Author Archives: beverlyma

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!




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

The 2014 Social Justice Forum

The Social Justice Forum, hosted jointly by UBC Law Career Services and Pro Bono Students Canada, with funding from the Law Foundation of British Columbia, is a truly unique event where public interest and nonprofit organizations gather to connect with law students.

The 2014 Social Justice Forum held at the Law Courts Inn on Feb. 6, 2014

For students contemplating practice in the public interest, it can be challenging to figure out how to shape a comparatively non-traditional career path. For example, some nonprofit or public interest organizations do not have websites, so connecting with public interest lawyers might be more difficult. The SJF provides an opportunity for students to connect with lawyers who carved out a public interest career for themselves in areas such as environmental law, human rights law, elder law, and family law. Some organizations were even looking to hire law students for summer or articling positions!

It was inspiring to see the different ways lawyers incorporated their passion into their work. For this year’s speaker panel, the SJF welcomed three lawyers from PIVOT Legal Society: Katrina Pacey, Douglas King, and DJ Larkin. Their speeches highlighted some of the rewards and challenges of working in the public interest. They were passionate, and showed incredible dedication to their clients.

For all law students, this is an inspiring event to attend if nothing else but to see the different paths lawyers can take after law school, and the different ways in which passions can be turned into careers.

(Note: For more blog posts about incorporating one’s interests into one’s career, I would highly recommend Pursuing Your Passion: UBC’s First Fashion Law Panel 

More on Networking Events

Several networking events are coming up, such as the Vancouver Large Firm Wine & Cheese (W&C), Small Firm W&C, and the Social Justice Forum (SJF). For those of you who prefer to do some preparation before networking events, you will find some of my suggestions below. I have blogged about networking before, but I hope this post is helpful nonetheless. Note that everyone networks differently, and these are just my opinions.

  • Dress professionally: Wear a suit!
  • Know the geography: The Wine & Cheese events I have attended were always laid out in the style of a tradeshow. There is a big room filled with tables, each table belonging to a firm, with each firm having 2 or more representatives. You will be given a map with a layout from the UBC Career Services Office at the event.
  • Eat and drink sparingly: Unless you are there just for the wine and cheese, do not spend your whole evening perusing the assorted cheeses or lining up at the bar. These events are just a couple of hours, and time flies. You want to make sure you have a chance to get to know people while being your professional self.
  • Do your research: I have said this before, but I find it incredibly helpful to research the firms/organizations that will be attending. I kept an Excel sheet of the firms that were in attendance with brief notes about distinguishing features of each firm and any questions that came up in the research process. Knowing which firms you want to approach is helpful, given the time crunch, but also try to keep an open mind.
  • Aim to have a conversation: For my very first W&C, I was so nervous that I prepared a list of stock questions such as “How long have you been with your firm?” or “What is your area of practice and why?” I quickly learned that it’s much better to approach lawyers with the mindset of having a conversation, instead of being interrogative. Nevertheless, being prepared with questions ahead of time can mitigate potentially awkward periods of silence and may help to boost your confidence.
  • Have an exit strategy: Don’t monopolize the time of lawyers given that they likely want to speak to as many students as possible, and you really should take the opportunity to circulate. Aim to speak to each lawyers for a few minutes. If you want to speak to them further, ask if you can take them out for coffee at another time (and then follow-up via email or telephone!).
  • Go solo: Although it may be nerve-wracking to approach firms or public interest organizations by yourself, I would not recommend networking with a big group of friends because it shows a lack of confidence. Also, it may be more difficult to have a quality/memorable conversation.
  • Spot opportunities: Chances are that each booth at the W&C or SJF will be quite crowded. If you spot a booth without a lot of students, I would encourage you to take the opportunity to chat with the lawyers there, even if it wasn’t a firm/organization you were thinking of getting to know. You just never know whom you will connect with.
  • Take notes: Take notes on the names of the lawyers you met, the impressions you received, and any other points of interest. This may help when you are writing cover letters or preparing for interviews.
  • Follow up: If you receive offers for future opportunities to connect, do follow up promptly (i.e. within 24 hours). Some firms offer dinners, but these seem to be rare, so do not feel bad if you do not receive any invitations!
  • Thank You emails: I didn’t send these unless I had what I thought was a meaningful conversation with a lawyer. However, some of my peers sent a note to every lawyer they came into contact with. In any event, do err on the side of professionalism with any communications you send out.

Finally, if you consider yourself Awkward, consider reading Networking Tips for the Awkward written by Robyn last year. Also, networking really does not begin and end with Wine & Cheeses.  I would encourage you not to hesitate to reach out to lawyers outside of these organized events.

Good luck!

A 2L Tour of Allard Hall

A couple of weeks ago I helped a UBC Law Ambassador lead a tour of a delegation of judges visiting from China. While preparing for the tour, I was able to learn much more about the architectural design of our building and how it is influenced by Aboriginal culture, paying tribute to the fact we are situated on Musqueam Territory. Here are just a few interesting things I learned:

The north-facing totem pole was crafted by Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow and is a replica depicting the Musqueam warrior, Capilano.


 The Musqueam word for “remember” is etched on the bench by the totem pole.

The pool on the north side of the building is known as the Reflection Pool. The area is surrounded by river grass, since the Musqueam are known as the People of the River Grass.

Needless to say, I was just as impressed as our overseas guests were with the cultural symbolism incorporated into the structural design here at our law school!


So, tell me about the law.

Last Friday evening I received a telephone call from a friend, let’s call him John Smith (very original). John explained to me hurriedly that his friend needed some legal advice on what appeared to be a contracts issue. John described the situation briefly, and asked, “What do you think?”

My mind quickly raced through what I learned in first year contracts, files I’ve dealt with as part of the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP), and then, I reeled a little.

Hold on. Why on earth would anyone be asking me for legal advice? Do people really think I know the law on any given issue because I’ve completed one year of law school? I’m definitely not in any position to give legal advice yet. And anyway, law students are not allowed to provide legal advice.

There are a lot of reasons why I think law students should not give legal advice (unless there is supervision by a lawyer, which is why programs like the LSLAP and Pro Bono Students Canada exist). Here are a few off the top of my head: students may not know how much they do not know. While an issue might seem straightforward, there may be a lot of additional considerations. Laws can change everyday. Also, remember that law students still have to article after they have graduated from law school, and write a bar exam, before they would even be considered a junior lawyer. The legal profession is a practice and a continual learning process. There is a steep learning curve for a reason, because the law can be deceptively complex.

You will find that sometimes, as a law student, friends/family/acquaintances will come to you with legal questions. This isn’t strange. Having studied economics and commerce in undergrad, I remember receiving questions about investment strategies. Which I was in no position to provide (although I’d happily draw out supply and demand curves).

When approached with legal issues, which may even seem startlingly similar to what you’ve read in textbook examples or fact patterns, you might be tempted to explain what you know. Mindful that there may be a desire to be helpful, I still encourage you to refrain from doing so. Instead, I refer people to the Lawyer Referral Service run by the Canadian Bar Association (where individuals can get half-an-hour of time with an actual lawyer for just $25.00), and tell them that in all honesty, I will probably do more harm than good by trying to help them.

This is what I told John.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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!

Hello Future 1Ls!

As I’m buckling down to write 1L final exams, I realize that a year ago around this time, I was gearing up for my summer before law school.  Prospective students may be in a state of curiosity about how to prepare for 1L, as I was, so I decided to share some suggestions in case you feel inclined to do some pre-law preparation (if you don’t, see number 5).

1. I didn’t do any pre-law reading. I know of a couple peers who read Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams by Fischl and Paul. They said it was kind of helpful in getting a sense of what to expect from classes. My recommendation would be to get your non-law reading done this summer. You might find catching up with Game of Thrones installments more difficult once classes start.

2. Consider investing in a suit. Even if you see yourself as being more of a Vinny Gambini type of lawyer (reference: My Cousin Vinny. If you haven’t seen this movie, you may want to add it to your docket), a suit will still be handy to have for networking events, formal dinners, or interviews.

3. Having a laptop might make life easier. In undergrad, I was a strict pen-and-paper note taker, but I find a laptop handy because I type faster than I write, and law professors impart a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time. Also, you have an option of writing exams on your laptop at UBC Law.

4. I would also encourage you to speak to our super-friendly UBC Law Student Ambassadors if you have questions as a prospective or admitted UBC Law student (click here).

5. Have fun! Do something interesting this summer! I worked my whole summer before law school, and while I don’t regret it, I envied peers who went on fun escapades the summer before law school and had amazing stories to tell during Orientation Week.


10 Reasons to Get Involved from 10 Students

I thought I would give you some fresh perspective by asking 10 amazing peers who volunteer in the law school community to briefly share their thoughts with you about why they get involved or why it is an invaluable experience to do so.

Disclaimer: There are lots of ways to get involved and it certainly does not have to be a law-related extracurricular activity. The following is just a snapshot of what opportunities are available at Allard Hall.

Campaign paraphernalia from students getting involved in Law Student Society (LSS) Elections

“A legal education is only partially complete if it is without the extracurricular activities. There is a lot to learn beyond the concepts taught in the classroom.  Getting involved has taught me a lot about the actual practice of law and has given me insight on what type of law I enjoy practicing.” – Clinic Head, UBC Law Students’ Legal Advice Program

LSLAP gave me a great opportunity to learn how to work with and manage clients. I liked having the opportunity to go to court and represent a client. You can sign up for files on areas of law you are interested in.” – Clinician, UBC Law Students’ Legal Advice Program

“Participating in pro bono is a great way to explore areas of law you may be interested in. It really opens you to the diversity of issues that are current and important to the legal profession in that field” – Pro Bono Student, West Coast Environmental Law

“Through my placement I came to really appreciate the skills we were learning in Legal Research and Writing and regular contact with the lawyers there was an invaluable exposure to the day to day of practicing law” – Pro Bono Student, West Coast Environmental Law

“I like being part of ILSA because it is a great community brimming with diverse people. ILSA puts on several events throughout the year so there are many different ways to become involved, as well as other unique opportunities I never would have heard of!” – Member, Indigenous Law Students’ Association 

“UBC Legal Education Outreach was fun. I enjoyed going back to high school to speak to students about the law and about law school. I received good feedback from the class; I feel it was a learning experience for everyone.” – Presenter, UBC Legal Education Outreach Program

“The reason I joined the club is because its a refreshing opportunity to get away from all the books while doing something meaningful!” – President, UBC Asia-Pacific Law Club

“I felt so welcomed by everyone when I started at Allard that I wanted to return the favor for incoming students.” – UBC Law Ambassador

“Volunteering allows me to broaden my horizons and to explore my strengths and weaknesses in non-academic settings.” – UBC Law Careers Committee Representative

“Joining Law Review is a great way to hone the legal research and writing skills you learn during your first year. It also gives you a chance to contribute to a reputable legal journal, and to get to know upper year students!” – Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief, UBC Law Review