Monthly Archives: February 2015

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.