Make More, Work Less

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · May 31, 2010 · Filed Under Law Career, Technology · Comments Off 

How can you make up to 173% more as a lawyer with flexible hours?

BC Heritage Law is doing just that.

Weird Legal News: Collapsing Courthouses and the Constitutional Right to Rap

By: Lawrence Gridin · May 30, 2010 · Filed Under Humour, Pop Culture · Comments Off 

Here’s another digest of some articles I collected this week that are either funny, interesting, or just plain weird.

  1. Just two years after being constructed, a new courthouse in the Bronx is already falling apart. Stairwells are cordoned off, windows are boarded up, sewer flies are infesting the lower levels, and the parking garage is “sinking.” The project is now the subject of a “legal quagmire” of litigation. I wonder if the cases will be heard inside the building, or whether the judges would have to recuse themselves for being too self-interested in the outcome.
  2. Rapping Your McDonald’s Order Is Not A Crime – Consumerist
    A teenager in Utah has been found not guilty of disorderly conduct after he rapped his order at a McDonald’s drivethru. The defence argued that “singing an order, whether profanity was used or not, is speech that is protected by both federal and Utah constitutions.” The judge reserved decision on whether local police should be making better use of their time.
  3. Officer arrested for pulling motorists over, charged ‘roadside fee’ – Sun Sentinel
    An enterprising Florida police officer was arrested for offering motorists the opportunity to pay traffic fines in cash… directly to him. Upon payment of the “roadside fee”, the cop would void the offender’s traffic ticket. He  even escorted one motorist to an ATM so that the “roadside fee” could be paid forthwith. Amusingly, the Sheriff’s department is referring to motorists who paid as “victims,” even though they were in a better position than if they had simply pled guilty to the traffic offences and paid the legitimate fine — the “victims” received no demerit points and no insurance penalty.

Advice from Lawyer of the Week

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · May 29, 2010 · Filed Under Law Career · 1 Comment 

Isabel Schurman of Schurman Longo Grenier was honoured last week by l’Association des Avocats de la Défense de Montréal.  She’s the vice-chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers.

In an interview with The Gazette, she provides this advice for those entering the legal profession:

Follow your heart.  Follow your passions.  Don’t listen to people telling you that there are no openings, no jobs, in the area of interest to you.  If you really care about the issues in some area of the law, go for it.

Lawyer Fails to Buy Happiness, Reacts the Only Way a Lawyer Knows How

By: Will McNair · May 29, 2010 · Filed Under Humour · 1 Comment 

A lawyer in Manhattan is suing his dating service for failing to provide that special someone. John Friedland claims that he paid $10,000 for the services of Amy Laurent International (ALI), only to be set up with women who, according to his $100,000 claim, were already taken, weren’t “suitable” to his goals or wouldn’t consider “someone of plaintiff’s background”. (Because there’s no deal-breaker like finding out your date is a Manhattan lawyer willing to drop ten grand to meet you. Those of you studying for the New York bar exam over the next two months: take note.) ALI, the claim continues, “failed to perform even as good [sic] as a standard dating service”.1

Amy Laurent International bills itself as “a powerful personal headhunting agency for successful bachelors, individuals with demanding careers, and those with busy lifestyles that do not allow time for chance encounters with the right women they would consider for serious dating”. The service claims to headhunt attract eligible women “through high end social events and private parties and receives word of mouth referrals on a constant basis”. ALI contends that the company did all that was required of it, and that Mr. Friedland was himself responsible for dropping the ball on his dates.

Really? You’re telling us that a man who (a) would use an ultra-high-end “personal headhunting service” to find a mate, and (b) would then sue that headhunter for not hunting up sufficiently appealing heads, mightn’t be an irresistible charmer? There’s no hope for any of us.

1

Law is Cool wishes Mr. Friedland all the best in his efforts to sue his way to conjugal bliss but cautions that proper grammar and syntax are a must when biting the hand that feeds you a bevy of potential mates. To paraphrase Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock, Superman does good. Dating services do well.

Law is Cool Podcaster Wins I.H. Asper Award

By: Law is Cool · May 28, 2010 · Filed Under Administrative · Comments Off 

Devin Johnston, who has directed the podcasts for this site for over a year now, was awarded the I.H. Asper Award for Outstanding Extracurricular Contribution in Broadcasting & Journalism.

The award is presented by the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU), Local 103 of the Canadian Federation of Students, to students who,

have made an outstanding extracurricular contribution to the quality of student life and has exhibited special leadership in undergraduate activities in journalism or broadcasting.

Devin was also presented with the 2009 Student Blogger of the Year Award on this site.  As Devin is graduating from Robson Hall this year, we’re always looking for new law students to take his responsibilities, and the operation of the rest of the site.

Introducing The Law Street Journal

By: Contributor · May 27, 2010 · Filed Under Law School · 1 Comment 

Rob Ambrogi tipped us off to a new blog by law students, for law students, The Law Street Journal.

The focus and content is still primarily American, but our readers might find it interesting.

Sound Cannons Come to Toronto

By: Contributor · May 27, 2010 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Pop Culture · 1 Comment 

The Toronto Star reports:

Riotous protesters marching at the G20 summit next month may be greeted with ear-splitting “sound cannons,” the latest Toronto police tool for quelling unruly crowds.

Toronto police have purchased four, long-range acoustic devices (LRAD) — often referred to as sound guns or sound cannons — for the upcoming June 26-27 summit, the Star has learned.

Maybe they’re expecting some big green guy?

Legal and Business Issues with Social Media

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · May 26, 2010 · Filed Under Technology · Comments Off 

Are LED Lights on the Front of a Vehicle Legal in Ontario?

By: Simon Borys · May 21, 2010 · Filed Under Criminal Law · 6 Comments 

From Simon Says: Providing relevant information on policing and law

Blue LED Lights on the Front of a Vehicle

In my previous article, which I wrote for OntarioTicket.com, I discussed the legislation regarding lighting on motor vehicles in Ontario at length. Arising from this discussion there is an issue which I would like to elaborate on further: that of lights visible to the front, other than white or amber headlights.

My previous article outlined that Section 62 of the Highway Traffic Act clearly requires at least two white or amber headlights and clearly prohibits both red and red and blue combinations to the front, but what about other colours? A lot of vehicles have blue or green LED lights on the wiper blades or in the grill of the vehicle. Is this legal? Simon says: In my opinion, yes!

Section 62 (1) states that, “when persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 150 metres or less, every motor vehicle other than a motorcycle shall carry three lighted lamps in a conspicuous position, one on each side of the front of the vehicle which shall display a white or amber light only.” If one considers that the intention of this section is to prohibit anything more than the two specified lights to the front, the argument could be advanced that LED lights to the front violate Section 62 (1). I dissent with this interpretation, for the following reasons.

Section 62 (1) states that lighted lamps to the front are required at night and at any other time when “persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernable at a distance of 150 meters or less”. From this wording I draw the inference that the purpose of this section is to require lights that are capable of illuminating persons and vehicles on the highway ahead of the vehicle, for safety reasons. These lights then fulfill two functions: 1) they ensure that the driver of the vehicle can see ahead of them and 2) that the vehicle can be seen. I do not draw the inference that the purpose of this section is to prohibit additional lights to the front that cannot fulfill this function, simply for regulatory reasons. I believe that the subsequent subsections support this inference.

Section 62 (6) seems to support the first function, by stating that “lamps on the front of a motor vehicle shall be so constructed, located, arranged and adjusted that…they produce under normal atmospheric conditions and on a level road a driving light sufficient to render clearly discernible to the operator of the motor vehicle any person or vehicle on the highway within a distance of 110 metres ahead of the motor vehicle.” From this it seems apparent that the legislators were concerned with ensuring vehicles had sufficient lighting for their drivers to see the road ahead of them clearly.

Section 62 (4) supports the second function, by stating that “any lamp required under subsection (1) shall, when lighted, be clearly visible at a distance of at least 150 metres from the front or rear, as the case may be.” From this it seems apparent that the legislators were also concerned with ensuring that vehicles could be seen by others.

Section 62 (7) goes on to state that attachments that reduce the effectiveness of the lighted lamps referred to in 62 (1), (attachments which would prevent them from fulfilling one or both of their purposes), are prohibited.

Finally, Section 62 (9) prescribes a maximum of 300 candella for the lamps referred to in Section 61 (1). But if the purpose of Section 62 (1) was to prohibit additional lights (such as LEDs) then why would legislators not have taken the opportunity to create a section to prescribe a minimum lamp strength as well?

These sections strongly suggest to me that the purpose of Section 62 (1) is one of requirement for adequate lighting, not one of prohibition on additional lights.

What I take as perhaps the most obvious support for my interpretation of the purpose of Section 62 (1) is the lack of the word “only” in 62 (1) itself. If the legislators wanted to prohibit more lights than the two required they could have written the section to read “only one on each side of the front of the vehicle.”

They could also have enacted additional sections at a later date to expressly prohibit colours such as blue or green or anything else to the front, as those colours came into common use. There was a perfect opportunity to do so in 2007 when subsections were added to Section 62 prohibiting red and blue combinations to the front.

I think it is clear from the reasoning outlined above that Section 62 (1) only serves to require vehicles to have a minimum of two regular headlights and not to prohibit different coloured LED lights on the front of a vehicle. Bear in mind that this is my interpretation of the legislation. I am not saying this is the only interpretation, nor am I saying this is necessarily the correct interpretation. I know prosecutors in some regions have been prosecuting charges under Section 62 (1) for LED lights to the front, but the legislation is clearly open to interpretation. Ultimately it is up to the Justice of the Peace to decide.

Is Law School Worth It?

By: Lawrence Gridin · May 19, 2010 · Filed Under Law Career, Law School · 6 Comments 

Following up on a New York Times article about the rapidly depreciating value of a law degree, Concurring Opinions has some advice on whether going to law school is a good career choice.

The gist of Sarah Waldek’s opinion is:

I’ve been thinking hard about what advice I would give prospective students and this is where I’ve landed:  Only go to law school next year if (1) you have always dreamed of being a lawyer; or (2) you are accepted by a very prestigious institution; or (3) you are offered a full scholarship.

Of course, this year law school applications will be partly driven by the lack of opportunity costs. Graduating college students face generally dismal employment prospects regardless of what field they want to enter.   But I suspect that optimism bias plays just as large a role in student decision-making.   No matter what the economy, some lawyers will be wildly successful.  Many prospective students are inclined to think that they will be part of this group, no matter how daunting the odds against it.  On the more rational side of the analysis, it’s also true that law school historically has proven itself a relatively good place to weather out bad economic times.

What is different this time around, however, is that no one is yet sure whether the changes in legal markets and in law firms are permanent, or whether things will eventually return to what we had come to think of as normal.  If you haven’t always wanted to practice law, or if you’re considering a law school that is not one of the best in the nation, or if the law school isn’t offering to pay for you to attend, my advice is to wait to see how this plays out.

Some of the comments on the article are also deeply troubling. Here’s a sampling:

Native JD: Don’t bother. There are no jobs for you. It’s a racist profession dominated by white men (I’m Native and Biglaw wouldn’t even interview me (Top 50 school, 3.0+, 5 years of Capitol Hill experience and heavily involved in ABA diversity efforts).

This profession is doomed.

Unemployed OVER A YEAR NOW: MEMO TO PROSPECTIVE LAW STUDENTS: THERE ARE NO JOBS! I have been out of law school three years now. I spent 2 years at Big Law (Cravath) and the past 14 months looking for work and doing lousy temp jobs. I had a 4.0 in college and law school (that is how I landed the Big Law job) and all the volunteer, pro bono, language skills, etc you could dream of. None of that matters. THERE ARE NO JOBS FOR LAWYERS. Go to Med School if your brain works.

LAC: I have been giving people who wanted to go to law school this advice since my 1L year. Except I say that you shouldn’t go to law school unless you are already rich (meaning you have about $200k just lying around), you can go to a Top 10 school, AND you can go for free or for less than $30k.

I was one of those poor kids who decided to be a lawyer when I was young so that I could grow up and support myself and my family. I went to law school with no debt—my college education was paid for with federal grants. I am now-$100k, and that only accounts for 70% of my tuition, which means NONE of my living expenses. The last $40k is one year of tuition in my LL.M program. One year. Frankly, I was in a better financial position when I was on Welfare. And at this rate, I will be again soon enough.

There are no entry-level jobs anymore for anyone. Not for finished fed clerks, not for LL.Ms (like me), and not even for Harvard grads. I have a degree in tax from one of the best programs in the country and about 10 people in my graduating class of more than 100 are employed 6 months later—more than half of those people are foreign nationals who have jobs in their native lands. Now, my friends who were lucky enough to get government jobs to take advantage of the public service loan repayment program are being told they make too much money to qualify (less than $70k/yr) and are left with $100k+ of student debt and a low-paying job. Frankly, many of us are taking paralegal jobs (and some firms now only hire JDs for such positions), thus effectively nullifying our credentials and Bar status just to put food on the table. At this point, my education is a curse. It automatically disqualifies me for lesser work elsewhere, and the loan load is oppressive to say the least.

There is no upside any longer. There needs to be a moratorium on law school admissions for at least 5 years to stop the excess flood of lawyers into an economy that cannot remotely support the supply it currently has.

I’m not sure how applicable Waldek’s concerns (or those of the commentators) are to the Canadian context.

First, Canadians pay far less for a quality legal education than Americans do. Tuition at the most expensive law school in Canada (U of T) is roughly $22,000. It’s considerably less at other law schools. You can get a top notch education at McGill, for example, for under $7000/yr (it’s even cheaper for Quebeckers). Out west, you can hit up UBC for under $10,000. Or try Dalhousie out east for under $13,000. American tuitions are 3-5x higher!

Second, the job market here appears to be better. To be sure, Bay Street recruitment has definitely dropped, salaries have dropped, and hire-back is no longer guaranteed for summer and articling students. But even so, the impression I get from my colleagues on the Street is that we are far from the nightmare scenario being described above.

Most importantly, it appears that although this past year was one of the worst in recent history, the storm is passing. The economy is now improving. Legal recruitment and salaries should begin to rise. Of course, it will be a long while before firms are throwing around money and perks like candy, as they were before.

I’d say the Canadian situation calls for cautious optimism.

Weird Legal News: Capricious Juries, Secret Recipes, and the Constitutional Right to Swear

By: Lawrence Gridin · May 19, 2010 · Filed Under Humour, Pop Culture · 1 Comment 

Here’s a digest of some articles I collected this week that are either funny, interesting, or just plain weird.

  1. Blind Justice? Attractive Get Breaks with Juries – CBS News
    In completely unsurprising study results, Cornell researchers have found that juries are significantly more likely to convict an ugly person than an attractive person in identical circumstances. Where evidence is strong and the case is serious, attractiveness plays less of a role. But where the charges are minor, or the evidence is ambiguous, ugly people are at a serious disadvantage. They get higher sentences too — way higher!
  2. Toilet Brush ‘Blunder’ Death – The Sun (UK)
    A man is taking legal action after an inquest found that his wife died due to serious errors by her examining doctors. The woman had somehow fallen onto a toilet brush handle which embedded itself in her buttock. The foreign object was missed by doctors. The woman died of complications during surgery to finally remove the handle — four years after she had fallen on it.
  3. Pizza in Naples ‘cooked with wood from coffins’ – Telegraph (UK)
    Prosecutors in Italy are claiming that the oak wood being used in Naples’ pizza ovens has come from a grisly source. It is alleged that gangs are digging up coffins from the local graveyard and selling the wood to owners of local pizza parlours looking to save on costs.
  4. U.S. rights group sues to protect right to swear – Vancouver Sun
    The American Civil Liberties Union is taking action against Pennsylvania police. Apparently, the cops have been arresting (and in some cases jailing) about 750 people per year simply for uttering profanities or making profane gestures. The ACLU claims that the disorderly conduct charges are unconstitutional, because  swearing is protected speech under the First Amendment.

I’ll post more articles when I get some free time.

Breaking into the Field of Criminal Law

By: Lawrence Gridin · May 17, 2010 · Filed Under Criminal Law, Law Career, Law School · 4 Comments 

While I really should be studying for the bar exam right now, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to share a great article appearing in the current issue of Canadian Lawyer 4Students Magazine.

The article, entitled “So You Wanna Be a Criminal Lawyer, Eh?” is about the challenges facing current law students who plan to practice in criminal law. There is a particular focus on the lack of articling opportunities in the field, and the ever-decreasing emphasis on criminal law education at law schools. I can tell you first hand that these issues are very real and very troubling.

The author quotes my former Career Services Director, Robyn Martilla, on the difficulties in finding employment opportunities in criminal law:

It is also possible students are not so much turned off the practice area’s dark side, but instead diverted from it by large firms’ powerful recruitment strategies. Robyn Martilla, director of Western Faculty of Law’s career and professional development office, says it’s difficult for students to find information on criminal law articling positions. “The schools tend to get a lot of information from private firms, like the large Bay Street group,” says Martilla. “So that information is easily available to students. But it’s much more difficult to find information about positions in either family or criminal law.”

There is a choice quotation from Montreal criminal lawyer Isabel Schurman on what we stand to lose as our criminal defence bar shrinks and ages:

She suggests this much-maligned area of practice has been given a bad rap over the years, and more students should open their eyes to a career in criminal defence. “It’s a shame that the field is so misunderstood,” says Schurman. “I think it’s a shame that people never realize the important role that defence counsel play until they, or someone in their family, needs representation, and then realize that it’s not simply this television or movie image of defence counsel. We are in fact the watchdogs for the fairness in our system of criminal justice, and without a strong defence bar, the whole system suffers, and so does the citizen’s right to be left alone by the state.”

The article concludes with some practical tips on breaking into the field, many of which I can endorse from personal experience. If you’re considering criminal law, I recommend checking the article out here.

The criminal lawyers I know tell me that although the challenges are many, they are more than offset by the rewards of practicing in this exciting field. This was summarized in one of my favorite admonitions from a criminal defence lawyer: “trust me, you don’t want to practice criminal law. That being said, I absolutely love my job, and can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

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