Legal Research – Law is Cool The law school blog and podcast from Canada Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:10:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 1338880 A Legal Student – Then and Now Tue, 21 Sep 2010 06:17:26 +0000 It’s a lot of tuition, and even more hard work. But the journey to be a lawyer in Canada just might be worth it.

In my column of this week’s Lawyers Weekly I ask the question, “What’s a lawyer worth these days?,” discussing the B.C. S.C. ruling in Danicek v. Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang.

Michelle Danicek, a recent UBC Law graduate, was injured days before the bar at a law firm event. She had a motor vehicle collision soon after that. The judge assessed her promising career as a corporate lawyer with a particular knack for working with clients and awarded nearly $6 million dollars.

Not everyone will be a legal superstar the way Michelle Danicek was expected to be.

But that wasn’t really the point of my article. I also cite Alan Watson and Khaled Abou El Fadel, in Fox Hunting, Pheasant Shooting, and Comparative Law, 48 Am. J. Comp. L. 1 (2000), who suggest that there may have been traditionally more to being a lawyer than just making money or winning cases.

Although jurists were men of the world, aware of social, political and economic realities, they also reveled in the very practice of interpreting the law. Legal interpretation was a sport. Yes, it was actually fun to analyze the law.

Developing a passion for the law is probably the best most logical strategy for navigating the stresses of law school, and the demands of a legal career that follow. Law school is the best time to nurture this passion, because legal practice only gets busier as the years go by.

It doesn’t mean that this legal passion will produce ideal legal outcomes. Indeed, it often does not. Watson and Abou El Fadl note a number of shortcomings from the self-absorbed nature of legal jurists of days past. These jurists usually operated outside of state control and sought their legitimacy from talking to each other, not the public or a courtroom. Consequently, principles of utility, public usefulness, and even fairness or justice were secondary concerns to their own legal techniques. To a lay outsider these jurists could appear absurd and remote from reality.

To illustrate, Watson and Abou El Fadl provide a number of examples from the Mishnah before concluding,

Medieval rabbis and Jewish community leaders understood the impracticality of much of the law in the Mishnah. The Rashba (R. Solomon ben Abraham Adret who lived in Barcelona around 1235- 1310) wrote in a responsum that if cases of personal injuries and similar matters were decided according to Torah law, the world would be destroyed. Subsequently the Ran (Rabbi Nissim ben Reuben Gerondi who lived circa 1310-1375) accepted that some Gentile societies had law better suited than the Torah to the social order. For him the Torah law is designed to serve a religious purpose, not to improve the
social order.

Their conclusion is not intended as a condemnation of Torah law, but rather an observation of the historic processes involved in its study,

No one, we believe, will conclude from the preceding section that we are critical of the rabbis’ stance. Indeed, the aim is to show that it belongs to an overrarching pattern. No one, we hope but with less optimism, will imagine that we think the rabbis were unaware of political, economic and social considerations. Only, these are not stressed. Our real claim is that the rabbis focused on interpretation according to their own canons. Of course, religion was there as the foundation, but often the situation discussed is so far distant from the circumstances of the biblical law that the connection can scarcely be seen.

They also discuss the Roman jurist, who although decided secular and with an entirely different relationship with the state, still followed a similar pattern of obsession over interpretation. Another distinguishing feature of Roman jurists was the importance that interpreting private law played for a Roman to rise to high public office.

Legal reform and attempts to make the law systemic were foreign to the classic jurists. The result was the development of often absurd and peculiar results in law. It was the interpretation that mattered, no the results. Even the clear intention of a law was recklessly disregarded to instead apply the literal meaning of the law in the harshest circumstances. For example, the emergence of French Civil Code arose largely out of the need to make sense of the haphazard mess of Roman legal principles.

In contrast, our legal studies are fully immersed in the reality of today. We not only look at how case law develops, but how it applies to our society today, and what it might be in the future. We experience living, dynamic, and intellectually fascinating version of the law. Even when we argue over original intent (originalism) or living tree (dynamism) in the common law, we are arguing principles and aspects of the law that simply didn’t concern the classic jurist very much.

Finally, Watson and Abou El Fadl discuss the classic jurists of Islamic law,

Muslim jurists understood and responded to material considerations through the prism of the legal culture, and quite often the legal culture imposed its own distinct reality. For jurists the hunt is not simply a sport; it is their profession and life…

Our point is that the technique of the jurist often imposes its own logic and structure, and that Muslim jurists, like their Roman and Jewish counterparts, were often more interested in technical soundness and demonstrations of prowess than in the impact of certain decisions or social results. This is not because these jurists were oblivious to the social realities that surrounded them, but because legal culture imposes its own overwhelming reality.

Jurists of today are likely even more overwhelmed with the reality of our day than the jurists of the past. They may no longer have the leisure to obsess over abstract hypotheticals completely unconnected to social imperatives. Sometimes it is sometimes possible to be critical of the stance of jurists when the stakes are that much greater.

In a recent review of Nader Hashimi’s Secularism and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies in the Globe and Mail, Faisal Kutty of Valparaiso University said,

Nineteenth-century French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that the relationship between religion and democracy in the West was the “great problem of our time.” While arguably it may be less significant in the West now, it is altogether a different matter in the Muslim world…

Chapter three contends that some form of secularism is assumed to be a sine quo non of liberal democracy and herein lays the most difficult tension. Hashemi does not challenge this, but he notes that secularism in the West is associated with positive developments. Many Muslims, on the other hand, associate it with the colonial/imperialist agenda, oppressive regimes and hostility to religion as exemplified by the more rigid (French) laïcité version. What needs to be defined, Hashemi asserts, is the precise relationship between secularism and liberal democracy. He suggests, echoing others, that there is considerable latitude in the form of secularism…

Hashemi’s book is undoubtedly a weighty contribution on the question of Islam and democracy, one of the “great problems of our time.”

Given the recent conflicts of the past decade, and the future conflicts undoubtedly to emerge in the future, this problem will also face the legal jurists of our day. Either they will continue in their abstractions, unable to recognize the social realities and the need for legal reform or systemic development of the law, or they will recognize something new.

John F. Kennedy‘s words are as true today as they were then,

Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.

To do so they will need to borrow across legal traditions. They will expand the dialogue that typically only takes place within closed juristic circles to a broader audience which will include jurists from entirely different disciplines. It may require them to work outside their areas of legal comfort, and consider alternative methodology of legal reasoning.

For the modern jurist this shouldn’t be seen as a threat. It’s an immense opportunity to learn – to learn for the rest of our lives, applying the passion of interpretation in bold and exciting new ways.

Because law school doesn’t ever really end for those of us who hold true passion for the law.

Presentation on Free Legal Resources Fri, 14 May 2010 22:40:33 +0000 Here’s a presentation of some tools and resources available which might be useful for law students and small firms looking to keep costs down:

OMG! Law Talk Episode 2 Wed, 14 Oct 2009 14:43:47 +0000

Law Blawgers Omar Ha-Redeye, Michael Carabash and Garry J. Wise return with Episode 2 of OMG! Law Talk.


·Google Juice
·Law Firm Public Relations Strategies
·Getting Legal Information Online
·Blogging and the Election of George Bush
·Responding to Torture
·On Mark Steyn and Freedom of Speech in Canada and America

OMG! Law Talk is a weekly series, jointly presented by Wise Law Blog ( , Dynamic Lawyers ( and

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Luigi Benetton on Collaboration Systems Tue, 18 Aug 2009 15:02:26 +0000 In his regular column for Lawyers Weekly Magazine, freelance technology writer Luigi Benetton has a piece in the Aug. 21, 2009 issue on drafting and editing documents in real-time.

He discusses real-time applications like NetMeeting, and asynchronous platforms like wikis and traditional DMS.  He suggests the latter are more appropriate for lawyers who don’t collaborate as smoothly together.

I point out that the efficiencies created by collaboration tools help boost lawyer productivity, which can raise billable hours and improve work/life balance.  The amount of time learning new technologies is minimal compared to the returns over time.

Fostering more collaboration can  help avoid group-think, especially in highly hierarchical cultures like law firms.

Benetton also discusses why security fears may be unfounded, and the flexibility that these systems can provide to users.

Cross-Posted from Slaw

Sick of Printed Ontario Reports Yet? Tue, 21 Jul 2009 08:11:00 +0000 Michael Carabash of Dynamic Lawyers has this skit on why we need to go digital.

Michel-Adrien Sheppard, also known as Library Boy, agrees – and says it applies equally to other provinces.

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Canadian / US Law Outline Wiki Sun, 11 Jan 2009 05:05:45 +0000 law outline wiki wikipedia canada canadian americanA new Wikipedia-type site for law outlines has been created by law students at Queen’s University.

Law students across Canada and the USA can post to the wiki, which works just like Wikipedia; anybody can post, and anybody can edit.

The hope is that it will be used to help students collaborate and share ideas.

There are already a few outlines on the site.  The tricky part is formatting them so they look good in wikipedia language.

Students are encouraged to convert their outlines to text using a .doc to .txt converter and post them on the site for others to edit.  Anybody can then fix up the formatting and correct any mistakes.

Articles should be named using the following method:   “School-Course” or “School-Course-Professor”.

For example, an outline for Queen’s University’s Commercial Law outline is named “Queen’s Commercial Law”.  Students can also create outlines that are not specific to a school or a professor by simply naming the article by its course name.

Most law schools have a database of outlines, but nobody checks them for accuracy, and they’re usually out-dated.  Now everybody will be able to help keep them up to date, and anybody with a computer will able to access the information for free.

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It’s Official: E-Laws Printouts are Good Law! Wed, 03 Dec 2008 20:14:22 +0000 Mr. Wisdom has pointed out how reliant we soon-to-be-lawyers are on technology. I, like him, cannot imagine living without CanLII, electronic library catalogs, and e-laws.

However, there has always been an undercurrent of resistance to technology from the old school bar that somehow – incredibly in my eyes – manages to get by just fine without electronic legal resources.  For a long time, printouts of electronic case law and legislation have not been acceptable for use in court.

The general rule was that printouts are unacceptable or at least frowned-upon, especially in Superior Court proceedings, though some leeway was occasionally granted in the interests of expedience.

I am extremely happy today to report that the general rule is changing.

Ontario was the first province to begin publishing its laws online. That happened back in 2001 with the launch of e-laws. That was a progressive move to help make the law more accessible to the public, and indeed, to help keep lawyers up to date on changes that could take time to get published in print.

As of November 30, 2008, the government has gone a step further.

According to a MAG press release, copies of regulations and statutes published on e-laws will now be an official source of law.

Both of the following are official:

  • An on-screen display of a statute or regulation viewed on, or downloaded from, the e-Laws website
  • A printout of a statute or regulation viewed on, or downloaded from, the e-Laws website.

According to Ontario’s Attorney General, Chris Bentley (a fellow Londoner):

“E-Laws provides Ontarians with easy access to Ontario’s laws. Making e-Laws an official source of law recognizes the reality of today’s modern technological environment. Eliminating our reliance on printed publications not only makes the law more accessible but does so in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way.”

These changes were made pursuant to a new regulation under the Legislation Act, 2006, [S.O. 2006, c. 21, Sch. F].

Ironically, the regulation (presumably under s. 41(1)) is too new to have been published on the E-Laws website just yet. I haven’t been able to find it!

Twist Law Wiki for Case Summaries Tue, 26 Aug 2008 15:09:26 +0000 My name is Costa Ragas and I’m starting my third year at McGill. Last year I developed a website called It’s a case summary wiki!

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Register & Login

When you register, make sure to select your law school.

Step 2: Profile

Go to your profile, and add your classes. In some cases, one of your classes may already be registered on Twistlaw – you can simply add the class.

Step 3: Search / Browse / Add a summary!

Really, step 3 is up to you. You can choose to search for a summary by entering a keyword. Or you can browse for a summary by class. If you can’t find the summary you’re looking for, add one (the link will be at the bottom of the page)!

And if ever you need to double check anything about this process, you can always try this link here:

Who should use Twistlaw?

Twistlaw was designed to be used by any law student in any year of law school. The point is that each summary is organic, changing and improving over time, as more and more people read it and edit it.

Twistlaw is also ideal for study groups. Get everyone in your study group registered on the site, make sure you add the same class (you can even add “study group X” after the class name to differentiate it, if you prefer). Then each member of the study group can view/edit/print the cases, and work on them together.

Case Summary Features

  • Each summary can be edited by logged in, registered users. Each time a change is made, the old version is archived and a link is created.
  • If you’re using the same case in another class, you can “tag” it for that class by using the drop-down menu when viewing the case summary.
  • If the case mentions a particular statute, you can tag that statute as well. (Make sure you’ve added the statute first, though…)
  • To print the case summary, click on the Print button… Don’t use “File, Print” from your browser, as it won’t be printer friendly.
  • Have something to say about a case that doesn’t belong in the summary? You can add a comment at the bottom of the summary page.

Casebook Features

  • First things first, there are RSS feeds to each one of your classes in your casebook. So if a case summary is added for the class, you can decide if you’d like to add that case to your case summary. This is important. Just because you’ve added a class, doesn’t mean you’ve added all the cases that go with that class. The summaries you elect to have in your casebook are entirely up to you!
  • Another feature for logged in, registered users is the ability to print out an entire class casebook (others have to do it one-by-one). Click on the print button, and the next page will give you a list of all the case summaries for that class which are in your casebook. Each time you view a printer-friendly page, all of the case names will be in “Heading 2.” For those of you using document styles in Word or Mac Pages, this means that it’s easier to select all the summaries and create a table of contents, selecting just Heading 2 items and adding some page numbers.

Statute Features

  • This is one of the latest additions to Twistlaw – a statute wiki! Add a statute by including the name, citation, jurisdiction, and optional description or url. Then you can add a comment about the statute. Or tag the statute for a class in your casebook.
  • If there’s a specific section of the legislation you think is important, you can add that as well, and make comments on the sections.


Let me know if you want your law blog added to the list on Twistlaw.

Main News Feed

Sign-up and stay on top of all the latest updates to the site.

Almost done…

So basically, Twistlaw will not function without collaboration. I created it because I think law students all do the same thing over and over and over again (read and summarize cases…), and this can help eliminate some of the redundancies and tease out the issues which we can sometimes overlook.

Many thanks to everyone over at for letting me spread the word about

UofO Law Students File Against Facebook Sat, 31 May 2008 23:34:03 +0000 We’ve talked about how litigious law students can be, but these four Canadians from the University of Ottawa recently filed a complaint against Facebook to the Federal Privacy Commissioner.

One of the students, Harley Finkelstein, is quoted as saying,

There’s definitely some significant shortcomings with Facebook’s privacy settings and with their ability to protect users.

What’s interesting is how the complaint was raised.

According to Philippa Lawson, Director of Canada’s only technology law clinic, the students were reviewing Facebook as part of their winter term when they identified 22 potential violations of Canadian law.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Canadian Interest and Public Policy Clinic (CIPPC), and can be viewed online.

The points of interest include failures to:

  1. Identify all the purposes for which it collects Users’ personal information
  2. Obtain informed consent from Users and non-Users to all uses and disclosures of their
    personal information
  3. Allow Users to use its service without consenting to supply unnecessary personal
  4. Obtain express consent to share Users’ sensitive information
  5. Allow Users who have deactivated their accounts to easily withdraw consent to share
  6. Limit the collection of personal information to that which is necessary for its stated
  7. Be upfront about its advertisers’ use of personal information and the level of Users’
    control over their privacy settings
  8. Destroy personal information of Users who terminate their use of Facebook services
  9. Safeguard Users’ personal information from unauthorized access
  10. Explain policies and procedures on the range of personal information that is disclosed to
    third party advertisers and application developers


Harley Finkelstein writes in to Law is Cool, and shares this news release.

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Docstoc for Online Collaboration Tue, 29 Jan 2008 11:37:06 +0000 docstocAlthough law school is highly competitive (mostly for marks), those that collaborate usually do get ahead.

Online and Internet technologies are greatly facilitating collaborative learning in law. This site, which draws from first-year students at several different universities across Canada, is also an example of online learning.

Some lawyers are drawing on their experiences to help future students get ahead too.

We spoke to Jason Nazar about his company, Docstoc, and what it can do for law students:

Jason NazarI’m a recent law school grad and one of the reasons we created docstoc was to help law school students exchange outlines, briefs, papers, and study aids more easily. We have a category set aside for law school – and we have hundreds of documents in there already.

We’re also coming out with a new feature soon that will allow law school students to create their own groups.

LawIsCool has tried to provide some centralized summary resources, but Docstoc has the capability to host the actual documents.

Blawgers might find Docstoc useful as well, because they allow embedding documents directly on your site.

We’ll try this feature out in the future, and you can let us know what you think.