Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Thoughts on Networking

This past month holds the record for “the most lawyers I’ve ever spoken to in one month.” I attended the Vancouver Firm Wine and Cheese, firm tours, networking events on and off campus, as well as public interest panels.

You might think I’m a Seasoned Networker by now. I’m not. I still feel it is a little bit of a contrived situation. But, I think the trick to networking is to enjoy it. I was very intimidated at the thought of speaking to lawyers in September. Now, I look forward meeting them. In particular, I like finding out about their journey to becoming a lawyer and why they chose a particular firm or practice area. After speaking with judges, big firm lawyers, legal advocates, and articling students, I’ve come to the conclusion that (1) everyone is different (don’t let the uniformity of well-made firm websites fool you), and (2) they have so much to share – and it isn’t always law-related.

Tip: It truly helps to research firms and organizations before any sort of networking situation to help create a springboard for interesting and helpful dialogue. Thanks to modern technology (Google), this usually entails a quick click to a firm’s website to get an understanding of what they do. Sometimes the research gets more difficult with non-profit organizations, especially the ones without websites. For these, a quick chat with the Career Services Office can help.

While networking, I received an abundance of advice, ranging from time management, career development, to course selection. I learned a little about what it’s like advocating for clients in the downtown eastside, being Crown Counsel, and working on mergers and acquisitions for international and national companies. For those of you who don’t really know what kind of lawyer you want to be, networking is a fantastic way to get a glimpse of the opportunities available. I look forward to those moments when I think to myself, “I could see myself doing that down the road.”


Tales from Abroad – Second Installment

Second term is well underway back at UBC, and consequently my Facebook news feed is filled with posts about readings, dull lectures, and assignments. Meanwhile, I am enjoying my morning coffee on the front deck of my new flat in Christchurch, New Zealand, figuring out how I’ll spend these next two weeks before classes start here for me. Every time I check in with my friends  I know that in May I’ll be paying for all my bragging when my friends back home are on their holidays and I’m still in class, right now I’m feeling like the cat that got the canary.

I was just checking out Beverly’s post on the debate over whether or not to get a law job after first year or whether to travel. Spending time abroad with your studies is a great way to get the best of both worlds (if you’re one of those ambitious folks who must have it all).  UBC has so many opportunities to do things that are outside of the box. There are the many exchange programs offered through UBC Go Global, judicial externships, and the many legal clinics including the First Nations Legal Clinic and the mediation clinic. All of these provide a varied experience from the usual day-to-day of lectures and readings, and they’re certainly not the only way to gain some law school credit for doing something out of the ordinary.

Off for a few more adventures before I have to hit the books!

Enjoying some less than summery weather in Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand.

The Learning Curve

Earlier this month, I found myself having a conversation with some friends regarding our general state of shock over the fact that we are now halfway through our law school experience. This milestone caused all of us to reflect on our time at UBC Law and there seemed to be one thing in particular that was at the forefront of our minds: the differences between first and second year. It might seem as though not that much could change in a year, but there were many marked shifts that all of us had picked up on, and we weren’t just thinking about the fact that the Law Café is now fully operational (now we really have no reason to ever leave the building…still undecided as to whether this is a good thing or not).

The main difference that I would like to explore here is the way that you learn. I still remember sitting down with my first ever case (Kelsen v Imperial Tobacco) and not knowing where to begin. December instilled a small amount of confidence that we could at least make it through a law exam without fainting, but I think for most of us, we still felt a little bit like Bambi (wide-eyed, shaky, excited, nervous, you get the picture) until we got our April grades back and saw what changes we had made worked, and those that didn’t. This was so important because it enabled us to start to truly figure out what professors look for when we are writing an exam, and in turn this greatly influenced the approach to studying.

I can distill the idea behind this change down to efficiency. In first year, I think the intense fear and confusion as to how to approach law school exams probably led a lot of the class to get bogged down in a lot of irrelevant details when reading. I enjoy Lord Denning pondering the majesty of the British countryside while setting the stage for a judgement as much as the next person, but truth be told, that probably isn’t what your professor is going to be looking for when you only have 3 hours and a fact pattern that seems impossible to unravel. By second year, you develop the ability to scan for the ratio faster, become more intuitive about the facts that are going to actually be worth knowing, and learn when using other people’s CANs is (and is not) a good idea.

I have often heard people comment that second year is harder than first year. From an academic perspective, this is probably true. The spoon-feeding days of first year are long gone and it is sometimes only when you are a day into studying for an exam that you really start to get a picture of how the cases of a course tie together. However, I don’t think that this year is harder on the whole. Yes, the volume of reading is greater, but you can get through it faster. Yes, the courses are harder in terms of the law being more challenging, but they are courses that you have chosen and thus are more likely to be interesting to you.

So, 1Ls, fear not, because it only gets better from where I stand – especially because now that you are more adept at handling the workload, you can more fully enjoy all of the social events that law school has to offer (Mardi Gras masquerade this weekend anyone?)

FREE public lecture

I came across the following event and it caught my eye. I thought it may be of interest to other students of law, who are similarly intrigued by considerations surrounding international law and global justice. Rather than write about another captivating event after the fact, I thought I’d first share the opportunity to attend with all of you!
Maybe I’ll see you there!

Just a quick housekeeping note – although this event is in fact free and public, please make sure you reserve your seat online, at the following link.
Reserve online here.

Fairness and Legitimacy in International Law-Making
Thursday, January 31, 3:30 pm
IRMACS Theatre, ASB 10900, Burnaby campus

Dr. Thomas Christiano, Philosophy, University of Arizona, will be speaking at the President’s Dream Colloquium on Justice Beyond National Boundaries.

Sample of Thomas Christiano:
A Democratic Approach to the Legitimacy of International Institutions

YouTube Preview Image

Dr. Thomas Christiano’s Lecture Abstract:
I will explore one of the main worries concerning the idea that state consent is at the basis of the moral legitimacy of institutional law and institutions. One frequent charge against the legitimacy of contemporary international institutions such as the World Trade Organization is that though they were consented to by member states, they are the product of wealthy countries taking unfair advantage of poor countries’ vulnerabilities. This charge is intuitively quite strong but it is rarely given a careful theoretical articulation.

I will construct and defend a general moral conception of fairness as a standard for assessing agreements like contracts. In my presentation, I will give an account of the nature of unfair advantage taking in the making of agreements and criticize the traditional common law standard of fairness in agreements as the avoidance of force and fraud.

My argument defends an egalitarian and procedural account of the standard of fairness in the making of agreements. The idea is to characterize an ideal in which agreements are fairly arrived at when the parties have equal opportunities to avoid the agreement. Unfair advantage taking takes place when and to the extent that one party takes full advantage of the lesser opportunities of the other party to extract benefits from the agreement. The better-placed party need not entirely erase the differences in opportunities in order to avoid unfair advantage taking. It need only make a reasonable contribution to the enhancement of the capacity of the other party to have a say in the making of the agreement.

I will proceed from a defense and articulation of a general account of fairness and unfair advantage taking and then applies it to the special context of international agreement making.   This context is distinctive in a variety of ways that are relevant to the assessment of the fairness of the agreements and unfair advantage taking.

My presentation gives an account of the distinctive characteristics and then shows how the basic standards of fairness apply. I then proceed to determine whether and how unfair advantage taking in the process of securing the consent of the state parties can reduce the legitimacy of the institutions that are created through the unfair process of agreement.  Once fairness is thought of as a constitutive part of the legitimacy conferring process of international law making, the notion of legitimacy must itself be enriched in various ways the paper articulates.

I will also makes some recommendations for enhancing the legitimacy of the process of institution building in international law-making.

The Great 1L Debate

I realize the title is a tad exaggerated, but the Great Debate I am referring to is the question that some 1Ls may soon be asking: should I work or travel this summer?

Around this time of year, there are more publicized employment opportunities available to 1L students. Postings from Toronto law firms, international as well as public interest organizations, and more, are appearing on the Career Services website. However, there is the allegation that law students will have lots of opportunities to work, and fewer opportunities to take a large quantity of time-off to travel, later on.

The prospect of acquiring law-related experience is attractive. I personally have never had any sort of law firm experience and, while I have favorite law subjects, the idea of working in any area of law is enticing at this point.

On the other hand, a wise, upper-year student once said, “I will have the rest of my life to be a lawyer, but I won’t always have four months off to travel and see the world.”

I have been told that an interesting summer job or an interesting travel experience would make great interview dialogue. The important thing is to do something during your 1L summer that you can talk about with recruiters, interviewers, and of course, your friends!

For now, I am still keeping both avenues open. I still have months to decide, after all. I’m applying for interesting positions through Career Services while [regularly] checking TravelCuts, Expedia … you name it. Whether you decide to work or travel during your 1L summer may ultimately depend on a number of other factors, such as past work experience, finances, etc. If you are going through the Great Debate right now, I strongly recommend discussing your 1L summer options with the Career Services Office. They are wonderful and will provide you with lots of ideas!

In a perfect world, I would get to do both.


“Weep not for roads untraveled”

“Weep not for roads untraveled.

Weep not for paths left alone.

‘Cause beyond every bend,

is a long, blinding end,

it’s the worst kind of pain I’ve known.”

These are some wise words from a song by a wise band, singing about what I can only assume is law school. Or maybe love. Most likely law school. The first two days back from our holiday break reminded me of this song as we got our exams back and opened the floodgates of memory to go over our December efforts and figure out why we got certain things wrong and other things right. Of course, that is the main point of the December exams process: learning how to study, how to take law exams, and what to do and not do. However, whether the ‘roads untraveled’ were those extra sample exams you never got to, or the ‘paths left alone’ were the extra CANs you never looked at, it can be hard to pinpoint what it was you could have done better. I think it’s very easy to get wrapped up in thinking there were dozens of things you could have done which you missed, which leads to thinking you now have to do all of them to succeed. There’s been much discussion of people vowing to do this, that and the other come April. Many of us are, somewhat stereotypically, type A, ambitious individuals who are used to be being perfectionists. So, it’s natural for us to have a tendency to linger on any imperfections and try to ameliorate them by employing the maximum number of possible remedies.

I think a good strategy is to resist the urge to dwell on all the possible things that one could have done, and instead actively find the most effective improvements. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the techniques and technicalities of studying and CANing, allowing the focus on areas of conceptual confusion and the mastery of materials to wane. The best way to use the December practice run is as a springboard to jump forward, and not a road looking backwards. Effective, focused evaluation is good; re-questioning every step is likely going to end up being fruitless.

When the training wheels come off in April, I reckon there will be enough ‘worst kinds of pain’ known to most of us. So, there’s no need to create more out of this round. Study smarter, study better, and sprinkle in some fun in there if possible.

I’ll also take this opportunity to wish everyone a great start to the new term and a very happy new year! I hope 2013 will be one filled with happiness and success for everyone!

It’s 2013!

Here’s hoping the break from school has given you time to relax, reflect and reconnect with all those you hold dear!

Regardless of how fruitful or fruitless 2012 has been for you, remember the wise words of Winston Churhchill:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Wishing you all the courage to continue, along with a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

– n

Vacation time in New Zealand

Shortly after completing my December exams, I boarded a plane to Christchurch, New Zealand, where I’ll be studying second term. While school doesn’t start here until February, I thought I’d give myself a little extra time abroad to unwind and take a little time to myself. As I sit in the sun sipping a nice cold beer in the New Zealand summer, I am pretty thrilled about my choice.

I am in second year, and not many students go abroad in second year due to summer positions and the opportunities that present themselves for employment throughout the year. While this exchange will  prevent me from working at a law firm during the summer, it will allow me to branch out, gain a different perspective on the law, and will give me all of third year to seek out employment opportunities. There are definitely a few things to weigh when considering a second year exchange, but depending on your motivations, it’s definitely workable.

This is actually my second exchange in New Zealand; I spent a year studying at the University of Otago during my undergraduate degree. I have returned because of the strong ties I established to the country, and I am eager to reconnect with the many wonderful friends I met here the first time around. I could not recommend an exchange more, and know that I will find this experience to be as valuable as the experience I had in 2007.

Beautiful Golden Bay, New Zealand.

A couple of neat events

This term I had the opportunity to check out a neat extra curricular events pertaining to my legal interests.


What an awesome event this was! Not only did the TED event bring over 2300 people from across the province together at the Orpheum Theatre,  it also featured two of its 14 speakers who shared a legal paradigm. This was the perfect avenue for merging my love for innovative ideas with my love for all things legal!

The first legal speaker was Doug Schmitt, partner at Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang LLP. With a scientific and legal background highlighting more than three decades of experience practicing maritime law, he is additionally one of the few who have been published on meteorite law. Did you know there are over 5000 meteors headed for earth?! I certainly did not! His startling presentation noted the potential consequences if meteors are not studied as extensively as they should be. Although this interesting piece of international law was indeed novel, my ear was certainly captured by the second legal speaker to take the stage.

Natalie DeFreitas is a counsellor and self proclaimed alternative justice advocate. “Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever done is put on display for the world to see…People are worth more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.” Having spent years volunteering and working closely with individuals and groups who have been incarcerated, DeFreitas indicates that the current system isn’t working.  She spoke on need to reform Canada’s prison system and shift focus on to restorative justice rather than incarceration, punishment and stigma. “Being tough on crime, promotes crime,” she indicated while illustrating the high rates of ricidivism once a person is released from prison.  Demonstrating insights beyond her years, DeFreitas concluded, “Justice isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something that is built.” Her ideal is developing a system that focuses on offenders taking accountability, taking action to create positive change, and redefining their self identity.

All in all, the TED was an all around success and I left with several nuggets of inspiration. To learn more about TEDxVancouver 2012 visit where the overall agenda from the day can be seen.



Defending Human Rights: Presentation by Helen Mack Chang

“What we want is justice as proof that governmental arbitrariness will not continue; justice as a condition for the development of democratic relations free of fear and coercion.” – Helen Mack Chang

SFU’s 2012 David Hopper Lecture was an incredible presentation by Helen Mack Chang. Ms. Chang is a Guatemalan business woman whose life forever changed the day her sister, Myrna Mack, was assassinated.

Chang  spoke eloquently and passionately describing her plight and struggle to prove her sister’s death was a political crime. She told of her 12 year long journey, navigating the legal system, fighting against her government to seek justice. Her advocacy work fighting for human rights and against impunity continues to this day. Chang helps others  seek justice, conquer impunity and work within the legal system in Guatemala to bring about change. She has helped dozens of similar cases be brought to justice. Because of her contribution and tireless effort she is the decorated recipient of many international human rights awards and has received noteworthy recognition.

Not only was this lecture a lesson in the current political climate and judicial system in Guatemala, but it was also an inspirational example of one woman’s courage and commitment to justice, in the face of monstrous obstacles.

My take on 1L December exams

December exams are looming and, unlike the feeling of elation in the air that comes with end of classes (circa undergrad), I can definitely sense a general feeling of panic.

Many of us are madly crafting, condensing, and codifying our CANs. Many more are revisiting past exams, hoping for some sort of indicator as to what the professor wants. Others, including myself, are de-stressing by visiting therapy dogs, eating cookies, and getting massages (thank you, We Love Law Students Week!).

Meet Bailey, who was sweet enough to volunteer to help stressed-out law students unwind during We Love Law Students Week.

Of course, 1L December exams are fail-safe. I’m thinking that this like an exam dress rehearsal. The techniques used to prep for these exams will hopefully come in handy for the rest of law school, and I will get a sense of study techniques that do/do not work. I will get an indicator of my understanding course material at a point-in-time. Come April, I might even feel just a little more confident when it really counts.

I still remember how nervous I was for my very first university exam: a midterm for Economics 101. I triple-checked my calculator was in working order, I armed myself with spare pens, and I was flipping through cue cards even as I was walking into the exam room (yes, I’m one of those).

Now, I am under no illusion that law school exams will be like undergrad midterms, but my point is that, as a law student, you likely did [very] well on your undergraduate/graduate exams (and who can forget the LSAT?) to get here. Try not to be too nervous. I daresay, hakuna matata.

Good luck everyone!