Monday, January 30, 2006

What do you do as a 1L when you bump into Cops?

Michael Paris, a student at Dalhousie in Halifax recently made me aware of his blog entry, "What do you do as a 1L when you bump into Cops?" As Paris put it, "I suppose the short answer is 'whatever they tell you.'" An interesting read.

My take on Paris' article is yes, you do whatever the police tell you to. The only thing distinguishing a 1L, 2L or 3L, or even an articling student, for that matter, from the rest of the population is...I hate to say it...pompous pride.

The truth is that most 1L's don't know any more about the law than the average peruser of any newspaper of worth, no matter how much they argue that they do. Yes, they may argue that they know certain facts, certain legal principles, certain ratios of certain cases, perhaps even certain legislation. But, they do not know "the law". I often feel, even as an articling student nearing his bar call that I still don't know the law. Every client that comes in my door has a unique set of problems, and it is very rare to be able to provide a smooth, complete answer. It invariably takes time, research, legal analysis, practical thought, and a complete reporting to fully meet a client's real needs.

Like yesterday, for example, someone asked me at a non-profit meeting I attended..."What is the necessary ratio for parents to children for a field trip in Alberta." You know what I said? "Just a moment, let me scroll through my mental law filing cabinet and find that little tidbit of legislation or by-law, along with any case-law surrounding the matter." Just kidding...I said that in my mind...with a lot of sarcasm. It really tends to bother me when the public assumes that once you have an LLB or JD, or even worse, when you are studying for an LLB or JD, that you readily know every area of the law. Can you imagine expecting a mechanic to give you the gas to air ratio for the motor of some obscure collector sports car from Italy, right there on the spot?

My advice for anyone who faces this irritation is to either humbly shrug their shoulders, or suggest that you would like to give that excellent question some further thought and study, because it interests you and you want to be sure to give them the right and proper answer. Usually that calms down the masses.

As far as the police go, they will always use their power to their personal advantage. Perhaps, as one comment on Paris' blog says, the cops are compensating for certain anatomy - hard to say.

Couple more words of advice: don't tell a cop that you are a law student when being interogated in any way. They will only laugh. And absolutely do not tell them that you are a lawyer when you are not. That can only lead to trouble.

Best just to do as they ask. Then, when they go on their way, you and your legal drinking buddies can make excellent, witty, legally-bent jokes about their penises, their knowledge of the law, or even better, about how you get to drink beer, even when you are "on duty."


Anonymous said...

what is a 1l? a first year law student?

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the mechanic knows well enough that the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio is constant for all cars of a given fuel:)