Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Crazy Law News

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. My mother had a stroke last week. Pretty devastating! It sure makes me appreciate my own freedom and agency.

So, I read a story this morning about the founder of Vermont Law School, who also ran for the Senate. He has been charged, convicted and sentenced to jail for defrauding a woman of $115,000. What a creep! What a hypocrite. Imagine spending years teaching students about the integrity of the profession, of the law, and then ending your career like this.

Here's a good idea - suspend or take away licenses for high school students who drop out or have failing grades. Now, that would be motivating. Anyone know if any provinces are considering this tactic?

I liked law school, but maybe not this much - A generous millionaire thanks his law school - Donates $2.5 million to University of Alberta Faculty of Law. Wow! Cool story. Glad to see alumni giving back when they can. This is another good example of how diverse your career can be with a law degree.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Law Movies

One really cool, yet not very accurate, way of finding out what the law and what lawyers do is to watch law-related movies. Like I said above, law movies do not always very accurately portray legal procedure or true legal theory or doctrines. However, I know that for myself, watching law movies and law-related t.v. played a large role in inspiring me to go to law school. I still like to collect law movies and to watch them on occassion. Sometimes they serve to inspire me to continue on in the legal field. Sometimes, they are just plain entertaining. Sometimes, it can be really fun to find all of the legal flaws in a given movie. Sometimes, it's fun to analyze a movie lawyer and imagine emulating some of their personality, especially the confidence aspect.

Here are some of my favourite law movies:

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird - Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge. Starring Gregory Peck. Excellent courtroom drama, and some fine acting for its time. The book is also definitely worth reading.
Philadelphia - When a man with AIDS is fired by a conservative law firm because of his condition, he hires a homophobic small time lawyer as the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit. Starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Cool movie, but very sad!
My Cousin Vinny - this is just plain fun watching. Danny Devito is absolutely hilarious in this film!
The Firm - I love the beginning of this movie. It glamourizes the idea of being a hot-shot law student, and a resulting hot-shot lawyer. I love how he gets wined-and-dined. Cool.
Runaway Jury - one of my favourite movies and books - I liked the acting in this movie. Of course, the book is better because the reader gets to infiltrate the minds of the characters more.
A Civil Action - one of the most realistic law movies that I have seen, although many of my friends go nuts when we discuss whether the main character should have taken the offer.
The Paper Chase - a very entertaining view into Harvard Law School in the 70's. An accurate portrayal of 1L, I thought. I loved the ending of this movie.
The Pelican Brief - not my favourite as I don't really think that Julia Roberts can act very well. But a feel-good popcorn chewing movie.

Movies I plan to see in the next year or two:

12 Angry Men - A jury has to decide a seemingly open and shut case of a young man (who, as with most of the jurors, remains nameless throughout the film) who has been accused of murdering his father in a fit of anger. The evidence couldn't be clearer that this guy did it. Murder weapon, motive, eyewitness testimony all in place. One juror (Fonda) however, wants to talk the case out. He's not 100% convinced that the guy is guilty. And so it begins.
Anatomy of a Murder - James Stewart, a Michigan attorney, and his colleague defend an Army officer for murdering his wife's rapist. Directed by Otto Preminger.
...And Justice For All - "In this scathing, deadly serious satire, Al Pacino is brilliant as a public defender battling injustice in a legal system gone mad. The insanity, corruption, and infuriating blunders will conspire to make most viewers enraged, and rightly so."
The Verdict - A lawyer sees the chance to salvage his career and self-respect by taking a medical malpractice case to trial rather than settling. Starring Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling. Director: Sidney Lumet.
A Man for All Seasons - "A highly honored film (winner of six Academy Awards in 1966, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor)"; account of the life of one of the great men in English history: Sir Thomas More, English lawyer, scholar, statesman' and a victim of the wrath of King Henry VIII; "Robert Bolt's beautiful screen adaptation of his own highly successful and award winning stage play of the same name. It's a reasonably accurate accounting of the events of the last years of Sir Thomas More's life."
The Jury
The Hurricane
The Chamber
The Juror
Judgment at Nuremberg
Adam's Rib

Have a legal-related movie that you love, or maybe hate? Let me know in the comments section. I'm always looking for new films to view.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Solicitor vs. Barrister

Some of you might be wondering what the difference is between a barrister and a solicitor. I wondered this myself for some time, even during law school.

These are English terms. Many Canadian lawyers do not distinguish whether they are a barrister or a solicitor, where apparently they do make a more concrete distinction in Britain. Some lawyers that I know use these terms openly when describing their legal practice. Most don't except to put "barristers and solicitors" on their firm sign and perhaps their stationary.

The basic definition of a barrister is someone who predominantly represents clients at the "bar" in court. In Canada, any lawyer can represent a client in court, but many do not wish do make this a large part of their practice. I suppose that solicitor work is any work that does not involve barrister work where legal advice is given.

Most lawyers in Canada refer to their work as either litigation work or solicitor work. Many lawyers show a genuine interest (or, in turn, distaste) of one or the other. Many lawyers, especially solo practioners, practice both barrister and solicitor work.

Some lawyers have suggested to me that it might be wise to choose one or another type of work to accomodate the development of true expertise in a more narrowed field. This may be more practicle in some firms, but I think that many lawyers would be better lawyers if they at least dabbled in "the other side" once in a while.

solicitor and barrister defined: In England and some other Commonwealth jurisdictions, a legal distinction is made between solicitors and barristers. A solicitor has exclusive privileges of giving oral or written legal advice. A barrister has exclusive privileges of preparing and conducting litigation in the courts. In Canada, the title "barrister and solicitor" is sometimes used even though there is no legal distinction between the advising and litigating roles. Canadian lawyers can litigate or give legal advice as can U.S. lawyers or attorneys.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Alternative legal careers

OK, so you are thinking about law school, but you don't know if you really want to be in a courtroom setting throughout your career. Or, you are in the middle of law school, and you have decided that Bay Street is not your gig. Or, even better, you are just finishing up your bar admission requirements and you are really wondering if billable hours will soon drive you insane. Here are my thoughts for today on alternative legal careers.

Step One: Get your LLB/JD, and do your best. Absorb the law school experience, even if you have dediced that you don't want to be a "traditional lawyer." Many people have gone into law school with the full intention of NOT being a lawyer. Why would they do that? Because just about everything that they absorb in law school will have some benefit down the road, regardless of the career choice.

Potential Careers:
  • Polititian (As a matter of fact, fourteen of Canada's twenty prime ministers were, or continue to be, lawyers. Among the prime ministers who were not lawyers was a doctor, a diplomat, a labour expert, and a printer - and once you are done politicing, then maybe you'll be ready to return like this guy did.)
  • Legal researcher
  • Business Executive (here is a compelling case for lawyer-CEO's)
  • Consultant
  • Member of various Board of Directors (I have heard of some people who actually make a living doing this!)
  • Lawyer for Contract (have a say in your hours and types of work!)
more ideas to come...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

How to avoid burnout in and after law school

1. Develop really good study habits in your undergrad years - these will help you to manage your time more wisely and to continue to practice consistency.

2. Be consistent. From the day that you begin studying for the LSAT until the day that you write your bar admission test or last CPLED assignment, practice consistency. The demands are just too big to procrastinate. Never put off for tomorrow what you can reasonably complete today.

3. Find a really good mentor or set of mentors. Be a loyal mentoree. Achieve a situation where you can call up your mentor without guilt.

4. Read this book (I sure wish that it was there when I went through law school) and read "Getting to Maybe" before you start law school. In fact, read every resource that you can get your hands on, for the LSAT, for law school success and for finding the job of your dreams.

More tips to follow on another day. Happy blawging.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I have a few friends that are currently clerking with one court or another, and have some friends that have clerked for a court. I often wish I had pursued that opportunity. I came across a nice article from University of Toronto's Ultra Vires newspaper by Jennifer Khurhana who clerked at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto. It's a fresh take on the articling experience, and may inspire you to pursue this avenue. I definitely buy into her notions about loving what you do, and having time to smell the roses. That's why I chose (it's true - I chose amongst many excellent options) to article in a smaller city centre, where my billable hour expectations are considerably lower than those expected in larger city centres. Kudos to those who take a good hard look at where they want to be post-law-school. I have time to learn, each day I can arrive at work relatively fresh, and I can feel like I have something left to give my family at the end of each day. If you would like some more input on clerking, send me an email at adam dot letourneau@gmail dot com and I will email you some content on clerking from my book. The section on clerking was written by a student who interviewed with every level of court, and ended up with a clerking position with the Court of Appeal. It's good stuff, and you may find it helpful towards making an informed decision.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Collected Stankowski Reports

If you want some hillarious reading from the perspective of a First Year Associate, read the The Collected Stankowski Reports. I loved his perspective on working a 70 hour work week, and Ten Things Every Associate Needs to Know. The anonymous writer is brilliant, and has an uncanny ability to drive at the truths of lawyering in a big firm. He brings the reader back down to earth so that they can laugh at their least a little bit. Working in a small to mid size firm myself, I still appreciate many of Stan's reports and insights. For those of you aspiring to law school, take Stan's viewpoint with a grain of salt. Not all law firms operate in the same way as his. You do have a relative amount of control as a young student-at-law/associate. However, reading these posts by Stan may be good food for thought for those of you who are dreaming about working in a Megaopolis Law Firm. About the Author: Stan Stankowski is the pseudonym of a first-year associate working in a litigation firm somewhere in the Southern United States. Enjoy Stan.

It's ruled sleep sex

Want a small taste of the bizarre nature of the law - the crazy stuff that goes through our court system? Check out the article "It's ruled sleep sex" by Natalie Pona of the Toronto Sun. Now is that weird or what! The guy gets off on rape by claiming that he was sleeping during the whole episode. Further, he has "sleepsexed" four other girlfriends. I guess the judge bought the idea that he was just a sleep-walking raging hormone. What kills me is that he only realized his heinous crime once he went to the bathroom after waking up, and realized that he still had a condom on. I guess his only saving grace, in my mind, is that he went and confessed right away to the police. I figure, if you know that you have this kind of problem, you should have it treated. Not unlike pedophiles - if you know you have a problem, and you know that it is abhored by society, go get some medicine, go get some help. Glad to see this guy is now taking some meds and staying away from alcohol. The poor woman who complained about the rape - I don't think she's too happy about the result! I think University of Toronto law professor Hamish Stewart is right when he says "We may hear more forms of this defence from accused persons." Let's hope that is not the case. There are already too many rapists getting off the hook because the victim cannot piece together enough recollection to prove the indicident beyond reasonable doubt. I recently watched an entire sexual assault trial where the guy was acquited because the girl had been so traumatized and embarrassed by the incident that it left pretty big holes in her story, which of course could not be filled by other witnesses, as it was only her and him in the bedroom. Pretty sick!

Speaking of sick, can you imagine how Karla Homolka's victims feel right now, knowing that the killer of their children is completely free to do as she pleases and roam as she pleases? What really kills me is that she is able to freely associate with criminals, including her former husband (aka The Devil), and that she can have free access to children or teens.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Happy Lawyer

Many colleagues, both in and out of law school have made comments to me about how they have never met a Happy Lawyer. I plan to post a number of entries to this blawg on this particular topic, as I find it of great interest. I think that it is important for a number of groups - those considering a legal career, those stuck in the middle of law school, wondering if they should stick it out, and of course those who are in the thick of things in their legal career - wondering if they are in the right place at the right time.

Check out this post from Evan Shaeffer's Legal Underground called Why are Lawyers So Unhappy. Also, check this book called "The Happy Lawyer" by Larry Schreiter and this book by Jim Canterucci that I came across recently. I think that the attorneys that wrote these books are on to something, and I would like to pursue it. Look forward to future thoughts on this subject.

JD versus LL.B.

Most Canadian law schools award the degree of LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws), while law schools in the U.S. offer the JD (Juris Doctor) degree. Toronto decided some time ago to offer a JD degree rather than an LL.B. They also increased their tuition dramatically, nearly on par with U.S. upper-end law schools. Ottawa has followed suit somewhat by offering a combined four-year LL.B/JD degree in conjunction with either the State University College of Law in East Lansing, Michigan or the American University (Washington College of Law) in Washington D.C. The JD is a U.S. degree, which enables the graduate to practice law in both Canada and the U.S. This seems to be a great idea, allowing for much flexibility for employment, and would be a great advantage to a prospective employer who does transaction work between Canadian and U.S. corporations. However, be aware that you will pay high tuition while attending Michigan or Washington for two years of the four-year program. The University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Windsor Ontario Schools of law were the first to collaborate to create a joint American/Canadian law degree program. Students complete 104 credits in three years and successful graduates receive both their JD and their LL.B. degrees.

Many other law schools have looked at the issue of the difference between the JD and the LL.B. There are many opinions on both sides; however, the predominant view at this time is that there is nothing wrong with the LL.B. in terms of gaining employment, especially within Canada. It is apparent that the combined JD (U.S.A.)/LL.B. would be an advantage if you wanted to work in the U.S. and could not gain exclusive acceptance at a U.S. law school, or if you think you might like to return to Canada one day. There is a long-standing tradition behind the LL.B. designation, and many people are not willing to exchange it for a JD designation easily.

You can find some brief discussion of the matter here. You can find an interesting survey with resulting comments at the Queen's Law Life blawg. There are some very sound arguments made.

A recent post at discusses the switch that Western Ontario recently made. The conversation is lively, and there seems to be a lot of opinions back and forth.

Even before reading the above commentary, I was of the opinion that I would trade in my LL.B. for a JD if the option was offered to me by my alma mater. I am not too impressed with the idea of paying $150.00 for the privilege. I wonder which schools are currently seriously considering making the switch. I also wonder if there are students pressuring their law schools to consider making the switch. It would seem that the trend is moving in this direction, and I, for one, would not want to be left in the cold. Some may think that it is trite, however, I agree with the argument made in one comment at Queen's Law Life blawg that the LL.B. is an English tradition, where law students are admitted straight out of high school. This obviously is not the way in Canada. I think that the rest of the world needs to recognize that the Law degree in Canada is at least equivalent to a Masters degree, if not more. Most people can finish out a Masters degree in two years (post undergraduate). Law school was three years, plus a gruelling year of articling, which is where the real education begins. I think that these things should be recognized, and that a JD designation would help.

If you have any on-point comments, please don't hesitate to post it in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Legal Tales from Gilligan's Island

I don't know about you, but I kind of like law movies and law t.v. Both were definitely influential in my decision to go to law school. During law school, while bored in class one day, I came across the following very interesting article from the Santa Clara Law Review. "Although the series has been the subject of numerous studies, its legal facets are almost never mentioned. As a result, even the show's most ardent fans are rarely mindful of just how much law appeared in the series. Accordingly, this essay seeks to shed some light on the jurisprudence of Gilligan's Island." It makes for some fascinating reading, especially if you were a fan of the original or the long-running re-runs.

Back on track

I have decided to get this blog back up and running.

There are a lot of different resources and blogs and forums out there. I would like to have this site become a hub of information for prospective and current law students. I have added a bunch of my favourite law links and law blogs.

For those who are interested, I am 1/2 way done completing my articles.

For those who are in need of a resource for law school, check out my recently published book on the subject of Canadian law schools.

I recently came across an amazing entry at the [non]billable hour, a great blog hosted by Matt Hoffman. The title of the entry is "Being Part of the Solution: If Blawggers Ran Law Schools". I have to say that after going through law school that I agree with almost everything that Matt has to offer. I don't exactly know who all the people are that he is referring to, but I agree with his overall ideas of revamping the law school curriculum to reflect more of an apprenticeship/business oriented approach. Lots of people will disagree with this idea, saying that law school is more for teaching you the theory and how to think logically. However, after being in the field for 6 months, I wish that I had been given more tools to help me run a law practice, how to deal with clients, how to deal with co-lawyers, etc. If you have some comments on Matt's ideas that you would like to post here, I would welcome them. Perhaps you might have some suggestions that would be more particular to the Canadian law school experience?