Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Cram Course MBA/LLB Program at Western

This is interesting - Learn how you can complete both the Ivey MBA and the Western LLB programs in just three years. This is a new program. Usually, an MBA/LLB combined program takes 4 years. I wonder how they are able to cram it all into 3 years.

Courting Clerks

There's an inspiring article at McGillREPORTER by about some McGill law students who were chosen as clerks to the Supreme Court of Canada. Although it isn't a very detailed article, it gives some good insight into the process and the meaning of being chosen as a clerk by one of the Supreme Court Justices. This is a fantastic honour and quite an amazing achievement by these individuals! Way to go.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pushing the Limits

On January 1, 2007, I made a resolution that I was going to act my age again. That meant that I was going to get my body back, and stop feeling like I was in a 52 year old shell of a body (I'm 32). I determined that I would run a half-marathon (about 22 KM) in 2007. Thing is, I hadn't run in about eight years. Because of cycling injuries (bad back) and chronic IT Band Syndrome, I had stayed away from running. I had swam and cycled fairly extensively, and lifted weights consistently (although I fell off the wagon a few times in the last couple of years). But running was something I thought I would never do.

My back ached most of the time during 2006. It was maddening. Being in a desk job again wasn't helping. So, on January 1, I decided to do everything within my power to regain control. I went to the massage therapist, I went to the physiotherapist, I went and got an MRI on my back, I started doing some yoga, I went and got new orthotics from two separate sources. And I started running.

I didn't even have proper running shoes. Only some old dilapidated sneakers that hurt my feet like crazy. So, I popped my new orthotics into some boat shoes (like loafers) and headed out into the snow. I ran a half kilometre at an absolute snail's pace. I made it to the gym, worked out for a while, then headed back home. I then jogged back home very slowly. No pain. Cool!

A couple days later, I did it again, then again. I made sure that I didn't push things, which is my tendency in most situations. My motto was avoid injuries at all costs. Don't push yourself and get sick. Well, I hurt my back a few times, and had some lapses. But, within about a month's time, I was able to run to the gym, then hop on the treadmill for 2-3 miles, then run back home again. I started getting excited! Things went like this, with some minor setbacks, and then some slow and steady gains until March 24. In January, I had signed myself up for a number of races, wanting to commit myself towards my goal of a half marathon in September.

On March 24, I was scheduled to run a 10 KM race. I was pretty nervous. I hadn't been able to run the whole week before, and was afraid I would be pushing my luck. All went well until the last 1.5 KM, when I hit a huge hill. My IT Band started acting up. I got a little flustered, but pushed on. Run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds. I conquered the hill, made it to the finish line, and secretly celebrated internally. I had accomplished something fantastic! Although I was nowhere near the time that I had run in my early 20's (about 45 minutes), I had finished successfully (1:05), I was not seriously injured, and I certainly wasn't the last man in. My body recovered within a few days, and I started back to training.

Training was sporadic for the next couple of weeks, but I tried to get time on the road when I could find time. Yesterday, I was scheduled for a 10 mile race (16 KM). Now I was really scared. I got to the race, and determined that even if I had to crawl, I was going to finish. I had come this far, I wasn't going to back down. The first 5 KM went great. No real problems. But the hill at Mile 2 had started to irritate my IT band on my right knee. The next couple of miles I went slowly, but surely. I wasn't out of breath at all, but I thought I should take it easy, so as to avoid injury and give myself a better chance at finishing. By the half-way mark, I started to really feel my knee. There was a big downhill, and I tried to take advantage of it by coasting down it, using gravity to my advantage. It went well, but by the time I reached the bottom of the long hill, I started to feel like I couldn't run any more. Walking was OK, but running really gave me some pain. I started having to take walking breaks. 60 seconds running, 20 seconds walking. Then 45 and 20. Then 30 and 30. Pretty soon, I had to go to 30 seconds running and 60 seconds walking. By the time I hit the last kilometer, it was 30 seconds running and 120 seconds walking. But, I remained determined. I would finish this thing, and I would move on towards the half marathon.

I finished, and I finished proudly. I had just covered more distance by running than I had ever covered before. I finished in 1:53:27, which isn't really a great time, but it was my time. 1:53:27 of the best time of my life. I had finished. I got a medal and a t-shirt, and wore them proudly. I showed them to my kids, and it made them smile. Their Daddy was happy, so they were happy. I had proven to myself that I could conquer my own fears again. That I wasn't going to let time and gravity and fear control my life.

I mentioned the IT band stuff above. Until today, I didn't even know that I had IT Band Syndrome. I didn't know what it was. Today, because I still felt some discomfort in my outer knees, I decided to try some self-diagnosis. Because I wasn't suffering from any inflammation in January, my physiotherapist had failed to diagnose the problem. I have now learned that I am a classic case. But, it can be controlled. Through particular exercises and stretches, and by utilizing an IT Band Wrap/Strap, I should be able to alleviate the problem, and get on with things. (my knees already feel way better by this evening). I have great hope that the problem will be overcome, and that I can then accomplish what my body is able to accomplish. Had I not tried to push the limits, I wouldn't have discovered that there was a way to move past my limitations and achieve goals that I had swept to the side.

I am scheduled for another 10 KM in July, a sprint triathlon at the end of July, a couple short races in August, then the half marathon in September.

The reason I post this post here is that I think it is so important for lawyers, young and old, to look outside of their work, to inspire themselves with new non-law goals. To concentrate on nourishing the body and soul and mind with hobbies, sports, adventures, or whatever else expands a human being.

Maybe this post will inspire you. I don't know. But it sure felt good writing about what I consider to be a great accomplishment. As a budding new law student or lawyer, you will have to push yourself. Don't be afraid to try new things. Don't be afraid to try really hard things. Without trying, you will never know what is possible. I once heard a great speach where the speaker said that you should always try to swim out 20 metres before you decide to come back to shore (she was an avid surfer and ocean swimmer). The water near the shore is always choppy and often cold and scary. But, often, when you get past the 20 meter mark, things smooth out, and become more comfortable. Life is a lot like that, I think.

By the way, my back hasn't hurt in about 3 weeks. Amazing what happens when you start using your body, becoming more aware of it, and treating it right.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Flying Solo

I have been wanting to buy Flying Solo: A Survival Guide for Solos and Small Firm Lawyers for a while now. I am now about 10 months into opening my own law firm, but was hesitant to buy the book as it retails for about $100.00. But, I splurged on it last week while surfing Amazon.com. What a disappointment!!!

I bought the book because it had the best Amazon.com comments and had the most stars. But in order to benefit from this book, you would have to be absolutely GREEN in every way in order to feel as though you had gotten your money's worth.

Only one chapter was worth anything, in my opinion - a short snippet taken from some other source and reprinted in this book that provided tips on how to conduct yourself to ensure that you retain clients. The rest was pretty much junk.

I can't believe that this book is in its 4th edition. I mean, I don't need a tutorial on what word processor I might like to purchase, or how to use email. I should give some credit - there were some snippets in various places in the book that might help me to better manage my time, with email, telephones and client interview scheduling.

This book was too "big picture" in places, and too "details oriented" in the wrong places. It was far too generic in terms of making decisions about your solo career, and too specific at times, which I found to be rather insulting. I have been through law school, undergraduate studies, and high school. I started using the Internet heavily in 1995. My generation just doesn't need these types of tutorials. Perhaps this book would be good for someone in their 40's or 50's thinking about making the jump and hanging their own shingle. For me, it was $ misspent.

But, sometimes these experiences are catalysts of sorts. Since reading this book, I have decided to author my own book about starting up a solo law practice or small law firm. Nothing like learning through experience. That's how I wrote my book, So, You Want to be a Lawyer, Eh?: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Prospective and Current Canadian Law Students and it has been much more successful than I ever anticipated.

Here are some things that I plan to include, which were sorely missing from Flying Solo:

1. What is it really going to cost?
2. Can I do this right out of law school/articling?
3. What mentoring is available?
4. What resources are available from my bar association?
5. What are the advantages/disadvantages of starting up with someone else?
6. How should I structure a partnership agreement?
7. What are the advantages of a partnership vs. an associateship?
8. Grassroots marketing vs. traditional marketing methods

I will add more items to this list, as they come to mind.

Coming soon to a bookstore near you (OK, give me 6-9 months):

MY SHINGLE: The solo and small practice lawyer's bible

If you have ideas for the list above or the pending title, let me know.

One thing I might suggest: If you have any inclination towards becoming a solo lawyer or starting your own firm, start reading up on it as far in advance as possible. You will avoid some potentially serious pitfalls. Not that I have had any real problems, but I know I could stand to learn more to make my experience even more successful.

It's Not About the Bike - Great Book!

I have been a huge Lance Armstrong fan for years and years and years. I have been an avid cyclist since I was a teen, and followed every one of Lance's wins daily during his 7EVEN victorious Tours. But, I have never taken the time to read the books that he wrote about his journey. This Easter Weekend, I took the opportunity to read the book (I found it in a Value Village, while looking for chapter books for my voracious reading daughters). I was skeptical (man- I try not to do that!) at first, because I have read other sports memoirs and left them dissapointed. But, this book was truly not about the bike. The bike was beautiful, the Tours were fantastic, but the book left me believing that Lance is the real deal. I have not felt so inspired for a long time.

If you need a pick-me-up to help you through the LSAT preparation, the law school application process, the 1L mid-terms or final exams, or the articling or summer job application process, pick up this book. Even if you don't like cycling, you will be inspired.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Big Business Beyond Bay Street: Abundant opportunities in Calgary are drawing young lawyers away from the ‘centre of the universe’

Way to go Calgary! Friday March 30th in Canadian Lawyer Magazine, Pamela Fieber writes:

Like many Ontario law school students, Julie Inch assumed she’d focus her career ambitions on Bay Street. Then she spent a summer in Calgary. “I loved it,” she says. “Once you work there, you will never want to leave. I loved the energy of Calgary.” Inch, now in her final semester at the University of Windsor, begins her articling year at Calgary law firm Burnet Duckworth & Palmer LLP this summer. "I didn’t even apply to Bay Street at all,” says Inch. “I had read up on the economic boom, and it just really made sense to go where the action is. There’s a lot of potential to be successful.”

It’s boom time in Calgary, and the big deals are flowing as fast as the oil and gas. That means good times for law firms — and good careers for those who want in on the action.

Read the full article here.

Gavel knock to Essien at Law Target. Thanks Essien.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Client Counsel Games

UVic law students primed for client counsel games
Victoria Times Colonist, Canada - 4 Apr 2007
Nicole Smith and Brigeeta Richdale of UVic's law school have earned a berth in the World Client Counselling Competition, taking place in Sydney, Australia, ...

Wow - this is a really cool achievement. Way to go Nicole and Brigeeta!

UBC Law is growing

Grant will help fund new UBC law school
Vancouver Sun (subscription), Canada - 2 Apr 2007
The University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law received $2 million today to be put towards construction of a new law school building. ...

UBC Law Faculty Receives $1 Million Gift From Borden Ladner ...
University of British Columbia, Canada - 2 Apr 2007
UBC plans to construct a new facility on the existing law school site at its Vancouver campus. “The gifts from BLG and the pioneering BC Ladner family will ...

First aboriginal female judge appointed in Manitoba

Winnipeg Free Press

Thu Apr 5 16:47:00 CDT 2007

"A lawyer from northern Manitoba has become the first aboriginal woman to be appointed a judge in this province.

Doreen Redhead was appointed to the provincial court of Manitoba, effective immediately. A swearing in ceremony will be scheduled as soon as possible.

Redhead graduated from the University of Manitoba Law School in 1996. She has practiced law on behalf of the Fox Lake First Nation in Gillam, and the Keewatin Tribal Council in Thompson.

“It’s a huge step forward for women and for First Nations people,” said Attorney General Dave Chomiak. “It was actually very moving for me this morning to phone her and tell her what an honour it was for me to do that.”

Chomiak said having a female aboriginal judge gives the courts a better reflection of the population of Manitoba.

Redhead was selected by Chomiak from a list of candidates recommended by an independent judicial nominating committee, chaired by chief provincial court judge Raymond E. Wyant. Representatives of the Law Society of Manitoba and the Canadian Bar Association were also on the committee."

This is an awesome story, and one that I am very proud of. Way to go Redhead!!! Very inspiring.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My Top Ten for Being Your Own Boss in Law

I was recently asked by a friend why I do what I do. I.e. Why did I start up my own law firm, and why I chose to practice in a relatively smaller community? I answered him with the following list of reasons why I chose to do what I do:

10: I hate having a boss. I made a resolution when I graduated law that I would never use a resume again. So far, so good.

9: I hate having a glass ceiling in terms of income. I want my income to be based on the work that I put in each day. So far, so good.

8: Sometimes I feel lazy (not often, but sometimes), and I want the choice to be lazy. So far, so good.

7: I hate big cities. I lived in one most of my life. I hope to never go back. So far, so good.

6: I like the extra hours of sunshine in this part of the world. (I live in Southern Alberta)

5: I like proving people wrong. I don't like naysayers, and don't invite them into my life.

4: I like practicing law, but I like building things better. I want to build the largest and best law firm in Southern Alberta. I'm on my way.

3: I like clients. I find them fascinating. Doing this allows me to be with MY clients each and every day.

2: There are a lot of bad lawyers out there. I would rather be on the other side of a file from a bad lawyer than working with one. Thus, why I want to have autonomy in choosing who I work with.

1: I really, really love my kids. I want to be with them as much as possible, I want them to have a better life than I did as a kid, and I want to give them opportunities only limited by their own imaginations. Being my own boss allows this for me. I want all associates and partners in my firm to have this same opportunity (if they want it). Shaun (my firm partner) also has a young son, and loves to be with him as much as possible. Money is good, but it's not everything. Being a member of our firm allows you to choose how you want to balance money and other things in your life.

Writing these things down was a real wake-up call for me, and has made me feel happier ever since. This route isn't for everyone, but so far, for me, it has been the best possible route I could imagine. Others I have spoken with have said they would be scared #*!?less about going out on their own. But, the truth is that the majority of lawyers practice in solo or very small firms. There must be some good reason for that. What do you think?