Thursday, February 22, 2007

Finally...A Female Managing Partner!

I was sitting in Dairy Queen yesterday with my kids after a fun time at the swimming pool. I was pleased to find The Globe and Mail newspaper to read while the kids attacked the french fries.

I flipped to the "Law Pages" and found an interesting story about a female lawyer who works for a Toronto law firm called WeirFoulds LLP. I quote from the story:

"Last month, Ms. [Lisa] Borsook's career veered onto a path seldom travelled by other women in her profession. The real estate leasing specialist was elected managing partner of WeirFould's 80 lawyers and 120 staff, making her one of only a few female chiefs ever appointed at a major or mid-sized Canadian law firm."


That's pretty big in my mind. I don't know too much about WeirFoulds LLP, although I am sure that many of you from out East know all about it. But, I think that they are very, very smart. I liked what the article said about the response from one of Lisa's partners: "She's just so damned good at what she does that I don't care what her sex is."

It's really too bad that such a comment is necessary, but as Ms. Borsook says, "The law is still a testosterone-fuelled profession." I hope that this move by WeirFoulds will help to change that. Its bound to happen. I noticed in my alumni package that came last week that the % of women at U of A law school is around 56%. It won't take long for a change in the equalibrium at law firms. Maybe not a year, but I can see a definite change within 20 years.

My partner and I often comment that we would like a female lawyer to join our firm, so as to balance things out a bit - provide a fresh and unique perspective.

There are probably some out there who will think that Weirfoulds and I are out to lunch. So be it. They shouldn't voice their opinions too loudly though. They may have a female managing partner to answer to one day...

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Importance of Rest

Guess what the percetage of Type A personalities permeate law school and the legal career?

I don't know the answer to that question, but I would venture to say that it is a very high number. Most of my colleagues from law school were very high achievers. There were doctors (i.e. PhD), marketing specialists, entrepreneurs, writers, philosophers, etc. Beyond their professional credentials, many of them also went all out with volunteer activities, sports, fitness, hobbies, political interests, activism, partying and attempting to attract the opposite sex.

Most of them did everything 110% (I hate that cliche). Where many of them fell down, and will fall down is their inability to give the body some rest.

This topic is especially relevant for me, since we just had a baby. I had to remind myself that many men, and women, choose to take anywhere up to a year off from regular life to connect with their new child, and to adjust to a major, major life change.

It reminded me that it's OK to take the time necessary, to get the rest that I need, and to support my family. There's no better time than now to take care of these things. The practice will always be there. My children will not.

I wish I had taken more time for myself and my family during law school. I did take time, but I wish I had taken even more. I wish I had gone on more holidays. The few thousand dollars would have been a minimal part of my debt. I wish I had attended fewer classes and just gone for runs instead, or read good trashy novels. The end result for my career would have been the same, I think, but I would have been even happier.

Make good on my wishes, and do these things for yourself this week.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Law School and Having Children

On February 15, my wife and I welcomed a new baby boy into our family. Samuel Adam is our fourth child, and is a fantastic blessing to us! We are so pleased that he is healthy, seemingly happy and at home with us.

Our two older daughters (6 and 7) are enamoured with him, and are proving to be real helpers with Samuel. Our other son (2) is also very infatuated, and has adjusted well, although it has only been three days.

I know that a lot of you have children, or are planning on having children, and are wondering what it will be like once you hit law school, or once you hit your legal career.

I had two children for my first two years of law school, and our third was born in my third year. I remember being very worried about my schedule in my first year, and feeling guilty a lot when I was studying so hard, working part time, and trying to keep our household in order. But, things smoothed out after about 6 months. I started giving myself permission to take time off from law studies, and to make special time for my girls.

By the time my son was born, I had a very set routine and felt like I could afford to give as much time as necessary towards helping my wife with the new baby, and with my other children.

I heard about a man who was a few years ahead of my who had eight children when he started law school. I think that would be very heavy! A few of my friends had babies, or had wives who had babies while in law school. It worked out. Nobody blamed their babies for bad exams. I had one friend who had two babies while in law school. She shifted to a part-time schedule, and ended up doing really, really well.

Now that I am a lawyer, I have started to feel more guilty about time not spent with my children. But, because I am my own boss, I try to give myself permission to have time off whenever I think my children need more attention. I am going to take most of the next week off - I'll only go in to put out genuine fires - and will ease back to work over the following two weeks. One thing I have learned is that babies are only babies for a very short time.

One last thought - never put off having children for your career. It is never worth it to choose the latter before the former. In other words, work to live. Don't live to work.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Should Lawyers be called "Doctor"

I was on recently, and followed a thread on the question, "Should Lawyers be called 'Doctor'." I thought it was an amusing thread, with lots of witty posts. It got me thinking about the place of lawyers in Canadian society. I'll share a few of my thoughts.

First, lawyers are not doctors, in the classical sense of the word. Although they often help others, they are a different professional subset than doctors. By doctors, I mean both medical doctors and academic doctors.

To be a lawyer is to be a professional. It is to be an officer of the court, an attorney (A person to acts on behalf of another). In fact, in the US, most lawyers are called Attorney, which is a lot better than Lawyer, in my opinion. It is more descriptive of what a lawyer does. Lawyer says that you know something about the law. Attorney says that you know what to do with that law - you know how to serve.

Countering that thought is the fact that so many lawyers are very self-serving. Corporate lawyers come to mind immediately, along with Personal Injury lawyers. However, many doctors are quite self-serving as well. I read recently about the increasing number of doctors who are turning to plastic surgery rather than a general practice, because of the easy money. I see many doctors driving very fancy cars to very fancy houses. But, not all doctors, or lawyers, are like this.

I am amazed that someone who has graduated medical school is called "doctor" immediately, even though they have not practiced medicine for one moment. Law graduates in Canada have to take on the name "Student-at-law" for one year after graduation. Only when they pass bar admission requirements can they call themselves "Lawyer."

Some of the posts at argued that the academic requirements are similar for lawyers, compared to medical doctors or academic PhD's. On this point, I would have to concur. Law school, which usually follows a four-year undergraduate degree, is a long haul. The timeline is similar to the medical student. In some rare cases, you can achieve a PhD in 7 to 8 years of academia, but I think it is usually closer to 10 to 12 years before you can call yourself "doctor".

Lawyers hold a special status in Canadian society. They are often well respected, although often criticized and berated. There are many jokes about the shark-like quality of lawyers. But, at the same time, our citizens choose to elect lawyers as their leaders time and time again.

Myself, I don't really need a special title to do my work. It is enough to say that I am a lawyer. I didn't go to school to become a doctor. Perhaps one day, but that would be another career altogether.

I do want to exchange my LL.B. for a J.D., because others in Canada have that designation now for the same amount of education that I have received. Fair is fair. However, it should be clear to everyone, lawyer and non-lawyer alike, that a Juris Doctorate does not mean that you can call yourself "doctor" or that you can equate your degree to that of a medical doctor or a PhD. They are different paths, mean different things. It is OK to be different. It's not OK to say you are better than another who has dedicated their life to a career, or to a cause.

That's all I have to say on that for now.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

You've Made it into Law School - Congratulations!

I have received numerous emails from readers of my book and my blogs (Law Eh? and Canadian Law School) recently. Many of you have sent me a note to update me on your success in being accepted into one of Canada's law schools.

CONGRATULATIONS to all of you. It's fantastic news! Law school is tough to get into. Canadian law schools are tough to get into. You have all worked so hard towards this dream, and now it is a reality!

I really appreciate the kind comments about how the book and the blogs have helped you to prepare - for the LSAT, the Application Process, 1L and beyond.

Many of you have been asking lots of anticipatory questions about law school, and even more questions about life after law school. Keep the questions coming, and if it's appropriate, I will post the answers on the blogs (with your permission, of course).

For those of you who have not had success so far this year, don't give up. Many law schools put out second and third calls once they start receiving rejections from students who have decided to go to law school elsewhere. Don't give up hope yet, Amigos.

And, if you don't get in this year, don't despair. Try again next year. Write the LSAT again. If you read my book, you'll read about my abysmal first attempt at the LSAT, and how I turned it all around. I didn't give up, and now I am partner in my own law firm. A short 5 years from deciding that I wanted to be a lawyer! And I'm loving it! Never give up.