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Phaedrus

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  1. I was a K-JD'er and regret not having taken any time between high school and undergrad, and undergrad and law school. @Deadpool worded it well: I regret not giving myself the opportunity to "orient" my journey, or, more accurately, come to know what it is I really want in work, in life. School to school to school feels natural when you're in it, but you deprive yourself of experiencing intrinsic and extrinsic circumstances that would otherwise motivate you into law (with a more informed idea of where you want the degree to take you). From my observations, mature students tend to better appreciate what kind of career and lifestyle law school gears us toward, and that's a type of motivation that's absent when you've never had to loathe your circumstances in the real world. I'd also suggest that the sunk cost fallacy referenced by @canuckfanatic cuts both ways: if you're a K-JD'er, you probably carry substantial student debt, and that debt can feel like a shackle to being lawyer even if you hate the job. Not to mention the "trajectory" and self-image you've created for yourself, and that exists in the minds of others around you, that make it difficult to walk away from. Then again, this may well be a "grass is greener" situation. It's easy for me to think taking gap-time to figure it out is preferable to having to wager savings and (possible) security on law school, when all I know is the relatively linear path I've chosen thus far.
  2. I had to create a new account (after having deleted mine a number of years ago) for the purpose of tracking clients down. On the other hand, please keep your family added and listed as family members; it makes getting a substituted service order easier.
  3. Just how important non-law friendships and supports are. After first semester of 1L, I wanted to move through the degree as efficiently as possible. I knew my undergrad friendships would be important, but I underestimated how badly I'd need to get away from the quiet, pervasive neuroticism throughout the law school. Carve out time for physical activity. Same as above, I underestimated how important it was for my mental health (and mental endurance) to go out for runs. It's counter-intuitive, but if you can push past present fatigue to move your body, you'll find a surplus of energy later. Oh, and don't fret about treating yourself to half-decent meals. Yes, it sucks when that the meal is paid by a line of credit, but eating well (i.e., healthy) is sanity-tax in my mind. Plus, it adds up to a nominal amount when tuition, rent, etc. run you $25-40k per year.
  4. I won't belabour what others have said re: chances. Similarly, I ended 2L with less than stellar grades and struck out during OCIs. Some tangible steps you can take include focusing on network expansion, participate in pro bono clinics/opportunities, and take practical skills-based courses. When you network, it's not about "getting you a job." It's about reaching out to firms, lawyers, who do interesting work. Research what they do, cases they've worked on, set up a meeting, and ask "if I want to do this kind of work, who are three other people you think I should be talking to? Would you be willing to introduce us via e-mail?" Find reasons to say "hey we share a thin connection, you also went to [insert school name]. I'm interested in your area of practice, I'm wondering if you might have time to talk about what you do [blah blah blah] in the next couple weeks." Pro bono opportunities (e.g., legal info tele-lines, other community service groups) will help expand your network and refine your practical legal skills. If your school offers trial practice courses or clinic semesters, take these. Clinics will offer you a similar experience to a summer student and you'll get to network with lawyers who can attest to your work. If you write poor exams, take additional writing/assignment based classes. I would lean away from disclosing personal circumstances in a cover letter. My aim would be to enhance the qualities that make you a well rounded person, with legal knowledge and practical experience to back it up. Having a network to vouch for your work ethic and personality, and raised grades in the courses in clinical/assignment-based courses will offer leverage down the road. Lastly, as formal recruitment may be difficult moving forward, you'll be in the same boat as most: you have to hustle for those positions. If you build that network, have that research side-job/pro bono experience, and build a reputation for good work, finding a clerking position will be easier.
  5. I'd be careful about hanging one's hat on the "better" title. That applies for any law school in Canada. Your chances of career mobility are going to be the same within Atlantic Canada if you attend UNB or Dal; they're both Maritime schools. If you intend to stay on the east coast, why not save the $20k in tuition and fees and go to UNB? Again, with respect to career mobility, consider that there is going to be marginally better OCI recruitment from "big law" at Dal than at UNB. Applying outside of OCI? If you're applying in SK, they'll take a SK grad over UNB or Dal. Applying in BC? They'll take a UVic grad over UNB or Dal, etc. With comparable applicants, firms prefer to take students who studied in their province due to familiarity with the relevant law. What Dal has over UNB is availability of alumni to cold-contact, but this is certainly no guarantee of making a move easier. Canada does not have a tiered law school system; you'll attain the same fundamentals and comparable education whether it's at UofA or UNB. Reputationally, the layperson might gawk at a degree from Osgoode over Dal, but at that point you're fishing for compliments from the ill-informed. Professionally, you're not going to find firms scoffing at you because you chose UNB. Like @legaldreams said, you'll receive a fine education at either institution. My advice, try to avoid the kool-aid of going to one school or another because of the subjective prestige, and instead focus on your resources ($20k is a huge difference in debt), course offerings, where you want to practice, supports, etc.
  6. As a few others have pointed out, it depends on the subject material. I recall maxing out between 4500-5000 words during a three-hour exam (it was either Constitutional or Family). Some friends and I used to take bets on how much a speedtyper (and whiz) in the class would spit out. I recall them saying their final count was around 9500 for con law. Unbelievable. Law exams aren't quantity over quality, but you'll have a hard time competing if you max out at 2000 words over a three-hour period.
  7. Ah, I thought perhaps you were referencing Alberta's new "accelerated PREP" program.
  8. It's win-win for firms, if you ask me. Clerks can be loaded up with file work without interruption throughout the year, and they don't have to be paid a salary in the summer (unless I'm mistaken here). I have plenty of gripes about how the CPLED administers the bar program, but I'll save that for another time.
  9. Articling/early call culture encourages a bit of co-miseration to begin with; blowing off steam about work demands, clients, partners, etc. It's helpful in small doses but quickly escalates to toxicity. I'll always remember the words a partner told me during an interview, "the day we forget how privileged we are to practice law, to serve clients and help navigate them through the complexities of the legal system, the day we forget that is the day we should stop practicing". I don't limit the applicability of their words to being a lawyer; in general it's easy to forget the privilege it is to have legal education (and previous degrees, to boot). It's easy to get lost in our own troubles and it's easy to fall prey to the tunnelling effect of expectation. There's a carrot/stick approach to responding to this sort of behaviour. I'm certainly no saint and will readily admit to meeting whiners with equal abhorrence (and somehow think I'm better than it, simply because I'm trying to position myself on the other side of the coin). However, trying to draw attention toward the reflective exercise can help others see the positive in a situation they've reserved themselves to disliking. At worst, they'll stop complaining to you because the feedback loop won't be satisfied, neither in affirmation nor negative response validation (i.e., you're chastising me and making feel bad too).
  10. $40-50k is hardly chump change. Does this factor in cost of living (Fredericton must have lower cost of living than Ottawa)? We know that Canadian law schools are not tiered, like they are in the US. Whether it's UBC, UofT, or UNB, you're going to get a fine legal education. The reasons why you'd want to choose one school over another depend on your answers to two questions: 1) Where do you want to practice? and 2) How much does it cost? Most everything else is secondary. 1) Generally, attend school in the Province you want to practice in. Why? Because the larger firms participate in OCIs and you have three years to form professional relationships with local lawyers. Also, because you're more likely to be taught regionally relevant civil procedure rules and other court processes. UNB has a lot of student staying east because why would you move, pay absurdly high tuition, and establish no eastern networks when your goal is to end up there anyway? 2) If you're paying for school with a LoC or government loans, expect to be paying it back for years and years and years. $40-50k less in debt will translate to ~$400-500 less in minimum monthly payments. That makes a huge difference when you're earning peanuts as a clerk and early call. I'd also place Access to Scholarships/Funding under here too, some schools offer more bursaries and funding opportunities to level the financial playing field between schools. The "secondary" category of reasons that folks should also consider include: the firm's "reach" with respect to studying abroad, pro bono opportunities, practical courses (aka, what will better prepare you as a clerk/lawyer or, at best, make you stand out re: relevant experience); access to social/family supports (moving away is hard, and everyone needs a break from the law at some point or another); collegiality/culture within the school (pretty self explanatory, though in fairness, I'm not sure if there are actually any "cut-throat" schools); etc.
  11. R. v. MacLean, 2016 NSPC 59 is one of my favourites. (Emphasis added).
  12. This. I wrote less than stellar mid-term exams in 1L. I met with the professor's whose classes I performed poorly in and worked to correct my mistakes. It helps to review your school's curve guidelines, and knowing whether your profs curve top-down or bottom-up (i.e. max As then Bs, versus max Ds, C's). If you're happy with your performance, know you're now competing with folks who are motivated to catch up to you. It's king of the hill, baby!
  13. Clerking now and I unquestionably prefer work over law school. Law school's great if you love cram, exam, and purge learning. The practical-skills courses made the experience tolerable (i.e., major paper, moot, trial practice).
  14. Great thread to help break some of the silent self-loathing and embarrassment. Reminds me of this thread, but more specific to practising: I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "you're certainly Articling in interesting times!" by other lawyers, but I can't say it helps alleviate the guilty associated with experiencing the same problems mentioned above. 1. Communication and file management is an ongoing challenge. There's a high number of phone calls, e-mails, Skype/Slack messages, and senior counsel (who are used to physical mediums) have been frustrated. As a clerk, (I perceive) the expectations to be accommodate senior counsel, follow direction, and take initiative where possible. Believe me, I'm trying but it's tough straddling the line between helpful prodding to nudge files along and being a pest (and when the lawyer's scrambling as-is). 2. How will this experience translate to my ability to practice law? This is a constant, nagging worry. Since the work-from-order was made, the past year has eroded working confidence, as workloads ebb and flow from busy to barren, and everyone scrambles to push matters along and shift working arrangement themselves. Not to mention grappling with diminishing capacity to focus when you have to demonstrate productivity as a clerk. I acknowledge that, in a sense, clerking now is "lucky" because the need to address habits etched in stone is less than seasoned veterans, but what's going to happen when "things return to normal"? Learning doesn't stop, but it feels like post-corona employability will effectively equate "you need to redo articles". 3. Is this what practice is like? Simply put, is this what my career's going to look like? I get that this career is a lot of quiet, focused work. In fact, I need periods of quiet isolation to really hammer through tough assignments, but this is just lonely. I feel like I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground, and there's no one around to socialize after work with, to bounce ideas off of, to shoot the shit with... If I've learned anything, it's that I can't take working alone, in a room, with no human contact for months on end. As a side note, sitting on the arraignment line waiting has been rewarding. Listening to a Crown get politely reminded to "stop breathing so heavy into [their] phone" made me chuckle.
  15. Part of what I take issue with in the “love v. like” debate is that the distinction is too often placed on the enjoyment of the content and substance of the materials read day in and day out, and not enough on the enjoyment in tasks performed. I suspect the former is what a lot of us consider as “loving” our jobs, and finding enjoyment in the work we do. When we’re talking about those poor lot that hate what they do as lawyers, we’re automatically associating the misery with a lack of stimulation and intrinsic enjoyment in digesting the content and philosophical underpinnings of the law as an art. Where I see the “like” side falling is on the enjoyment of the functional aspects and somewhat extrinsic qualities of being a lawyer. The ubiquity of having put in a hard day’s work, attention to minute details (it’s a bit of a prerequisite), and the logical puzzles and strategizing inherent to every area. I’m inclined to put the human impact in this category, because I’d argue seeing outcomes and results can trigger “love” of the law/profession more often than the inverse. What I suspect happens to a many is that applying to law school is less about “what do I do with my good grades and decent work ethic?” and is more about a problematic conflation of enjoying the content of undergrad with the enjoyment of the work ethic that earned whatever grades were necessary for to get into law. A sort of expectation that the good time will keep-a-comin’. This is where the trouble of the “professional” lifestyle comes into play, because there’s a lot of motivated people whose work ethic – in an area they were passionate about – doesn’t translate into adopting work ethic a mode of life in the context of law. In other words, circumstantial passion is confused with general passion for work ethic; the latter being a quality I would argue is necessary to be a career lawyer and not being a member of the “how many years until you’re out?” echo chamber. Of course, lots suggest a person should work their way into an AOL where they can leverage the energy of passion into drive and work ethic, but I can sympathize with those who are lost in the fray, having been disillusioned by the process and realization that law requires both. What’s a shame is that it’s damn near impossible to “teach” this perspective to someone, for someone to learn that working hard at something you already love is easy but the path you’re taking is going to lead you somewhere where love of the ethic is demanded over passion.
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