Category Archives: legal education

Some light relief – The Law Nemesis

My posts have been pretty heavy going lately. So let’s have some light relief. Apparently one of my readers, Jim Belshaw, came across this very funny video via my blog. I’m not quite sure how he managed to get to it from my blog, but it’s a very funny comment on law students and law school.

{Note of explanation: I have figured out that at UQ, Honours in Law is awarded on the basis of GPA (presumably Grade Point Average) – might help explain the background to the first two sketches…} Anyway, enjoy…

P.S. My husband just looked over my shoulder and said “I can’t believe you’ve found nerdy things on YouTube…you’ve nerded it out!”

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under crazy stuff, humour, legal education

Why didn’t I choose my PhD more wisely?

Check out this awesome post at catallaxy on weird and wonderful law courses.

Why didn’t I do a PhD on law of wine? It would necessitate regular tastings, of course. And a trip to the grape growing regions of France, I think.

5 Comments

Filed under academia, crazy stuff, law, legal education, wine

The little engine that could…

Readers may remember an earlier post I did on what kind of praise helps children’s self-esteem the most – praise for intelligence, or praise for effort? A reader sent me this blog post which links to a further description of the results of the research. This has implications not just for parenting, but for business, sport and life generally.

I’ve been thinking about this recently a lot because I have recently started teaching again this semester. My class has been abuzz with anxiety about getting articles and summer clerkships and the like. I get concerned about this, because I think that students are channeled into believing that a particular pathway is the only path to “success”. However, there are not enough places for articles for everyone, and it is inevitable that some will fail. The question is how one deals with it.

I think a lot of law students and lawyers are “high-need achievers” who like to look successful, and do not like to face failure. But the fact is that we all fail sometimes, and it is an important part of learning and growth. I did not get articles of clerkship first time around: I had been used to getting everything I wanted on a platter. This was an immense shock to me. I took it very personally and became very depressed for a few months. I did not want to hear criticism of my approach or attitude. Instead, I was tempted to give up the whole law gig. In essence, I reflected the “fixed mindset” represented in the research.

I have noticed subsequently that people who are suffering from depression tend to react in this way to setbacks. Instead of keeping on trying, looking at other options and learning from failure, they give up or despair after the first setback. I wonder how much refashioning the way one reacts to failure (cognitive therapy) can help those with depression?

I had to learn a new mindset – to learn that I could improve in job interviews, that I could do things to improve my CV and the depth of my experience, that I could have a more positive attitude, and that I should be heartened by the success of others, rather than jealous. I had to learn that failure was not the end of the world. The fact that I failed did not mean I was intrinsically worthless. In this, I am deeply grateful to my family and friends for supporting me through thick and thin. I still have my moments, but I hope that, these days, I fit more into a “growth mindset” than a “fixed mindset”.

I followed a far more interesting path than I would have if I had just gone and got articles at a mega-firm and followed the career ladder. Another friend of mine did not get articles, and ended up following her dream of doing a fine art degree. I think sometimes failure can be immensely productive, because it can show us that there are many other options and opportunities.

The important thing to take from this is that our destinies are not fixed, and that we can at least improve at things, if we really want to do so. This doesn’t mean I am going to be a genius at everything. I’m still a total klutz, for example, and I think I always will be. It’s partially intrinsic, but it’s also because I tend to get distracted by interesting thoughts and walk into walls and the like. (Just between you and I, it’s a choice to an extent: I can’t be bothered thinking about where walls are if I’m having an interesting thought about resulting trusts.)

I want my students to know that if things don’t work out for them job-wise, it is not the end of the world, and that there is not one path to “success”. There are heaps of different and exciting opportunities out there, if one only knows where to look, and if only one keeps on trying.

(Via Penguin Unearthed)

4 Comments

Filed under education, law, legal education, morale, society

Reality Bites

Someone just sent me this link to the Lawyers Weekly bulletin and told me to take a look at Gadens’ comments with regard to the Sydney Law Careers Fair.

Gadens Lawyers

Who from your firm will be attending?

A representative selection of some of our finest and most earnest young solicitors may attend, subject to their daily billing targets. If the stall is unattended, it’s because we’re all doing something more important.

Will they be making any presentations or giving talks?

Unlikely. They’re quite shy and very focused on their chargeable hours. We will be raffling off an interview every hour as usual, but this should be no cause for amusement or conversation.

What items/information will you have for graduates to take away?

We will be giving away a manila folder containing a sample time sheet, a list of after-hours dinner delivery services in the CBD, a guide to achieving optimum personal billing statistics during your summer clerkship and a bus ticket.

What are the three most important qualities you are looking for in a graduate employee?

A law degree; willingness to work till it hurts, then keep working; and the personality and personal values of a federal cabinet minister.

How many positions will you have available for graduates this year?

We prefer to hire in bulk to account for natural attrition and burnout. This year we are taking 150 graduates in the hope of there being six or seven of them left standing by February 2008. This is more than previously because we’ve been losing them faster than anticipated. Young people today just seem to be soft.

HA HA HA…ha…ha…sob sob sob…! The thing is that it’s way too close to the bone, I just can’t bring myself to laugh that hard about it.

8 Comments

Filed under crazy stuff, law firms, legal education, morale

Law Journals

When I was a law student, I participated in the editing of the university law journal there. I think I always did a good job on the articles I was assigned; it has stood me in good stead in later years when writing my own articles. I always have a thought for the poor person who has to go through and check my footnotes and the like. I try to make sure that I’ve got everything as accurate as possible, although it’s always possible to miss things (that’s why an independent editor is such a great idea).

I was interested to read the following comment on an American blog by Professor Bainbridge:

The law reviews have made a hash of the manuscript submission process, which once more raises the question of why legal scholarship remains dependent on the whims of twenty-something second and third year law students. Personally, I plan to stick to books and symposia articles until the law reviews get together and coordinate their requirements.

I have to agree that it is really irritating trying to get your head around different citation and formatting requirements. Luckily, I’m a dab hand with word-processing packages, and I’ve learned a number of little tricks over the years for changing things quickly.

I can also understand that if one is an eminent professor, it could be a little galling to have a uppity whipper-snapper try to tell you how to do your job. Many young law students take themselves all too seriously, and I can imagine some might lecture eminent professors on formatting or something like that. But then, there are probably also some eminent professors who take themselves all too seriously too. And some authors may benefit from comments on style and argument. In fact, I’ve read a few journal articles lately that needed to be completely rewritten in order to make any sense.

Actually, that reminds me: last week while standing in the coffee queue at university, I saw some very pretentious first years being terribly clever and knowing about just everything and I am afraid that I couldn’t quite contain a smirk, although I tried to hide it. Was I that terrible when I was a student? Probably, although I hope I wasn’t quite as dreadful as these two fellows. I do hope that they grow up a little. These days, I’m incapable of taking myself too seriously.

To return to the topic, so far, I have had no problems with student-run journals to which I have submitted articles. I have also recently submitted two articles to two professionally-run journals, and I wouldn’t say that their procedures are any better or any worse than the student-run journals. In fact, in relation to one of the articles, I’ve been waiting almost a year to hear when it is going to be published. By the time they decide, I’ll have to update it. In fact, that reminds me, I should have a look at that recent House of Lords case…

(Via Professor Bainbridge and Instapundit)

2 Comments

Filed under law journals, legal education

Those dark satanic mills…

Until I studied the poetry of William Blake, I always thought that it was obvious that he was referring to the terrible cotton mills of Northern England when he spoke of “those dark Satanic Mills”. I used to think it was ironic that we sang the hymn Jerusalem with such gusto at my Northern English secondary school (which was established by the wealth of Northern industrialists). But it’s a beautiful hymn; I love it. [In an aside, my iconoclastic mother and I have a fantasy of writing an exposé of the industrialist capitalist credentials of the founders of the school called Exposing the Founders. Heh heh heh!]

However, I later learned another theory about the “dark satanic mills”. Blake could have been referring to Oxford and Cambridge, as mills which turned out battalions of students who thought in a certain way (and did not think outside the square). I’m not going to get into a debate about the openmindedness or lack thereof in universities today (that’s a topic for another day). But I am going suggest that universities are also dark satanic mills in another sense, more akin to those nasty cotton mills: they treat young sessional employees with disdain and contempt.

I read an interesting blog post today, written by an English academic, about the way in which English universities treat their sessional staff. Sigh! Sometimes I fantasise about going back to the UK to study, but obviously I’d be in no better position there. And the weather would be terrible. At least I actually get paid in time here.

I still don’t know whether my contract for next year will be renewed or what my position is. The university is full of left-wing rhetoric: feminist ideals, treating people well in the workplace…you know the spiel. Well, that’s all very nice, but it’s all just so much hot air as far as I’m concerned. I am a intelligent hard-working woman, with a young child to look after. Prime candidate for a bit of feminist help and support, methinks? Nope. I’m sitting here in limbo, waiting for someone to have the decency to get back to me and indicate (a) if I will have a job next year and (b) what I will be teaching if I do have a job. Time for me to remind the university of their espoused ideals, I think (in the nicest possible way, of course, let’s not forget that I’m David to the university’s Goliath).

1 Comment

Filed under academia, legal education, universities

Legal Education Review

Today, the Department of Justice published its Review of Legal Education Report. The Attorney-General, Mr Hulls, said the Government would give in-principle support to the Report’s recommendations.

The Report recommended that Victoria abolish the current Articles system and replace it with a “Traineeship” system similar to the Queensland model.

A graduate would complete a one year traineeship with a law firm, community legal centre, government office or corporation. A trainee would be required to undertake compulsory pre-admission training based on the “Competency Standards for Entry Level Lawyers” developed by the Law Admissions Consultative Committee and the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council. Some of this training could be internal, but seminars and assessment in “Lawyers’ Skills”, “Ethics and Responsibility” and part of “Work Management and Business Skills” would need to be completed externally.

Other key recommendations in the review include a proposed restructure of the Council of Legal Education and Board of Examiners, funding to be provided for special education projects and additional funding to help rural and regional trainees attend city based training.

I am glad that the entities with which one can complete a traineeship are broader than just law firms. I am also glad that there will be some standardised Statewide training. Previously, Victoria was the only State without minimum training requirements for Articled Clerks.

However, I am disappointed that (as far as I can see from my quick skim of the Report) it did not consider the idea of a Register for firms and corporations which were not suitable for trainees to undertake positions. I have raised this idea in a previous post.

I have a very passionate conviction in this regard because, although my own articles experience was perfectly fine, I have heard of a number of colleagues who were bullied, physically threatened and/or sexually harrassed during their Articles year. The most heinous example I know of is where a principal seduced the articled clerk under his supervision. To me, this seems be the ultimate breach of fiduciary duty, but there was no avenue for the articled clerk to raise it with any relevant body.

(If you are interested in reading more, I have raised these issues in my post on Ethics in Articles, and in a general context for all lawyers in my post on Bullying, Discrimination and Sexual Harrassment in Law Firms.)

1 Comment

Filed under law, legal education