Transcript - Episode 1: What’s a Myth?
Episode 1: What's a Myth?
Richard: Welcome to What’s Law Got to Do With It? A light-hearted look at Canada’s law schools. I’m Professor Haigh, co-host.
Adam: And I’m Adam Lachance, co-host as well.
Richard: So, Adam and I will, hopefully, every podcast talk a little bit about law school experience in Canada. We’ll have some guests come in and the idea is to make this, as they say, a little look at law school, what life is like in law school, what it means to be a law student, but not at all serious. We’re going to have fun with this podcast. So that’s the idea. So today…
Lillianne: Hello, my name is Lillianne. I am the first guest of this esteemed podcast. I did survive law school unscathed.
Richard: It’s great that we have her on the show. So the other thing about Lil that we should know is that I taught her in first year State and Citizen many years ago. Well, not that many, Lil. And Lil came to me – I believe it was March, let’s say… of first year – in her typically Lil fashion and said, “I was wondering, Professor Haigh, if you have a need of a research assistant to help you out with stuff.” And I thought, that’s pretty good. Nobody else has come up to me to help me do that. And she just seemed full of life and vim and vigour, and so I… I decided to take Lil on as a research assistant. And she subsequently stayed with me on a couple big projects, and so we … yeah we stayed in touch and I think… I think the world of her. She’s… You’re actually beyond law school now, right?
Lillianne: I’m beyond law school. I just finished articling …
Lillianne: … this June.
Richard: So, our first guest has gone through the ringer, has come out intact.
Lillianne: For the most part.
Richard: So, welcome Lil.
Lillianne: Thank you.
Richard: And, yeah so Adam and I – the plan is we’ll, you know… we’re not interviewing you as such. You can just pipe in whenever you want. And the idea is each week we’ll have a slight theme that we’ll kind of riff off of and hopefully that will take us through the podcast. So, today’s theme is … we’re actually… Adam, did you do your reading? We’re going through Allan Hutchinson’s book, which is called the Law School Book: Succeeding and Law School. So, I’m going to be assigning Adam readings each week. This week’s reading comes from Chapter 1 of Allan Hutchinson’s book.
Adam: Um… unfortunately I didn’t actually read that… yet. But, I’m sure I’ll get to it at some point.
Richard: All right. Well, we’ll manage, I think. And Lil, did you? I can’t even remember we told you to read this.
Lillianne: [Laughing] I read it long ago. So, I will try to recall from summer before law school what Hutch had to say.
Richard: All right, we should… I should say a little bit. Allan Hutchinson is another professor here at Osgoode and he wrote this book as a guide or a helpful primer to getting through law school. And so, today we’re looking at Chapter 1. So, Adam, stay with us. So, Allan talks about myths. I think we’re going to cover these myths today. Hopefully some or all of them. And I’ll list them all off at the beginning and then we’ll come back to maybe discussing some of them in detail.
So, the myths that Hutch says about law school are: first: law school is difficult; Myth number two: a law degree is a meal ticket for life; Myth number three: law school grades are notoriously low; Myth number four: law professors are a bunch of sadistic prima donnas; Myth number… where are we? Five?
Adam: [Laughing] We’re on number five.
Richard: Five? Ok. Law school is all theory and no practice. I should say that law school is not meant for people who are bad at… well, actually it IS meant for people who are bad at numbers, right? It’s ok to be bad at numbers.
Richard: Myth number 6: Taking undergraduate law courses gives you an edge; and Myth number 7: I want to be a criminal lawyer or litigator. So those are the myths. So, Adam, having not read any of that, do you think… what you do think… [Laughter] Let’s start with Law school is difficult. You’re… you’ve done one year out of three.
Adam: Yeah, so coming out of first year law school – or 1L – I would agree with the first myth.
Richard: [Laughing] That’s it’s NOT difficult?
Adam: No, I would agree that it IS difficult.
Richard: Oh, so you disagree with the myth?
Adam: Yeah. See, this is what would happen if you don’t do the readings and you get the question.
Richard: A myth… let me remind you that a myth means it’s probably not true.
Adam: Fair enough. No, so that’s… so that changes my whole understanding of all these myths, knowing what a myth is.
Richard: You are a good law student, then, you figured it out quickly.
Adam: Yeah, law school I think was a challenge, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was doable. It wasn’t something where it was not obtainable for anybody. It was something where you could kind of figure out your strategies and there were a lot of different approaches. And everybody would do something different - their own way - and it seems like we all made it in the end.
Richard: Yeah. What’s your take, Lil?
Lillianne: Yeah. I would have to agree. I don’t think you have to be a genius to succeed at law school. I do think you have to work really hard and that might be a big adjustment from people coming from undergraduate, or even graduate degrees. I came from a journalism background. I don’t know how other people worked in their undergraduate degrees, but I didn’t work particularly hard.
Richard: Oh, ok.
Lillianne: And, so that was a big leap for me. It was just the amount of work required to – not even do well – just to get Bs, still demanding. And I think that was the hardest part. Not hard, doable, but adjusting to that.
Richard: Which is basically – so that’s what Hutch said: “While law school is not easy, it’s by no means as difficult as myth would have it. Everyone who’s admitted is fully capable of getting through law school, and not only that, but doing well. The difficult part is getting in, not staying there.” Ok, so you two kind of …
Adam: That’s fair.
Lillianne: [murmur of agreement]
Richard: … say that’s fair? My problem… So, I’m going to be the contrarian in almost every week, by the way, but…
Adam: Ok, that makes sense.
Richard: First of all, this is written by a law professor. Law professors don’t find law school difficult, right? You two have managed well. What happens if… what if you asked someone who really struggled? There must be some who struggle, and they might say that it’s difficult. No?
Adam: Possibly. I could see if you did have a little bit more trouble with first year, you might say, “It IS impossible. What do you mean?”
Adam: It’s the… you can’t do all of the readings. There’s too many readings. There’s always something you have to do. You’re trying to balance extra curriculars and school. I can definitely see the other side of that. But, for me I’d still obtain that it’s not beyond reach.
Richard: It certainly is not difficult to get through because I think the one thing that the one thing that students in first year may not realize: nobody fails law school. Nobody.
Adam: It’s almost a safety net. A curve. Yeah.
Richard: Yes. So, in that sense, again, I think he’s right, but you know… I’ve definitely, over my years, I’ve met students who found it tough. Right? And... but maybe they don’t do the work. That’s the thing. I don’t really grill them on how much of the reading they do.
Lillianne: Well, I did pretty poorly in my first semester of law school, and then ok in second semester of first year. The difference between that year and the other years where I did well was learning how to succeed, which involved reading “Getting to Maybe,” which is something they tell everyone in 1L to do, and which I, you know, repeat with emphasis…
Richard: That’s going to be one of our homework assignments.
Lillianne: Yes. Yes.
Adam: I’ve already read two chapters. I was too bored. I couldn’t keep going.
Richard: Oh. I’m going to assign you one of the chapters you didn’t read.
Lillianne: It was invaluable, really. Because you’re figuring out a whole new way of writing exams – for most people. For everyone. Fact patterns are entirely new to anyone coming into law school, and you just kind of sort of have to figure out what the strategy is and so don’t be discouraged by not figuring it out right away.
Adam: Even the two chapters I read before I fell asleep and stopped reading, I got that – kind of that paradigm shift of: Oh, I should be approaching this as, like I would like the LSAT. Like, it’s these tests are their own monster almost.
Adam: You can kind of figure out there’s, like, some patterns that are built in. I just didn’t think I needed every single pattern.
Adam: I was just going crazy.
Richard: Right. Well, I have to say I’ve never read the books, so it’s going to be good homework for me. What is it? Getting to Maybe or Getting to Yes? I’ve already forgotten.
Lillianne: Getting to Maybe.
Richard: Getting to Maybe. I better write that down. So, what do they tell you to read that before? They don’t tell you to read Hutch’s book? Or do they?
Lillianne: Getting to Maybe was more folklore. It was sort of, you know, whispered in the halls. Hutchinson’s book was on the reading list.
Richard: It did a… yeah. It might even have come with the orientation package.
Adam: I think it did.
Lillianne: Right, actually yes. We got sent a copy in the mail.
Adam: We got it as a pdf.
Lillianne: … before we started.
Adam: … access to a chapter.
Richard: Right. Ok. But, Getting to Maybe is… That… yeah. You read a lot, don’t you? As a journalist you probably… as a student before coming here anyway.
Lillianne: Definitely, but I only read for fun. I only read things that I wanted to read, so it was a bit of an adjustment having to read, you know, old contracts cases from the 1800s, for example. Uhh…
Richard: We all did that. That … isn’t that… it’s hilarious that in contracts…
Adam: Contracts, yeah.
Richard: … in particular you get those old English cases that they love to still assign.
Lillianne: It can be a bit of a slog.
Adam: On your first week. I was, like, “what is happening in this? Am I supposed to understand this?”
Adam: I wasn’t, apparently, and…
Richard: [Laughing] Well, yeah, and I teach criminal law and I’m going to be teaching it this year and one of the first cases we read is an old 1800 case and the language is archaic. And it hard to even understand what the judge is getting at, and so you have – as a professor – you have to translate it into modern language. But… yeah… I don’t think- that is not a skill that you really need to develop in law school: the ability to read archaic language is not something that you need to, but the ability to read.
Adam and Lillianne: [Laughing]
Richard: … Period. Is something …
Lillianne: I would agree with that.
Richard: And it’s reading in a different way, though. That’s the other thing. So, I love reading. I would – even as an engineering student – I used to read fiction and so, I think that was partly why I was attracted to law. But, if reading for pleasure, reading for most other subjects is not quite the same as the way you read law school. Especially having to read contracts, or reading statutes…
Richard: Nobody does that for fun. You do that for a job and it’s a different way of reading, right?
Lillianne: I found that reading case law was an acquired type of reading. Acquired skill that you had to practice doing and that I really only got a feel for once I started working and it became required of me to read all of the case law.
Richard: Yeah, that’s interesting. So, part of it is the same. Maybe it isn’t really difficult, but you have to somehow let go of probably the way you used to read, or to develop a different way of reading. And that takes time for some people, right?
Richard: As you said, Lil, it might take a year, including the summer where you work after year one, to really get into the groove.
Adam: I agree with that 100%.
Adam: The idea of breaking down a case into its elements: what are the facts? What is the legal rule? That was something… you don’t need to read every single case in law school. There’s these things called summaries that people will give you, but you need to learn how to read the cases because you might need to at some point. Like, you’re inevitably going to have to read a case by yourself and figure out what it means.
Richard: Yes. Don’t rely on other people.
Richard: You have to … everything has to be done by you …
Adam: As much as possible.
Richard: … as much as possible.
Lillianne: Mhmm. And to trust yourself.
Richard: Yeah. And you’re right. But there are – it’s like so many things – there are … you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, either. There are tools out there that help you, but you still … I do think… I would encourage everyone to read. Read the stuff that’s important and don’t rely on others to do your reading for you. Right? Yeah.
Adam: I’m sure that’s a common mistake.
Richard: [Laughing] Remember that for next week when you get your assignment, but…
Lillianne: Well, some things are so counterintuitive. Even figuring out your reading case law online, even figuring out which judge is speaking at the moment can be difficult as a first-year law student. These things seem so basic at a certain point when you’ve read hundreds and hundreds of cases, but at the beginning it can seem ridiculous.
Adam: I didn’t care. Everyone was talking about the judges’ names. I was like: who cares what the judge’s name is? So later they want –Well, what’s this tell you, who was dissenting or something, and I was like: Oh.
Richard: Very important.
Adam: … Oh. I cared about these judges from day 1, too. For sure.
Richard: It’s hard as a professor you kind of try to explain all of those basic things in the early part, but in a way, again, it probably just goes over the heads of some people. Or they think: What’s the point of that? It would be like medical school saying… the anatomy professor saying, “You all have two arms.” And you think, “Yeah, yeah. Of course, we all have two arms.” But, it, you know… there’s an important role in the function they play, and it’s important to know what they do. Maybe that’s not the best analogy, but it’s what I just thought of.
Richard: All right. Moving on. A law degree…
Adam: You get one per episode.
Richard: [Laughing] Oh no! There’ll be more. More than one. A law degree is a meal ticket for life. Now remember, Adam, this is a myth, so in other words Hutch is saying…
Adam: So, is it or isn’t it?
Richard: … it’s NOT a meal ticket for life.
Adam: I’m still confused.
Richard: [Laughing] So that means… so, what does he say? “If this myth ever were true, it’s no longer valid. The market for law jobs,” This is the pessimistic myth, right? In other words: It’s no longer a meal ticket, but it’s still a good job, basically that’s what Hutch comes down on. “Although, the market for lawyers may not be as uniformly buoyant as any outsiders think, it’s probably no more demanding or challenging than any other. And there are many communities outside large urban centers that need lawyers, so in other words you may have difficulty finding a meal ticket in … Toronto? And it’s as good of a degree as any to obtain if you’re concerned about your future career prospects.” So, again that kind of hedges his bets, but I think his idea is that it may be, one time or another, who knows? Thought that a law degree would make you a millionaire. You may have to dial that back these days.
Richard: Oh? You didn’t know that?
Adam: Wait, is this the mid-learning
Richard: Well, we can… well, maybe you can be the contrarian on this myth. Maybe you think it’s your meal ticket for life. I don’t even know what that means, a meal ticket for life.
Adam: Depends on how you define meal ticket.
Richard: Yeah. Is it monetary only, or?
Adam: Is this enough to feed yourself for life? Because I could definitely … I think I could pull that off. I like the idea that I’ve been finding out more and more that there’s a lot of things you can do with law degrees that aren’t kind of a specific route and I’m seeing that now with me going into second year. Different people kind of deciding… they’re getting an idea of what they want to try out. And if you’re in it for a meal ticket for life there’s a path for that. 100%. But, it’s not 100% of people are going to have that opportunity. It’s got its own separate path and has its own challenges, I think. I’m not on that path, so… [chuckles]
Richard: As a professor, neither am I.
Richard: Lil might be. I don’t know if you want to say what you’re about to do, but it’s a partial meal ticket, I’d say.
Lillianne: I’m going to be clerking this year, in a week. In a week’s time, actually. Woah. Yeah. Which, you know, I guess could be considered a ticket to something. It’s definitely a required ticket into academia.
Richard: McDonald’s at least. [Chuckling]
Lillianne: Oh please.
Lillianne: I mean if you want to go into academia you need to understand that it’s sort of mandatory to do that. I don’t think it’s necessary to get that meal ticket. You don’t have to clerk. But it certainly opens up doors for you. I’ve heard that, you know, you get to meet a lot of people when you’re there and that’s certainly a good opportunity to see all the different fields available to you. But what I was going to say is that I think I have to agree with Hutchinson a little bit, I think. It’s important to be realistic and, you know, there are hurdles every step of the way in law school.
Richard: Mhmm. Such as?
Lillianne: I think the market is getting over-saturated. Well, it’s been over-saturated for awhile, but it’s only getting worse. And, from what I understand, it’s harder and harder to get articling jobs. So, I think people on, you know, can be optimistic about what they can do with their law degree, but not come in with certain expectations of what they’re going to get out of it.
Richard: Yeah. Well, my partner is a perfect example. She… we met in law school. She did practice for a while, but she doesn’t practice law anymore and … but her law degree, she would say, gave her opportunities that few other degrees would give you. And so, you know, in that sense- again, it’s not – Yeah, I probably agree with Hutch. It’s not a meal ticket for life, but it opens doors that would never been opened otherwise. Whether that be practicing law or something else, it’s still a really good, employable degree, I think. And you learn… your critical functions that you learn in law school I don’t know if they’re ever so… I don’t think any other faculty or degree would hone them the same way that law school does. That’s why people want lawyers, because you think critically about … Well, you’re supposed to be able think critically. Yeah.
Adam: It does develop that. I feel like it helps. I’m naturally a skeptic about … I thought it was just going to be a rodeo and we’re just going to be like playing a game the whole time, but then I accidentally learned a bunch of stuff along the way and I think I benefited a lot from it.
[Richard and Lillianne laughing]
Richard: Nothing wrong with accidental learning.
Richard: It’s actually sometimes the best way to learn, because it doesn’t feel like learning, then, right?
Richard: Lil, you said before we started you wanted to leave the ‘law professors are a bunch of prima donnas alone?’
Lillianne: I’m hesitant to touch that topic. Well, actually, I will say, though…
Richard: Hey, you’re in front of me. We can talk about it. You know I’m not a … Would you describe me as a prima donna?
Lillianne: Definitely not.
Richard: So, good. We can take that. So then, in other words, this is a myth, Adam.
Adam: I don’t even know what a prima donna is.
Richard: Oh! We better… [chuckling] You want to google that? What would be a good example of a prima donna, other than an opera singer, since that’s I think where that came from, but…
Lillianne: I think sort of over dramatic…
Richard: … egotistical.
Lillianne: Center-of-attention narcissist.
Richard: Yes. Ok. That’s all.
Adam: We’ll put the clip…
Richard: … they think they’re the bees’ knees.
Adam: … the tv show. Or the movie. What’s the movie called?
Richard: Oh yeah. That would be a good part.
[Clip from movie]
Teacher: Now, I assume all of you will have read pages 1 through 48 and are now well-versed in subject matter jurisdiction. Who can tell us about Gordon vs Steel? Let’s call on someone from the heart, sir. Elle Woods?
Elwoods: Oh… [hesitating]… Um. Actually… I wasn’t aware that we had an assignment.
Teacher: Well, ah… Vivienne Kensington. Do you think that it’s acceptable that Ms. Woods is not prepared?
Vivienne: No. I don’t.
Teacher: Would you support my decision to ask her to leave class and to return only when she is prepared?
Vivienne: Absolutely. [Music playing in background]
Richard: So, law professors are a bunch of sadistic prima donnas is a myth. In other words, they’re just regular people. They’re ordinary. They’re fine. So, Lil’s already agreed that I am, so that’s one. We’ve got one here.
Lillianne: … who are not a prima donna.
Richard: Yes. So, I’m a regular person.
Adam: Yeah. Oh man, I’m so confused.
Richard: [Laughing] These myths … we’re going to have to move off of myths for the next week.
Adam: No more myths in Chapter 2!
Richard: We will deal with … we will have the seven realities of law school next here.
Lillianne: That would be easier.
Richard: Yeah. But the … so why I wanted to address this is because only a law professor, such as Hutchinson, would even think that people think that law professors are prima donnas. I bet you nobody coming to law school thinks that these are god-like figures that are going to teach them, do they? Do you? Did you think that? Do you remember back to your welcome assembly when you met… or first week of class and you had these… aren’t they just like any other teacher you had? Why would they be special? I don’t…
Adam: I felt like I had some sort of idea of professors being more special when I started first semester because it was so, like, foreign, everything we were learning. Like, when I found out what a tort was, I was like, wow! This guy knows what he’s talking about.
Richard: This person knows torts! Yeah!
Adam: Our professor was Priel, and he was a great professor, and obviously very knowledgeable. So, in that sense you kind of treat them as titans because you don’t have any other reference point in your… and you want… you almost want to convince yourself that they’re even better than they are because you’re learning from them, right? So, if the better you think they are, the better… Oh yeah, my tort professor is the best tort professor. I learned so much about torts. So, I got a C in that class, but the teacher was the best you can have.
Richard: This is the competitive streak that comes in lawyers. You say to yourself, “We’re better off than section B, because I got Priel. I got the best tort…” Is that…? Ok. That’s interesting. [Chuckling]
Adam: That’s me personally. That’s how my brain works.
Lillianne: Well, the only prima donna moment I experienced in law school actually came from Professor Hutch himself, and it was on the first day of law school. I don’t know if you’ve heard what Hutch does on the first day of law school for his torts class…
Richard: … I know, but I’ll let you explain to the listeners.
Adam: I haven’t heard.
Lillianne: So, there’s this … I think he’s an Italian theorist on torts law who has this analogy comparing torts law to sort of a social contract that society makes with each other, saying that, you know, in exchange for the convenience of using cars, of using hair dryers, of using microwaves you might get hit by those cars. You might get electrocuted by those microwaves. You might get fried by those hair dryers.
Adam: I think I lost track.
Richard: We’ve accepted these hazards.
Lillianne: We have this sort of social contract. Of course, none of us knew this on the first day of torts class.
Lillianne: We’re all sitting there, the classroom is empty, there’s no professor in it, yet. We’re all seated and then, all of a sudden, the lights flicker on and off. Professor Hutchinson is at the back of the room flickering the lights and he’s wearing his lawyer robes.
Lillianne: He walks to the front of the class with the robes billowing behind him, stands in the front of the room and says, “I am an evil god…”
[Adam and Richard laughing]
Lillianne: “…I’m here to make a deal with you.” And the rest of the class is him making this deal using this analogy from torts law with us.
Adam: … that’s amazing.
Lillianne: … Killing off a few of us, seeing whether we were still willing to take the deal. He selected certain people in the class to die, symbolically, and, you know, wanted to see whether any of us wanted to change our minds. And the class was divided. It created a great discussion.
Lillianne: … But I would probably say was a prima donna moment, especially as your first day in school.
Richard: You remembered that, obviously. It’s burned in your memory.
Lillianne: Seared. Yeah.
Richard: That is a kind of a prima donna-ish approach, I suppose. Because everybody thought: Wow, if this is what law school is like… This is what professors are?
Adam: Every day is going to be like this.
Richard: It’s going to be fantastic! Is he going to wear the robes everyday?
Lillianne: Of course, Professor Hutchinson wasn’t a prima donna. But it did set expectations pretty high.
Richard: Yeah. So that… Because it’s weird to me that even, as they say, that he would even have to address this myth. Because… I just don’t think… So, what did you do? Adam, I should know this because you’re my co-host, but what did you do before law?
Adam: Undergraduate degree in criminal justice and public policy.
Adam: At Guelph University.
Richard: So, when you said that, you know, you talked about Priel in this week… did you not think the same about any of your criminology profs?
Adam: Some of them.
Richard: Yeah, well, ok. Well, there’s always a mixed bag.
Adam: I feel like the longer you’re somewhere, personally, I find when I’m somewhere I become cynical over time. So, the longer I spend at an institution, the more I start to doubt…
Richard: Oh well it’s bound to happen here, then. We can … again we can turn to Lil and say, “Are you more jaded now about the prima donna professors than you…?”
Adam: It definitely changes over time.
Richard: But I think first year you’re right. There’s a…again it’s all part of the package of coming to Osgoode and it’s law school and you’re here and these people are…
Adam: …Oh! I can’t believe I’m here!
Adam: I came here for the professors, you know? And I’m like, “there they are! They’re right there!” And I was like, uh… maybe I’ll go to class.
[Richard and Lillianne laughing]
Richard: Yeah, from my perspective, the gloss wears off fairly, you know… I don’t know. I try to prolong the gloss as long as possible. But I’m a pretty down to earth guy and I don’t try anything that suggests that we’re gods. I just … the funny thing to me is that you will experience possibly the same thing in practice for the first little while with senior partners or judges who- again, when you’re first entering another phase in your career and these people are prominent people and that… and again, I think you’re built-in cynicism is a good thing to have, though, for time.
Adam: Hopefully, eh? So yeah, we should probably wrap it up around there.
Richard: All right. Then we’ll make up through two.
Adam: We’ll close with some … we got a couple minutes. Is there anything that you guys would like to…
Richard: … so, Adam, maybe next week we can do some more myths and you can actually …
Adam: … oh no.
Richard: … read the rest of them.
Adam: That would be a lot of fun, I think.
Richard: [Laughing] Oh good! As long as it’s fun, you’ll do it, right? So, I don’t know. So, yeah. Every week or every episode I’m supposed to give Adam some homework. So that sounds like… let’s move on to some other myths next week.
Adam: Ok. I do want to be a criminal lawyer/litigator. So, does that make…?
Richard: So that means you’re dispelling the myth.
Adam: Ok. Nailed it.
Richard: Yeah, so maybe we can … yeah, so that’ll be good. And Adam, you can turn your mind to who you’ll invite next week for a guest.
Richard: But we should really thank Lil tremendously for being the first guest on the first show.
Adam: Thank you very much.
Lillianne: Well, thank you for having me.
Richard: And we’ll have to have you back. Maybe after you finish clerking or something.
Richard: If this show is still on the go at that point.
Adam: On the rails.
Richard: Yeah. That would be great. So, until next time!
Adam: All right.
[What’s Love Got to Do With It Song playing in background]
[END OF TRANSMISSION]