Monthly Archives: May 2013

Q&A with Beverly Ma

My fellow blogger, Beverly Ma, and myself wanted to do something a bit different for our next posts. We decided to ask each other some fun, and hopefully informative, questions about law school and the life of a law student. As evidenced by her previous posts, Bev is a not only smart and very helpful but also involved in the UBC Law and broader community, so don’t miss her take on first year law and beyond.

Q: What is the best or worse piece of advice you received while in law school?

A: As a law student, you will find that you will be gifted with advice from lawyers, upper year students, professors, all the time. Heck, my blog posts are kind of like advice. It’s a little obvious, but do think twice before you apply or discard advice!

Worst AdviceDecember exams don’t count so you don’t have to try.

This is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. December exams CAN count. In the 2012-2013 academic year, they could have been worth a quarter of one’s final mark, if the final exam mark was below the December exam mark. I found that studying for December exams helped to reduce the amount of reviewing I had to do when it came to cumulative final exams. Work can snowball really easily in law school, so take every opportunity you can to learn the material and you will thank yourself later on.

Best Advice: The legal profession is a people business. Get to know people.

The things I’ve learned simply by having walked up to a lawyer or an upper year student and talking to them always surprise me. I love having the opportunity to talk to lawyers about their practice, upper year students about their courses of choice, and professors about their opinions. There are kinds of nuanced information you really can’t get from a website or pamphlet – I don’t think there’s a substitute for getting to know people, especially in person.

Q: How did you narrow your interests when in law school?

A: I’m not sure if I have completely narrowed my interests. The problem is my interest in different areas of law is a function of what I find interesting. To a certain extent, I find everything interesting. I think that a good way to go about narrowing your interests would be to talk to people! Talk to professors, talk to lawyers (practicing in different fields), and other students. This can really help you shape your interests. Another great way is to get involved in legal work in any capacity in a field of law you are curious about in a paid or volunteer capacity.

Q: What did you do besides school during the school year?

A: Law classes really did make up a huge part of my life during the school-year because I really tried to keep up with my readings and assignments. Outside of classes, I volunteered, mostly around the law school community. For example, I was a Clinician with the Law Students Legal Advice Program in Chinatown. I also tried to volunteer outside of law school with the Centre for African Affairs and Global Peace. I worked part-time as a Peer Tutor with Access and Diversity. I’m not going to lie: my social life was almost nonexistent. I found volunteering and working really helped to distance myself from the stresses of law school though.

Q: Where do you like to study?

A: I really liked getting away from Allard Hall for most of my studying, even though it is a beautiful building. I prefer a quiet space, and I did most of my studying in my room, with lots of snacks. I also loved going to the Riddington Room inside the Irving K. Barber Library, an undergraduate favorite and fondly referred to as the Harry Potter Room. Coffee shops don’t work out that well for me because I can get too distracted with people-watching.

Q: How do you de-stress?

A: I bake or cook to de-stress (and if you need to eat anyways, it kills two birds with one stone). There’s nothing like kneading dough when you’re frustrated with readings.

Q: What are 3 things you need to survive at law school or in Vancouver?

A: Oh boy.

1.    An umbrella: I almost always have an umbrella. I almost always have a spare in my locker too, which I am happy to lend out.

2.    Rain boots: Wearing damp socks is possibly one of the worst things in the world.

3.    A laptop: Seriously. Professors talk fast and Condensed Annotated Notes need to be formatted. I type much faster than I write, so I found a laptop helpful for law school exams. As a commuter, I also recommend a lightweight laptop.

Q: Favorite food/restaurant in Vancouver?

A: I eat too much. I think my favorite cuisine is Mediterranean followed by Chinese. One of my favorite Greek restaurants is Kisamos in Stevenson – it’s a little out of the way relative to UBC though. One of my favorite Chinese restaurants is Long’s Noodle House. It’s a hole-in-the-wall without the best customer service, but they make delicious food! I love sweets of course, and I highly recommend a cup of classic hot chocolate from Thomas Haas or a Marbelous cookie from Blue Chip Cookies (right on campus!).

Catching up with Negar Jalali

You may recognize Negar from her fantastic blog posts here! Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Negar to get her two cents on law school and life as a law student in general. This was so much fun – Negar has such a great sense of humour, and great perspective. You should definitely read on!


Q: What is the best or worse piece of advice you received while in law school?

A: Lawyers give advice because it’s their job. Law students give advice because they can. And because they frankly love it. (Some of them even write blogs full of it). So I’ve been given a literally immeasurable amount of advice.

Best Advice: Learn how to manage your time.

Law school is a demanding endeavour: lots of academic work plus a ton of extracurricular opportunities and events. And your life and its obligations don’t magically stop when you start law school. So, managing your time and prioritizing your goals is key.

Worst Advice: You don’t need to do readings until second term.

Worst. Advice. Ever. Do your readings and prepare well for December exams. You will most definitely be glad you did when April rolls around.


Q: What did you think was the most challenging aspect of law school?

A: Training my mind to think in a legal way. Regardless of your background– sciences, humanities, arts, business—your mind has probably been trained to see problems and think about them in a particular way. Like any other field, the law has its own set of tools and ways of thinking which a law student must learn, and it takes time and effort. I should mention while this was challenging, it was by far the most interesting and enjoyable aspect of law school for me.


Q: What surprised you most about law school or the legal profession?

A: The variety of work that lawyers do surprised me. I have no lawyers in my family, and previous to my decision to attend law school, I didn’t know many personally. When I started to meet lawyers as part of my decision making process to attend law school and then throughout first year, I was always surprised by the variety of work they do.


Q: Where do you like to study?

A: I love studying at home because I have easy access to tea and blankets, and of course Allard Hall is an immaculate study space. But UBC is a treasure trove of study spaces. I like Keorner Library stacks for focused, uber-quiet studying, Buchanan Cafe, the Rose Garden for reading on sunny days, the Scarfe building, and the Starbucks on the Engineering side of campus.


Q: What’s your favorite food/restaurant in Vancouver?

I love food! Persian food has to take the number one spot on the favourite list. But the list is very long. Some old and new favourite restaurants are East is East, Hy’s Steakhouse, Hakhamanesh, Abattoir, Sandbar, Sushi Town and True Confections.


Q: What are 3 things you need to survive at law school or in Vancouver?

Law school: my laptop,  my calendar (both planner and smartphone versions), caffeine.

Vancouver: my umbrella, sushi, my car.


Q: Words of wisdom?

Take every piece of advice with at least a grain but preferably a half-pound of salt.

Tips for Vancouver Large Firm Tours

After one full day of firm tours, I thought it might be helpful to blog about my tips for those students who are going to be heading off on firm tours over the next couple of weeks. Some of these tips may seem obvious, but I hope they are helpful nonetheless.

  1. Do your research for the firms that will be a part of your tour. Get a sense of the firm and bring questions with you. There will be partners, associates, articling/summer students from firms, and you will get the most out of the tour if you have questions to ask them. In general, I think that any question that can be answered from reading a website is not one I want to be asking someone at the firm.
  2. Bring paper and a pen so you can take notes as you go along. This is a great idea because you can jot down names and any important information mentioned. You will be going on a whirlwind tour, so it’s safer not to rely on memory. I hadn’t thought of this beforehand, and I ended up taking quick notes on my phone in the elevator after each tour. I would have preferred to write the information down as I was going on the tour.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet a lot as you go around the firms, travel to each firm, and network. Let me tell you, nothing is worse than trying to focus on holding a conversation while your feet are aching.
  4. Bring a roomy bag to store swag. Firms are generous and will be providing you with lots of informational handouts, folders, water bottles, mugs, pens … you name it! It’s nice to have a place to store your swag, just so that you aren’t holding onto a mountain of things as you travel between firms.
  5. Bring an umbrella. It’s Vancouver after all. If it begins to rain, you will get drenched as you are walking to firms. It’s very uncomfortable to be in a soaked suit when you are trying to look and feel presentable.
  6. Take a business card if one is offered. Business cards will help you keep track of the people you have met.
  7. Send a Thank You email. Remember that the firms are taking time to host you, provide you with refreshments, and arrange for their lawyers and students to speak with you. The least you can do is remember to thank them.

Note: If you were just wondering about whether or not to go on firm tours, I would definitely recommend them! UBC CSO organizes Vancouver Large Firm Tours for 2L/3L/LLM.CL students early in the summer. Spots are limited, so if presented with the opportunity I encourage you to register early to secure a spot.


Thanks for reading!

The Constitution Conversation

 It’s an interesting time to be a law student in New Zealand. This   year,  between February and July, there is an ongoing ‘conversation’ occurring regarding New Zealand’s constitution. I had the pleasure of attending a panel that featured speakers from the Constitutional Advisory Panel, practicing lawyers, and some of my own professors from right here at the  University of Canterbury. Many audience members took park in expressing their views about New Zealand’s Future.

New Zealand is one of just a few countries that doesn’t have a written constitution, and right now, that’s under review. The review process, sparked by an agreement between New Zealand’s National and Maori parties, is hugely collaborative. Submissions are being sought from everyone across New Zealand on whether they’d like to see constitutional reform, and what shape a written constitution could take. The ‘conversation’ has been made accessible to New Zealanders through a variety of panels, public meetings, and online.

Among the main issues for review are:

1. The pros and cons of having the constitution written down in a single document.
2. The role of the Bill of Rights Act 1990 in the constitution.
3. The role of the Treaty of Waitangi in the constitution.
4. Māori representation in local and national government.
5. Electoral issues such as the size of Parliament and the length of term.

For a country that, in my opinion, is quite similarly thinking to Canada, the constitution is starkly different from ours. Not only is there no one written document (which mirrors the British model), but there is a lack of constitutional clarity on indigenous issues, human rights, and the role of the judiciary in declaring laws to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights Act 1990 closely mirrors the Bill of Rights that was Canada’s primary human rights document prior to the Charter. It is quite a weak rights document comparatively; the New Zealand judiciary has little power to strike down laws that are inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. A major question for New Zealand will be whether to address this, or to leave the status quo.

Currently New Zealand has an immensely powerful parliament, with little check to their power. I believe it was Prime Minister Robert Muldoon once said that if he thought of a piece of legislation he wanted to pass at breakfast, it could be law by lunchtime. New Zealand has no upper house, and no formal constitutional supremacy, meaning that Parliament can by and large do what it wants.

An interesting difference between New Zealand and Canada is the term of Parliament. In New Zealand, this is 3 years, which is interesting given that the electoral system is mixed-member proportional representation. The result of an ‘MMP’ system is that there are more parties represented in the house, and thus there is more collaboration between parties. Some have pointed out that this collaborative system is somewhat slow moving, and that a longer term is warranted.

The Treaty of Waitangi is perhaps the most controversial issue amongst all of these constitutional questions. It was signed between Māori and Pākehā (the term given to New Zealanders of European origin) in 1840. It is considered to be New Zealand’s founding document, and thus is likely part of New Zealand’s constitutional framework. However, the English and Māori texts of the treaty were quite different. There has been much litigation and legislation surrounding the Treaty, but with little resolution as to its true force and power.

This ‘conversation’ will offer New Zealanders the chance to express themselves, offer their views, and to educate themselves on their constitution. While the conversation may not lead to any true reforms, it seems like it is a fantastic exercise for a country to come together, to discuss their identity, and to forge a path to a common future. 

The website is worth checking out. It’s amazing how accessible this review is to ordinary New Zealanders, and the efforts that have been made to get input from everyone.

The cover of a brochure about ‘The Constitution Conversation’.



Q&A with Andrew Guaglio

Graduating student Andrew Guaglio is a recipient of the 2012/2013 Premier Undergraduate Scholarship and Wesbrook Scholarship. Thirteen students across the university were selected this year for what is UBC’s most prestigious student award. The award is given to a senior student with outstanding records in the areas of academics, participation in sports, leadership, and involvement in student and community activities. We asked Andrew a few questions about his achievements and experience at UBC Law.

What were some of your extra-curricular activities during law school?

While in law school, I tried to get involved in as many activities as possible, especially those with either a public interest or criminal law focus. My primary involvement was with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, a non-profit organization that promotes human rights and the rule of law by providing support internationally to human rights defenders in danger. I began with LRWC as a volunteer researcher and later took a position as Assistant to the Executive Director from the end of 1L until graduation.

In addition to working with LRWC, I volunteered with the UBC Law Students’ Legal Advice Program as a clinician and then clinic head of the Immigration and Refugee clinic, worked as a research assistant for Mary T. Ainslie, Q.C., senior Crown counsel with Vancouver’s Criminal Appeals and Special Prosecutions office, participated as a student caseworker with the UBC Law Innocence Project, worked as a summer articling student with the firm Peck and Company, and was a member of the 2012-2013 Gale Cup Moot team. After finishing as a student caseworker with the Innocence Project, I continued working on the research and writing that I began with the Project and have been preparing two papers to submit for publication.

Why did you choose to go to law school?

I came to law school in order to pursue a career in criminal law. My general fascination with the subject has been fueled by my long-standing interest in the issue of wrongful convictions and my desire to develop the expertise required to both prevent and correct these injustices. I also came to UBC Law with a view to eventually working as a litigator in the International Criminal Court. I hope to actively participate in the continuing development of the international criminal justice system.

How did you juggle school and other activities?

I juggled school and other activities by being organized and over-caffeinated, the latter likely being the critical factor.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I will article with the firm Peck and Company. I am also serving on the Board of Directors for Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada from 2013 to 2014. From 2014 to 2015, I will clerk with the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

Can you describe your law school experience?

My law school experience has been many things, but mostly it has been thought-provoking, empowering, and rewarding (the phrase “stressful at times” might appropriately follow shortly thereafter). I have learned so much in my three years of law school, largely due to the tremendous number of opportunities that were placed before me and the phenomenal instructors in the law faculty. I considered myself truly fortunate to have had the chance to attend UBC Law.


Q&A with a Lisa Jørgensen

Graduating student Lisa Jørgensen is a recipient of the 2012/2013 Premier Undergraduate Scholarship and Wesbrook Scholarship. Thirteen students across the university were selected this year for what is UBC’s most prestigious student award. The award is given to a senior student with outstanding records in the areas of academics, participation in sports, leadership, and involvement in student and community activities. We asked Lisa a few questions about her achievements and experience at UBC Law. 

Why did you choose to go to law school?

I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. I debated competitively throughout my undergrad and absolutely love oral argument. But after finishing my BAH in Political Science I wasn’t so sure. I decided to take a couple years off to work and think about what I wanted to do with my life. That eventually lead to me pursuing teaching English overseas. I lived in Mexico for a couple months and eventually spent a year teaching in Cairo, Egypt. Many of my friends worked with refugee groups in Egypt and I heard their stories/did some volunteer work/spent a considerable amount of time getting to know the community through my students and their families. My time in Egypt, just months before the revolution, showed me the disgusting things that can transpire in the absence of a just legal system. My experiences renewed my dedication to going to law school – I wrote the LSAT and applied while living Cairo. It was the best decision I ever made.

How did you juggle school and other activities?

For me it was all about setting priorities and staying organized. School was always my top priority. I spent quite a lot of time at the beginning of each semester getting a sense of which courses required more or less time and scheduled my time accordingly. In first year, when competitive debating took me overseas for 4 weeks over the course of the year, I did a lot of reading in advance and scheduled meetings with my professors to make sure I understood everything.

I didn’t find it hard to fit in outside activities I care about. I think that it’s important to maintain who you are and do things that keep you happy and sane during law school. Being able to focus on things other than school that I enjoy kept me relaxed and focused, whether it was something law-centric like volunteering at a nonprofit, going to the gym, or reading bad fiction. For me, law school wasn’t just about school; a big part of it was getting the chance to take on challenging and exciting non-academic roles that let me apply my studies in a practical setting. Ultimately, I found that I was able to make time for all the things I cared about – friends, family, my partner, school, volunteer work, etc. by staying organized and having a clear sense of what mattered most to me.

What are your plans for after graduation?

This summer I will be working for the Crown Law Office – Criminal in Toronto and writing the bar exam in Ontario. In September I am starting a clerkship at the Ontario Court of Appeal. I am not entirely sure what I will do after my clerkship, but I hope to return to the firm I summered at to pursue a career in civil litigation.

Can you describe your law school experience?

Law school has been an amazing experience. I came to law school with a sense that law was what I wanted to do, but was otherwise pretty directionless. Law school has given me a clear set of priorities and opened up a career that has me genuinely excited. The professors at UBC are fantastic. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from them over the past three years. I’ve also been blown away by the support I’ve received to pursue my own interests and goals from everyone at UBC Law. I am excited to start my career, but I will miss being at UBC Law.