Ethics – Law is Cool The law school blog and podcast from Canada Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:10:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 1338880 Is Work-Life Balance Attainable? Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:55:59 +0000 By: Shannon O’Connor

work life

Maintaining a work-life balance has been difficult for numerous legal professionals. The question still remains: can a balance between work and life be attainable within contemporary society?

I believe that it is possible to achieve a balance between work and life. This balance ensures that an individual is able to complete work while doing the activities they love. It is quit a challenging endeavor and comes with multiple obstacles. Ultimately, this balance can be achieved through multiple avenues.

Guidelines for Achieving a Work-Life Balance:

• A work-life balance is more attainable if you run your own practice or essentially you are your own boss
• Rank your priorities in order of importance (family, health, self-actualization, and happiness etc.)
• Set your own goals and timelines
• When you discover what makes you content you will be able to find a way to maintain a balance between work and life
• Make time for your wants and needs
• It’s ok to say no you can’t be expected to do everything

Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill wrote an interesting article Cases and Chaos: Work-Life Balance Strategies for Busy Lawyers. The informative article is regarding the subject matter of work-life balance. The author noted numerous important tips; one important tip is creating time for oneself throughout the week. It essentially means making a date for oneself. I found this tip to be of utter importance. It enables an individual to have time to reflect, decompress, and focus on finding happiness.

Yamri Taddese wrote another enlightening article on the subject matter. Male lawyers join women in seeking work-life balance addresses men joining women’s quest for work-life balance. The author posted numerous tips on how to re-enter the work force, which are helpful and should be kept in mind. Additionally, the author points out that this struggle is not just found among women but also men. The pursuit for a work-life balance is clearly evident between both men and women.

Lastly, Wolf the author of The Tyranny of Performance elaborates upon how the word balance should be replaced with “enjoyment”. Less emphasis should be on “performance” and more focus and attention should be paid towards enjoying oneself and gaining an education.

I agree with all three authors and believe the recommended tips should be incorporated in order to achieve a work-life balance. It is important to reflect, and ask oneself: what would you do if you had free time?

Please find an attached video elaborating upon what I would do with an extra 8 hours a week: The Ultimate Clio Day

Access Copyright: Outrageous and Unnecessary Wed, 09 Feb 2011 00:35:14 +0000 As a UWO student (and at many other Canadian universities,) you automatically pay an annual fee to an organization called Access Copyright. An item is included in your student activity fee, and it used to be $3.38 per student per year, plus an amount based on the number of photocopies made at library photocopy machines. However, when the licence agreement expired last year, Access Copyright did not seek to renegotiate with UWO. Instead, it applied to the Copyright Board for a massive restructuring of the agreement. If the Board approves the request, Access Copyright would receive $45 per student per year. With 30,000 full-time students, this amounts to $1.35 million annually. But that’s not all. Access Copyright would also have the right to surveillance: Section 14 (4) of the proposed licence agreement states that:

The Educational Institution shall give Access Copyright, on reasonable notice, right of access through-out the Educational Institution’s premises in order to organize and carry out an audit, including full access to the Secure Network and all Course Collections.

This would include access to university email accounts.

There are a number of problems with the Access Copyright regime. First of all, every university student is presumed to be infringing copyright and this seems very unlikely given the Fair Dealing rights in the Canadian Copyright Act that expressly permit the copying of non-substantial portions of a work for the purpose of private study. As well, the university is presumed to be responsible for the presumed copyright infringement by students. This is contrary to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in CCH Canadian Limited v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2004] 1 S.C.R. 339.CCD, which held that a library is NOT responsible for copyright infringement merely by providing access to photocopiers.

What is more troubling, though, is that by paying Access Copyright, our fair dealing rights become meaningless.

We are paying even though there is probably not much substantial copying taking place, and if this becomes the norm, fair dealing rights could be removed from the Copyright Act for the simple reason that no one behaves as if there is such a thing. Access Copyright denies flatly that they want to charge for non-substantial copying, but this does not square with the section 3 of the proposed licence agreement:

3. Subject to compliance with each of the conditions in Sections 4 and 5, this tariff entitles an Authorized Person for Authorized Purposes only, to
(a) make a Copy of up to ten per cent (10%) of a Repertoire Work;
(b) make a Copy of up to twenty per cent (20%) of a Repertoire Work only as part of a Course Collection; or
(c) make a Copy of a Repertoire Work that is

(i) an entire newspaper or periodical article or page,
(ii) a single short story, play, poem, essay or article,
(iii) an entire entry from an encyclopaedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary or similar reference work,
(iv) an entire reproduction of an artistic work (including a drawing, painting, print, photograph and    reproduction of a work of sculpture, an architectural work of art and a work of artistic craftsmanship), and
(v) one chapter, provided it is no more than twenty per cent (20%) of a book.

How else can this provision be interpreted? The university would be paying for permission to make non-substantial copies which are permitted without payment under the Copyright Act. We would be paying for our Fair Dealing rights.

Another problem is the bully-factor. This organization is not negotiating in good faith with the University, but threatening law suits instead and negotiating via an application to the Copyright Board – a rather passive-aggressive manoeuvre. By paying this organization, we are enabling it with massive financial resources and providing an enormous financial incentive to ‘discover’ new ways to ‘extort’ funds from university students … and the justifications can be based upon the results of spying on our email accounts.

The Access Copyright regimes treats scholarly works as if they were pop-songs broadcasted on the radio for a big fat profit when in fact University libraries are expensive, profitless resources for private study. The vast majority of scholarly works in these libraries are written by university professors and graduate students who aren’t looking for royalties. The main policy reason behind Fair Dealing rights is to prevent copyright law from inhibiting the intellectual development and sharing of knowledge within our society. The entire Access Copyright regime is an effort to push back against this reasoning. It is a kind of intellectual enclosure movement.

The University of Western is committed to this regime going forward. It proactively collected $15 per student last September on the assumption that the Copyright Board would ordain a fee of something less than $45 per student but substantially more than the $3.38 under the expired agreement. By doing so, UWO demonstrated its willingness to accept the surveillance, and the presumption of copyright infringement and the presumption of legal responsibility for the infringement.

The university has a choice. The licence agreement is optional and UWO can walk away from it. It would make much more sense to charge students a modest fee which would go to the libraries to implement procedures and negotiate licence agreements with publishers to ensure that students have the resources they need without exposing the University to the risk of law suits. If CCH has any force, Access Copyright is on very shaky legal ground. Quite simply, we don’t need Access Copyright.

NOTE: Access Copyright is trying to force all universities to sign on. Get informed & get involved. Join the FaceBook group ‘Fair Copyright Western

For more information:

What legal scholars are saying:

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“Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” Wed, 12 Jan 2011 01:42:35 +0000 Although slightly unrelated to law qua law, this article published by the Wall Street Journal on January 11, 2011 has created much buzz in the legal world (and perhaps even typifies the upbringing of  many students currently in professional schools).  Written by author and Yale Law professor Amy Chua (who is married to fellow Yale Law professor Jed Rubenfeld), the article defends the “Asian” way of raising children.  If you haven’t read it already, the article is posted here for your perusal (and you may want to read Above The Law‘s take on the article as well):

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?


A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

When it comes to parenting, the Chinese seem to produce children who display academic excellence, musical mastery and professional success – or so the stereotype goes. WSJ’s Christina Tsuei speaks to two moms raised by Chinese immigrants who share what it was like growing up and how they hope to raise their children.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

I’ve thought long and hard about how Chinese parents can get away with what they do. I think there are three big differences between the Chinese and Western parental mind-sets.

First, I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.

For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child “stupid,” “worthless” or “a disgrace.” Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child’s grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher’s credentials.

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it. (And when Chinese kids do excel, there is plenty of ego-inflating parental praise lavished in the privacy of the home.)

Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it’s probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it’s true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

By contrast, I don’t think most Westerners have the same view of children being permanently indebted to their parents. My husband, Jed, actually has the opposite view. “Children don’t choose their parents,” he once said to me. “They don’t even choose to be born. It’s parents who foist life on their kids, so it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide for them. Kids don’t owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids.” This strikes me as a terrible deal for the Western parent.

Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences. That’s why Chinese daughters can’t have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can’t go to sleepaway camp. It’s also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, “I got a part in the school play! I’m Villager Number Six. I’ll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I’ll also need a ride on weekends.” God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that Chinese parents don’t care about their children. Just the opposite. They would give up anything for their children. It’s just an entirely different parenting model.

Here’s a story in favor of coercion, Chinese-style. Lulu was about 7, still playing two instruments, and working on a piano piece called “The Little White Donkey” by the French composer Jacques Ibert. The piece is really cute—you can just imagine a little donkey ambling along a country road with its master—but it’s also incredibly difficult for young players because the two hands have to keep schizophrenically different rhythms.

Lulu couldn’t do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.

“Get back to the piano now,” I ordered.

“You can’t make me.”

“Oh yes, I can.”

Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, “I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?” I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn’t even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn’t think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn’t do the technique—perhaps she didn’t have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?

“You just don’t believe in her,” I accused.

“That’s ridiculous,” Jed said scornfully. “Of course I do.”

“Sophia could play the piece when she was this age.”

“But Lulu and Sophia are different people,” Jed pointed out.

“Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

Lulu realized it the same time I did. I held my breath. She tried it tentatively again. Then she played it more confidently and faster, and still the rhythm held. A moment later, she was beaming.

“Mommy, look—it’s easy!” After that, she wanted to play the piece over and over and wouldn’t leave the piano. That night, she came to sleep in my bed, and we snuggled and hugged, cracking each other up. When she performed “The Little White Donkey” at a recital a few weeks later, parents came up to me and said, “What a perfect piece for Lulu—it’s so spunky and so her.”

Even Jed gave me credit for that one. Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it’s a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

—Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of “Day of Empire” and “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.” This essay is excerpted from “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, to be published Tuesday by the Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2011 by Amy Chua.

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CSIS tapped phone despite order Wed, 17 Nov 2010 08:20:07 +0000 Can you blame people if their response to this kind of news is cynicism?

CSIS tapped phone despite order
Agents violated solicitor-client privilege, recorded 171 calls involving accused terrorist

By Andrew Duffy, The Ottawa Citizen
November 16, 2010

Federal security agents recorded 171 phone calls between suspected terrorist Mahmoud Jaballah and his lawyers after they agreed to halt the practice in December 2008.

That revelation is contained in a recent order issued by Federal Court Judge Kevin Aalto, who condemns the repeated breaches of solicitor-client privilege.

“Solicitor-client privilege is virtually sacrosanct in the Canadian judicial system,” Aalto said in ordering two federal agencies to turn over a raft of documents to Jaballah’s defence team.

I’m also concerned about how this implicates the federal lawyers who had access to this privileged information. What role might the Law Society have in rectifying this abuse of power?

Aligning Interests in Investment Industry Mon, 04 Oct 2010 19:58:44 +0000 Just a brief post in response to the presentation of Claire Hill (from U of Minnesota) at Queen’s Law today.

Ms. Hill diagnosed as a major contributor to the financial crisis the misalignment of interests – i.e. if it was in the investment advisors’ interests to do the right thing, they would do the right thing. Her presentation surrounded the development or change of society’s norms as a possible solution (from a societal perspective) to the problems in the financial industry and as a method of prevention of future crises. Achieving this would come from things like the writing of (and subscription to) professional codes of conduct, ethics training in business schools, etc.

Upon further thought, however, I am left with an uneasy feeling regarding points about the aligning of interests, while at the same time advocating more ethicality on the part of financial advisors.

If the reason people misbehave is a misalignment of interests, and we can simply fix the problem by realigning them, then who is to blame when things go wrong – individuals who make selfish choices or the state/regulators who do not create proper systems to manage and align interests?

To put it another way, we want people to stop acting in their own interests, while we are trying to make their interests the same as (or at least overlapping with) the interests of others. Ultimately, we’re trying to make it so that people can have their cake and eat it too – they can be selfish because in doing so, we’ve made it that they are necessarily taking others’ interests into account as well.

But where does ethicality factor into this?  Are we sure the main problem is misalignment, and do we want to train people to focus on aligning interests?

Wouldn’t a better approach be to remind people that interests may overlap but regardless of whether or not they do, an actor should take others’ interests into account or risk ethical or legal sanctions? to separate interests (at least in theory) and not roll them all into one line of self interest along which individuals may proceed?

I realize that it is always in your best interests to want to do what you should do, and aligning interests is one way of achieving that. But at the same time, sometimes an attitude adjustment is what is needed, and not a shift in interests alignment.

For more information about Claire Hill and her research, visit:

~ Joy

The Donkey and the Carrot: Why Law May Not Be So “Cool” After All Sat, 28 Aug 2010 00:02:33 +0000 For the class of 2013 (or 2014 in my case), the end of summer signals the beginning of law school.  Buoyed by hopes of success and spurred by the prospect of good paying jobs at the end of it all (or the metaphorical carrot on a stick), many of us are getting ready to settle in and start what will no doubt be a challenging but personally fulfilling year.  In the same spirit, I eagerly packed my bags and headed to Montreal propelled by the well wishes of friends and family members.  “You’ll do great,” they said.  “There’s a B curve at McGill.”  I replied.  “Don’t worry about it,” they said.  For months I had been complaining about paying tuition (side note: I know McGill’s Faculty of Law has one of the lowest tuitions in Canada.  Don’t stone me…), and I was saddled with my own fears and apprehensions.  But my friends and family reassured me: “It’ll all be worth it in the end.”  “Go out and make those big bucks,” they said.  So I pranced off to law school.

Shortly upon my arrival, I was in the McGill bookstore looking for my law textbooks when I randomly ran into and finally met fellow Law is Cool contributor Siena Anstis.  We lamented over the dollars that we would inevitably have to shell out in the next few weeks, but Sienna reminded me that, “It will all pay off in the end.  That’s what I keep telling myself anyway…”

A few days later, I went back to the bookstore to purchase my first set of law textbooks (yes, they are so heavy that I will have to buy them in instalments).  There, I bumped into another fellow 1L.  Although we exchanged no words, our countenances did the talking as we exchanged depressed glances, and I made my way to the cashier to pay for my textbooks.  At the cash, I let out a heavy sigh, still decrying the amount of money that these textbooks were going to cost me.  The cashier replied, “Don’t worry.  You’ll make it all back by the end of [law school].”

If I had a dollar for the number of times I was told that…

Most of us are going to law school with the ulterior motive of making some “good money” (admit it…) at the end of it all.   No one pays upwards of $60 000 for the heck of it.  After all, many of us go to law school desperately hoping that the stereotype rings true: “lawyers are stinking rich, or at least can live comfortably” and “job prospects abound for those with a law degree.”  However, as if to add insult to injury, the following excerpt from a blog post puts the stereotype into question:

The Real Value of a Legal Education

By John Farmer Jr.

America’s law schools begin the 2010-2011 academic year facing one of the greatest challenges to legal education since the rise of the modern law school at the end of the 19th century.

On one hand, the job market for law school graduates has rarely been worse than the past two years, and the class of 2011 is facing an equally daunting paucity of opportunities. As The Star-Ledger reported last week, some recent law school alumni who have had a difficult time navigating the job market have become embittered, claiming that the legal academy induced them to borrow large amounts of money by dangling a career prospect that has proven illusory.

On the other hand, interest in legal education has never been higher. Record numbers of qualified college graduates are applying to law schools, which are not hesitating to enroll them. This, in turn, led some members of the bar, meeting recently at the American Bar Association convention in San Francisco, to question the motivation of the law schools. How, they wonder, can they continue to admit thousands of students when their career prospects are so uncertain?

The struggles of recent law school alumni, coupled with the apprehensions of the bar, should give pause to those of us who are involved in educating the next generation of lawyers. …

In the short term, students should embark upon a legal education with their eyes open; the job market is difficult, and likely to remain so. Legal education is not, as the comments of some would suggest, an entitlement program.

…In retrospect, we were spoiled by the prosperity of the large law firms, and the easy career pipeline and high salaries they offered. Tuitions could be raised without fear of compromising the students’ futures; the debt students were forced to incur would be easy to manage with the high salaries recent graduates were commanding. As a consequence, many law schools became “cash cows” supporting programs in their larger university communities. The focus shifted to revenue; economic issues came to dominate.

But the real value of legal education is not, and never has been, primarily economic. It’s not about money; it’s about freedom.

Legal education gives students what 99.9 percent of humanity yearns for but is denied: control over one’s own life….”

I can’t help but wonder, however, how much control one can exert over one’s life when one is broke and thus at the mercy of loans, the leviathan that is the state and the monster that is capitalism.  We all know that job prospects for new law grads are not as great as they used to be (to say the least) – after all, there’ve been numerous posts and articles about this subject on numerous law blogs and sites.  But what am I to expect as a law graduate in 2014?  This year alone was one of the worst for articling students…  Can we – should we – expect better in a few years?  If so, there are no worries.  If not, however, it would behove the class of 2013 to start law school with, not only the end, but reality in mind.

Society?  It lied to me. My friends and family?  Maybe they were wrong.  It is quite possible that law school will not pay off in the end, or at least not without some elbow grease and elapsed time.  The reality is that, in some ways, many of us law students will be like donkeys with that illusive (or, depending on how you think of it, elusive) carrot dangling in front of us – motivated to work because of and for the carrot but forever running after something we may never realistically obtain.

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Canadians have a constitutional right to government-held info: SCC Sat, 31 Jul 2010 14:13:29 +0000 According to a recent ruling of the SCC, the right to access to government records is now protected by the Charter. In a unanimous 7-0 ruling in Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyer’s Association, [2010] S.C.J. No. 23, the SCC decided that if the information is needed to promote “meaningful public discussion on matters of public interest”, Canadians have an access right to that information, guaranteed by s. 2(b) of Charter under the heading “Fundamental Freedoms”.

The Criminal Lawyer’s Association (CLA) called this “an epic win”, that ensued after a decade-long battle for access to a 300-page review conducted by the OPP with regards to how the Hamilton and Halton police “handled the investigation of the 1983 murder of Toronto mobster Dominic Racco. Mr. Racco was shot and killed on December 1983 and his body was dumped on a Milton rail line. Two Hamilton men, Garaham Court and Dennis Monaghan were charged consequently by Hamilton Police. They had the charges stayed in 1997 after Justice Stephen Glithero of the Ontario Superior Court found evidence of “flagrant and intentional misconduct” by the Crown and Halton and Hamilton police in the process. An investigation by the OPP ensued that resulted in the review but it was not made public despite CLA’s request. The denial of the government to force the OPP to release the review was basically what fuelled the legal action taken by the CLA that was eventually granted the right to appeal by the SCC.

Although, the CLA found the ruling, an epic victory, it was not granted the right to access the information in the OPP review. The SCC, in turn, held that right to access could only be triggered when the information sought “is necessary for meaningful public discussion on matters of public interest”. In matters where the release of information may “interfere with the proper functioning of the governmental institution in question”, or where they are shielded by solicitor-client privilege, such rights are not guaranteed to the public.

For one, the SCC held that the review may contain information about the parties that are protected by the solicitor-client privilege. Furthermore, it was decided that CLA has failed to demonstrate that “meaningful public discussion of shortcomings in the investigation and prosecution could not take place without making the OPP report public”. Yet, the Supreme Court sent back the CLA’s request to the information commissioner for a fresh review. Yet, the ruling was described as “a baby step toward recognizing that access to information is a constitutional right” by Paul Schabas of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.

Many countries including UK and US have similar laws implemented in their laws. Sweden, embedded access to information laws in their legislation in 1766 via their Freedom of the Press Act. The British Freedom of Information Act (2000), implemented such rights into the country’s legal system. In Canada, the Access to Information Act grants citizens access to records held by federal bodies and Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is the legislation that governs matters that come under the scope of the Ontario provincial government. The significance of this “baby-step” is of course in having the access to information right established as constitutional rather than statutory.

Read this article by Dan Michaluk and Paul Broad of Hicks Morley for further analysis of how this case impacts the government institutions.

Photo: Dominic Racco

‘Nazi’ listed as an identifiable victim group in Toronto Police’s 2009 hate crime stats report Mon, 10 May 2010 23:30:15 +0000 In the article below Karolyn Coorsh shares some mind-blowing news about the latest act of incompetence by Toronto’s finest. This is yet another bizarre act where Toronto cops are upside down and inside out in their approach to dealing with bias crime in the city. It comes on the heels of an ongoing civil case by a young Jewish lawyer in the city who is suing the Toronto Police Service for defamation after they incorrectly classified him as a nazi when speaking to staff at York University (where he was a student). It is also on top of complaints raised by anti-fascist / anti-racist activists in Toronto between 2004-2006, who reported being harassed by, of all people, members of the hate crimes unit of the Toronto Police Service. Similar complaints were also raised in 2007.

Can Nazis be victims of hate?

‘Nazi’ listed as an identifiable victim group in Toronto Police’s 2009 hate crime stats report

By Karolyn Coorsh
May 7, 2010

Can Nazis be victims of hate?

According to Toronto Police’s 2009 report on hate and bias crime statistics, they can indeed.

In the report presented to the Police Services Board on April 22, Nazi is listed as one of the 27 identified victim groups targeted in hate-motivated criminal acts in 2009.

Under the breakdown of occurrences by police division, “Nazi” is listed as the victim group for one mischief offence that was reported in 13 Division. The west-end division polices parts of Forest Hill, Davenport, Cedarvale and Dovercourt.

In the report’s executive summary, Nazi also appears under the listing of “new victim group” for 2009; these are the identifiable groups that have not appeared in the previous hate/bias crime reports.

The category is puzzling, given that Nazi typically refers to a political party. Political organizations do not appear to fall under any of the hate/bias category codes used throughout the report’s charts and tables.

The Toronto Police definition of hate/bias crime is a “criminal offence committed against a person or property, where there is evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on the victim’s race, nationality or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age mental of physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.”

“How does Nazi fit into that,” questioned Bernie Farber, of the Canadian Jewish Congress, when the category was pointed out by the Town Crier.

“A Nazi can never be a victim but only a victimizer,” he said.

There’s no further elaboration in the report on what a Nazi is by definition, but the report notes that victim groups are categorized according to the suspect’s perception. For example, if an individual is attacked because he is wrongly perceived by the suspect as being homosexual, the individual still becomes the victim of gay bashing,
and the attack is categorized as a hate crime targeting sexual orientation.

A representative from the Toronto Police’s Hate Crime Unit declined to comment on the report May 6. A call to the Toronto Police communications department did not yield any immediate replies.

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Women in the Legal Profession Thu, 25 Mar 2010 15:51:00 +0000 It’s 2010. Twenty-eight years ago, Canadian lawyers helped draft the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, guaranteeing, among other things, gender equality before and under the law. Canadian lawyers have also drafted provincial and federal human rights acts, and each of the law societies’ professional regulations, all of which prohibit public, non-governmental gender discrimination.

But like the old saying goes, “If you see smoke, don’t forget to check the fire station.”

Last year some classmates and I researched the issue of gender inequality in the legal profession. We were saddened to find that it does indeed exist, though it appears to be on a belated decline.

We interviewed two law professors at the University of Windsor on the issue. Here’s what they had to say:

To get involved in this important issue in Ontario, check out the Women’s Law Association of Ontario (WLAO), which has been “Speaking out for Women Lawyers Since 1919”. Or, help spread awareness and ideas online herehereherehere or elsewhere.

And yes, “don’t forget to check the fire station” is not actually an old saying. However, once you abandon tradition you can find meaning in lots of new places.

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Two AIG Subsidiaries Agree To Settle Racial Discrimination Case Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:42:59 +0000 This  is part of the Middle Passage Law Series  and is cross posted on Commercial Law International .

American International Group, better know by its acronym AIG, it seems these days can rarely catch a break. It just seems negative news follows negative news for this company. This time the negative news for this too big to fail company – deeply wounded by the global credit crunch and later recession – has two of its units being accused of racial discrimination in their lending practices.

It is important to note that AIG has not been found guilty of anything; in fact it wasn’t even accused of any wrong doing.


I know, I know, it seem like I am saying that AIG is involved yet not involved in this case. And yes that is exactly what I am saying.

All of this may seem totally contradictory but let me assure you it is not. What we have here is a classic illustration of legal reality vs. public perception of a company’s brand. In order to be successful companies have to be mindful of the differences between these two concepts and effectively manage their interrelation.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) allegations were never directed at AIG, the parent company, but were instead directed at two of its subsidiaries –AIG Federal Savings Bank (FSB) and Willmington Finance Incorporated (WFI). Both banks were accused of not sufficiently monitoring the activities of mortgage brokers who sold mortgages that they funded. The brokers were, according to the DOJ, offered African-American borrowers less favorably borrowing terms than similarly financially situated whites. The two have agreed to settle the case with the DOJ and have agreed to pay at least $US6.1 million without admitting liability as part of the terms of settlement.

The case broke no new ground as far as banks in the US being accused of racial against minorities, namely African-American and Latino-Americans, in fact similar settlements or even full blown litigation involving other US banks will surely be making the headlines in the near future. The case however did break new legal ground in that for the first time US authorities held a lender directly responsible for the racial discriminatory acts of brokers. As a consequence, from now on banks will have a positive duty to monitor the activities/policies of brokers that they fund, to the best of their ability, in order to ensure that they are not using race to determine borrowing terms. This duty also of course carries with the co-duty to take positive action whenever a bank believes that a broker is using race.

From a strict legal perspective AIG, the parent, hands remain totally clean is this matter. It is important to reiterate that AIG was never accused of anything; the allegations were solely directed at the two subsidiaries. And no this is not a simple matter of splitting hairs, while related all three companies are separate. The legal concept of the corporate veil – the independent legal identity of companies, even if related – is a fundamental one in corporate law. The corporate veil is best understood as a shield that is used to protect all the right that come with incorporation. This is not to say that it can never be lifted/pierced, for it can, but this is only done in rear and specific instances where for example fraud is alleged or where for some reason the directing/controlling mind of a corporation needs to be identified.

However, these allegations go beyond strictures of the corporate veil and this is where public perception of the brand and effective management of that brand become important. AIG and its army of brand management specialists both know that the general public are often not so discerning as to make the distinction between parent and subsidiary; as far as the public is concerned AIG is AIG. This is the reason I believe that there was such a quick settlement – the last thing AIG, the parent, needs is a protracted legal battle involving accusations of racial discrimination, albeit involving subsidiaries. This would be a public relations nightmare.