Friday, March 22, 2019

Kawaskimhon Moot for Canadian Law School Students



I was happy to see Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie hosted the Kawaskimhon Moot for the first time this year.  I participated in that aboriginal law moot during law school, and it was a highlight for me.  This year 18 Canadian law schools participated.  That's just great!

"The Kawaskimhon (Cree for “speaking with knowledge”) is unique among moot court competitions in that it’s a consensus-based, non-adversarial moot incorporating Indigenous legal orders alongside federal, provincial, and international law. This year’s moot problem is focused on the reform of Canada’s First Nations Child and Family Services Program."

“The students are excited about the theme, which is very current,” says Schulich School of Law Professor Naiomi Metallic, Dalhousie’s Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy. “It’s an opportunity for them to dive into this issue.”

https://www.dal.ca/faculty/law/current-students/kawaskimhon-moot-2019.html

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Gifted 16-year-old student will use new license -- to drive herself to law school


PHOTO: Haley Taylor Schlitz a 16-year-old who was accepted to nine law schools talks to Good Morning America, about her achievements in academics at such a young age.

This is an interesting story about a 16 year old who has been accepted into 9 law schools already. Haley Taylor Schlitz  has accepted "a nice scholarship" and will attend Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.  Neat.

More at https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Living/gifted-16-year-student-license-drive-law-school/story?id=61805537

Saturday, March 16, 2019

I cannot imagine having to pay $30,000 per year for tuition at a Canadian Law School, but it appears that may be where we are headed for given this article about the proposed new law school at Memorial University.

https://www.canadianlawyermag.com/legalfeeds/tuition-at-new-law-school-could-hit-30k-16983/

It is hard to contemplate taking on that much student debt unless there are good jobs waiting at the other end of law school.  I hope that is the case on the east coast.  Tuition has grown so much over the last decade at a number of Canadian law schools and American law schools.  I suppose $30,000 is still a bargain compared to some of the top ranked American law schools where you are now paying over $60,000 US for tuition.

I am also wondering about the need for a new 300 student law school at this point.  I might have to do some more research into this initiative.

Tuition at new law school could hit $30K

Thursday, March 14, 2019

University of Calgary Faculty of Law announced that they are now offering a free summer LSAT prep course for low-income, high-potential students interested in pursuing a law degree.  You can find more information at the link below, along with the application form.  Very cool!

Image result for university of calgary faculty of law logo

https://law.ucalgary.ca/future-students/our-programs/lsat-summer-prep-course

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

I am always curious about law school rankings and whether they mean very much.  Macleans has not put out law school rankings for many years regarding Canadian Law Schools.  Thoughts? Are they valid?  Worthwhile?

Here's a story from yesterday about US law school rankings:

https://www.law.com/therecorder/2019/03/12/latest-u-s-news-law-school-ranking-offers-few-surprises-403-31111/?slreturn=20190213182342
So, You Want to be a Lawyer, Eh? Law School in Canada, Third Edition, has been released.  It should be available on Amazon.ca, Chapters.ca and in mainstream bookstores across Canada shortly.  It takes a little while for it to be distributed upon publication.  So, watch for it.  It is now 408 pages, with a number of new chapters.  The previous edition was 278 pages.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

 

It's been a while!  I have received many, many emails over the years from prospective Canadian law school students asking when an updated version of So, You Want to be a Lawyer, Eh? Law School in Canada might be released.  Well, your wait is almost over.  In March, 2019, RCT Press will be releasing the Third Edition of this Canadian Law School guidebook.  Stand by.  It will be available through all online booksellers, including Amazon.ca and Chapters.ca in both print and e-Book editions.

Every year, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people apply to Canadian law schools, vying for just over 2,000 coveted spots. The competition is even fiercer when applying for a law job. Adam Letourneau, QC, graduate of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, recipient of a post-graduate LLM degree from University College London Faculty of Laws, former Bencher of the Law Society of Alberta, former Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Alberta Law Review and Managing Partner of LETOURNEAU LLP, reveals in this 3rd Edition many insider tips on how to gain admittance to law school in Canada, how to cope and succeed in law school, and most importantly, how to land a coveted law job post-graduation. Drawing upon personal experience and the experiences of numerous Canadian law school graduates, Adam Letourneau, QC shares, in the 3rd edition, insights on the LSAT, applying for law school, study strategies, summer jobs, the articling application process, succeeding as a lawyer and much more. Letourneau, along with new co-author Mitchell Heyland, will save you hours of research, hours of study and tons of stress. Including updated admissions information, what being a lawyer is like, salary updates and more. 

About the Authors: 

Adam Letourneau, QC, JD, LLM (Lond) is Managing Partner of LETOURNEAU LLP.  He was awarded a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the University of Alberta, and completed post-graduate studies and was awarded a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in International Dispute Resolution from University College London and Queen Mary University of London, University of London.  His undergraduate degrees are in English and Psychology.  Adam has been an elected Bencher (Governor) of the Law Society of Alberta. He is an Instructor at the Dhillon School of Business at the University of Lethbridge, teaching Management Law, Employment and Labour Law,  Negotiation and Collective Bargaining, as well as Introduction to Management.

Adam's law practice focuses on family law, as well as mediation and arbitration.  Adam is a Chartered Arbitrator (C.Arb) and Chartered Mediator (C.Med).  Adam wrote the first edition of SO, YOU WANT TO BE A LAWYER, EH? in his third year of law school, and has published and written updated 2nd and 3rd editions over the years.  Adam is the former Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Alberta Law Review. He was appointed as Queen's Counsel in 2015. He is the proud father of five children and is a very happy and blessed husband.


Mitchell Heyland, JD, originally from Alberta, Canada, graduated with a degree in management with distinction from the University of Lethbridge and attended law school at the University of Pennsylvania Law School (a member of the Ivy League), having received a significant entrance scholarship.  Mitchell was also Associate and then Senior Editor for The University of Pennsylvania Law Review and was Research Assistant to Professor Robinson at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  During law school, Mitchell wrote narratives to introduce interesting cases for a forthcoming edition of a textbook, compiled reading assignments for a seminar on the crimes of heroes, and prepared memoranda for a Law Review article on disconnecting justice and a book on vigilantes. He graduated law school magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, and was a James Wilson Scholar.

Mitchell is an Associate in the Finance Practice Group at  Haynes and Boone, LLP in Dallas, Texas.  Mitchell worked at LETOURNEAU LLP as a student before embarking on his legal studies. 




Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Going Rate


I came across a 2010 legal fees survey conducted by Canadian Lawyer's Magazine (see here). I found it quite fascinating to go through, and wondered if it might be a useful resource when meeting with clients - especially when they are asking for estimates or quotes for various legal services.

I was a little surprised to see the fee ranges for some legal services. For example, a civil action trial (2 days) runs from $18,185 to $62,843 (avg $26,444). I noticed that fees for small firms (1-4 lawyers) were often lower. For some services fees were higher in the Western region than in Ontario, but the opposite for other services. I wonder why?

I was also quite impressed to see that our firm's rates were on par with average fees across the board. That's pretty amazing since we kind of came up with them on our own. However, we do try to base fees on the actual work involved in the service.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Tips for lawyers re-qualifying in Canada

Read about re-qualifying as a lawyer in Canada here (Lawyer's Weekly).

Law School in Canada vs. USA

The McGill Tribune

By Elisa Muyl

"For students who have had their hearts set on going to law school since childhood, David Segal's recent New York Times article, "Is Law School a Losing Game?" offered a familiar but oft-ignored warning: law school is difficult and expensive; proceed with caution.

In his article, chronicling the overwhelming debt and the unforgiving job market faced by an estimated 44,000 hopeful American JDs each year, Segal argues that the decision to pursue a legal degree should not be taken lightly, since, contrary to the statistics being published by the schools themselves, it's an investment that doesn't necessarily offer great returns..." read more here.

LU Law School coming soon

A proposed law program at Lakehead University is being recommended by an approval committee for law programs in Canada. Read more here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Expansion is good, but it hurts

So, my little start-up law firm is now three lawyers strong (myself and two associates), as well as various staff. We focus on family law, real estate, wills and estates, corporate law, but also on more esoteric areas such as aboriginal treaty rights, residential school stuff, and water law. It's been a lot of fun adding staff, desks, computers, etc. over the past few months. We're excited at the prospects, even with the current downturn in the economy. There is a lot of potential out there, but it will take some enginuity and diligence to have real staying power.

I have found that customer service is the absolute most important thing towards building a successful legal practice. No advertising, networking, google adwording, schmoozing, brown-nosing, volunteer service, or other thing compares to having a happy and satisfied customer who will come back to you later on, or better yet, will refer a friend to you. A very large part of my personal practice is based on this concept. It creates a very loyal client base, and makes it much easier to keep a steady work-flow, and to keep the stress down.

Business is booming for legal clinic

Posted at The Whig By MIKE NORRIS MNORRIS@THEWHIG.COM

"Fledgling entrepreneurs and some Queen's University law students can agree on one thing:
Business is booming in Kingston.

The newly established Queen's Business Law Clinic provides legal advice -- free of charge -- to small, start-up and not-for-profit businesses in the city. A four-month pilot project last winter was so successful, the clinic will now be a year-round operation.

'The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Kingston,' said Professor Peter Kissick, director of the law clinic.

'I was surprised by how sophisticated the files are, from software to carpentry businesses. There's a wide variety of things going on.'"

Read the whole article here.

These kinds of clinics are essential, not only for access to justice, but also access to legal information for those who cannot afford a retainer for a lawyer, or who are just starting to do the legwork for their start-up business, or a legal transaction or action. Good stuff! Congratulations on your success so far law clinic law students! We appreciate you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Top Five Canadian Law Schools Rank Same as 2008

Maclean's put out their 2009 Canadian Law School Ranking in September. No changes in the Top 5. Also, very little changes in 12 to 16.

1. Toronto (1)
2. McGill (2)
3. Osgoode (3)
4. UBC (4)
5. Victoria (5)
6. Queen's (8)
7. Dalhousie (6)
8. Ottawa (7)
9. Alberta (9)
10. Western (12)
11. Calgary (10)
12. Saskatchewan (12)
13. Manitoba (10)
13. New Brunswick (12)
15. Windsor (15)
16. Moncton (16)

I don't put a ton of stock in Maclean's ranking, but it is interesting to see the consistency from year to year. Victoria used to be much higher. I am surprised to see UBC so high the last two years, as it didn't use to rank that high. Calgary keeps dipping. Alberta should be ranked higher, especially given all the money that has been thrown at it lately.

Law school alumnus gives back to university

"Frank MacInnis said he experienced a 'brief moment of terror' when his former law professor summoned him to the podium Friday, a startling admission from a man who now presides over a U. S.-based Fortune 500 company.

'Old habits die hard,' MacInnis told a laughing audience at the University of Alberta, recalling his friendly, yet sometimes adversarial relationship with former law dean David Percy.

Of course, there was no reason for argument Friday, when MacInnis and his wife were honoured for a $2.5-million donation to Percy's faculty-- the largest single gift the U of A law school has ever received."

That is a very nice donation from a very nice, and obviously successful alumnus. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. MacInnis!

Think twice about going to law school - firm chairman says

Financial Post

Posted: September 25, 2009, 11:26 AM by Mitch Kowalski
, , , ,

"Every time a friend of mine tells me that her daughter or son is contemplating law school I try to dissuade them. This isn't the 60's - when a law degree was a ticket to the good life. The profession is a brutally difficult way to earn a living for either gender. And it ain't getting better.
Now it seems I have some support for my comments. Peter Kalis, chairman of large, international firm K & L Gates, was interviewd by the Wall Street Journal and said much the same thing. Kalis says that schools are "pouring tens of thousands of young people into a market that I suspect is not going to be able to absorb them at the remuneration levels that would have justified them taking on. . ."

I would like to read more...but they make you register. I hate this form of news where I am forced to pay to read something that I should be able to read for free online. I mean, I shouldn't have to have a subscription just to read an article...

In any case, the comment is a fair one, and is one that more young aspiring law students should think about. Or, as the writer indicates, a thought that more parents of aspiring law students should think about.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Silverberg realizes long-held dream

Former police chief relishing career as lawyer

Read this great little article about the former Calgary Chief of Police. She attended law school in Calgary with a friend of mine. It's neat to see where she ended up. I think it's pretty impressive. She works now with Willy deWit (former boxer) and the lawyer who recently won the David Milgaard wrongful conviction case. I was also impressed to see that she became a partner in a national law firm four years after finishing law school.

Law school at Thompson Rivers University

By Melissa Lampman - Kamloops This Week

Published: February 17, 2009 5:00 PM

A plan to launch a law school at Thompson Rivers University is yet another step in making it the most comprehensive post-secondary institution in the nation.

In the Speech from the Throne on Monday, the province announced the creation of the new law school — one of three in B.C. — slated to open by 2011.

The plan is to have a three-year, fully accredited bachelor of law program accepting a minimum of 40 students per year with a focus on social, cultural and economic realities of Canadian rural settings.

'Isn’t this great? Now the work really begins,' said TRU president Kathleen Scherf of the next couple of years of intense planning to make the school a reality."

Isn't what great? Another law school in a market that is full of job losses and downsizing? Good timing! I don't think this is a good idea. Even if it does happen, it shouldn't happen for another decade or more - until there is an actual demand.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Phony degrees put Osgoode law school on high alert


"Will implement tougher 'verification measures' to help detect admissions fraud

The Toronto Star is reporting that Osgoode Hall Law School will tighten admissions procedures following revelations that a third-year student used a phony degree to enter the York University law program.

The school’s dean, Patrick Monahan, says admissions integrity is of utmost importance and they are “investigating additional verification measures that could be put in place to detect cases of fraud in the admission process.”

When even one student gets admitted improperly, he says, it hurts the admissions chances of another student in addition to damaging Osgoode’s reputation.

The Star says student Quami Frederick was found to have used a degree purchased from an Internet diploma mill to get accepted into the law program in 2006. More recently, Frederick submitted photocopies of transcripts in which her Osgoode Hall marks were inflated when she successfully applied for an articling job at the Bay St. law firm Wildeboer Dellelce, LLP.

Frederick, 28, now faces an Osgoode Hall disciplinary hearing that could lead to expulsion. The law firm has withdrawn its job offer."

Stupid. Just plain stupid!

Soldier does battle in courtroom


January 21, 2009 - by Matt Driscoll

"Jason Morische is a true man of action.

When he isn’t busy putting away the bad guys in court, he’s taking it to them on the battlefield.

Raised in Bracebridge, Morische is a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto and an officer with the Canadian Forces.

'My common joke is that I defend the constitution and the charter in two different ways,' quipped Morische last week on his way to trial.

The 37-year-old is currently preparing to take part in a mission to Afghanistan later this year, although he can’t reveal exactly when.

'I’m a little nervous but I’m confident in the training we receive in the Canadian Forces, and I’m confident in the soldiers I’m going with,” said Morische. 'I’m very much aware of the dangers … but it’s as good a situation as you could hope for.'"

This is a really interesting and inspiring story. Read the whole thing at Bracebridge Examiner.

Law school launches police accountability and complaints program

KIRK MAKIN

"The University of Windsor law school will launch a program next month aimed at enhancing police accountability and reducing the use of racial profiling.

In what is believed to be the first program of its kind, the school will provide advice about racial profiling and police oversight to government, public interest organizations, community groups - and police forces themselves.

It will also advise civilians who want to lodge complaints regarding police conduct."

See the whole Globe and Mail article here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A recent email exchange about billable hours for lawyers

Hi Drew. Glad to hear you are enjoying the book. Your questions are good ones, but ones that I cannot fully answer. I'll do my best - see below.

2009/1/12 Drew

Dear Adam,

I'm in the process of reading your book now and I'm finding it very informative. I'm in the second year of my undergrad yet I've wanted to go to law school ever since a mock trial experience in grade 5. I've read enough John Grisham to know about how consuming billable hours can be yet, one thing is unclear to me.

It is true that billable hours can be overwhelming. Firms in Alberta can expect anywhere from 1000 to 2500 billable hours from their associates each year. Depending on the type of law, and the efficiency of the lawyer, this can equate to 1400 to 5000 actual work hours, or 28 to 100 hours per week of working. I know many lawyers who work 80 to 100 hours per week. That's equivalent to 12+ hours per day. It doesn't need to be like this, and I have many lawyer friends (including myself) that have more reasonable 35-45 hour work weeks.

Do lawyers earn overtime? If you work more than 8 hours a day aren't you obliged to earn overtime at an increased hourly rate under labour law?

No, usually they do not (perhaps if you work for the Alberta or Canadian governments). Different law firms treat things differently. Most are salaried. There is no overtime for salaried employees of any type. You get paid X dollars per year to do the job, and that's it. Many firms also pay bonuses based upon performance. I.e. if you hit your billable goals, or receipt goals. Many firms have now moved to a commission program, where the lawyer gets around 40% of any receipts that they bring in. This provides great incentive for many lawyers. For sole practitioners, and partnerships, you get paid any profit after expenses, so the harder and more efficiently you work, the more money you make.

Finally, is there a website where I could see trends in the annual salaries of lawyers? Not just for 1st year associates but for 3rd 4th and 6th year associates? I like the description of the appeal that a small town practice can offer in your book. However, I wonder what kind of salaries do more experienced lawyers in these settings bring in?

Not that I am aware of, at least not for Canada, but check on places such as lawstudents.ca or lawbuzz.ca. Perhaps somebody has posted some info there.

As in any profession, there is a wide range of salaries for lawyers. There are poverty lawyers who get paid very little, and some lawyers (such as Tony Merchant of Merchant Law Group) who make millions and millions. I find that many 1-5 year big firm lawyers in Calgary or Edmonton, Toronto, or places like that, make anywhere between $70K and $200K, depending on their situation. Now, taking into account the number of hours they work, this can seem like a good salary, or not such a good salary.

The same applies to small town or small city lawyers. I make, probably, as much as the big city lawyers, but I work far less, and really enjoy my work. That's not the same for everyone. I have our main office in a city of about 70,000, and a branch office in a town of about 3,500. It works for me...

If you have any other questions, let me know. Oh, and would you mind giving me a positive comment on Chapters.ca or Amazon.ca? And could I post this email to my blog? Others would probably appreciate it. Thanks!

Adam Letourneau

-- Drew

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reforming young offender laws won’t enhance public safety: academics

Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service Published: Sunday, January 11, 2009

"OTTAWA -- Canada's revamped young offender laws -- described by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an 'unmitigated failure' -- have in fact been a clear success in keeping adolescents out of court and custody without increasing youth crime, concludes a new academic analysis.

The three authors warn against the Harper government pursuing a promise to toughen the Youth Criminal Justice Act, arguing it won't enhance public safety, but it will cost provincial governments significantly more money to punish young people by incarcerating them...

"When the act was adopted in 2003, Canada had one of the highest youth incarceration rates in the world. Those numbers have dropped a dramatic 36 per cent in the last five years, according to the latest report from Statistics Canada.

'Without increasing youth crime, the new laws have resulted in a very significant reduction in the use of courts and custody for adolescent offenders in Canada and hence allowed for a significant reduction in spending on youth courts and custody facilities, generally accompanied by shifting resources to community-based programs,' note Bala, Carrington and Roberts.

The revamped laws, which set out clear rules on when judges can impose incarceration, have also reduced a patchwork of practices from province to province, the analysis said.

Not only are fewer adolescents being incarcerated, there also has been a dramatic drop in the number being charged by police as they seek alternative rehabilitative measures such as community programs, counselling, apologies to the victim, and other 'extra-judicial' measures."

Read the whole article here.

I was glad to read about the reduction in incarceration rates, but I wonder about the actual drop in the committing of crimes by youth. It would seem that there has been no reduction: "While youth crime in general has not increased, violent crime in some cities has been on the rise, Bala acknowledged."

I tend to agree with Stephen Harper's sentiments: "Last summer, Harper denounced Canada's approach to handling young offenders as 'an unmitigated failure' in that it did not 'hold young lawbreakers responsible for their behaviour and . . . make them accountable to their victims and society.'"

I think that they should revamp this particular system to emulate the circle systems being adopted by many First Nation communities and judicial districts, where the victim, the offender, and various members of the community come together with the judge in a circle, and work it out with everyone involved. This has worked marvels in some communities, dropping the rates of crime significantly, from what I understand. It also results in effective consequences for the accused, such as banishment. Further, it allows for reconciliation between the victim and the offender in many cases. For example, there can be an apology, or direct restitution. The community is involved (i.e. Elders), and this is very effective towards accountability for the accused.

I really think that if youth had to actually sit down in a circle with a judge, the victim(s), their parents, their grandparents, their teachers, and members of the community, they would think twice about committing a crime again. Many youth now probably feel that the punishment is relatively easy, and there is no direct accountability. For some, youth detention, or community service might even be a step up from their current circumstances...in any case, I think reform is necessary, especially with all of the gang activity in some of the larger cities.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Writing Lags in Law Schools

insidehighered.com
January 7, 2009

"Law schools have to be responsive to the ever-changing legal world to keep their curriculums relevant and meaningful, but the latest findings of a national survey suggest that they should also be focusing more on the basics. The 2008 annual results of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement, released today, show nearly half of all law school students reporting that their education does not “contribute substantially” to their ability to “apply legal writing skills” in the real world."

Read the whole article here.

"'Despite near universal agreement on the value of these skills and competencies, legal writing, for example, is typically featured primarily in the first year, and viewed by students as a sidebar in their doctrinal classes,' writes George D. Kuh, LSSSE director and professor at the Indiana University."

What do you think? I think that's probably true. There is an assumption that you will get practical legal writing opportunities in your summer internships or your articling year. This article is from the US system, where they don't even get an articling year.

For many law graduates, this is a key skill, as they will end up writing many legal memos. Or is it important? I would say that it is very important for any new lawyer that will be drafting contracts, briefs, facta, and letters, the last of which makes up a large part of any lawyer's profession.

Monday, December 22, 2008

PM bypasses hearing, appoints N.S. justice to Supreme Court

Last Updated: Monday, December 22, 2008 | 2:40 PM AT CBC News

"Stephen Harper has officially appointed Thomas Cromwell of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court, bypassing a parliamentary hearing process the prime minister has championed to more openly scrutinize nominees.

The appointment came the same day Harper named 18 people to the Senate.

'The Supreme Court must have its full complement of nine judges in order to execute its vital constitutional mandate effectively,' Harper said in a statement on Monday. 'Not only is Justice Cromwell one of Canada's most respected jurists, his appointment will also restore regional balance to the Court which now, once again, has an Atlantic Canadian representative.'

Cromwell replaces Michel Bastarache, who told the cheif justice that he would retire at the end of the court's spring session."


Congratulations Mr. Cromwell. This is a wonderful achievement on top of an already illustrious career:

"Cromwell, 56, from Kingston, Ont., initially studied music but got his law degree in Ontario in 1976. He practised and taught law, including two stints at the Dalhousie Law School in Halifax. He was the executive legal officer in the chambers of the Supreme Court's chief justice for three years...He first became a Nova Scotia appeals judge in 1997."

York law student caught with fake degree

Excalibur Web Edition
Written by By Andrew Fletcher, Sports & Health Editor
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

"A York University student is under investigation for allegedly committing an act of degree fraud. Third-year student Quami Frederick is under review for academic dishonesty after she allegedly submitted a degree that she never earned, for admission to Osgoode Law School. The Toronto Star reported on Dec. 13 that Frederick bought a BA degree in business administration from St. George’s University for $1,109 in 2004. St. George’s University, located in Grenada, has recently confirmed that Frederick did not attend the school."

Read the whole story here.

I sure get a lot of spam for these fake degrees. I always wondered if someone would actually try to pass one off. I wonder for this one caught person, how many have successfully duped law school admissions staff? Bet she would make a good lawyer! I'm glad she is being screened now, rather than later, such as the guy I posted about the other day (see here), although she really should have been caught sooner - "Granada"???




LU's law-school dream could take step forward

Tb News Source
Web Posted: 12/17/2008 10:33:12 PM

"Despite Ontario's denial for funding, work continues at Lakehead University to develop a new law school."

Is this just a pipe dream, or is there any reality to this headline? Is it possible for them to privately fund a new law school, and could they gain the support of the heads that be? And further, would there be any true advantage to a law school in that area of the country? Would it create new jobs? Would it fill any voids? Are there any voids? Last I heard, there were an abundance of law graduates in Ontario (maybe even the country) who could not find an article upon graduation from law school.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Getting that first law job

I was pleased to hire a couple of students recently to assist me with some projects. One is a first year student, the other a second year student. I really wished for a practical opportunity in my first year(s) of law school, and would have probably done it for free at the time (not that I condone free labour). I really appreciated the resumes that were submitted by various students. It was really neat to see the variety of backgrounds of the law students, and also to see where their interests were developing in law school.

I have said in the past that law school grades are not important, in my mind, but on the other hand, seeing transcripts certainly allows for a peak into what actually interests a potential candidate. A high grade in a particular subject could perhaps indicate that the student is more keen in that area. On the flip side, it could simply reflect that they liked the professor, that the examination style suited their learning style, etc.

On this note, I recently applied for an exemption to the Law Society to reduce the 4-year requirement before I can hire an articling student. Their response was interesting - they can't provide a decision until I actually apply, or the student applies for an article with our firm. Then, they use their discretion, and we would have to show extenuating circumstances. I would argue that if a student wanted to come practice in Southern Alberta, and they wanted to start their practice at our firm, or if they wanted to focus on an area of law that our firm practices, that this would meet the extenuating circumstances test. So, if you are interested, let me know, and we'll test the waters. :).

If it doesn't work out, I'll just have to wait out the 4 years (another 1.5 years), and do it the old fashioned way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mediation should be emphasized in law school - all law schools

I conducted a great mediation this morning. It would seem that there would be no negotiated settlement at many points during the mediation, but in the end, I was able to assist the parties towards a negotiated settlement. What a great feeling of satisfaction. The parties shook hands and smiled at each other afterwards. Success!

It got me to thinking that mediation should be a mandatory course at Canadian law schools. It should also become part of the designation of a lawyer. Just as we all become Notary Publics upon completion of law school, we should all become certified mediators upon graduation. It would save our court system bundles, and would result in a much less litigious society. What do you think?

Monday, December 15, 2008

The power of emotion in advertising

I have been amazed this past couple of weeks at the power of emotion in advertising. This applies to both companies and individual who are advertising themselves.

I put out an ad this week that said "Enjoy Peace of Mind for the Holidays" - it was an ad for a discounted last will & testament. Our phones have been ringing off the hook. I would like to say it was because of the discount, but I've tried that tool before. I am convinced it is the hook line at the beginning of the ad.

Something to think about for you budding and existing lawyers as you strive to promote yourself as a lawyer. Emotion sells. Good service keeps the customer. You might even want to consider this thought when preparing your resumes and cover letters for upcoming summer and articling positions. A great first line or title goes really far.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Critics clash over role of law schools

From The Lawyer's Weekly:

By Nora Rock
Toronto
December 12 2008

"If the goal of medical school were to teach students not how to be doctors, but how to think like doctors, would you want to be a graduate’s first patient?

Professor David Chavkin of the American University Washington College of Law put this question to attendees at a symposium about the future of legal education hosted by Ryerson University on Nov. 25.

The curriculum being delivered in today’s law schools and its relationship to the demands of modern legal practice were scrutinized by speakers including Michael Bryant, Ontario’s minister of economic development, who noted the trend toward self-representation in our courts. “Over half of the people in Canada, when faced with a legal problem in their lives, have no idea where to turn,” said Bryant, who expressed the related worry that many of today’s law graduates emerge from law school ill-prepared to meet the needs of average Canadians.

While the Ryerson symposium’s intended focus was on future directions in education, attendee Noah Aiken-Klar, national director of Pro Bono Students Canada, pointed out that our legal community faces a chicken-and-egg style dilemma: while law schools struggle to recruit and train a more diverse student body, dysfunction in the profession causes attrition that hits non-mainstream lawyers — women, lawyers with disabilities and minorities — hardest.

Two factors — the Law Society of Upper Canada’s latest redesign of the lawyer licensing system, and recent calls for the abolition of articling — have put pressure on law schools to provide the practical, “lawyering” training that articling and the Bar admission course were once intended to accomplish."

You can read the whole article here.

This is a very useful and necessary debate to have. Here are my thoughts from the field:

1. It is nearly impractical for a lawyer to know everything that she needs to know coming out of law school, or even coming out of her articling year. Each and every day as a lawyer is a learning experience.
2. The focus should not be on what is taught in law school. The schools, the courses and the instructors are just far to diverse to accomplish a strictly "practical" legal education. In other words, the system has gone too far towards academia and theoretical instruction as opposed to a professional training system.
3. I believe that the number of core courses required should be increased at all Canadian Law Schools to include: wills & estates, real estate (not real estate theory, but real estate conveyancing), family law (practical training, not case law theory training - in other words, how to file for divorce, how to defend a divorce, how to run a custody trial, etc.), basic incorporations law (i.e. how to incorporate a company, how to prepare resolutions, etc.), and chambers and trial advocacy (you should have to prepare for and run at least 2 uncontested applications, and at least 2 contested applications).
4. The law societies should work towards training principals (lawyers who are partnered with articling students - mentors) and law firms to, in turn, train new lawyers. It used to be an apprenticeship program with lawyers, and we should move back towards that model, where a new lawyer is provided more simple tasks for a year or two, and then moves towards more complicated transactions and files over the years. In fact, I believe that law school should be run similar to some trades programs, where you intersperse schooling with practical training (i.e. one year on, one year off). Some students have that opportunity, somewhat, with summer internships, but not all students land a summer position. It should be mandatory for all students. This model would perhaps prolong things, but I like the idea at its core.
5. I actually think that the US model where you get thrown into the deep end upon graduation isn't such a bad idea, if the mentoring is there. It seems like some firms have excellent mentoring programs set up for new graduates, but there are probably many who are lost through the cracks (think Grisham's Rainmaker for an extreme example).
6. Law firms should ultimately be accountable to new lawyers or lawyers-in-training.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this debate.