2007 Census – Law Profs Blogging

By: Law is Cool · July 31, 2007 · Filed Under Law School, Marketing/PR in Law · 4 Comments 

Dan Solove, associate professor at George Washington School of Law, has compiled his annual survey of Law Professors blogging in the U.S.

The survey, available on his Concurring Opinions blog, revealed that as expected blawging is on the increase.

Of those law professors blogging, 74% are male and only 26% are female.

Findings are likely similar or representative of the Canadian blawging scene as well.

Complete results can be found here.

Vote Dilution means Minorities Have Less Voice

By: Law is Cool · July 29, 2007 · Filed Under Constitutional Law, Politics · 11 Comments 

Not All Votes are Equal

A study by University of Toronto Professor Sujit Choudhry and J.D. student Michael Pal released earlier this year by the Institute for Research on Public Policy found that under the current electorate system urban areas have less of a vote than rural areas.

And because most ethnic minorities are concentrated in Canada’s urban areas, their needs and interests are underrepresented in the House of Commons. Canada’s visible minority population is about 4 million, approximately 13.4 per cent of the total population.

An example used is Kenora, the smallest electoral riding in Ontario with a rural population of 60,570, having equal weight in the House as Mississauga East-Cooksville, an urban, largely visible-minority immigrant population of 122,565.

The average ballot in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta is also worth less than a ballot in another province.

“The point of our paper is that ‘one person, one vote’ should mean something,” says Choudhry. “It’s the benchmark against which we measure democracy.”

Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states,

Democratic rights of citizens

3. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.

But this does not mean that all votes are equal.

Choudhry and Pal also said,

…if Canada is to successfully integrate its visible minority immigrants, then we must ensure that our political institutions are perceived as scrupulously fair in how they represent the interests of the newest members of the Canadian political community.

The current system is governed by three major legal foundations:

Seat Allocation under the Constitution

The Constitution Act, 1867, s. 51 outlines the formula for calculating representation:

Readjustment of representation in Commons 51. (1) The number of members of the House of Commons and the representation of the provinces therein shall, on the coming into force of this subsection and thereafter on the completion of each decennial census, be readjusted by such authority, in such manner, and from such time as the Parliament of Canada from time to time provides, subject and according to the following rules:
Rules
1. There shall be assigned to each of the provinces a number of members equal to the number obtained by dividing the total population of the provinces by two hundred and seventy-nine and by dividing the population of each province by the quotient so obtained, counting any remainder in excess of 0.50 as one after the said process of division.
2. If the total number of members that would be assigned to a province by the application of rule 1 is less than the total number assigned to that province on the date of coming into force of this subsection, there shall be added to the number of members so assigned such number of members as will result in the province having the same number of members as were assigned on that date.

51(2) is referred to as the grandfather clause that ensures that the number of seats will not decline.

The Constitution Act, 1915, 5-6 Geo. V, c. 45 (U.K.) enacted these clauses:

Constitution of House of Commons 51A. Notwithstanding anything in this Act a province shall always be entitled to a number of members in the House of Commons not less than the number of senators representing such province.
Increase of Number of House of Commons 52. The Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.

The numbers are further governed by Constitution Act, 1985 (Representation), S.C. 1986, c. 8, Part I, which sets the number of seats to 279 since 1986. The distribution of these seats are readjusted after every census to try to achieve proportional representation.

EBRA and Raiche v. Canada

The Electorate Boundaries Readjustment Act (EBRA) establishes independent electoral boundary commissions for drawing electoral boundaries:

(2) The ten commissions established pursuant
to subsection (1) shall consider and report
on the readjustment of the representation of the
provinces in the House of Commons required
to be made on the completion of each decennial
census.

The commissions are further charged with the following responsibilities:

15. (1)

a) the division of the province into electoral
districts and the description of the boundaries
thereof shall proceed on the basis that the
population of each electoral district in the
province as a result thereof shall, as close as
reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral
quota for the province…

(2) The commission may depart from the
application of the rule set out in paragraph
(1)(a) in any case where the commission
considers it necessary or desirable to depart
therefrom

Redistributions occur over 10 years or more, not sufficient to keep up with the changing demographics of some of Canada’s largest cities, especially when considering immigration.

However, in Raiche v. Canada 2004, the province of New Brunswick tried to rectify significant disparities in voting powers between Francophone Acadians and Anglophones in Mirimichi, the latter experiencing significant dilution.

The ruling found this attempts at reform have been considered ultra vires, our outside the power to do so, by contravening EBRA. The community of interest, in this case Acadians, had priority over the goal of voter parity.

And although the Nova Scotia commission redrew riding boundaries to favour the Black community around Halifax as a community of interest, in general these communities of interest are not considered to be defined by ethnic, racial, or linguistic lines.

Instead, the following criteria are generally employed:

The findings suggest that attempts to create greater voter equality for visible minorities may run the challenge of conflicting with priorities under EBRA as it is currently interpreted.

The Attorney General for Saskatchewan v. Roger Carter, Q.C.

Reference re Prov. Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), [1991] 2 S.C.R. 158, also known as the Carter decision, is the only electoral boundary distpute to reach the Supreme Court.

Carter found that s. 3 of the Charter did afford effective representation, not necessarily an equal vote.

However, Carter did cite minority representation as a valid justification for deviations from voter parity, but effectually allowed for the assumption of rural minorities and not minorities of other types. Carter also ignored the fact that overrepresentation of rural areas may directly harm other minority representation.

Chaudhry and Pal claim the finding was based on two major unstated reasons:

  1. most of the electorate maps across Canada would be invalidated
  2. the court was unwilling or unable to challenge the interprovincial variances that are cause of most of the voter dilution problem

Proposed Reforms

Any changes to EBRA would meet incredible resistance, as it would require Constitutional change and unanimous provincial consent.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, all of whom benefit from the current situation, would be less than likely to support such changes.

And although the grandfather clause, 51(2), does not require provincial consent, the rural ridings that benefit for the disparity, namely Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, would similarly be unlikely to support the motion.

Recommendations provided by Pal and Choudhry include three major points:

Provincial Reform

The authors also cite provincial reform, and claim that vote dilution disparity occurs at this level as well. New Brunswick was famous in 1988 for electing absolutely no opposition members to their legislative assembly, despite considerable support in the general population.

Citizens’ Assembly on Electorate Reform in Ontario has proposed on May 15, 2007 a new Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system. The Law
Commission of Canada recommended the adoption of a similar system in the House of Commons.

Devin Johnston posts a video where Jack Layton discusses Proportional Representation

Voters during the upcoming Ontario provincial election on Oct. 10, 2007 will choose whether to adopt this new system.

The authors do point out that visible minority vote dilution and unequal voting power will still occur to some extent with MMPR. Regional boundaries still affect geographic voting strength.

And if in the new proposed MMPR system the 39 list members come at the expense of urban ridings, the vote dilution will actually get worse.  Alternatively, if smaller parties run a larger slate under MMPR, they have the opportunity to present a greater diversity among their candidates.

So although most political commentators in Ontario are currently discussing MMPR, there remains the challenge of voter parity and minority representation that has yet to be properly addressed.

Resources
Keith Archer. (1993). Conflict and Confusion in Drawing Constituency Boundaries: The Case of Alberta. Canadian Public Policy 19(2):177-193.

Canadian Human Rights Commission. (1991). Is Every Vote Equal? The Charter and the Right to Vote.

Graham F. Scott. (2007). One Person, Half a Vote? Leading Edge. University of Toronto.

Lawrence Leduc. (July 25, 2007). Ontario’s rare chance to revamp democracy. Vote for MMP.

Law is Cool – Podcast #1

By: Law is Cool · July 28, 2007 · Filed Under Podcasts · 1 Comment 

Show Notes

(12:04 total running time)

o:17 – Thomas Wisdom and Omar Ha-Redeye introduce themselves

0:35 – Thomas and Omar explain the purpose of the blog and podcast

2:15 – Maclean’s magazine controversy discussed

5:11 – Pro bono work and the need to publicize how much is done by Canadian lawyers reviewed

7:45 – Study by Osgoode Hall and University of Alberta mentioned

10:21 – The invitation for dialogue from readers and listeners extended

11:23 – Whiners thanked for music
Please send your comments to admin@lawiscool.com

Please note this is our first episode, and we will be making some improvements over time in sound quality and recording.

CBA Responds to Slayton

By: Law is Cool · July 27, 2007 · Filed Under Law Career, Marketing/PR in Law · Comments Off 

Update

Jordan Furlong, Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), sent us a comment that the CBA has provided a response to the Slayton interview.

CBA President J. Parker MacCarthy stated,

“By cherry-picking the worst cases of lawyer misconduct, the article has tarnished the reputation of thousands of professionals who are honest, hard-working, and community-minded people… Lawyers defend their clients’ interests on a daily basis, and there are countless examples of lawyers who provide pro bono legal services in their communities.”

Kudos for an effective and timely communications strategy.

Maclean’s responds

Macleans.ca has also responded to the CBA press release in full here.

Slayton himself responded to the CBA release for Maclean’s, stating,

I’m suggesting to J. Parker MacCarthy, the president of the Canadian Bar Association, that perhaps he and I should have a face-to-face debate about these substantial issues. Whatever you think about these issues, I don’t think you can deny that they’re of real importance, not just to the legal profession.

We would agree that the issues are important. Furthermore, we support dialogue on this any many other issues. However, there does seem to be a bit too much sensationalism at play.

Group Libel

James Morton of the National Report comments,

Under Canadian law, group libel is not actionable. No matter how malicious or false a comment about a group is, the comment cannot give rise to damages. You may safely call all bankers thieves – even if identifying just one of them by name would make you liable to be sued for defamation.

And the Blawgosphere Responds

The Precedent blog actually contacted Slayton for his comment. They asked, “Are lawyers rats?” and Slayton said,

First of all, I didn’t have anything to do with the cover. That was Maclean’s. I just saw it this morning. Second, it’s a magazine. It wouldn’t be a good headline if it said, “Some lawyers from time to time exhibit rat-like tendencies.” [emphasis added]

I just took my grandson to see Ratatouille and the central character, as you may know, is a rat. This is a rat that is a brilliant, principled and creative. So maybe the people who are upset are not up-to-date with their popular culture.

Slayton may have a new book to sell, but playing off of stereotypes to make headlines is somewhat distasteful.

Limits on Freedom of Speech

By: Law is Cool · July 26, 2007 · Filed Under Humour, Pop Culture · Comments Off 

Freedom of Speech

Related film: Thank You for Smoking
Thank You for Smoking

Happy, Healthy, and Ethical

By: Law is Cool · July 26, 2007 · Filed Under Ethics, Law Career, Marketing/PR in Law · 3 Comments 

Money, Sex and Madness

Lawyers Gone Bad

Maclean’s interviewed Philip Slayton, author of a new book entitled Lawyers Gone Bad: Money, Sex and Madness in Canada’s Legal Profession, for the August edition of the magazine.

An excerpt from Slayton’s site:

Are stealing and sexual misconduct a distraction from the grinding boredom that is a characteristic of even the best legal practice? Is there something about practising law that makes lawyers unusually prone to depression, anxiety, social isolation and obsessive-compulsiveness? Does legal training strip lawyers of a value system, and encourage them to be aggressive, judgemental, pessimistic and emotionally detached? Do lawyers believe that their mastery of the legal rules, and their ability to manipulate those rules, carries with it a personal exemption from their application?

Direct link to the interview on the Maclean’s site is here.

Why the misery?
Sathnam Sanghera of The Times provides suggestions on why there might be a deteriorating quality of life for some lawyers:

  1. Long hours
  2. Repetitive work
  3. Becoming disillusioned
  4. Nature of the work
  5. Poor public opinion
  6. Self-inflicted punishment

Aspiring lawyers can use these points to help improve their quality of professional life.

Here’s Some Tips

Despite a contentious title and premise, Hon. Patrick J. Schiltz does provide some tips on how to be happy, healthy and ethical.

For further discussion…

Much More than Moolah

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · July 25, 2007 · Filed Under Law Career, Politics, Pro Bono · 1 Comment 

The Allure of Bay Street

Many aspiring lawyers these days seem to have interest in the field because they believe it to be especially lucrative. Specifically, myths abound about the prospects on Bay Street law firms.

The FindLaw Career Centre does provide information on base and associate salaries. The figures are admittedly impressive, especially since salaries often do not include bonuses and incentives.

But is law all it is cracked up to be?

Naysayers, No More…

Approximately a decade ago, the Globe & Mail reported lay-offs in the Ontario Attorney-General’s office. Commentators also lamented that a third of the newly licensed graduates of law schools were unemployed and seeking jobs.

Cameron Stracher, publisher of the New York Law School Law Review, more more recently discussed the perceived dichotomy in America of “elite lawyers” and everyone else, the latter having fewer opportunities and considerably more challenges.

But the situation in Canada is quite different. Despite persistent myths to the contrary, Canadian law schools are all equally ranked. There is no three-tier system here the way there is in the U.S.

David S Cohen, former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria, also explains how the number of students in common law programs is approximately 2,000, the same since 1976. He continues by saying,

“…the number of lawyers will reach a steady state roughly in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century; and second, that the number of lawyers per capita and per $GNP will begin to decline at about the same time. That decline will continue until law schools expand enrollment, lawyers are imported from outside Canada, or another Canadian law school opens.”

The Job Futures site confirms a high demand in Canada, with a higher than average salary, outlook, and employment prospects than other careers (1).

However, the psychology research of Fredrick Herzberg has indicated that money is a poor motivator for employees, and rarely leads to greater job satisfaction alone. But there are more benefits to a law career.

No, It’s Not a U2 Fan

Despite other national differences, pro bono work is usually a necessary component of all Canadian and American lawyers at some point in their career.

In a recent study in Law and Society Review, Robert Granfield, a sociologist at the University of Buffalo, claimed that firms often provide incentives for pro bono work by granting billable hours credit, which encourages lawyers to do more volunteer work. This work is especially appealing to newer lawyers who need to gain experience.

And the drive for experience is what often leads law students to get involved in pro bono work during their studies. Community Legal Service and Legal Aid are two of the most common ways law students get involved.

The University of Western Ontario is renowned for these initiatives with the largest program in Canada and a relatively smaller student cohort, resulting in significantly higher number of spots per student .

Murray Austin, new Director of CLS at Western Law, said,

“There is a growing need for lawyers to provide services in these areas, and we believe we are in a excellent position to encourage our students to contribute their time, upon graduation, towards fulfilling that need”.

But Legal Aid is financially strapped, and is under review by the Attorney-General to assess ways to increase funding. And this is where the large law firms come into play, once again.

PBLO to Pro Bono Awards

Granfield also reviewed an upward trend in many major firms of pro bono partners or managers dedicated to coordinating pro-bono initiatives.

He also found that minority advocate lawyers were more likely to support pro bono initiatives, find the experiences rewarding, and conclude that their skills, contacts, and networks benefited from participation.

However, traditional and conservative lawyers are also supporting pro bono work like never before. Gansfield concludes that firms with diversified portfolios had greater budget capability to take on pro bono cases than smaller shops with less resources.

In 2003, Ontario Trillium Foundation provided $25,000 in seed money to Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) . Nearly every major Canadian law firm now has a pro bono workload, and as of last year, they compete annually for the Canadian Pro Bono Awards.

The 2006 recipient was McCarthy Tétrault, in part for their work in the impoverished Toronto neighborhood of Regent Park. The firm committed $1.2 million in pro bono last year alone.

Have Your Cake, and Eat It

With a field boasting high stability and generous returns, and the countless opportunities to give back to society, a legal career remains one of the most sought after in Canada.

But the public should recognize and cherish this important function, and work closely with politicians, lawyers, and firms to help this work continue and expand in the future.

Notes

(1) Because these figures include higher salaries for judges and lower for notaries, they should not be considered as predictive of the field as a whole.

Resources

Robert Granfield. (2007). The Meaning of Pro Bono: Institutional Variations in Professional Obligations among Lawyers. Law & Society Review 41(1):113–146

Rebecca L. Sandefur. (2007). Lawyers’ Pro Bono Service and American-Style Civil Legal Assistance. Law & Society Review 41(1):79–112

David S Cohen. (1998). How Many Lawyers and Law Students? The supply of lawyers in Canada. BarTalk

Community Legal Services at Western Law

Bias in the Judiciary?

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · July 19, 2007 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Family Law, Legal Reform, Politics · 1 Comment 

Politics and Gender

The Toronto Star reported today that political affiliation and gender may affect certain rulings in the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The study by Yahya and Stribopoulos found the greatest variance on cases related to Charter challenges and family law cases. The findings appear to confirm an earlier American study which suggested that judges are susceptible to group polarization.

What’s the Problem?

Aspiring for impartiality in the judiciary goes back as far as Socrates:
“Four things belong to a judge:
to hear courteously,
to answer wisely,
to consider soberly, and
to decide impartially.”

These findings are potentially problematic because the Courts of Justice Act (R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43) states:

80. Every judge or officer of a court in Ontario, including a deputy judge of the Small Claims Court, shall, before entering on the duties of office, take and sign the following oath or affirmation in either the English or French language:

I solemnly swear (affirm) that I will faithfully, impartially and to the best of my skill and knowledge execute the duties of ……………………..

So help me God.

The affirmation of impartiality could appear to be compromised if a predictive pattern of rulings could be established based on gender and political lines.

Correlation between Gender and Politics?

Further complicating matters is a recent Ipsos-Reid poll demonstrating that, at least in Ontario, political affiliation runs along gender and socio-economic lines.

Canada.com news reports:

Voters more likely to support the Liberals include women, younger Ontarians and people with a university degree. Conservative supporters tend to be men, individuals aged 55 and older, and people without a post-secondary education.

This likely has more to do with the focus of various parties. Liberals have long made inroads inroads into minority communities, and still champion Trudeau’s Canadian Multiculturalism Act ( 1985, c. 24 (4th Supp.) ). Conservatives instead tend to favour policies benefiting the economic elites and social majorities, such as tax-cuts and slashing focused social programs (1).

These trends are duplicated on similar issues in the findings of the Yahya and Stribopoulos study. An important exception to this was with Charter based appeals, where Conservatives tended to favour the appealant over Liberal judges.

However, this might be more reflective of the type of Charter argument presented, and a case can be made that the majority of discriminatory issues affecting minorities and lower SES are not actively pursued in the legal system due to the expenses involved.

Homogeneity Leads to Group Think

Having a high level of cohesiveness due to shared values is detrimental to the legal system.

Group think, as it is often termed, stifled creativity and critical analysis. Dissenting opinions are often the basis for appellate challenges and provide stare decisis (precedence) for different contexts.

Jared DiamondManaged conflict within workgroups is a mainstay of most successful corporations.

Creativity has also largely been acknowledged of one of the major factors behind the economic prosperity of Western nations (and, according to some, why the West is on a downwards trend).

Even law firms are realizing that internal dissent can provide innovative solutions that provide a competitive edge.

Few Minds are as Neutral as a Plate of Sheet Glass

To be fair, the predictive value of judges decisions based on political affiliations does not necessarily represent an inherent prejudice. Law, like the political process, is subject to interpretation.

There are many ways to interpret the same statute from different perspectives and under different circumstances.

These variances more likely than simply reflect this divergence, which is actually necessary and required for thorough legal discourse (2).

Lord Hugh Pattison Macmillan (1873-1952) said,

The judicial oath of office imposes on the judge a lofty duty of impartiality.
But impartiality is not easy of attainment. For a judge does not shed the attributes of common humanity when he assumes the ermine. The ordinary human mind is a mass of prepossessions inherited and acquired, often none the less dangerous because unrecognized by their possessor.

Judge Rosalie Abella, Chair of the Ontario Law Reform Commission, stated in 1987, “every decisionmaker who walks into a court room to hear a case is armed not only with the relevant legal texts but with a set of values, experiences and assumptions that
are thoroughly embedded.”

So What is the Solution?

The obvious solution would be to create more diversity in the judiciary, which was also the findings of the report. A dampening effect of bias was observed on mixed panels.

This diversity should not be limited to gender or political affiliation, but should also include race, ethnicity, religion or faith, and sexual orientation.

The argument that groups directly protected by Charter Rights are most appropriate to understand its importance and implications is not an invalid one.

When Advocacy Compromises Impartiality

However, as Madam Justice Bertha Wilson (3), the first woman appointed to Canada’s Supreme Court of Justice noted, “Change in the law comes slowly and incrementally.”

Wilson also expressed concerns that expectations for her to advocate for womens’ issues could compromise her own impartiality:

“The judge must not approach his or her task with preconceived notions about law or policy, with personal prejudice against parties or issues, or with bias toward a particular outcome.”

Self-reflection by all judges of their personal biases is therefore a necessary component to achieving as close to impartiality as possible.

Judge Shientag has confirmed this stating,

“the judge who realizes, before listening to a case, that all men [and women] have a natural bias of mind and that thought is apt to be colored by predilection, is more likely to make a conscientious effort at impartiality and dispassionateness than one who believes that his elevation to the bench makes him at once the dehumanized instrument of infallible logical truth.”

Notes

(1) An important exception to this pattern is Conservative Provincial Opposition Leader, John Tory, who has recently made considerable efforts to make his party more inclusive to diversity.

(2) The new Alternative Party in Ontario might actually run contrary to the Charter with their anti-multiculturalism and anti-bilingualism stance; their platform has not been fully revealed to date.

(3) This post was created in part to honour the late Justice Bertha Wilson, who passed away this year on April 28, 2007.

Resources

Moin Yahya and James Stribopoulos. (2007). Does a Judge’s Party of Appointment or Gender Matter to Case Outcomes? An Empirical Study of the Court of Appeal for Ontario (Canada). Osgoode Hall Law Journal 45 (2).

Madam Justice Bertha Wilson (1992). Will Women Judges Really Make a Difference? The Fourth Annual Barbara Betcherman Memorial Lecture. Family Court Review 30 (1), 13–25.

Frederick Lee Morton. (2002). Law, Politics and the Judicial Process in Canada. University of Calgary Press. ISBN 1552380467

Problem-Based Learning of Law

By: Law is Cool · July 19, 2007 · Filed Under Administrative, Law School · Comments Off 

PBL Around the World

Using the participatory learning model introduced previously is not something new. Legal educators have been promoting the technique across the world, and it is especially prominent in European schools.

The UK Centre for Legal Education has a site that describes this approach for studying various aspects of the law. They even employ case studies to demonstrate how to do it properly.

Universiteit Maastricht in the Netherlands is a leader in employing PBL in legal education. They are ranked the highest school nationally, and participate in case competitions with McGill University.

PBL is Good for Case Law

According to Gabriël A Moens, Professor of Law at University of Queensland, studying case law is what makes PBL perfect for the legal field.

Moens describes how his institution effectively uses PBL, and proposes the following framework for analyzing cases:

So Why Not in Canada?
So why isn’t PBL being adopted by law schools across Canada? Perhaps the upcoming issue of the Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research will seek to answer this question.

There are some drawbacks from adopting PBL mentioned in the sources here, but primarily it comes down to resources.

The University of Western Ontario is one of the few law schools that prides itself on its small-group learning, intended to develop specialized legal skills. But this is limited to a single class in the first year, and it is up to students to foster their own supports independently beyond this.

The “Bigger” Study Group

Students intuitively realize the advantage to collaboration in education, and form their own study groups to assist each other.

The potential to broaden this to a larger audience and generate deeper inputs only need be realized for the brave and ambitious.

Resources

PBL at The Faculty of Law at the University of Maastricht

Problem Based Learning and New Zealand Legal Education

Why Blawg at all?

By: Law is Cool · July 18, 2007 · Filed Under Administrative, Law Career · Comments Off 

Isn’t the life of a law student already hectic and busy enough as it is?

Why on earth would anyone want to post material on the Internet for others to read or listen to? And why would other law students care to access it?

Research into pedagogue, the science of education, indicates that students learn best and retain information better when they participate, interact, and teach the information to others. Furthermore, creating a centralized resource of study information can minimize duplication of efforts between students.

In other words, cooperating and working with others can in the long term actually save you study time and perform better on exams. Best of all, most students actually report a higher satisfaction with their educational experience. Contrast this to the stereotype of a ruthless and competitive environment perpetuated by some law schools.

Many law students already have a blog up and running. None to date have attempted to create a participatory environment and a collective resource open to all.

What about liability? And how will this affect articling opportunities?

Like anything written online, common sense should prevail. However, there is little harm in expressing opinions on subjects related to law. To the contrary, it is an excellent way to demonstrate to potential employers your expertise and enthusiasm for the subject.

A number of lawyers and firms have already started blogging and podcasting, some of whom can be found on the blogroll. Kevin O’Keefe of the Real Lawyers Have Blogs site has quoted Gary Stein’s tips on how to promote a law firm using a blog.

Several smaller firms in Canada have found the Internet, and blogging in particular, and an inexpensive and practical way to to be found. Larger firms like Osler LLP have used podcasts as a resource for existing and potential clientele. Lang Michener LLP even provides counsel on how to properly use blogging in a corporate atmosphere, and some lawyers such as Rob Hyndman in Toronto actually make a practice of specializing in technology and social media.

Group legal blogs exist as well. Concurring Opinions features faculty at prestigious law schools across the U.S., and several notable lawyers as authors and contributors. Several major law schools have faculty blogging regularly, including University of Alberta, Osgoode Hall, University of Chicago, and Harvard Law.

The prevalence of social media in corporate communications is anticipated to grow exponentially. Most large firms will expect associates to be familiar with the medium. New lawyers will likely have more expertise than partners who have had less opportunity to interact with the technology.

How can I get involved?

The intent of this site is to create a collaborative forum of law enthusiasts across Canada. We are always willing to take on more authors who have something valuable to contribute.

Some resources on participative learning are provided below for starters. Commenting and demonstrating insight on a subject helps the conversation flow. And feel free to contact the admin team to participate further.

I blog therefore I am

Social media enthusiasts have long said, “I blog, therefore I am.” This is your chance to leave your mark.

“Audentes fortuna iuvat”
(Fortune favours the bold)
- Virgil’s Aeneid, book X, line 284

Resources

Instructor’s Guide for “Problem-based Learning: how to gain the most from PBL

ABC of learning and teaching in medicine: Problem based learning

What is Problem-Based Learning (PBL)?

Creating a Culture of Co-Learners with Problem-Based Learning

PBL improves retention of exercise physiology.

A review of Problem-Based Learning.

Awards

Partners