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Everything posted by Phaedrus

  1. 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).
  2. $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.
  3. R. v. MacLean, 2016 NSPC 59 is one of my favourites. (Emphasis added).
  4. 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!
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. If you're shopping for a law school laptop, you might as well opt for one you'll be using 5-7 years down the road. Your primary requirements are acceptable RAM and processing power, coupled with long battery life (think 10-14 hours on modest battery saving mode) and light-weight portability. I have never needed top of the line specs, nor have I needed to perform RAM-chewing tasks in class or at work; I don't know of any lawyers that are running complicated data/statistical analyses (e.g., SPSS outputs, geo-mapping). My laptop has an Intel m3 processor (1.51 GHz) and 8.00GB RAM, and as much of a glutton as Chrome/Firefox can be, I've never experienced significant slow down (even with 30+ tabs open, Youtube/Spotify running too). Sure, I miss my accounting keyboard, but I'll trade that for discovery and courtroom mobility any day of the week. I had classmates whose laptops doubled as gaming laptops, but I'm of the opinion it's best to keep separate devices for those functions, wherever possible.
  9. I suspect we'll have a better idea in the late spring whether classes will be in-person (or not). Have you been accepted to both schools, or is this more of a hypothetical? In addition to attending school in the province where you want to practice, consider the added cost of relocation and living in Ontario. I'd also refrain from adopting this sort of reasoning. For you the virus may present it self as slightly worse than the flu, but tell that to the 14,500+ Canadian families whose loved one won't be at the dinner table this Christmas, or the 320,000+ families south of the border. Fuck that logic.
  10. What would your advice be for early calls looking to practice in child protection, but with relatively little experience in the field? I suppose the question, more broadly, could be framed as "what's the recommended course of action for those who want to enter a new area, but who won't have senior counsel to supervise/who are knowledgeable?"
  11. In 2L, I was writing an International Law exam and it was tough. Halfway through the third major question, I realized I had fudged the first question by misidentifying the issue (surely, the professor wouldn't ask TWO questions about state jurisdiction, right?). My confidence evaporated and my mind started to race. Would I have to rewrite? How fucked was I for 2L jobs and articling? As my mind started to fall apart I took my ear plugs out and sat there, staring forward, listening to the rapid chattering of thousand of keystrokes. I let myself do this for five minutes while I regained perspective and marched forward to salvage what I could. I still came out with C+, and I was thrilled with that grade, given the circumstances. The moral here is that exams can, at times, feel like a crap shoot and it can be hard to predict where you'll end up. However, this assumption can never take priority over diligent study.
  12. I feel it's appropriate to chime in again on the topic of "taking it easy". There's an important balance here and an attitudinal slippery slope in kicking your feet fully up before law school. Speaking from personal experience, I don't do well with staying idle. I require social and intellectual stimulation to stay engaged (and "sharp"). The thought of reverting back to my high school days of playing video games for hours on end makes me shudder, not because I dislike games but because I derive a great deal of satisfaction from the above-mentioned. You know that feeling after you return from winter break, where you have to clear the cobwebs from your mind and snap back into school mode? You don't have this luxury in 1L, or anyL. You hit the ground running and syllabus week is mostly non-existent. In my previous post, I suggested picking up a new hobby. Not only will it give you something to look forward to outside law school, it'll help keep you a bit sharper than you would if you just spend the summer slamming Twisted Teas at your buddy's cottage. Have fun, take it easy, but be ready to go with virtually no "easing in".
  13. I seriously advocate for taking a modest, less stressful approach to pre-1L summer. You're going to be concerned about saving money, for sure, which means you'll likely be working, but invest the time it takes into maintaining your relationships. These people are going to be your support network throughout law school. Don't waste your time trying to read legal literature or case law. Seriously. I can all but guarantee that it won't help you. If I could do it again, I'd start a physical hobby (e.g., hiking, bouldering, cycling). Something to keep up during school, that gets your outside and moving. I wouldn't work full-time and finish off multiple undergrad courses * cough cough *. Oh! And enjoy your sanity and naive optimism, it won't last forever
  14. Is the 30% a "fail safe" or fixed grade (regardless of whether you perform better/worse in April)? I won't belabour the point, but winter 1L exams kick the ass of most students. They're intended to introduce to writing law school exams, and their weight reflects that accordingly. You're not the only one freaking out, I guarantee you that, but there's nothing you can do about the exam you just wrote. There's nothing you can do to change anything you've done in the past. If you made notable or identifiable errors, don't repeat them. You have no time to sit and be upset by how you just performed; your job is to perform your best on the next exam. The next two weeks (or less) are about endurance and intense focus. Good luck! Note: Because winter exams tend to hurt the egos of most students, second semester tends to be a time of renewed focus and drive. That curved C may very well turn into a B+/A- in April if you effectively learn from your errors and implement change after the first go-around. So no, even a miserable performance is not "the end of your law school/legal career; I'm living proof of that.
  15. I track nearly all of my "productive" time and have been doing so since before law school. When it comes to employment, class attendance, class readings, etc. I'm confident that my logged hours are accurate within +/- 5% actual time. Here were my 2L stats for November 1 - December 24: 12:09 readings 23:39 studying 18:26 CANs creation, revision, trial running 43:44 class attendance 57:09 class assignments (including a major paper) I was by no means giving exams the attention they probably deserved.
  16. Public Law was by far the most-curved class I took in law school. To start, in contrast to every other class in 1L, it's incredibly "airy" and full of lengthy, context-specific discussion and the professor expects students to be up to speed with the history of the civil rights movement, pre- and -post Charter debates, as well as the emerging body of indigenous jurisprudence. It's tough for anyone to track obiter dialogue between multiple 100+ page decisions in 1L, let alone those who do it for a living. Compare this to what's expected of you in 1L Contracts, Torts, or Criminal law classes where you're working with the "basics" and building your ability to read caselaw from the ground up. I'm reminded of that Einstein quote, that if you can't explain it simply you don't understand well enough. My public law professor was a brilliant person, but they were incapable of making the material accessible to students. When it came time to write the exam, no one left the room feeling they knew what the hell they wrote and when marks were released a few weeks later, a 40 percent landed you a B. Should you worry about and make every attempt to understand public law? Absolutely; you're going to need these skills when your client's 'technical' case is otherwise shot but the public policy implications are significant. Should you consider yourself a poor student (or an idiot) for not grasping the complexity and weight of the material in the first year of law school? Not at all. If you can, form study groups to review the materials and take some solace in knowing that if you're struggling to "get it", so's the rest of your class.
  17. Reading this in itself is a punishment. Check out Just Mercy if you haven't already - and no, the movie didn't do it justice.
  18. Yes, it does. This is why, generally. I know of students who have come up with "interesting" arrangements. For example, being laid off from a previous employer and agreeing to, effectively, volunteer for a lawyer as an articled clerk while collecting employment insurance (to ensure there is some source of income without eating into LOCs). The requirement under E.I. is that the person is continuing to apply for paid positions. Other arrangements I'm aware of include billable target kickbacks, or "bonuses" for business the clerk may bring in. In these scenarios, the firms almost always cover bar course and admission fees.
  19. Oh, sorry. That's right, it's only the other large-size firm in Halifax after McInnesCooper, StewartMcKelvey, and Cox&Palmer. What firm(s) is the $65-70k range for first year calls? It's hard to imagine anyone jumping that high from $40-45k after being called...
  20. Curve culture has been, and will be, talked about ad nauseam. A's are hard to get because because of the curve, and because (as said above) the top students are brilliant. It's true that as a cohort, everyone's intelligent and capable, but this pales in comparison to those students who seem hard-wired to understand complex and intangible structures, systems, and can integrate and anticipate the public policy and philosophical implications of the content. The process separates the wheat from the chaff. First year law school is tough, but it's akin to first-year undergrad. You probably haven't studied the material before, the expectations are seemingly unclear, and you don't know what your lecturers are looking for. Part of the challenge is learning to reorient your approach and style of learning to match how you're evaluated. Some fair better than others. It's easier to adapt when you're 18 and don't know any different, but can be harder when you're older and have a pre-conceived notion of how things ought to be taught and evaluated. That said, graduating isn't that hard. Hell, defaulting to CANs and being okay with Ds and Cs will get most out the door with their piece of paper. Getting articles with that kind of track record? Now that's a different story.
  21. I'm aware that the "bigger firms" of StewartMcKelvey and BoyneClarke work their clerks at Bay Streets hours with compensation around $40k. I haven't heard a lot about progression, but $60k after 3 years sounds about right. My advice: unless you have family ties or other personal reasons for staying in the city, take your talent somewhere else where the pay better reflects effort. Cost of living, relative to pay, is high and growing. A quick search shows non-dive bachelor and one-bedroom units are going to run you $1000-$1200/mo (and climbing 10-15% per year). If you're like many clerks/young lawyers, you're probably saddled with upwards of six-figures worth of student debt and will find the period of financial strain longer than other in other provinces/cities.
  22. Hi folks! Just a friendly reminder that you may wish to anonymize your personal statements prior to sharing them with strangers on the internet. Personal statements are, well, personal and you while you may not mind sharing your story with an admissions committee or friend online, it's a different situation if your statement is otherwise released somewhere without your permission. As always, good luck!
  23. You're on a forum for lawyers, legal professions, law students, and law school applicants. We're all under pressure to make critical decisions in our academic, personal, and professional lives. You feel subjective urgency to make a decision, but you need to put things into perspective. Common sense tells us that making snap decisions when we're under a proverbial gun is the worst time to do so, usually because we unnecessarily focus attention on the wrong factors or attribute the wrong weight to considerations. My original reply to your question was going to suggest that you not pursue law because of your disheartened approach because I know the difficulty of staying engaged with content I have no interest. You are clear that it's not about difficulty, and seem to afford less weight to whether you are intrinsically interested by the pursuit of law. Honestly? If you're motivated by prestige, long term earning capacity, and are driven to get there regardless of the obstacles - you will find a lot of opportunity in the law. On the other hand, it's going to cost upfront investment and an enduring loss of time. Time's a finite resource and it's your responsibility to decide how, when and for what purpose to use it. You're going to spend three years in law school (and another Articling), you're spending even more in med school. You'll lose two years if you pursue a Master's and longer if you're after a PhD. At work, you're going to lose time working 9-5 and a lot longer when you enter a profession. Law degrees and Med degrees make families proud, but how much does it matter when never time to visit or enjoy their company? You'll find many different perspectives on the time-money-lifestyle trade-off here, and it's something only you can figure out... as long as you give yourself the room to think about it. Have you spoken to your family or loves ones about it, about your career path and their expectations/wishes for you? We spend a lot of time trying to guess and estimate expectations, and we usually want to please the people we care about, but often do so on inference alone. Taking some time to air your concerns and the stress of the decisions you're making might provide you with helpful information, and it'll likely be beneficial to verbally process what you're experiencing. As best you can, try to prioritize what actually matters to you career-wise, family/relationship-wise, prestige-wise, money-wise, etc. and then start mapping out your plan to get there. You're in the right place to ask direct, clear questions about the study and practice of law but we need to know what it is you need to know, or what information would be valuable to your decision-making process. Once we know what you want long-term, we can help.
  24. My Contracts professor in 1L was a bit of a buffoon. Nice enough person, but was clearly unprepared and hardly knew more than the students. This might sound funny - though I assure you it wasn't - we noticed the prof would read from upper year CANs (word for word). What a waste of time and tuition. @tooyoung mentioned reading the text for literal content and struggling to wrap their mind around what's going on. This is perhaps bleak to say, but it's something we get used to as students, clerks, and lawyers. You're almost always in the middle of legal "conversations" with political and policy contexts we know nothing about; it's all stated in obiter or known only because you have to have familiarity with the dozen other cases on the topic the judge presided over. The cases we read are those that are reported, because cut and dry material is hardly worth reading or discussing. It's a constant game of catch-up and our mission is to try our best to make sense of the mountain of information in front of us. No one should beat themselves up for feeling lost and confused jumping from Property to Torts to Criminal law. Most of you arrived from undergrad where it took you four years to figure out the game, how to read your given major's papers, and how to identify and present relevant information. You've now "switched" majors but don't have a comparable freshman year to settle in. Welcome back to square one. Breathe for a few moments and adjust your expectations. You're all smart, fast-learning people who didn't stumble into law school hardly able to conjure a coherent sentence. Keep writing case briefs, focus on the being able to read for fundamentals, and build your knowledge out organically. And for God's sake, try to relax over the long weekend! 🦃
  25. I'm fascinated by the switch that happens post-law school where working weekends is less acceptable than cramming readings on Sunday evenings for the week; the sprint through school versus marathon in life mentality. My clerking experience has been more than acceptable, in my opinion, compared to many of my peers. My days are typically 10-11 hours with minimal weekend work, except in "emergencies." What gets me, however, are the late-day (usually Friday) "urgencies." I appreciate that I am in no position to expect anything other than "get it done" but I would certainly appreciate knowing what's coming down the pipe with a little more than a moment's notice.
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