Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Legal Careers: JAG (Judge Advocate General)

I promised a few days ago to provide some information on becoming a military lawyer. So, here goes:

Noun1.judge advocate generaljudge advocate general - the senior legal advisor to a branch of the military

Here's how the Office of the Judge Advocate General for the Canadian Forces describes itself:

"Whether providing legal advice at one of the many bases and wings across the country, defending an accused at a court martial, teaching courses to other CF members, or advising a commanding officer in an operational theatre, the legal officers and staff of the Office of the Judge Advocate General constantly strive to uphold the ethical and legal principles established by both the Canadian Forces and the Government of Canada."

According to the JAG website, "The Office of the JAG comprises 114 regular force legal officer positions and 64 reserve force legal officer positions. The regular force legal officers are employed throughout the CF, in Canada and abroad...The JAG is statutorily responsible to the Minister of National Defence and 'accountable' for the legal advice given to the Chief of the Defence Staff, the military chain of command, and to the Deputy Minister. This clear accountability structure was designed to enhance the integrity of the Office of the JAG and ensure the independence of the JAG from the chain of command in the provision of legal advice in all areas including military justice."

Those that join up "join from a variety of backgrounds — some with no previous military experience; some with prior regular or reserve force experience; some through internal career change programs. They must all be members in good standing of a provincial law society in Canada, meet Canadian Forces medical standards and successfully complete the 14-week Basic Officer Training Course before they can become a legal officer."

"Legal officers come from a variety of backgrounds but most share some common characteristics. First and foremost is a desire to serve Canada as a member of the Canadian Forces - they are all commissioned, uniformed officers joining in the rank of Captain with the opportunity to rise to the rank of Brigadier-General (although the current JAG is a Major-General). As regular force members of the Canadian Forces, they accept that service may involve relocation upon receiving a new posting and periods of separation from their families when duty calls."

"If you want to become a legal officer in the Office of the JAG you will have to join the Canadian Forces and go through the same selection process as all applicants who volunteer to enroll in the military. Upon acceptance to and enrolment in the Canadian Forces, you would be required to undergo Basic Officer Training and official language training (depending on your abilities in the official languages) prior to being posted for employment and further professional development as a legal officer in the Office of the JAG."

Pay and allowances: "Legal officers are specialist officers and are generally paid on a different scale B than general service officers. Legal officer pay is linked to that of the Department of Justice with a 6.5% “military factor” added on to recognize the exigencies of military life."

Pension: "The Canadian Forces Superannuation Act guarantees a pension to personnel who have served in the Canadian Forces for at least twenty years. This pension is based on an average of your wages for the best five years of your career. The pension begins at 40% after twenty years service and maximizes at 70% after 35 years of service."

These links are interesting:

Office of the JAG Organizational Chart C
JAG offices across Canada C
JAG offices around the world C

It looks as though the JAG is separated into various areas of law (Prosecution, Defence, Military Justice and Admin Law, etc.).

If you want to learn more about Military Justice in general, go here: http://www.forces.gc.ca/jag/military_justice/default_e.asp. It gives a good overview.

There is a short entry on Wikipedia that gives some current stats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Advocate_General_(Canada)

And for those of you who want to steep yourselves in JAG culture:

JAG (Judge Advocate General) - The Complete Second Season

If any of you have further information about what being JAG is like, or how one becomes JAG, please feel free to provide us some information through a comment. Thanks.

I was in the military, and went through boot camp, and engineering boot camp. It was pretty brutal. I heard that Officer Training boot camp is a lot lighter, but I might be wrong. Anyone dispute that claim?

In any case, it looks like a pretty interesting career choice.

Graduate Studies in Law: LLM GUIDE

I just came across a fairly useful website (LLM GUIDE - http://www.llm-guide.com/canada) for those interested in pursuing an LL.M. (Master of Laws). For those of you who are unititiated, a Master of Laws allows you to teach in law school. Many consider it the equivalent of a Ph.D., as some consider the LL.B. equivalent to graduate school (i.e. the MBA). In any case, you might find it to be interesting reading, whether you are serious about considering an LL.M. or not. I will write more on this blog about the LL.M. some time soon.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Legal Careers: JAG - "You Can't Handle the Truth"

It was a legal movie weekend for me (and for my wife - nice for a change). We watched A Few Good Men yesterday. I haven't seen that movie since it came out in 1992. Quite a cast - Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, Cuba Gooding Jr.

When I saw it in 1992, it probably made an impression on me because I was a big Jack Nicholson fan. Who wouldn't get excited by his speach which he was under examination by the Tom Cruise character. "You Can't Handle the Truth" - man, that was cool. But, all of the legal nuances would have gone right over my head at that time. This time around, I actually understood what was going on (for the most part - the dialogue and plot are relatively complex). I still had some difficulty understanding a lot of the lingo, even though I did a stint in the Military in my more youthful years.

What I found fascinating this time around was the role and lifestyle and particular job description of JAG lawyers. JAG stands for Judge Advocate General, something most of us are unfamiliar with, except those gals that like to drool over the T.V. show JAG (which I could only stand to watch for about 15 minutes one time).

I thought it would be a good idea to do a little research on how to become a JAG in Canada. So, I'll try to do that tomorrow and post what I have found. If you know anything about it, please feel free to post your info in a comment here. Thanks.

For those who loved the movie, I give you the best part. For those who haven't seen it, please skip this part:

You want answers?
I think I'm entitled.
Jessep: You want answers?!
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth!
Jessep: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You?! You, Lieutenant Weinberg?! I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall! You need me on that wall! We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said, "Thank you," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?
Jessep: I did the job I was sent to do--
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?!
Jessep: (shouting) You're goddamn right I did!!
[stunned silence]
Kaffee: Please the court, I suggest the members be dismissed, so that we can move to an immediate article 39A session. The witness has rights.

I also wouldn't mind talking about the Code Red thing. I experienced that in the Military, and can give some personal accounts. But I also wonder what the current status on Code Red activities is, both in the USA and Canada.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Law Movies: Wall Street

Just finished watching Wall Street, an Oliver Stone film, starring Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas. It also has Martin Sheen (as Charlie's father) and Daryl Hannah.

Great movie. Top notch. It's from 1987, but I think it was way ahead of its time. I've been wanting to see it for a long time. Although it's all about Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, Money, Money, Money, it is a fascinating, microscopic, look at the rise of white collar crime in the 1980's.

I have seen a number of colleagues, and have interviewed with a number of "big-time" lawyers who fit the mold of Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) and Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen). Looking for that pie in the sky opportunity to stomp on somebody else, to take short-cuts and get to the top faster than the next guy. Willing to smudge the books to make themselves look better than the guy in the next office. How many times I have seen somebody pad their hours so that they might one day become partner, so that they might one day be able to look out the window of their cab, and feel justified in their smugness. And I haven't even been a member of the bar for very long.

Bud: How much is enough? Gekko: It's not a question of enough, pal. It's a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn't lost or gained its simple transferred from one perception to another.

Hey, if that's you, have fun. It's not me. Some join the club to kiss their way to the top. But, some do it because they are looking towards the greater good. I like to think I am in the latter category. But, at the same time, it's not easy. I worked nearly 12 hours today. Why? Because I wanted to make more money? No. It was because I couldn't figure out how to close some bloody real estate files so that I could actually report to our client and actually transfer our fees from our trust account to our general account. That is reality for me today. But, I could leave work feeling good about myself, because I was trying my best to be honest and true to myself, and to my clients.

The best line of the film for me came from Bud's dad (Martin Sheen):

Carl Fox: Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others.

Amen to that. Amen to creating something great, something beautiful, something that belongs to me.

Lou: The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don't want to do.

The film was also fascinating, given the garbage that is continuing today in Corporate America (and Canada) with the various corporate criminals being nabbed daily, and finally actually going to jail.

Enough rhetoric for tonight. I hope it sparks something in you, positive or negative. Feel free to comment.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Law Schools: Links to all Canadian Law Schools

Need to do some surfing research on Canadian Law Schools? Here are all of the links:

University of Alberta Faculty of Law
University of British Columbia Faculty of Law
University of Calgary Faculty of Law
Dalhousie Law School
University of Manitoba Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law McGill University (Faculté de droit Université de McGill)
Faculté de droit de l'Université de Moncton
University of New Brunswick Law School
University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (Université d'Ottawa Faculté de droit)
Queen's University Faculty of Law
University of Saskatchewan College of Law
University of Toronto Faculty of Law
University of Victoria Faculty of Law
University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law
University of Windsor Faculty of Law
Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Law School: Official Guide to Canadian Law Schools

If you want a great read about various stats on different law schools in Canada, visit the Official Guide to Canadian Law Schools, published on LSAC's website. It's really complete. I have never come across this resource before, so I am wondering how new it is. Good stuff!

Note that the next LSAT Dates and Deadlines are as follows:

  • Saturday, December 2, 2006
  • Monday, December 4, 2006*+
  • Saturday, February 10, 2007*
  • Monday, February 12, 2007*+

    * This test is NONDISCLOSED. Persons who take a nondisclosed test receive only their scores. They do not receive their test questions, answer key, or individual responses.
    + This test is for Saturday Sabbath observers only.

  • Visit LSAC.org for full information.

    Also, check through the archives of this blog for LSAT information, help and links.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Admissions: The Importance of where you do your undergrad degree

    I had a call from a reader today who was considering transferring from her local, traditional university program to a long-distance learning program offerred through Athabasca University. Her question was whether such a move would be detrimental to her application success rate at various law schools. This is a good question, and I was glad to receive it.

    From what I have heard, most, if not all law schools will not base your acceptance upon which university you have graduated from. However, I could be wrong about that. I would really appreciate any insight from any of you out there.

    I can only really speak from personal experience. I completed my first degree at the University of Calgary. I wasn't satisfied with my GPA, and found my degree to be less than useful, so I enrolled at Athabasca University (Alberta) and completed a second degree in my true passion, English. My GPA was excellent, and seemed to serve very well in helping me to gain admittance at a number of law schools across Canada.

    I have never heard of undergrad prejudice amongst admissions committees, but again, I could be proven wrong. I would love to hear any stories that would counter my experience.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Theft of a website

    I noticed that sales of my book had gone down significantly this last week. I was really curious as to why, as sales are usually pretty steady. Demand for the book has increased over the last number of months. So, I started poking around, and realized that www.canadalawstudent.ca was no longer up. Some jerk snagged the URL. The URL had been registered to my old U of A email, and I guess they sent the notification that the URL was going to expire to that email. Well, I guess someone was lurking, because if you go to www.canadalawstudent.ca, you will now find somebody else's content. Boy, did that make me angry! I'm not linking to it in this post, because I don't want to support that jerk.

    www.canadalawstudent.ca was built as a resource for current and prospective law students. It has been enjoyed by many, and is bookmarked by a lot of people.

    As such, I will be reposting the content of that site to another URL within a few days. Please have patience with me. In the meantime, if you want the book, please click here. Sorry for the inconvenience. I wish that I could take that pirate down, but it would seem that he has now legally purchased the domain name, and we are all stuck scrambling to find another home on the WWW.

    On another note, I promise to post some new material over the next week, so stay posted.