Wednesday, December 21, 2005
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
Here are some of my favourite law movies:
To 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."
Judgment at Nuremberg
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
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
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.
- 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)
- 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!)
Saturday, December 10, 2005
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
Thursday, December 08, 2005
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
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.
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 lawbuzz.ca 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
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?