Author Archives: klhope20

Blackout Period.

Well, I have come through the great blackout period of December 2011 relatively unscathed. Our class encountered our first ever law school exams and it was a mixed result. As we get our grades back, that statement takes on a whole new meaning. This blog will be a mixture itself (first I will respond to the few of you that have asked me questions—particularly about a part-time job and then I will review December).

To get started, I must say that all of the things you may or may not do in law school completely depend upon the person. I think the key to doing well and having the rumoured ‘work-life balance’ is priorities. Naturally, those will differ from person to person. Theoretically, you can do whatever you want. However, I would place two limitations on that. Firstly, no matter what, you cannot do everything and secondly, attention in one place will almost always mean something is neglected.

I myself do not have a part-time job. Extra money would be great but personally I felt like it would take up too much time that could be put to better use. Just to give you context, I held a job for the last three years of my undergrad working 12 hours a week. I felt pretty relaxed and not stressed about that workload. The transit system went on strike and I had to walk to work and school every day and I still felt less stressed. People are different though!

I do know some people who have a part-time job, although I have to say I do not know them as well as other classmates. Often it is those people running to the library right after class or immediately home after school (often, I am running with them but NOT always). From what I have seen, there appears to be a trade-off. Law school can simply be about class but as my blog has mentioned, there is a support network and a great culture at UBC. I’m glad that I am not forced to miss out on any of it. There are clubs, volunteering opportunities and extra-curricular activities (even this blog) that could potentially disappear if a job forced me to lose significant hours of studying.

Yet for those of you who REALLY need the extra cash flow, take heart friends because some people have jobs on campus for a really limited time per week or even month and they manage a lot better.

I would say this though, whatever time you are spending at work, something is not being done. If you are the type of person who doesn’t mind skipping a reading or two (or even all of them) or not getting an extra opportunity to edit your final paper, then maybe you could handle a job. Perhaps you will barter the few hours of rest you might have per day for the extra money. Just remember that come December, it will all add up.


Ask if your employer is able to accommodate you during exams or at the very least reduce your hours.

This part of the blog now turns to the Blackout period of my life: Dec ’11. There was a really unfortunate slum found in Vancouver during that month: my house. I do not think I cleaned my apartment once in the 3 weeks of exams; I stopped cooking regularly; exercising was laughable; stress was peaking and all of this for exams that can only help and not hurt my final grade. I am thinking about hiring a live-in nanny for myself and my cats for April (heavy sarcasm intended).  With only one exam remaining, all I could think about was the finish line, and just handing it that paper and walking out into freedom. For some people, that freedom literally did not come for DAYS after the exam as they suffered through some sort of post-traumatic stress. The one thing that got me through those awful days was the pack-mentality wherein we were all together…on a sinking ship…the Titanic…with no lifeboats. Honestly, my peers helped me through it and hopefully they feel the same way. I cannot say enough about the UBC support system. Go fellow first years! Now that we know what to expect, it can only get easier…right?

Of coursem like I said above, every one is different and some people appeared unbothered by the exams. Most of the people I encountered did not fall into that category (neither did I).

As a brief side note for those of you who asked about a part-time job, I most certainly would have quit or started crying hysterically at it during this month. I honestly believe my results would be significantly lower if I’d bartered time with a job during December. A further note: I mentioned this question to a fellow classmate whose response was heavy laughter.

Yet, after December I feel a lot more confident about law school this semester. Those exams helped me realize what worked and did not work in terms of studying for finals and also showed me what still needs improvement. My predictions on my exams weren’t accurate and many people had their highest mark on exams they were certain they had either failed or bombed horribly. You start to realize that you just never know until you get the marks back.

I can’t say I’m fully refreshed and ready to tackle the new semester yet (still feel a bit shell-shocked) but improvement happens every day.  There is a wine and cheese coming up and I am excited to get out there (possibly an upcoming blog post?) and start looking to the future—beyond April. If December was a blackout period, I imagine April as the Shadow of Doom. If you have any questions or wish for further elaborations, as always feel free to comment.

Applications, Admissions, and Questions Abound.

On my last post, I threw out an open request to anyone for the topic of this post. I received one (lonely) comment from a reader out there requesting me to adress the applications process and how it relates to life in law school.  So, below are my thoughts thusfar.

Disclaimer: Let me start this post by clarifying that I am from Toronto. I applied to Ontario and BC schools only, so my experience is limited to those two provinces.

The Hardest Part is Getting In.

To be honest, there is some truth to that statement. However, I think to leave it at that is a gross injustice to the amount of hard work law school students do. Depending on your university of choice, getting in requires communications for letters of recommendations, transcripts, composition of letters of intent and equivalent bureaucratic requirements. You need to achieve high academic standings throughout four years of university. You need to get a relatively decent LSAT result. All of these things combine to create your application. So yes, this is a difficult process.

However, law school itself is not EASY. The idea is that you get into law school because you are driven to do it. The requirements you must meet are designed (in my opinion) to make certain this is a career you will be serious about. You do not just put your name down to get acceptance, you need to work hard. Once you meet all of those standards of admission, it is not that requirements suddenly drop or that law school itself is easy. Rather, the main concept is that by meeting the requirements set out by admissions, you are better prepared to take on the assignments and you are committed to doing so. Hundreds of pages of reading will avert some people but the people who do get in typically are ready to handle it or if not, are willing to put in the time to get there.

Hopefully this helps both answer my one reader’s question and anyone else who is thinking of applying.  I would add one thing in terms of the application process and researching your schools. Try to get as much information about all of your choices (I—with a potential bias—suggest you closely look at UBC) and find out what gels with who you are. Talk to students, ask questions, and try to nquire. Go beyond traditional questions. Think about everything. Consider the location (can you see mountains from every law library? I think not). Consider the social requirements and look beyond the name on the pamphlet. Look at the facilities available.  I never would have advocated this until I was fortuitous enough to be among the first class of students into the new facilities at Allard Hall. Facilities can impact education and this new building has been incredible.

For my fellow out-of-province potential applicants:  do not be intimidated from a big move away from your home province. UBC has a really big mixture of Canadians from across the country and you will definitely meet people who are from where you are. There also is support from the university to help get you here. When I was applying last year, I remember thinking that it was just too far. I knew one person in the entire province of BC. Not only have I met people but, as funny as this may sound, I have not even had time to miss the people left behind. Make the
decision that is best for you and your future. Do not worry about a big move; it is completely do-able. In fact, it is a great adventure that I am so
thrilled I decided to undertake.

I will be coming up on exams soon so will be taking a brief hiatus from long-winded posts on my blog. Hopefully after my first set of law school exams, I can give you a better idea of what to expect. Any questions you may have are still welcomed and if I can answer it in short form, I’ll do that instead. If not, I will be back with a breath of fresh air (see what I did there with my use of imagery–you do not get to do this in legal writing) in late December or early January. I am thinking of topics for upcoming posts such as exams, preparation for law school, extracurriculars, firms and social events… if any or none of the above appeal to you, leave a comment or ask away.

Happy holidays to everyone out there.


Expectations and Surprises: Who Knew?

Until I started preparing my applications last year, I believed that ‘law school’ was simply the institution an individual attends to gain a legal education. Au contraire mes ami(e)s. Law school comes with its own baggage (enough to keep airlines in business for years). Mentioning this institution to friends, family and acquaintances may render you some sort of ethereal glow in the eyes of others as people seem to be in awe of your future life in Law and Order. Disclaimer: this may be a gross exaggeration but there is truth to the claim that there are expectations and connotations associated with law school.

Let’s play a little word association game. Ready? Okay, let’s start and end with one, well two, words—law school. Typical answers may include: stress, reading, competitive, stuffiness, intensity, expensive, prestige, difficult, reading, lawyers, advocacy, and, did I mention, reading? All of
these potential answers are true, or, at least after a month of going to law school, that is my impression. During orientation week, as 1Ls we were encouraged to share our expectations of what law school would be like and my peers mentioned many (if not all) of the above descriptors. So if you thought them, you are not alone. For those of you that have, I would like to take this opportunity to help you explore your expectations.

The main thing to always remember is that all of these preconceived notions oversimplify law school. After a month and a bit of school, I realized many of these expectations were not an accurate depiction of law school. Yes, you have to read. Yes, at times, there is stress in your life. No, it is not easy. However, law school is not impossible and can actually be fun.

My personal expectations of law school envisioned professional attire, long-winded excurses between colleagues in to the meaning of law, and the end of my social life. Further, I expected to be completely overwhelmed with new terms, subjects, ideas, and ways of thinking. I worried about not keeping up. The point was that I had a view of exactly what law school would be like and for the most part, I was wrong.

I have been pleasantly surprised to find that my fellow colleagues and professors are actually people too. I could start up an intense debate about the newest Supreme Court decision just as easily as I could stir up a debate about the latest pop culture phenomenon. At the Orientation Banquet, half of my small group discussed, in-depth, the latest Harry Potter film. Imagine my excitement to discover that the legal profession does not (contrary to some opinions) attract automatons or people with the personality of a shark.

There is a sense of community at UBC, which has been a great comfort as I moved here from Toronto, leaving all my friends and family behind. No matter what initiative or idea I may have, there is always someone to share the opinion or at the very least is willing to discuss it.

This diversity is no better expressed than during clubs week. I think I signed up for every activity. I did not care what it was, I wanted to be involved. Some of you may be wondering if undertaking this blog is included in my haphazard extra-curricular frenzy. It was not. I wanted to share my experiences with those of you out there who may have trepidations. There are all kinds of options open to all students, and you are
able to shape your law school experience as you choose. If you like athletics, we have a rugby team. Have an interest in knitting? Got you covered.
We have environmental clubs, women’s interests groups, yoga sessions, the school paper, LSLAP (law students legal advice program), PBSC (pro bono students Canada) and many more. Apple may have an app for it but we have a club for everything.

There is no one definition of law school; it is what you make of it.  So if you read this as you, possibly, prepare to apply to UBC’s Faculty of Law (do it), remember that this next chapter in your life will be written by you. You get to choose your path, and you need not worry about LAW SCHOOL as everyone else conceives of it. So, yes, you may have certain beliefs and expectations about law school but those are yours and they
are subject to change. Sure, classes and courses in 1L are set but you are free to arrange the periphery however you choose.

Just remember, no matter what your expectations of law school, in some way it will surprise you.

If you have any questions out there you’d like me to answer or address in a subsequent blog, please feel free to shoot them my way.