Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Phony degrees put Osgoode law school on high alert

"Will implement tougher 'verification measures' to help detect admissions fraud

The Toronto Star is reporting that Osgoode Hall Law School will tighten admissions procedures following revelations that a third-year student used a phony degree to enter the York University law program.

The school’s dean, Patrick Monahan, says admissions integrity is of utmost importance and they are “investigating additional verification measures that could be put in place to detect cases of fraud in the admission process.”

When even one student gets admitted improperly, he says, it hurts the admissions chances of another student in addition to damaging Osgoode’s reputation.

The Star says student Quami Frederick was found to have used a degree purchased from an Internet diploma mill to get accepted into the law program in 2006. More recently, Frederick submitted photocopies of transcripts in which her Osgoode Hall marks were inflated when she successfully applied for an articling job at the Bay St. law firm Wildeboer Dellelce, LLP.

Frederick, 28, now faces an Osgoode Hall disciplinary hearing that could lead to expulsion. The law firm has withdrawn its job offer."

Stupid. Just plain stupid!

Soldier does battle in courtroom

January 21, 2009 - by Matt Driscoll

"Jason Morische is a true man of action.

When he isn’t busy putting away the bad guys in court, he’s taking it to them on the battlefield.

Raised in Bracebridge, Morische is a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto and an officer with the Canadian Forces.

'My common joke is that I defend the constitution and the charter in two different ways,' quipped Morische last week on his way to trial.

The 37-year-old is currently preparing to take part in a mission to Afghanistan later this year, although he can’t reveal exactly when.

'I’m a little nervous but I’m confident in the training we receive in the Canadian Forces, and I’m confident in the soldiers I’m going with,” said Morische. 'I’m very much aware of the dangers … but it’s as good a situation as you could hope for.'"

This is a really interesting and inspiring story. Read the whole thing at Bracebridge Examiner.

Law school launches police accountability and complaints program


"The University of Windsor law school will launch a program next month aimed at enhancing police accountability and reducing the use of racial profiling.

In what is believed to be the first program of its kind, the school will provide advice about racial profiling and police oversight to government, public interest organizations, community groups - and police forces themselves.

It will also advise civilians who want to lodge complaints regarding police conduct."

See the whole Globe and Mail article here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A recent email exchange about billable hours for lawyers

Hi Drew. Glad to hear you are enjoying the book. Your questions are good ones, but ones that I cannot fully answer. I'll do my best - see below.

2009/1/12 Drew

Dear Adam,

I'm in the process of reading your book now and I'm finding it very informative. I'm in the second year of my undergrad yet I've wanted to go to law school ever since a mock trial experience in grade 5. I've read enough John Grisham to know about how consuming billable hours can be yet, one thing is unclear to me.

It is true that billable hours can be overwhelming. Firms in Alberta can expect anywhere from 1000 to 2500 billable hours from their associates each year. Depending on the type of law, and the efficiency of the lawyer, this can equate to 1400 to 5000 actual work hours, or 28 to 100 hours per week of working. I know many lawyers who work 80 to 100 hours per week. That's equivalent to 12+ hours per day. It doesn't need to be like this, and I have many lawyer friends (including myself) that have more reasonable 35-45 hour work weeks.

Do lawyers earn overtime? If you work more than 8 hours a day aren't you obliged to earn overtime at an increased hourly rate under labour law?

No, usually they do not (perhaps if you work for the Alberta or Canadian governments). Different law firms treat things differently. Most are salaried. There is no overtime for salaried employees of any type. You get paid X dollars per year to do the job, and that's it. Many firms also pay bonuses based upon performance. I.e. if you hit your billable goals, or receipt goals. Many firms have now moved to a commission program, where the lawyer gets around 40% of any receipts that they bring in. This provides great incentive for many lawyers. For sole practitioners, and partnerships, you get paid any profit after expenses, so the harder and more efficiently you work, the more money you make.

Finally, is there a website where I could see trends in the annual salaries of lawyers? Not just for 1st year associates but for 3rd 4th and 6th year associates? I like the description of the appeal that a small town practice can offer in your book. However, I wonder what kind of salaries do more experienced lawyers in these settings bring in?

Not that I am aware of, at least not for Canada, but check on places such as or Perhaps somebody has posted some info there.

As in any profession, there is a wide range of salaries for lawyers. There are poverty lawyers who get paid very little, and some lawyers (such as Tony Merchant of Merchant Law Group) who make millions and millions. I find that many 1-5 year big firm lawyers in Calgary or Edmonton, Toronto, or places like that, make anywhere between $70K and $200K, depending on their situation. Now, taking into account the number of hours they work, this can seem like a good salary, or not such a good salary.

The same applies to small town or small city lawyers. I make, probably, as much as the big city lawyers, but I work far less, and really enjoy my work. That's not the same for everyone. I have our main office in a city of about 70,000, and a branch office in a town of about 3,500. It works for me...

If you have any other questions, let me know. Oh, and would you mind giving me a positive comment on or And could I post this email to my blog? Others would probably appreciate it. Thanks!

Adam Letourneau

-- Drew

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reforming young offender laws won’t enhance public safety: academics

Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service Published: Sunday, January 11, 2009

"OTTAWA -- Canada's revamped young offender laws -- described by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an 'unmitigated failure' -- have in fact been a clear success in keeping adolescents out of court and custody without increasing youth crime, concludes a new academic analysis.

The three authors warn against the Harper government pursuing a promise to toughen the Youth Criminal Justice Act, arguing it won't enhance public safety, but it will cost provincial governments significantly more money to punish young people by incarcerating them...

"When the act was adopted in 2003, Canada had one of the highest youth incarceration rates in the world. Those numbers have dropped a dramatic 36 per cent in the last five years, according to the latest report from Statistics Canada.

'Without increasing youth crime, the new laws have resulted in a very significant reduction in the use of courts and custody for adolescent offenders in Canada and hence allowed for a significant reduction in spending on youth courts and custody facilities, generally accompanied by shifting resources to community-based programs,' note Bala, Carrington and Roberts.

The revamped laws, which set out clear rules on when judges can impose incarceration, have also reduced a patchwork of practices from province to province, the analysis said.

Not only are fewer adolescents being incarcerated, there also has been a dramatic drop in the number being charged by police as they seek alternative rehabilitative measures such as community programs, counselling, apologies to the victim, and other 'extra-judicial' measures."

Read the whole article here.

I was glad to read about the reduction in incarceration rates, but I wonder about the actual drop in the committing of crimes by youth. It would seem that there has been no reduction: "While youth crime in general has not increased, violent crime in some cities has been on the rise, Bala acknowledged."

I tend to agree with Stephen Harper's sentiments: "Last summer, Harper denounced Canada's approach to handling young offenders as 'an unmitigated failure' in that it did not 'hold young lawbreakers responsible for their behaviour and . . . make them accountable to their victims and society.'"

I think that they should revamp this particular system to emulate the circle systems being adopted by many First Nation communities and judicial districts, where the victim, the offender, and various members of the community come together with the judge in a circle, and work it out with everyone involved. This has worked marvels in some communities, dropping the rates of crime significantly, from what I understand. It also results in effective consequences for the accused, such as banishment. Further, it allows for reconciliation between the victim and the offender in many cases. For example, there can be an apology, or direct restitution. The community is involved (i.e. Elders), and this is very effective towards accountability for the accused.

I really think that if youth had to actually sit down in a circle with a judge, the victim(s), their parents, their grandparents, their teachers, and members of the community, they would think twice about committing a crime again. Many youth now probably feel that the punishment is relatively easy, and there is no direct accountability. For some, youth detention, or community service might even be a step up from their current any case, I think reform is necessary, especially with all of the gang activity in some of the larger cities.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Writing Lags in Law Schools
January 7, 2009

"Law schools have to be responsive to the ever-changing legal world to keep their curriculums relevant and meaningful, but the latest findings of a national survey suggest that they should also be focusing more on the basics. The 2008 annual results of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement, released today, show nearly half of all law school students reporting that their education does not “contribute substantially” to their ability to “apply legal writing skills” in the real world."

Read the whole article here.

"'Despite near universal agreement on the value of these skills and competencies, legal writing, for example, is typically featured primarily in the first year, and viewed by students as a sidebar in their doctrinal classes,' writes George D. Kuh, LSSSE director and professor at the Indiana University."

What do you think? I think that's probably true. There is an assumption that you will get practical legal writing opportunities in your summer internships or your articling year. This article is from the US system, where they don't even get an articling year.

For many law graduates, this is a key skill, as they will end up writing many legal memos. Or is it important? I would say that it is very important for any new lawyer that will be drafting contracts, briefs, facta, and letters, the last of which makes up a large part of any lawyer's profession.