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One month already!

For 1Ls, our one-month law school anniversary is fast approaching. I must give everyone credit for looking so chipper and cheerful despite being inundated with readings and assignments.

Okay. To be fair, we’ve only had a couple assignments so far.

What I really am noticing is that people are starting to get into a routine. For instance, I am starting to see familiar faces in the same spots (i.e. the library) at approximately the same times each day. Maybe this really only means that I now have a routine, but nevertheless, I think it’s [somewhat] safe to say that us 1Ls are getting closer to a comfort zone and figuring out what works for us.

The first month of law school zoomed by for me. I think this is a great time to share observations about some skills & qualities us 1Ls are honing (or have already mastered) after only a short time here at Allard Hall:

(1) Organization: I can’t count the number of peers sporting neatly organized, rainbow-colored Outlook/Google calendars. Kudos to those who have their whole month planned ahead, due dates and all.

(2) Speed typing: I think everyone is a Speed Typer. I can hear the sound of fingers flying on keyboards at the exact speed of the profs lectures in all classes. It’s quite the symphony.

(3) Fabulous multitasking: Multi-taskers eat breakfast, take notes, and check email. Fabulous multi-taskers do all of the above while thinking about property law/criminal law/contracts/torts in a 9 a.m. class.

(4) Power reading: If you think that no particularly commendable skill is required to read through a judge’s ruling from a case reported sometime during the 1800s on the subject of taverns, think again.  I like to call this power reading.

(5) Community dedication: I have heard comments that, this year, there are record numbers of volunteers in programs such as the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program, Pro Bono Students Canada, and the UBC Law Review Society. Needless to say I feel extremely proud to be a part of such a dedicated group. We give back.

In short, law school is offering a whole package of supplementary skills and opportunities, which I am happy to have.

Thanks for reading!

We’re all a bunch of trees.

Did you know that the Canadian constitution has been described as a ‘living tree’? Alright, so if you’re a 1L, you’ve already made up a drinking game based on how many times you hear this expression. I seem to hear it an average of five times a day, which amounts to something close to A LOT after a month of law school. While thinking of the million and one things I could write about for my first blog as a law student at Allard Hall, it wasn’t surprising that this phrase kept popping in my head. And I must admit, I’ve become a fan (and no, not because I’m playing the drinking game while writing this). To me, this phrase seems to be the perfect guide to law school itself. Hear me out.

The living tree doctrine emerged from the statements of Lord Sankey (whose name, by the way, is fashionably hipster for a lord) in the famous Persons case. The gist of the living tree doctrine is that the constitution of Canada is an evolving, organic entity, and should be interpreted in a way that acknowledges its roots and foundational concepts, but allows room for growth and evolution in a changing world. Like many other doctrines in any discipline, it seeks to strike a healthy balance between two often tenuous goals, in this case stability vs flexibility. I can’t think of a better metaphor for a constitution than a living tree. It evokes stability and predictability: trees don’t often grow into zebras, so unpleasant surprises are avoided. Yet the tree is such an archetypal symbol for growth. Trees grow. That’s what they do. They get taller, stronger, and they branch out. And if their branches cross into your neighbour’s property, she has the legal right to cut them off, but I digress. A living tree approach to the constitution is a really great one, but I like this metaphor more so because I think it can be an approach to the craziness we’ve all walked into.  I think maybe we should all act like a bunch of trees.

I came into law school with roots, some older than others, some tangled, but all of them keeping me grounded. These are the roots of my academic training, my disciplinary leanings (hooray for cog psych), my experiences all over the world, my family and my friends. All of these roots brought me to UBC Law in one way or another, so it’s safe to trust them to get me through. However, I came to Allard Hall because I want to grow, and yes also because the building is kind of awesome. But mostly to grow. I want to expand my reach, grow taller and see things from the higher branches that I couldn’t see before. During this whirlwind of the first month, this metaphor has really struck a chord with me. In O-Week, we were told to try to achieve and learn as much as we can, while we remember and keep sight of what brought us here. For me, the best way to do that is to remind myself of the living tree approach. And the genius of this method? I actually don’t need to remind myself at all: someone will say living tree around me five times a day! (I’m working on a conspiracy theory that it’s something to do with a secret quota system in Lord Sankey’s will). So, cheers to the first month of 2012 at UBC Law my fellow 1Ls, upper years, and confused med student who clicked the wrong blog, and another big cheers to Lord Sankey!

Law Student Bloggers Wanted!

UBC Faculty of Law is looking for volunteer student bloggers interested in writing about their experiences at law school. If you are willing to share your UBC law experience with prospective students and the public via this blog, then please e-mail Acting Assistant Dean, Students Pam Cyr with a statement of interest by Friday, September 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm.

Bloggers may be from any year of law school. The posting commitment is approximately once per month.

Summer project in China leaves this student with some lasting memories

Submitted by Emmanuel Fung 

The Carbolic Smokeball Advertisement at HKU Law Library

In the summer following my first year at UBC Law, I had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong and South China to perform research on trade and labour practices in the manufacturing export industry.

Professor Ljiljana Biukovic at the University of British Columbia supervised the research, which was performed under the umbrella of the Asia Pacific Dispute Resolution project at UBC’s Institute for Asian Research. The goal was to improve Corporate Social Responsibility practices for Canadian importers.

Funding for the research was provided by UBC Law’s Travel Abroad Research Grants, which enables two UBC Law students (of any year) to perform research on a topic of their choosing. Students may design their own projects, or may choose from a list of proposals sponsored by law professors.

The following blog entry details a few of the things I saw in China. I would really encourage all UBC Law students with an interest in research abroad to apply for this fantastic opportunity next year. I would be more than happy to share more about my experiences with any students:





Looking out the window of a train on the way to Guangzhou

It is around nine or so on a Wednesday night and I am in the backseat of a Dodge Caravan on my way to Hong Kong’s border with Shenzhen, China eating a Big Mac and fries and sipping a Coke.

My guide, a factory owner from South China, sits beside me and has four cell phones arrayed in front of him. He’s mechanically switching the SIM cards in his phones as we prepare to cross the border.

Armchair economists compare the price of Big Macs in locales around the world to map out inflation and currency parity. Coke consumption is loosely, but positively related to a country’s wealth. I’m not sure what the French Fry index signifies.

When I was here a year ago, the cost of a Big Mac meal was 20HKD or about 2.50USD (see proof above). The price for the same burger, fries and soft drink was now 28.2HKD. That’s a forty percent increase in price. To compare, 2- 3% inflation is generally considered a healthy rate.

We cross the border, pass through customs and we meet another driver nearby. This Buick will take us to a prefecture of Shenzhen. I am told that it is another two hours to our destination. Along the way, I contemplate Chinese inflation and the econometrics of Happy Meals and am lulled to a happy sleep.

The Price of a Big Mac Meal in 2011 and 2012

In my sleep, I get the sensation that I’m falling, or that I’m paused, midair, after tripping. And then I’m jolted awake. I guess that the van had dropped two inches or so as it crossed from one section of the road to the next. This happens again as the van soon crosses another section of road. I stare out the window into the dark and it takes a few moments before I am able to make out shapes passing us and before I realize how quickly we’re moving.

I don’t think emergency services are called if there’s an accident at this speed. They just bring a bulldozer.

I watch as we pass vehicle after vehicle on the highway. The only time we slow down is when we almost die – like when the truck we happen to be tailgating brakes. I get the feeling that the driver gets off from the speed.  A lime green Toyota CRV pulls ahead of us but we soon pass it again.

“Money can’t buy happiness, but without money you’ll surely be unhappy.” My friend had shared this Chinese proverb with me the day before.

I am a bit on edge and can’t sleep so I work through questions that I want to ask people tomorrow. I had prepared a guide when I was in Vancouver, but my research directions have changed a bit since then. I am not sure exactly how to work my questions and I’m worried I won’t be able to properly translate my questions into Chinese. I think about the proverb my friend shared and wonder if I can tease a question out of it.

Our driver flashes his high beams to alert the driver of a truck that we’re about to pass. It’s a safety precaution, you see. Or maybe he’s just hoping the driver will get out of his lane.

Then, I have giddy understanding that I’m at the frontier of the world economy.

The first and last two minutes of a flight are the most dangerous. On landing, all kinds of horrible things can go wrong. On takeoff, the structural pressure on the plane is greater than any other time in the flight. I always feel a moment of trepidation just as the plane leaves the ground. This is because I know that in that moment, the pilot must decide whether to commit absolutely to the take off, or to set the plane down safely.

In that moment, the immense weight of the plane becomes obvious as it struggles against gravity and vibrates uncontrollably. The notion that the heavy plane is about to rise thirty thousand feet seems absurd. Then, the pilot commits to the takeoff and lets the jets roar. The incredible and unstoppable power of the jets under the wings is felt as the vibrations stabilize, your head pulls back slightly from the acceleration and any doubt disappears.

This is how I feel now as the Buick rumbles and bounces along the highway. I am being jetted to my destination – a production municipality in Guangdong – by an unstoppable economic force.

This Buick and the highway we are speeding along are vital pieces of infrastructure. They carry my sleeping friend. I’m sure he has not had much sleep recently because he told me that he’s been to four countries over the last two days on business. His factory produces the kind of secondary materials that are necessary for construction and I conclude that his insane schedule bodes well for the global economic recovery. He is a small, important cog in a global economic engine.

The next day, someone told me that the drive we completed in two hours the night before should have taken at least three. Every business owner I later spoke with underscored the stress, the business of manufacturing in China and trading with the world. We kept a breakneck pace that night because there was no practical alternative.

I imagine that no vehicles ever passed us because they were all well ahead.

Container Ships in the Hong Kong Harbour from the International Finance Centre - Many Chinese goods pass through Hong Kong's ports

The inflation and the rapid pace of change in China have been accompanied by a large volume of journalism and academic writing. In the research on corporate social responsibility, scholars have observed the “increased business focus” and “hyper-competitiveness” of small and medium sized firms. Speaking to business people in Hong Kong and South China, I felt this urgency over-and-over again in a way that these sanitized descriptions could not capture. More than anything else, this sense of pressure and urgency changed the way I understood and approached my work.

At the same time, the academic literature fails to meaningfully convey the “increased salience of personal values in decision making processes”. Likely, I’ve read too little, but I’ve yet to encounter adequate mention of the generosity or amiability of business persons in the academic literature. This culture and attitude contrast strongly from the hard and fast bargaining of business.

I remember one occasion where ten or so of us were chatting after lunch – business partners, an export advisor, a major client, an ex-employee now subcontractor, someone’s friend, someone’s brother. The languorous lunch – a twelve course affair –  was a daily ritual for them and at other factories I’ve visted.  As usual, a few were enjoying a post-prandial smoke.  Often as is the case when I – the foreigner – am present, the conversation turned to my motherland.

Tony our host (he pays for the meal) is considering sending his son to study abroad somewhere. “He gets teary eyed at the thought” his brother mocked him gently. “Imagine what it’ll be like when it’s his daughter’s turn.” Everyone laughs. “There is too much discrimination in America and Britain, but I hear in Canada all you need is Chinese. English isn’t necessary to get around”. The comment was addressed to me. I answered with a joke and they continued, satisfied. “What if he comes back with a foreign girl?” “Best to keep him at home, then.” Tony looked pleased at that.

“Why would want anyone immigrate?” Tony then asked rhetorically. “Everyone who immigrates eventually returns because they’re so bored. Here I get to hang out every day. I have all my friends and family here. Life as an expat is boring, there is no brotherhood” (this word is particularly difficult to translate). The table agreed.

And it’s true. Later, one of our lunch companions, a trader from Hong Kong, said to me privately: “When people wonder what I do when I’m in China for business, I tell them that I’m just here to mooch food and drink.”

I have rarely experienced that level of openness and amiability. Like myself, some were new additions to the group. Others were old hands and knew the lunch time routine – unabashed moochers. Not that Tony minded. All were business companions of some form who just happened to be hanging around the factory when noon rolled around. Invitations to lunch all around, every day – Tony’s treat. Everyone chatted like old friends. That is the culture there.

I returned to Hong Kong three days later and three lunches fuller. The night I returned, I lay in bed feeling very grateful and sad that I’ll likely never find myself around Tony’s factory at noon, again.

These two experiences – and many others I lack space to describe – challenged and altered the way I thought about trade and corporate social responsibility. Firstly, I found that unless CSR complemented and improved trade practices, it would have absolutely no resonance with small factory owners. CSR must to be simple, practical and reduce stress for manufacturers, not increase it. Second, one overlooked advantage of CSR for Canadian importers was the opportunity to develop closer relationships with manufacturers. Though I have not described them here, I learned firsthand about the unexpected advantages of good feeling between small businesses in China. For importers to gain these advantages, CSR must facilitate these relationships. It must not be overly aggressive, but should communicate good will.

Back in the van on the way to Shenzhen, one of my sleep-deprived friend’s many cellphones rings and wakes him. He rises to answer it.

“Hello?” It’s a North American client he met yesterday. “Yes yes, we have your new specifications. I will email you the price tomorrow. Ok? Thank you, bye.” Before he settles in to sleep again, he looks at me and asks if I was able to sleep.  “Just a bit, thanks.”

I should mention that while we were still in Hong Kong, he had asked whether I was hungry. I insisted that I had just eaten, but he ignored me and told the driver stop anyway. On our breakneck journey for the border, there was no time to sit down for a meal. So…Macdonald’s for everyone. His treat, of course.

 I am extremely grateful to the donor of the Travel Abroad Research Grant for the funding for this research, for the incredible generosity and hospitality of the friends and business persons mentioned in this piece, to my supervisor Ljiljana Biukovic for her time and guidance, and to all those who have been so open with their time, support and expertise. 

Dean for the Day

Submitted by Andrew Dilts








Andrew Dilts in Dean Mary Anne Bobinski’s office as he takes over Dean duties for the day.

On one sunny spring Friday, I was officially installed as the Dean of UBC Law . . . for a day.

 The experience was both enriching, educational, and fun. UBC Law’s widely-respected (real) dean, Mary Anne Bobinski, had hosted a competition to see who would fill her shoes. The opportunity was open to all law students, requiring a 500-word submission on what each would do as “Dean for a Day”. It was designed as a true prince-and-pauper experience: one student would take over the dean’s office, parking spot, and responsibilities, and Dean Bobinski would attend that student’s classes for the day.

 After my submission won me the honour, Dean Bobinski and I decided that my day would be Friday, March 23. However, I was approached by students, faculty, and staff as early as mid-February. Issues ranged from serious faculty issues to relatively minor technical problems (“can you fix the hot water in the showers?”) to humorous requests (“can you give everyone an ‘A’ this year?”). True to the real dean’s job—or so I imagine—I spent many hours behind the scenes preparing for the job.

On my day as dean, I barely had time to check my email. I have no idea how Dean Bobinski actually manages to get work done, though I know her incredibly helpful staff certainly plays a role. From the minute I showed up in the morning, I had serious meetings with students, staff, and faculty. I also had a few people stop by throughout the day “just to see what the dean’s office was like”. I’m told that the dean often spends many hours late into the evening catching up on emails, and I completely believe it.









Despite the busy-ness, I was able to organize a few creative initiatives of my own. I led students in hosting an inaugural faculty and staff appreciation session in the morning, and ran a special UBC Law edition of Ignite in the afternoon, helping to showcase the diverse experiences and backgrounds of a few members of our extremely talented student body. I was also able to achieve a few UBC Law dean “firsts”: first to use social media, and first to participate in the proud, long-standing tradition of the Trike Race (think: law students relay-racing tricycles in costume while their peers throw water balloons at them). After all, a (temporary) dean should take his job too seriously.

I’m admittedly suffering a bit of withdrawal since the experience. After all, when is the next time I’ll have the opportunity to have such a high-profile leadership role? But I have gained a new respect not just for the dean, but for the staff and faculty who assist her in helping make UBC Law one of Canada’s top law schools. Perhaps I’ll apply again next year.

So what did Andrew’s hectic day as the Dean look like? Here was his schedule:

8:30am: student meeting in “my” office. Issues addressed focused on ensuring proper support systems are in place for all UBC law students, not just those who enjoy success in the current system.

9:00am: meeting with members of the UBC Law Development Office. Two key issues were addressed:

(1)    How to better engage students as they become alumni, and engage them in alumni events

(2)    Inviting Governor General David Johnston to UBC Law for various speaking events, including the one-year anniversary of Allard Hall (schedule permitting).

 9:45am: preparation for other events of the day. Also, updated my Facebook profile to reflect my new position – likely becoming the first dean of UBC Law to use social media.

 10:20am: faculty/staff appreciation event. Terrance Lounge at Allard Hall, where coffee, donuts, and fruit were provided for any faculty and staff who wished to attend. Students from representative organizations in the student body (e.g., LSS, Law Review, Careers Committee) were present to offer words of thanks to various staff members. The event will likely become an annual appreciation.

11:00am: another student meeting in my office, followed by a meeting with a faculty member.

Noon: UBC Law inaugural “Ignite” event, helping to showcase the diverse backgrounds and talents of our student body. The event was a real success, and will likely be instituted as an annual event.

1:00pm: UBC Law Review Annual General Meeting. As a member of the Law Review’s board, I was required to attend (as a student). I also officially became one of two Editors-in-Chief for the 2012–2013 year.

2:00pm: meeting with staff members at the UBC Law Library on a number of issues, including non-law student policies in the UBC library, and how to better use the classroom in the library.

 2:30pm: more meetings with students.

 3:00pm: 40th annual UBC Law Trike Race, where I participated as a member of the “National Trike Race Champions” team (the team that won the inaugural national trike race at the 2012 Law Games). Likely the first dean of UBC Law to participate in this event, though future deans were strongly welcomed.

 5:00pm: finally able to relax and celebrate the day – and check my email for the first time – in the office.

 6:00pm: closed and left the dean’s office, Dean for a Day no longer.

Legal and Social Media History

A couple days ago I had the opportunity to be a part of legal and social media history. It was the first time that a legal appeal has been argued over twitter. The Vancouver Sun article on it can be seen here. The moot competition brought together teams from several of the top Canadian law schools and judges from across the country. The case at hand was an appeal of the West Moberly decision.

“The West Moberly First Nations’ court case focused on mining exploration being carried out by First Coal Corporation in the habitat of the Burnt Pine Caribou Herd.  … The government’s own experts cautioned against the impact on the Burnt Pine herd, which previous development has reduced to 11 members.”

Within the case we were set to focus on two key issues: the extent to which a right to hunt could be limited to a specific herd of caribou, and the extent to which previous development should be factored into the decision making process. Through a lottery, Team UBC was set to represent the Province of Alberta. This meant that we had to support the views of the provincial government without reflecting our own personal beliefs. On the first issue, Team UBC was focused on showing that the right to hunt should not be narrowed to a single herd of a single species, but should be a broad right to hunt within a general geographic area. Team UBC also supported the view that past actions should not be included in the decision making, and should only relate to the development at hand.

I first became involved with this project because of my familiarity with the great work of West Coast Environmental Law. I have been undertaking an internship at this organization since September and have gotten to see the impact the people here have on protecting the environment every day.  I decided to undertake this level of work at West Coast because of my belief that our politics has become too focused on the short-term, ignoring those long term challenges that include climate change, the growing debt and deficits, and the growing inequalities in society. This is what I have written about in my book New Liberalism, which you can find out more about here:

The purpose for writing this article is that I have been asked to discuss the experience of taking part in the world’s first Twitter Moot. It is only natural to begin with the preparation that went into it. We were given our team positions, and were set off to research the case. We then had to put together a two page factum setting out our points. This factum needed to explore our position on the two issues described previously. The next big step was to go through a practice run with WCEL. The organization sent out the rules and a memo discussing what should take place, followed by a Webinar that allowed more interaction – including some test tweets.  This was an online training course that allowed teams from across the country to take part. I then met with my teammate to discuss our strategy. Since we were pretty much meant to support the views of the two teams that would go before us, we decided that we would put forward a ‘hail mary’. We thought it would be best to focus on the ‘twitter’ end of the twitter moot. While we still made sure to present solid arguments, we also thought a debate over this medium needed to include references to @vikileaks30, and the likely retweeting of our arguments by @AshtonKutcher because of their popularity. This helped get #twtmoot trending in Canada. This approach led to the comments that can be found here:

On the day of the event itself I woke up early to discuss this turning point in the legal profession on CBC Early Edition. I then went to the office, where I got my computer set up to show four things: the twitter feed on the WCEL website, the twtmoot list on Twitter, a page with notes, and my personal twitter page so I could compose messages.  Needless to say it was a little crammed. I got the chance to watch two teams present before Team UBC, but that still could not prepare me for the fast paced event that was yet to come. It did not feel like a traditional moot that rewards speaking at length. Instead, it was furious typing and refreshing, trying to continue submissions while being blasted with questions from three prepared judges. It was definitely a new experience! I never thought that I would ever be measuring how long it takes to write out a single tweet, but such is the journey of life.

The big question that comes out of this is the future of social media and the law. As we have seen in most other areas of our life, modern technology continually changes the culture that has come before. I don’t believe that this medium could ever replace the traditional courtroom, but social media certainly will change the way the law is communicated, just as it has changed politics, the news and life in general. Law at its core is a communication and organization tool in society, and so it seems highly unlikely that our actions in making history will not lead to more interaction between these two worlds. It is exciting to be at the turning point of a new legal profession, and I am energized to see its shape and contour in the coming years.

Law Games 2012

First of all, my apologies for the delay in posting this. As it turns out, there is no easing into second semester and this year’s factum/moot combo consumed a great deal of January and early February. On the bright side, we all made it out alive and it was a very rewarding and interesting experience.

And now for Law Games! If the task were put to me to sum up the Games in one word, it would be “whirlwind”. From the moment we arrived at the hotel downtown, where 600+ law students would be staying for the four days, things were a mixture of chaos and hilarity…

As we pulled up outside the hotel, we caught our first glimpse of the UBC uniforms which were, wait for it… Gold lamé tracksuits. We had been informed prior to the games that this was what we were in store for, but it really is hard to conceptualize what it will look like to be dressed entirely in shiny gold fabric. To say the least, as a team we looked completely ridiculous absurd fantastic.

Everyone seemed to be checked in by around 3, and by 4 some of the schools were already full-swing in Law Games mode. It was confirmed that the week was going to be interesting when students from the University of Saskatchewan were playing bagpipes on one of the floors by 6 p.m.

The first night involved Opening Ceremonies at the Commodore Ballroom downtown Vancouver, and it was really great to get to meet students from other schools who we would normally never cross paths with. In addition, the evening provided our first real look at everyone’s uniforms, which were, shall I say, fashion-forward across the board. Western’s contingent was sporting camouflage pants, Dalhousie’s students were decked out in sailor costumes, UVic’s group had rabbit ears, and yet Team UBC was definitely the belle of the ball in our shiny gold suits. In fact, the other teams were so jealous that it became some schools’ sole goal (not going to name any names here, you know who you are!) to steal our jackets for the rest of the games. Lesson learned: gold lamé pants are surprisingly desirable.

After the first day, the weekday schedule was full of every imaginable sport; flag football, inner tube water polo, kickball, dodgeball, hockey, and volleyball to name a few. Western ended up winning the Sports cup, while UVic took home the much desired Spirit Award (well-deserved, might I add). The University of Saskatchewan, with their beloved battle cry of “Trac-tor”, took home the “Fun Games” Award. This involved excelling at competitive events such as the Polar Bear Swim at Wreck Beach, the trike race, and Jumbo Jenga.

In addition to the day-time games, there were social events every night. The second evening featured a Gastown Pub Crawl, which rapidly devolved into a Cab Crawl as teams raced to make it to all the locations in time. There was also a talent show held at Venue nightclub, featuring several surprisingly good choreographed dances, and esteemed judges from our faculty who were fantastic sports. The last night entailed a Closing Banquet at the Vancouver Convention Centre, during which video parodies were aired from each school. I am proud to say that UBC won with a video entitled “As Long As You Pay Me”, a take on the Backstreet Boys’ hit “As Long As You Love Me”.

My sport of choice for the week was soccer and I had a great time bonding with Team UBC, as well as competing against other schools in a fun atmosphere. I would say that next to our triumphant soccer wins, my personal highlight of the Games was probably the first night. The hotel had grouped participants from the same school together, so a lot of students ended up exploring the different floors throughout the evening. Everyone I met that night was incredibly friendly and genuinely interested in meeting other law students, which is exactly what the Games are about.    

Overall, the Law Games were an excellent experience and I would definitely recommend participating. Even if you don’t get a chance to really get to know students from the other schools, it’s an opportunity to meet students from your own school who you may not have any classes with. Plus, while I am admittedly slightly biased, I firmly believe UBC deserves to have a Spirit Award in our collection and next year could be the year!

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!

Judicial Externship

Dear 1L’s, 2L’s and law school hopefuls,

I am currently a judicial intern through UBC’s Judicial Externship Program and I can definitively say, without hesitation, that this was the best way for me to end my last three years of law school. For those that know nothing about the program here is a bit of context. Every semester for the past nine years, eight third year law students from UBC are posted at Provincial Courthouses across B.C. I am at the Surrey Courthouse with another intern, there are three interns rotating through the Vancouver courts (Main, Robson, North Van and Richmond), one intern in Port Coquitlam, one in Victoria and one in Prince George. Monday through Thursday we work at our courthouse and on Fridays we have a three hour seminar at UBC to reflect on the experience. The program runs for the entire semester and we get 16 credits for the semester; the Externship is pass/fail but we receive a percentage grade for the seminar.

The work that we do at the courts mainly consists of observing court and doing research and writing memos for judges. However, that sentence does not begin to capture the invaluable lessons that we have all been learning from this experience. As an intern, I am no longer just an observer who snuck in the door and hesitantly grabbed a seat in the back corner, hoping not to interrupt anything and feeling out of place. As an intern, I have a “backstage” pass to the process. Literally, I have a security pass that allows me into chambers and my “office” is in the judge’s library. From there, I converse with the judges on the cases that they are hearing, they call us down to watch when something interesting is going on and they will often call us into chambers on breaks or stop by our “office” to discuss what was heard. I am on a first name basis with some of the clerks and sheriffs and they will stop and provide their perspectives and tidbits of information. Some of the sheriffs have been in the courthouse longer than the judges and have some great war stories to share.

To top it all off, all of we are being sent to a district court (in the North for most of us) and on a circuit with a judge. For example, on February 20th I will be heading to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) for a week to observe court in Queen Charlotte City and Masset. On February 27th I will be heading to Prince Rupert for three days to have a one on one experience with the judges up there. This unique experience allows us to contrast the city court process to the ones in small towns and with predominantly First Nations communities. I cannot speak to this experience just yet, since I haven’t been on my circuit, but here’s a link to Marlisse Silver-Sweeney’s experience from last year, I have also posted a couple pictures from Rianna Molby’s experience in Bella Bella from a few weeks ago.

All in all, the actual experience of the Externship has been amazing so far. At the Surrey court all of the judges have been very welcoming and are happy to take us under their wing. This isn’t an experience where we are loaded with research work and are typing away in the court library until the wee hours of the night. Unless we have a busy week, most of us are at the courtsfrom 9-5pm and free on weekends. Oh yah, didn’t I mention that there are no readings, papers, or exams? Yup, you read me right, I have FREE TIME! It’s an amazing feeling that I haven’t quite gotten used to just yet. To clarify, there is some work involved, for the seminar we are required to post a weekly journal entry on Vista and then comment on each other’s journals. We are also required to do a half hour presentation at some point during the term, most likely on our circuit experience.

In contrast to the last couple years, the workload is significantly less, but I may dare to say that the learning experience has been significantly higher, at least in terms of practical learning. This experience has made the courts far less intimidating. I have learned what to do and what not to do from my own observations but also from the judges letting me know when a lawyer was effective or ineffective. I am enhancing my research experience by researching obscure issues that the judges rarely come across and sometimes from having to quickly find a case on point that they know is relevant but can’t quite remember the name. I am also learning the formalities of court, when the breaks are, when to bow, and who to make friends with. These are all things that I would learn at some point in my articling experience but now I already have and am hoping my first time in court will be a less terrifying experience. I know I will still mess up at some point but at least now I won’t mess up quite as badly, one would hope.

Ultimately, this is an experience that you can’t get again, unless you clerk, but even then, from what I hear, a clerking experience is more research and work focussed. The Externship program is very much focused on our education and ensuring that we spend time on not only research and writing but also watching court and learning from the judges and lawyers.

If this post has piqued your curiosity and you have anymore questions please feel free to send them my way, you can also email Sharon Sutherland, the program director, at The application deadline is February 15th, so get moving fast if you’re in second year!

Have fun reading this weekend, I think I’m going to go out now and enjoy the sunshine 🙂

~ Nikki

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.