First week at UOttawa (Common Law – English)

After my first week at UOttawa, I feel extremely confident that it was the right choice for me. Prior to attending, I was a little nervous given the fact that it is the largest law school in Canada.I had read horror stories about how competitive law school is, and was bracing myself for the worst. Nonetheless, after meeting people in my program, I was pretty relieved to discover that the character of the school is very different than I had feared (kudos to the admissions committee). The orientation week was also very effective in helping me meet lots of people in my program and others. It gave me with an opportunity to meet professors and upper year students and get a more comprehensive understanding of the character of the school. As for orientation events, I assume they are similar to those of other schools (BBQs, orientation seminars, semi-formal gala at the court house, and lots of late night socials), but I had an incredible time. There was also a visible presence from big law firms, which gave out a lot of promotional and recruitment materials.

UOttawa is very committed to social justice, which was well demonstrated this past week. The theme for the week was Aboriginal issues, and there were some fantastic speakers on international law, land claims, and residential schools. I actually really enjoyed the theme and focus, but some friends (particularly those from a technology background) pointed out that they wanted to hear more about their interests, like intellectual property or the environment. That said, there are a lot of specialty focuses offered, and I think the orientation did a decent job introducing them. It definitely expanded my interest in some areas I never would have considered before.

Many in my class come from all over Canada, representing extremely diverse backgrounds of interests. As an English-only student, I was a little intimidated by the level of French in the school, but I actually found it a very inclusive atmosphere. For anybody that is concerned about not having an adequate background in French, I’d say there is not much to worry about. If anything, I would say the school goes out of its way to make everyone feel welcome.

Overall, I had a great week and am looking forward to starting classes on Monday (already have some readings and an assignment).

Thursday, September 4th

I have just completed the second day of class as a 1L.  Tuesday was Orientation at U of T so there were no classes and the day was full of information.  All day we were told about the various clubs, journals, and clinics that the school has to offer its students.  Even though I have only been a law student for approximately a blink of an eye, I am confident that there is an extracurricular activity at this school that could interest just about anyone’s interest.  I have tried to make an agreement with myself to take it slow on joining many extracurriculars before I actually understand what the workload will be like.  However, it seems extremely difficult to ease in when many of the activities have their orientation days coming up within the next week.  I’ve decided on a journal and a clinic that I have a lot of interest in, and I am also considering a human rights working group which I hope will aid my legal research skills.  At UofT, your legal research requirement is not until the upper years and although many professors have stressed that we will have a good exposure to legal research, I would like to matters into my own hands.

Wednesday we began classes.  At this point it is hard for me to give any concrete ideas of what the classes will be like, however, each of my professors has been  welcoming, excited to be teaching first years and very interactive with the students.  My favourite class (undoubtedly) will be my small group.  U of T, being a relatively small program already, splits the first year class in half so for each course there are 2 classes of about 65-70 students and 3 small group classes of about 15-20.  This small group can be in any of your subjects; for myself, the class content is not why I know I will enjoy the class the most, but the idea of the intimate setting and low professor to student ratio.  It is a very safe space for a nervous first year and class to test the waters of legal reasoning.

Today I only had one class so I decided to try a method of studying an upper year had used.  I went to the library at 9am and stayed there (minus lunch and a coffee break) reading and taking notes.  I have three days that are not packed full of class and I like the idea of a 9-5 schedule.  We’ll have to see if that ends up being a enough hours to cover all of the work.  The library is a step up from my previous institution’s; large windows, natural light and extremely quiet.  Imagine that…a quiet library.

Anyways, the students are all friendly, the Dean is very personable, the professors all brilliant. Most importantly they have not stopped feeding us since we walked onto the grounds Tuesday morning.  Two out of the standard three meals a day have been covered.  I am certain I have produce that is going bad in my fridge.  But as Dean Mayo Moran said, “…if there’s one thing we do right at U of T law, it’s feed you.”  The woman does not lie.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 – Second Day of School

After my second day of school, I am feeling a bit tired and agitated because I still need to buy one or two books and I’m frustrated to have to look up so much course information on my student account – I don’t like reading on a screen (blog readers, can you sympathize?).

Other than that, I am excited about my courses so far – I have had the first class in five of the six courses I’m taking this semester. First off the bat yesterday was Constitutional Law. On first impressions, I will enjoy this class. The professor is funny and engaging, and the class environment seems positive and supportive. From what I gather, the approach will be largely historical. Then came Extra-Contractual Obligations/Torts, a class which I enjoyed because the questions posed by the professor encouraged a lot of class participation, getting people both intellectually and emotionally involved. We also laughed a lot – the prof is really funny.

Today, we started our day with Intro to Legal Research and Writing, or “Legal Meth” as it is more commonly called. This class will probably be pretty dry, because it is all about the rules of process in legal work. The entire first year class was there (as opposed to the other courses, which are divided into sections), but we will be divided up into tutorial groups. The second class was Civil Law Property, which will definitely demand a lot of concentration because I am taking it in French and a lot of the vocabulary is unfamiliar. This was the class I probably enjoyed the least so far, but I’ve been told that the material will be fairly straightforward, so hopefully it won’t be too bad. After lunch, Contracts. This was a very stimulating class. I am lucky to have so many professors with a good sense of humour!

I already have readings and have to get myself organized, so I won’t write more just now, but this has been a summary of my first impressions so far. Once I have done a few more classes and gotten into the substance of the courses, I will post again. À la prochaine!

Friday, August 29, 2008 – Registration Day

A great day! My first impressions of the 2012 BCL-LLB  class at McGill have been overwhelmingly positive. What a group of interesting, intelligent, and friendly people! Registration Day was a mandatory event happening at the law school, where Orientation activities were spelled out in detail for those students participating, where free stuff from law firms was given out, where certain non-course-related administrative details were taken care of, and where we were fed copious amounts of delicious catered finger-foods. The whole milieu was conducive to meeting and greeting which, given the mutual curiosity and articulateness of the people involved, was a lot of fun.

Then there were the addresses from the Dean and the Assistant Dean, which were at once funny and thought-provoking, and which imbued us with a sense of McGill’s tradition as an institution espousing social and intellectual responsibility in civic life, while encouraging us to make this tradition our own and to carry it forward into our yet un-charted future. If that sounds in any way stuffy, the humour and humanity of the speakers made it, at least to me, anything but. Guest speakers today included a prominent lawyer, a judge from the Superior Court of Ontario, and the Privacy Commissioner, all graduates of McGill, who spoke, among other things, about the quality of education McGill offers to its students, the value of a trans-systemic approach in all aspects of the legal profession, the continuing rise of women in law, access to justice, and alternative careers for a law school graduate.

By the end of the speeches I was getting tired, so I decided to skip the soccer game planned for the first year students. I have decided that since I have been living in Montreal for a year now, and huge social events are frequently more a source of stress for me than a source of enjoyment, I will not take part in the Orientation activities, although almost everyone in my class is. Despite that, I have no worries about fitting in or making friends because almost everyone I have met today has been so open and friendly.