Author Archives: Rebecca Coad

Reasons to do a competitive moot

I’ve heard lots of rumblings about factums in the hallways as of late, which can only mean one thing – the first year moots must be around the corner. Good luck everyone!

Although giving oral submissions is nerve-racking, and writing a factum is the most difficult assignment of 1L (in my humble opinion), I really enjoyed my first year moot. I went into law school thinking I’d like to be a litigator, and the moot was my first taste of what that actually means.

In March, there will be opportunities for first years to audition for an upper year, competitive moot. I say go for it! The audition process is painless: last year we were asked to prepare an argument for or against making first year pass/fail. The audition was 5 minutes long, but it felt like it was over in 30 seconds. So you really have nothing to lose by trying, and a heck of a lot to gain if you get drafted!

Doing a moot has been the coolest experience of law school thus far. In just a week’s time, I will help represent UBC in the hotly contested UBC/UVic moot. This moot is the only strictly civil law moot (we’re doing tort law this year) and UBC and UVic are the only participants (which means there’s a healthy rivalry). UBC has a strong record of wins, but last year’s team was defeated. The pressure is on as my team and I are determined to bring the Matthew Begbie trophy home!

Here are some reasons why you should moot!

1. You will actually learn how to write a factum

This is not a jab at the first year legal writing program – it’s just that you will have so much more feedback. The factum coaches for my moot are Professors Edinger and Blom. I have literally spent hours in Professor Edinger’s office going over drafts. Not to mention that I had Professor Blom, an expert in the field, as my own personal sounding board for my arguments. Sounds pretty awesome, right?

2. You will improve your oral advocacy skills tremendously

I’m going to sound spoiled pretty quickly here, but writing the factum is only one half of the task. In one week, we will have to get up in front of real judges and plead our cases. To help us prepare, Davis LLP has been hosting practice rounds with their experienced litigators, and our coaches have been rounding up their colleagues for weekly practices on campus. I can’t even begin to describe how valuable this has been. Not only have these practices helped me construct my arguments and polish answers to questions, I’ve also refined my style. At the beginning of this experience, I was a compulsive “um”-er with crazy, flapping hands. I also had to be told that when I get flustered, I get defensive and come across as aggressive to the bench… Those are good things to work on now, rather than when there are a real client’s interests at stake!

3. You will meet great people

This includes your moot team, professors, practitioners and judges.

I think it’s safe to guarantee that you will bond with your moot team and add to your circle of law school friendships. While there are plenty of chances to get to know your professors, if you’re anything like me then you didn’t really pounce on your chances in first year. This is an opportunity to learn first hand what your intuitions have been telling you – professors enjoy helping their students. The lawyers at Davis are also incredibly generous, and I assume that any firm that offers to coach mooters does so because they want to help foster a budding crop of litigators. It’s nice to be on their radars. And lastly, you will be pleading before real judges, and you will get their feedback on your performance. For someone just starting out, that’s pretty awesome.

One word of advice

If you decide that you’d like to audition, have a look at which moots are available and which professors coach them. If there’s a moot you’re really keen on, send the coaches an email and introduce yourself, especially if you don’t have a class with them. The selection process is a bit like a draft, so it can only help you if the coaches know who you are and that you’re enthusiastic about their moot. Good luck!

A Recap of the Second Year Summer Job Hunt

I last wrote the night before on-campus interviews (“OCIs”): those 17-minute, preliminary interviews with big Vancouver law firms. I promised to report back on my experiences, but before I get into the details, I want to make a quick disclaimer. This process was pretty competitive and intense. This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise – students across the country were vying for a small number of positions – but I think it’s worth emphasizing.

I feel extremely lucky to have come out of this whole thing with a position at a firm I really like. Without a doubt, this process didn’t end with everyone getting exactly what they wanted. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but out of approximately 200 second year students, only around 50 got jobs through OCIs. With that said, there are lots of jobs out there with firms that don’t participate in this process. This is but one possible path.

September 19th – 20th: On Campus Interviews

My nerves compelled me to be about an hour early for my first OCI. This meant I had plenty of time to scope out the set up, fret about missing classes, and make nervous chitchat with classmates while I waited. We reassured each other that our outfits were appropriate and that firms would be crazy not to hire us.

The interviews were held in small booths made out of curtains, which were not the most welcoming, but were very functional. For whatever magical reason, even though there was only a thin piece of fabric separating my interviews from others’, the acoustics were such that you couldn’t hear other people. By the time introductions had been made and hands had been shook, the other interviews melted away into background sound. This was a BIG relief because some interviews went better than others, so I could convince myself that what happened behind the curtains, stayed behind the curtains.

At the end of Day 2, I’d had so many adrenaline peaks and troughs that I was totally spent. There was a two-week wait before interview call day, when I would know the outcome of my OCIs. Interview call day is when firms call to schedule “in firm” interviews – the next step in getting a summer job.

October 17th – 19th: Interview Week

Interview week was truly an experience. I spent those three days running around downtown Vancouver, going from firm to firm, event to event. Thank heavens it was sunny. At times interview week was super fun, other times it was pretty stressful. It was an opportunity to meet scores of interesting and successful people, but it was also a week of tough decisions and some rejection.

Firms put a ton of resources into interview week (well, the whole recruitment process really). There were lunches and dinners, receptions and coffees.  I met dozens of partners, associates and students – many spent a significant amount of time answering my questions and telling me about their practices. Firms put a lot of effort into getting to know students, and while Career Services will be able to advise you better than I can, I think it’s safe to say that firms are looking for a bit of reciprocation in this process. The people I met weren’t concerned that I didn’t know what kind of law I want to practice, but they wanted to get a sense of why I wanted to work for them in particular.  They certainly gave me every opportunity to show my curiosity about their firm.

My focus for interview week was pretty general (because I don’t know what kind of law I want to practice).  I paid attention to the vibes I got from the people I met, and the kinds of things they emphasized as being important to their “firm culture”. I also asked lawyers about their pre-law background and what drew them to their practice area to get a sense of what my path might be if I ended up at their firm. Lastly, I tried to imagine what it would be like working at the firms I interviewed with.

When it was all said and done, I consider myself to be very lucky to have received an offer, and from a firm I really like. I’ve heard all sorts of stories from friends – some knew exactly who was going to be their first call with an offer; others were really surprised by who called and who didn’t.

The best advice I was given during this crazy month and a half was: Don’t read into anything. If you’re digging a firm but they don’t invite you to a lunch: don’t read into it. If you thought you nailed an OCI but the firm didn’t respond to your follow-up email: don’t read into it. If the firm gives you gifts, tells you they think you’re amazing, invites you to meet every lawyer in the firm: don’t read into it. I’ve heard lots of stories, and you may not know exactly where you stand with a firm until they call with a job offer.

For example, the firm that I will be working for this summer didn’t call me on interview call day to schedule an interview. Yup. They called me a full 30+ hours later. I thought for sure they must have gotten a cancelation and I was top of their pity list. It was hard not to read into it! But it turned out to be an awesome interview (sparks flew!), and they were my first call with a job offer (and they called me at 8:00 am sharp that time).

That’s a pretty long summary (I know), but if you have any questions- I’d be more than happy to answer them!

Second year begins and OCI’s approach

I spent last September wrapping my head around the newness of law school—new classmates, new profs, new program, new lingo, new pressures… Second year has a comfortable familiarity to it that I am very much enjoying.

I also got to pick all my classes this year.  One of the perks of going to a larger law school is that there are plenty of course options to choose from.  I hemmed and hawed over my selections, and eventually decided to get a good number of the basics under my belt this year.  I’m doing mostly standard classes that I figured would open my eyes to various practice areas: Corporations, Tax, Family, Intellectual Property, Administrative Law and Evidence.  But I’m also doing a couple of classes for my pre-established love of the subject matter.  For example, I’m taking a seminar on feminist analysis of Canadian law and legal systems.  During my undergrad I took a course on feminist literary criticism to satisfy some prerequisite, and it turned out to be one of my all-time favourite classes.  I am also doing a competitive moot to investigate whether I might want to be a litigator when I graduate.  All in all, I am content with my plan and selections.

With that said, I can say with a high degree of certainty that upper year classes are both more demanding and more technical than first year.  This is probably not surprising to anyone reading this blog, but it makes me regret getting my hopes up for a breezy semester of only 4 (rather than 6.5) classes.

Another substantial difference between first and second year is the hunt for second year summer positions.  You see, I, and many of my classmates, would like to work for a firm or the government next summer.  It’s an opportunity to get hands-on experience in various legal practice areas, as well as a way to secure articles (most places will hire back their summer students as articling students).  Many of the firms that hire summer students do so through the On Campus Interview (OCI) process.  “OCI” technically refers to a 17-minute interview between students and law firms, but the acronym “OCI” stands for much, much more.  The OCI process begins over the summer, when hopeful students across the country research firms and prepare application packages.  Firms respond by inviting candidates for OCI’s as a preliminary interview, but the hiring process does not end there.  Fortunate students will be invited for second (and maybe third) interviews, which are more substantial and take place at the law firm.  These interviews might also include dinners and other social events.  The firms will make their actual hires at the end of October.

So OCI’s have been lingering in the back of my mind since the first day of classes.

While this process is a tad intimidating (some firms participate in OCI’s across the country, making the competition seem palpable), it might also be a way of avoiding some of the pitfalls of more traditional interviews: the more time students and firms spend together, the better they get to know each other.  While nothing is a guarantee, it is possible that a second year summer position will turn into a career.

So, OCI’s start tomorrow!  And I am nervous.  I will let you know how they go!

1L: A Retrospective

First year has come to an end, so a retrospective is probably in order (if not overdue).

On our very first day of orientation, the president of the Law Student’s Society compared first year to a roller-coaster ride. I couldn’t agree more with her analogy. There were a few people who appeared to love every moment of it, but I think for most of us there were ups and downs, with twists and turns. With that said, it was more good than bad. The workload is challenging, but it’s manageable. The marks look nothing like undergrad (the days of A+’s are OVER), but at least everyone’s in the same boat. For me, it took a couple months to get oriented, but once I did it became much easier to set priorities, estimate how much time an assignment should take, and anticipate my professors’ expectations.

Here are a few things that worked well and that I learned over the last eight months:

Sign-ups for the extra-curricular activities took place at the very beginning of the year. I decided to join the curling team and LSLAP. I found this to be just the right amount of commitment: I don’t wish I did more. I’ve talked about LSLAP in other posts, so I’ll just say that it was a good way of getting some exposure to the legal profession right off the bat.  I learned about procedural stuff (like file management), as well as really key lawyer stuff (like how important it is to manage your client’s expectations).

The curling team was a blast. Not only did I learn to throw rocks, it was a way to connect with upper year students. This was the furthest thing from my mind when I signed up for the team, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was awesome to be able to discuss the first year experience, the second-year summer job hunt, upper year classes, and post-law school plans in an informal environment.

Besides the standard extra-curriculars, there were numerous events we were invited to attend. I went to a handful of things, and was always glad when I did. But I missed to a lot of things too. For me, it was important to keep some room in my life for non-law stuff. I live with my partner and have friends and family that were also priorities. Of course, this is not to say that the social/ firm events aren’t worthwhile! Not only are they a good time, they’re great opportunities to connect with interesting people. My point is that there are always things going on, so don’t feel like you have to go to everything.

As for school itself, it was a lot of work (no surprise). My strategy was to take notes by hand in class and then type them up over the weekend, filling in any blanks and reviewing as I went along. I know— this sounds like a time-consuming way of doing things, and it was. But when March and April hit, I was glad that I had put in all that effort throughout the year. I couldn’t believe how much material we had covered in each class. Reviewing it all was a ton of work!  I was glad that I wasn’t also trying to learn new concepts at the same time. With that said, I saw lots of approaches and I’m not saying this is the best/ only way. It’s just what I did.

The last thing I’d like to pass along is that people are really approachable. Lawyers are busy, but most of them are not too busy for you. I was put in contact with a few lawyers who work in areas of law I find interesting. They were more than happy to answer my somewhat-silly questions, such as “What do you like about your job?” It can be intimidating establishing those connections, but it’s easier than it may look.

Professors also make lots of time for their students and are excellent resources. The workload was such that I didn’t find a whole lot of time to indulge when my interest was piqued, but on the one occasion when I did meet with a professor to discuss an area of interest, it was very rewarding. Not only are profs experts in their fields, they know a lot about the opportunities in those fields. They’re worth talking to.

So that’s first year! Good luck!

First Year, Second Semester

It’s hard to believe, but this semester is almost half over— I am two months away from finishing my first year of law school! Incredible! When I returned to classes after the winter break, I noticed this semester felt different than the last. My classmates were now friends. I was down with much of the technical lingo. I had survived my first taste of law exams.

Now that I’ve got a decent handle on school, I’ve turned some of my attention towards what comes after I graduate. I know—it does seem fast! I mean I’ve still got two more years of classes ahead of me! But next September, I plan on interviewing with some firms and government departments to get a second year summer position, which I hope will turn into articles. In other words, things move quickly around here.

This has got me asking 2 big questions: “What type of law do I want to practice?” and “What type of firm would I like to work for?” The last few weeks have given me a little more insight to help answer both of these questions.

Our first major assignment this semester was the moot—which both Andrew and Graham have talked about. It was a pretty big deal, if you ask me. My class did a sentencing appeal, which was a fascinating experience. The assignment had two parts to it: the written submission (the “factum”) and oral advocacy (when you actually plead your case to a panel of lawyers acting as judges). I underestimated both how difficult writing the factum would be, and how much I would enjoy the oral advocacy aspect.

While I am pretty sure I don’t want to go into criminal law after I graduate, litigation in general is looking more and more appealing. With that in mind, I’m thinking I’ll take advantage of some upper year opportunities. There are competitive moots to try out for, plus courses in trial advocacy, psychology and litigation, and mediation— which all sound very attractive.

I don’t mean to say that I’ve made up my mind and I will be a litigator in three years, but it’s nice to have my interest piqued.

As for the second question—what type of firm would I like to work for?—I’ve gotten some insight on that too.

I didn’t go to many of the firm sponsored events at the beginning of the school year, but this semester I’ve had several occasions to get different people’s perspective on life as a lawyer.

Each year Career Services hosts all the “big” Vancouver firms for a wine and cheese. It’s like a classy trade show! Each firm has a booth with their recruiters/ articling students/ lawyers to answer questions. This was a great experience. I talked to firms about their areas of law, their approaches to mentoring and training articling students, and what they look for in students they hire. I got really useful answers!

Also, my Bar Association mentor, a civil litigator in a downtown firm, got me in touch with two women she went to law school with. One is a federal prosecutor who focuses primarily on drug trafficking offences, the other works at a small family law firm. It was good to hear what they enjoy about their jobs. I also got a better sense of the differences between working at a big firm versus the government or a small firm.

While I am still short on definite answers as to where I’ll be in three years, I’ve got a better idea of what my options are. That’s pretty good for now.

Almost Halfway!

Our winter exams are just around the corner, so I imagine this will be my last blog post for a little while. Lately, I’ve had my socks pulled up and my nose to the grindstone, which is not much to write home about. Since I’m short on anecdotes I thought I’d (once again) reflect on the some of the things I’ve learned over the last few months.

1)   There’s a list of recommended readings for prospective students on the UBC Law website, which I completely ignored until recently. In retrospect, I wish I had at least taken a peek at a book on law exams. This certainly isn’t necessary—as Graham mentioned, the December exams are essentially a trial run. We’re going to learn all about law exams next month! I’m just thinking it would be nice to have one less thing to get acquainted with over the next couple weeks.

2)   I highly recommend getting involved in the Law Students Legal Advice Program (LSLAP). LSLAP makes me want to be a lawyer. I go to clinics and I get my own clients. It is rewarding to be able to help people, plus I’ve learned so much about the law, procedure and file management. Our courses teach us substantive law and how to think about it; LSLAP let’s us apply it.

3)   Since September, my life has pretty much revolved around reading. It seems like I am either reading or thinking about how I ought to be reading. Like right now, there’s this pile of reading for my property class just staring at me.

4)   I’ve identified two types of law school stress. The first is the I’ve-got-a-million-things-to-do stress, which I would say is pretty much unavoidable. The pace is fast and the workload is intense. The good news is this can be pretty motivating and is usually followed by feelings of accomplishment when things get done. The second is the I’m-tired-and-crabby-and-feeling-super-unimpressive-oh-how-will-I-ever-make-it-as-a-lawyer stress. The best way I’ve found to deal with this is by doing something unrelated to law school. Hang out with friends. Watch a hockey game. Make dinner. Sometimes I just need a break. And there’s time for those breaks! Even with all that required reading.

5)   Hard work pays off.

Time Flies!

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, and much has happened since then. Let me start with some of the highlights.

One of the appealing things about studying law is that it’s always relevant. Not only does the law touch virtually every aspect of our lives, it’s not static. For example, you may have heard about the Ontario court’s recent decision concerning the constitutionality of several prostitution laws. Well, this triggered some real interest in my small group. It just so happens that our criminal law professor, Janine Benedet, knows a great deal about this topic. We organized a lunchtime discussion and invited Professor Benedet to speak. About 100 students came! It was a great opportunity to apply what we’ve been learning, and to really think about this weighty and topical court decision.

Another highlight was the Canadian Bar Association’s mentorship meet-and-greet. Each year the BC chapter matches interested law students with practicing lawyers. I signed up for this in the second week of classes, so I can’t for the life of me remember what I put down for areas of legal interest (in the second week I was interested in everything). But I’m pretty sure I won the mentorship lottery! My mentor is a young and successful civil litigator who works for a great firm.

I had a bunch of questions for my mentor, and she had really useful answers. Allow me to pass along some of her wisdom! Grades matter, but so does being a well-rounded person. If you didn’t study something in law school, that doesn’t necessarily preclude you from practicing in that field. With that said, some things are easier to learn on the job than others: take classes on trusts and procedure, if possible. The legal profession gets a lot of flack, but there are plenty of genuinely happy lawyers.

While there are more highlights I could regale you with, my main focus as of late has been first-year law. It’s a ride! The workload is exactly what I thought it would be: a challenge. The material is very interesting (which is great!), but there’s lots of it. I sometimes think there’s no end to the amount of time and energy I could put into things, if I had endless amounts of time and energy. Needless to say, there’s been some adjusting. But we’re more than half way through the first semester and, for the most part, I’m enjoying this ride.

Here we go!

We’ve made it through the first two weeks! I think that deserves a pat on the back because things move fast around here. Orientation seems like a distant memory and we are in the thick of it now (already!).

Last week was a tad hectic. There was a moment when I turned to a classmate and muttered “And I thought the first week was busy…” My new friend looked at me and kindly said, “I think you’ll be even busier next week.”


So what do I mean when I say things are a bit hectic these days? Well, I’ve been spending lots of time on the things you’d expect: reading and prepping for classes. But there is certainly a lot more than that going on. At the start of UBC Law, you may very well find yourself blown away by all the extracurricular opportunities you are presented with. For example, there are a number of programs that allow you to dive right into legal aid work (in your very first month of law school!). To name just a few, there’s CoRe, Pro Bono Students of Canada, and the Law Students Legal Advice Program. On top of these, there are sports teams to join, the Law Review to edit, the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies to be a part of, moots to compete in, and many (MANY) meet and greets to attend.

Plus, let’s not forget the four long days of classes each week. All of this adds up! With this in mind, allow me to pass on a few preliminary lessons I’ve learned about time management thus far:

1)   You can’t do it all, and you’re not expected to (thankfully).

2)   It can seem a bit overwhelming. Before you even get a good sense of what law school is going require from you, you’re given the chance to sign up for a thousand different things that all sound good.

3)   Take a deep breath and pick a few things that you’re interested in, and go for it! According to all the upper year students I’ve talked to, you won’t regret it.

4)   Having Mondays off is a godsend.

5)   At the end of an especially long day, there is no shame in eating dinner from 7-11.

First Impressions

I admit it: I didn’t sleep particularly well the night before the first day of classes. I laid in bed going over one unlikely situation after another, wondering what in the world I was getting myself into. I arrived for orientation with my eyes a tad blood-shot and my heart pounding, only to discover that there wasn’t much to get myself worked up over.

I enjoyed my first three days of law school so very much, I was honestly surprised. This left me feeling somewhat guilty about my apparently low expectations, when I realized I had made some false assumptions about what the next three years would be like.  Last week made me reconsider at least two of these presumptions.

First, I expected the classroom dynamics to include a hefty dose of competitiveness. I remember telling a friend of a friend that I would be starting law school in September, and his response was “I hear if you drop a pencil during an exam in law school, the person sitting next to you will kick it out of reach.” All I could manage in reply was a squeaky “Really?”

He continued: “Yeah. And that people tear pages out of books on reserve in the library!”

Well, friend of a friend, I’m not sure where you heard these things, but you were wrong. The orientation activities, getting to know the group of people I’ll have all my classes with, and the vibes I got from upper year students have put these notions to rest. Sure, in some ways we’re competing, but the tone so far has been one of collaboration and camaraderie.

Second, I’ve always seen the legal profession as being a bit of a man’s world. While I am not yet in the work force, what I’ve seen from UBC Law in terms of diversity, I’m really happy about. Five of my six professors: women. At least half of the distinguished speakers last week: women, and diverse women at that.  More than 50% of my classmates: women. Going beyond gender, we seem like a good mix of backgrounds and perspectives.

There may be one more day of orientation left, but for the most part introductions have been made and tomorrow we’ll roll up our sleeves. Tonight, I expect to have a good night’s sleep and will be bright-eyed and ready to go!


The first day of law school is less than a week away and I’ve been busy trying to prepare myself for this big, new adventure. What exactly are the optimal preparations for law school? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. In anticipation of the year ahead I’ve quit my job, got my eyes checked, applied for a new driver’s license and passport, cleaned out my closet and fridge, and stocked up on household necessities and non-perishable food items. For whatever reason, I find it reassuring to know that my studying of torts will not be interrupted by an unexpected shortage of dish soap or Alphagetti.

I’ve also been able to pick up a few of the books that were suggested to me as good prep material. Books such as: Poverty: Rights, Social Citizenship, and Legal Activism edited by Margot Young, Susan B. Boyd and Gwen Brodsky (my future professors!), Peter Russell’s The Constitutional Odyssey (everything you ever wanted to know about the Canadian Constitution and much, much more), and A Woman’s Guide To Law School by Linda Hirshman (an effective way of getting yourself thoroughly freaked out about first year… if you’re a woman).

So, having done my best to prepare myself, I guess now all I have left to do is wait.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, because I am. On the one hand, I can try looking at this as being just another first-day-of-school. And let me tell you, I know school!  Me and school have a long history together—we go way back! But then on the other hand, first year law is not first year theatre or first year philosophy. Without a doubt, I’m going to be surrounded by a whole new calibre of ambition and talent. I expect the workload and level of professionalism to look very different from my undergrad. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the bar has been raised. However, these challenges come with a whole new realm of terror potential. And it is that potential (all the opportunities that await!) that is the most exciting.

And so I wait! Looking forward to meeting my classmates, getting my paws on those syllabi, and finding out what exactly first year law will be.