clear that they love us!

Raising the Bar

As final exams get closer and closer (and closer…not that I’m freaking out or anything), I can’t help but think of the Academic Success Lectures I attended last year around this time in an effort to find that golden nugget of advice that would serve as a life raft as I approached my first law exams. Unfortunately there isn’t one piece of advice that will necessarily work for everyone in terms of actual study skills and strategy, but of all those lectures there was actually one comment that has stuck with me and that I do think is universally applicable. This is something pretty basic that might be self-evident, but I think it is something us law students might have a habit of losing sight of at times. Ready? Here it is:

Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Your only frame of reference for how you are doing should be you because while there is absolutely nothing you can do about what other people are doing, you can change your own habits and behaviour.

Maybe this doesn’t immediately come off as being all that magical, but my personal belief is that it can help more than one might expect. If we are completely honest with ourselves, a lot of us law students are more than a touch competitive. We probably cheated at the odd game of Monopoly as children and I think we all know that the foosball game loss we suffered the other lunch hour probably annoyed us more than we would care to admit – but hey, that’s just who we are. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, this drive of ours, because it got us here and makes us passionate individuals (doesn’t it sound downright noble now?). However, where this can get us into trouble is if we start thinking that we need to be in the library all day every day just because someone in our small group seems to have set up permanent camp in there; or that we need to have the most upper year CANs of anyone heading into a given exam just to be sure; or that being in the top 10% of our class is all that is ever going to matter to us.

This is a pretty easy trap to fall into because when you are so unsure of how everything is going to go, you can’t help but try to find some kind of indicator of what you ought to be doing to ensure preparedness. Here’s the thing though: we all work differently. I personally prefer to avoid the library during final exams because to me it feels as though it has become a living, breathing organism fuelled by the stress of the students in there. However, I have friends who swear by the tables on the fourth floor by the window. I know some students who can sit down and comfortably study all day, and those who need a mid-day workout to get out the nerves. There are students who will voluntarily pull all-nighters if they are on a roll, but on the flip side there are others who know that they cannot function without sleep.

My point is this: if you are trying to do something just because it seems like a mandatory law student behaviour, you are going to be doing yourself a great disservice because only you can know what is best for you. A little cheesy, yes, but true. We all need to work hard to succeed, but success should be measured by our standards, not by those of the people next to you in the library – for all you know, they aren’t focusing on torts so much as having an eyes-open nap.

So, my friends, stay healthy and don’t be afraid to take those breaks! (my personal recommendation would be to walk to the SUB and grab a Ranger cookie from Blue Chip, but I will leave the details up to you)


Tripartite Huh?

The UBC Environmental Law Group recently hosted their Annual Negotiation Competition and I was lucky enough to get one of the coveted spots. With students attending from other law schools, this competition was an excellent way to practice and develop a valuable skill that may become a large part of your future practice.

Dabbling a little bit in debate in high school, when I did my first negotiation earlier this year at a competition hosted by FMC I just assumed that it would similar… but I was wrong. Negotiation competitions are an awesome extra-curricular that put you in a real-life (-ish) situation where you are not arguing the infinite pros of your side relative to the “endless and obvious cons” of the other team. The ultimate goal here is to agree upon a beneficial outcome for all parties that is an acceptable compromise based on the bottom line for your client.

The ELG did an excellent job in drafting the negotiation scenario and threw a curve ball with the “tripartite situation”. Immediately turning to google I realized how challenging the negotiation would be as this meant there would be three parties sitting around the table. The mythical situation was set in a country called Himmalandes that had a looming energy crisis and an approaching government election. Zephyr, a corporate giant, proposed a wind power project that would run straight through one of the few remaining national parks; a park in which the aboriginal group the Caza performed the majority of their traditional hunting practices. Can you see how this might be an issue of interest for all three groups?

In their confidential information, each group is given the perspective and goals of their client and the related facts. Once you have determined your points of flexibility and your sticking points, it is key to try and imagine what the other parties are going to come in looking for and then ways to swing the discussion towards a settlement in your best interest. Representing the indigenous group, my partner and I pushed to have the project re-located to our title land nearby (instead of the park) and for a share in the project profits… and we actually got it in the final settlement! It is so fun to watch everyone settle into their roles and really play up the part. If anything else, the ELG’s Annual Negotiation Competition is a chance to hone your acting skills and maybe make an inspiring speech or two (but be warned: this is not monologue practice! With 6 students representing 3 parties you have to respectfully fight for your turn to chime in)

While different practices of law will rely heavily on negotiation and others may allow a lawyer to avoid it entirely, I would recommend that everyone sign up next year! It is fun and friendly and as usual with UBC Law activities, there is plenty of good food to enjoy afterwards.

What can you learn from Negotiation Competitions?

Negotiation planning and strategy

Teamwork and communication skills

Thinking and speaking on your feet

Flexibility and creativity

Plus plus plus…

How to Make Your Life Easier in Law School

As the December exam period nears, you can feel the atmosphere of the school change. The library fills with students leafing furiously through case books, glaring at SNAILs occupying coveted library territory. The weight of the feeling of impending doom of exams can be hard to bear. Last December exam period I struggled with the stress, succumbed to panic, and spent a significant part of the end of first term curled up in a ball ruing the day I chose to come to law school. Despite the fact that December exams don’t really count for first years, I managed to work myself into a frenzy. My boyfriend fondly recalls the sobbing fits and outright madness that characterized December 2011.

When April exams came (the exams that are for keeps), I no longer felt crushed by the pressure. I made it through exams without panicking and significantly improved my average from December, all with committing less overall time to studying. Here’s what I changed:

1. Effective Time Management. 

You’ve heard it before, but it can’t be stressed enough. You DO NOT need to commit every waking hour to studying to succeed. It is equally important to take some time each week to do the things you enjoy. Otherwise, law school can become an evil oppressive force in your life that prevents you from doing what you love. When you study, focus. When you’re not studying, avoid the books. Compartmentalizing my time really helped me to study effectively.

I’m an outdoorsy person, and I realized that a large part of my December stress was due to the fact that I wasn’t getting outside as much as I was used to. The ski season was starting and I was stuck inside hitting the books. I skipped out on several opportunities to go skiing, hiking, or climbing because I was ‘too busy’ with school work. Instead of giving me more opportunity to study, this made me depressed and ineffective. During second semester, I spent one day out of every weekend skiing, sometimes two. I made myself promise that if I got the opportunity to get outside, I would work twice as hard on my study days.

I would work more effectively knowing that I could reward myself if I achieved certain goals. I would decide that I could have a day off if I read a certain number of cases or canned a certain amount of the course. I would highly recommend this method to anyone who is feeling like they are lacking time for the things in their life outside of law school. Not into skiing? Try motivating yourself with a day to spend with your significant other, a day at the movies, a day to indulge in TLC… whatever floats your boat.

2. Collegiality and study groups

I had the good fortune in first year of having a great small group; we were willing to work together to succeed. I think that we all benefited from the fact that we did not compete too heavily with each other, shared notes, and worked together. We helped each other resolve our mistakes and highlighted difficult portions of the course material.

In first term, we hadn’t sorted out how to run study groups effectively. We had a number of sessions with too many people or that lacked focus. This often ended up degenerating into arguments and frustration.

By the end of second term, we found that the best sessions had a structure. Working through old exams together and highlighting the issues let us red flag problems we were having with the material. We also would run through the syllabi and make sure we were all on the same page with the rules in each case. If there was disagreement, we could resolve this with the professor. Both of these methods provided structured discussion about the course.

Outside of study groups, we were always willing to share notes, cans, and study tools. It felt great to have a network of supportive people who were just as willing to answer my late night texts as to indulge in a celebratory beer at every first year milestone.

3. Exercise

During first term I couldn’t conceive of having enough time to exercise during exam period. In April I managed to get in at least 45 minutes in the gym before every exam. By the time I headed to campus for exams, I was on my toes and thinking clearly. Exercising also gave me the opportunity to plug in my headphones and listen to some music, clearing my head. This was the biggest key to fighting stress and keeping me relaxed during exam period. It was well worth the hour or so spent away from the books.

The take away:

Surviving exams isn’t a challenge in endurance studying. Take some time for yourself, keep doing the things you love; work hard – but work effectively.

More Than Just a Pretty Face –

I can’t believe how quickly this term is going! Where has the time gone?

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life on campus at UBC, it’s easy to get caught up in creating routines, putting the blinders on, and settling into new surrounds and experiences. It’s easy to write off these new surroundings and experiences as merely ‘the norm’. It’s somewhat funny and somewhat tragic, how quickly we adjust and transition our mindset.

Not that long ago it seems I was a grad student eager to enroll in a law school class, mystified by the possibility “law school” held. Appreciating the competitive process to even just get a seat in a law class, and hoping there was a spot for me. On my first day on campus I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling of how lucky I was, how fortunate.

On that first day, I couldn’t get over how beautiful the law building – Allard Hall – was. It may have helped that I visited UBC a few years ago and remember what the previous law building was like. It also may have helped that the sun was shining and it was a gloriously warm September day for the first few week on campus in 2012!
In reality, it’s important for me to still remember – even on a chilly, rainy November day –  how fortunate I am.  Allard Hall is stunning! See for yourself!

Allard Hall Building

Allard Hall from Road

Study & Event Space in Allard

Symbols of Justice – Lady Justice with Scales

The building itself is tastefully decorated with many artistic pieces portraying various symbols of justice and inspirational words. These act as gentle reminders of the ethic of the profession and the importance of action by both its students and its practitioners. The layout is airy, open and very conducive to student-friendly study and work, and the interchange of ideas.

On one occasion several weeks ago, as I was studying at the couch clusters on the third floor, I overheard a very interesting impromptu conversation with other upper year law students and faculty whom I had never met before. Before I knew it, I was engaged in the dialogue too!

From that experience and other interactions with those around Allard Hall, I am continually pleasantly surprised with the open and welcoming faces at UBC Law. Being a visiting student,  a self-labelled  “outsider,” I was curious, perhaps even cautious, as to what I should expect and how my presence would be assessed.

But consistently,  I’ve come to be greeted with with friendly, welcoming and supportive experiences, whether it be with students, staff, faculty, or even the Dean. Sharing of information between fellow classmates, cups of coffee and conversation at the Law Cafe, and open doors and helpful service at every level of faculty and administration; it’s safe to say UBC Law is more than just a pretty face and beautiful space. It has a pretty fantastic, warm-hearted group of people within its walls too.

– n

One month in a nutshell

I thought this would be a good time to revisit some highlights of the past month.

Disclaimer: I have definitely missed some amazing events because I haven’t yet figured out how to be everywhere at all times.


Out of Province Wine & Cheese

This was one of my favorite events in October. Yes, there was cheese (and wine), but the most nerve-wracking exciting thing was talking to lawyers! If you’re like me and haven’t substantially interacted with lawyers prior to law school, these kinds of events can really help break the ice.

The experience reminded me of O-week when I met tons of people, and asked everyone: What’s your name/where are you from?

Except in this instance it was more like: What do you specialize in/what does (insert firm name here) practice?

Over the course of an hour, I approached several incredibly personable lawyers who were eager to share their experiences. I learned a lot about working in Calgary/Toronto, and the different opportunities to practice areas of interest.

Regardless of whether or not you want to practice out of province, I think it’s great to keep an open mind and to get into the swing of networking in general. If you take a moment to not think about the potentially awkward scenarios, it is super fun to meet people.


Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP)

Not many details here for confidentiality reasons, but I have gotten to work on really interesting files. I know some of my 1L peers have also had amazing experiences (i.e. going to court!)

I [kind of] feel like a lawyer when I’m interacting with clients/speaking to a supervising lawyer/flipping through an LSLAP file.

More importantly, I really feel like I’m helping someone.

If you haven’t had a chance to sign-up for the program, or are thinking about doing this next year, I highly recommend it.


Legal Education Outreach (LEO)

LEO is an incredibly fun, relatively low-commitment volunteer endeavor. (When law students have to prioritize between classes/volunteering/work, I feel I should mention the latter fact.) I signed up to go to a local high school to do a presentation about the Charter.

There’s something energizing and nostalgic about being around high school students. Our group didn’t want to recreate a Constitutional 100 lecture. Instead we tried to make our presentation fun by studying a case and organizing a mock trial.

My favorite part, admittedly, was speaking with students planning to go to law school someday.

If you get a chance to do this next year, jump on it! Spots filled up fast, and I knew of peers who weren’t able to get presentation slots.


CANning for Success

Fact: I never knew what “CANning” was before Sep. 2012.

I didn’t even know that it was an acronym for Condensed Annotated Notes.

But, after attending the CANning for Success workshop, I feel I can CAN!

There are past CANS available on the LSS website. It has generally been recommended to prepare your own CANS for exams. I was reassured that there is no right or wrong way to CAN. While it is easy to get influenced by what everyone else around you is doing, it is important to remember that everyone learns differently.


Thanks for reading!