AVANT GARDE - VOL. 1, ISSUE 1 - FEBRUARY 2021
Lincoln Alexander School of Law - Student Newspaper
What's Inside This Issue:
Message from the Editors-in-Chief
A new chapter begins! A new law school, a new mindset, a new precedent. The inaugural editors of 2021 present to you the first edition of Avant Garde. This newspaper is created with the desire to foster the four pillars at Ryerson University, Faculty of Law (Ryerson Law).
With each day passing, the inaugural cohort continues to find innovative ways to uphold the values at Ryerson Law and demonstrate to Ontarians the limitless opportunities that Ryerson Law presents. This year, the pandemic has led to various unexpected challenges, yet we at Ryerson Law we have developed the resilience, compassion, and grit to overcome the unprecedented challenges as a team. Together, we will be making history, becoming the lawyers of tomorrow, and voicing our opinions on the evolving challenges in the Canadian legal economy, through this newspaper.
As the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, I would like to thank the entire team who made this newspaper into a reality. I encourage future writers to use this newspaper as a platform to question the status quo, promote conversations of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and voice their visions of making radical change to eventually ignite a positive difference in the legal system.
It’s time to set a new precedent.
~ Khushi Dave Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Welcome to the first edition of Avant Garde. This project has been months in the making; and as Editor-in-Chief, I am very thankful for the support we have gotten from the faculty and our colleagues. Further, we could not be happier with the members of our editorial team who have taken on these roles to represent Ryerson’s pillars and shed light onto current issues in the legal world.
As the first cohort at Ryerson’s Faculty of Law, each one of us is writing a story in history. The Faculty, RLSS and students have been building a strong foundation for our law school. The faculty has created an innovative curriculum and is setting up programs, such as the PODs, to give us the opportunity to get clinic legal experience and give back to our community. Moreover, with the help of RLSS, many cultural, academic and social justice clubs have been found to represent our diversity, raise awareness of social issues and advance our knowledge on niche industries. Most importantly, students have taken the initiative to set up groups that work towards increasing access to justice. As such, the events and projects that have been organized thus far truly show that Ryerson’s law school breeds leaders.
The newspaper team cannot wait to report on the successes each person, club, association, committee and POD are going to make over the next few years. This edition of Avant Garde is only the beginning. Ryerson’s Faculty of Law has more history to make.
We look forward to writing about it.
~ Mira (Mirnalni) Setia, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?
Negotiations Night with the LEC
By: Dena Papaioannou
On Wednesday February 10th, 2021, the Legal Entrepreneurs Club (LEC) at Ryerson held their first ever “Negotiations Night”, and it was a huge success. There was a total of fourteen students present, making for seven concurrent negotiations. LEC set up this event as an opportunity for students to brush up on their soft skills following first semester’s tutorial negotiations.
Upon arriving at the event, the LEC did a brief introduction and broke the students up into their respective groups. In each of the breakout rooms there was a member from Team A and Team B. The students on Team A were representing Dr. Roland, a biological warfare researcher; and those on Team B were representing Dr. Jones, a biological research scientist.
Both teams were seeking a stock of rare Ugli oranges for their respective clients. The groups had thirty minutes to negotiate and were asked to reach a settlement.
Following the thirty minutes, the groups were brought back into the main room and asked to share the strategies they used in coming to their outcome. Every group had a different strategy, but each was able to come to a final agreement.
For some teams, this took the full thirty minutes, but for others it took half the time. The secret of the fact pattern was that each of the teams was looking to acquire a different component of the stock of Ugli oranges for their client. It was interesting to see that some of the groups were able to reach their conclusion sooner by sharing this key fact with their negotiating partners and unlocking the secret. The groups that withheld information were not in for the same easy ride.
The negotiations night was a low-stakes and fun way to practice negotiation skills while allowing students to interact with individuals outside of their sections. Anyone looking to further foster their entrepreneurial skills should keep up to date with the LEC.
In short, the juice was definitely worth the squeeze.
Ready, Set, Tech!
A L&TS Overview with President Nicholas Hill
By: Dena Papaioannou
In the few short months since school started, the Law and Technology Society (L&TS) has begun the process of connecting Ryerson Law students with the networks and tools necessary to be successful at the ever-evolving intersection of law and technology. Since its inception, L&TS has brought the inaugural cohort together for a Trivia Night and an Innovator’s Networking Session with some of Toronto’s Bay Street lawyers that work within the tech sector.
In our interview with Nicholas Hill, the President of L&TS, we learned that his vision is to be able to encourage students to further expand their technological literacy in alignment with Ryerson’s four pillars. To begin to achieve this goal outside of Ryerson Law’s walls, the club has partnered with Mitacs, a non-profit national research organization which operates in the realm of social and industrial innovation. This partnership offers a summer student grant opportunity to those interested in working within the field of Intellectual Property or Business Strategy. This opportunity is also open to students working outside of law firms if they are supporting the business in their capacity as a law student.
Following discussions with Harvard’s L&TS, Hill felt inspired by some of the ideas and initiatives that the American school had run. Following only two years of operation, the student-run club at Harvard advocated to administration and persuaded them to run Law 2.0, a class which explores the impact of tech on the field of law and focuses on solving community legal issues with their technological innovations. Hill is hopeful that regardless of the path it takes, the club at Ryerson will have a similar ability to make an impact on individuals inside its community.
Although Hill cannot predict exactly what the future of L&TS will look like, he notes that the ambition and diverse backgrounds of the executive team will be drivers of some impressive experiences at the intersection of law and tech for current and incoming Ryerson Law students.
Anti-Black Racism in 2021: R v Morris
By: Bryn Copp
At this pivotal moment in history, systemic racism has made its way into the collective consciousness. A legal conversation is long overdue. The month of February celebrates Black History and approaches one year since the murder of George Floyd. On February 11, 2021, the Ontario Court of Appeal (“ONCA”) heard the Crown’s appeal to Justice Nakatsuru’s decision in R v Morris, 2018 ONSC 5186 (“Morris”). Morris is a potentially precedent-setting case that considers the function of anti-Black racism in sentencing. The Zoom hearing saw numerous interveners and drew in hundreds of viewers to watch the law develop in real-time. Counsel for the Respondent and friend of The Ryerson Faculty of Law, Faisal Mirza, delivered what is being referred to as a “Master Class” on advocacy. Mr. Mirza featured in the 1L intensive last semester when he discussed anti-Black racism and police brutality.
The appeal of Morris by the Crown examines how the Court should consider systemic and social factors when sentencing a Black individual. The Crown asked for a 4-year sentence and believes that the sentencing judge erred in their treatment of social context evidence of racism. In 2018, Ontario Superior Court Justice Nakatsuru sentenced Mr. Morris to 12-months jail time, a reduction from 15-months after consideration of Charter breaches. The primary reasons for lighter sentencing by Justice Nakatsuru were Mr. Morris’ background and the impact of anti-Black racism on his life, informed by evidence from leading experts on anti-Black racism in Canada. The case before the ONCA analyzes the line of reasoning used by Justice Nakatsuru and the larger implications of systemic racism on sentencing in Ontario.
The Zoom-style hearing was more accessible to a wider variety of audiences than it would have been in traditional court. Though the hearing was not without hiccups, as participants quickly discovered a 500-person limit on the Zoom call, Morris exemplifies a moderate improvement in access to justice. The current pandemic has undoubtedly brought many challenges and emphasized the need for innovation in the law; and the use of communications technology in this case highlights such innovation. While a short intermission was taken to rectify viewer limitations, the case’s online viewing continued to be a challenge throughout the day. Nonetheless, the virtual hearing shared with viewers the voices of many intervenors speaking on racism in Canadian Courts. Fourteen civil society groups intervened in the appeal. The intervenors list includes: the Black Legal Action Centre and Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, The David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, Criminal Lawyers’ Association and The Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Faisal Mirza is a strong defender of anti-Black racism and police brutality. Compelling in his advocacy, Mr Mirza responded to the Crown’s opening statements by saying, “The Crown is prepared to acknowledge that systemic racism is a problem in Canada, and to acknowledge systemic bias. But I submit that this is insufficient.” Civil rights lawyer, Frances Mahon, tweeted “Faisal Mirza is giving us a masterclass in appellate advocacy. If you are not watching, stop what you are doing and tune in.”
A Traveler's Path to Criminal Law
By: Ivy Lok
Special thank you to Imran Shaikh!
One inevitable feature that comes with being in the Ryerson Faculty of Law's inaugural class is that we lack alumni to regale us with their personal obstacles and success stories – or do we? In this month's Special Features, I spoke with Imran Shaikh, which some of you will know as your criminal law practitioner. As a Ryerson graduate from the department of criminology, we talk about his journey from learning law to now teaching it.
Have you always had the expectation of becoming a lawyer?
The word 'expectation' in this question stood out to me, because no, I never expected to become a lawyer. Becoming a lawyer is a goal that you put a lot of hard work towards, and I was very determined in getting there. I worked hard, learned a lot during my journey, and was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to get to where I am now. Becoming a lawyer was more of a goal that I focused on, rather than an expectation of mine. With that being said, I always knew I wanted to advocate in the courtroom. Oral advocacy requires quick thinking on your feet and making arguments on the spot – and this was something I had always wanted to do.
What was your journey like progressing from Ryerson University to where you are now?
Everyone is a a traveler in his or her journey. You travel on a personal level experiencing intellectual growth, but your professional ambitions can also have you travel geographically. I remember when I used to attend Ryerson commuting on the GO train from Brampton and then Markham as my family moved. But then law school took me to Windsor. Articling took me to Barrie. And now I am back living and working in Toronto. Traveling – even if it is just within Ontario - comes with a different kind of growth, because you're experiencing and adapting to different dynamics. Even your goals will inherently travel with you, and they will grow and change because of how much you learn along the way.
How does it feel to have come full circle, from being a Ryerson University alumnus to now teaching the Ryerson Faculty of Law's inaugural class?
It has been surreal. I feel blessed. I remember how much went into even getting into law school and becoming a lawyer. And now being able to give back and teach in law school feels like an incredible achievement. I didn't think I would become a lawyer, let alone start teaching in law school. Ryerson University is where it all began. It helped me lay a foundation to get to where I am now. I was very excited when I first heard that they were opening a law school, and as a Ryerson alumnus I'm not at all surprised at how well they are doing.
Before I got the position, I was already teaching criminology at Ryerson. And that job felt surreal too. I was a student not so long ago and now I'm teaching students. It feels like I've come back home to where it all began. It's a huge change from sitting in a classroom to now standing at the front of it – figuratively these days, of course. I actually really enjoyed being a student, and there are times where I envy the class being able to listen to these lectures. Ryerson was where I began and came home to later in my life. I also want to personally thank Dr. Orlova, Dr. Singh, and Dr. Varma for being a significant part of this journey.
What was your favourite course in law school?
Some of my favourite courses were Criminal Law and Constitutional Law. I also excelled at Civil Procedure. I taught the Constitutional Law tutorials in my final year of law school. I think that is when I realized I enjoyed teaching.
What was your favourite part of your law school experience?
I Clerked at the Superior Court of the Northwest Territories for a semester. Amongst other things, I travelled for Circuit Court to remote northern communities. I learned a lot about northern Canada. I gained an incredible amount of knowledge from the judges I was Clerking for by discussing the cases and decisions before them. I got to look right into their thought process first-hand. This was a fascinating experience and perhaps my first taste of real-life legal experience outside of the theoretical component of my legal education.
Do you have what you would consider to be any particularly unique interests or hobbies outside of your employment?
I'm currently a Reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces and this bestows me with a sense of pride and honour in being able to act on my love for the country and engage in public service. My training this year will allow me to travel to Quebec for five weeks and learn skills that will in-turn benefit me on a personal and professional level. I used to do a lot of cross-training. I also enjoy playing tennis. The pandemic has thrown a wrench in these activities. I hope to get back into them soon. It is important for me to stay active and physical, which also helps mentally. You know… healthy body, healthy mind. Being a lawyer is a demanding job so it's good to have these outlets.
Music is also incredibly important to me; I think everything in life should be to a beat.
Is there any advice you'd like to impart on our inaugural class?
The best advice I've gotten was from a senior lawyer, and it was when I was competing for a job coming out of law school. It was to have dogged determination. You have to avoid self doubt and stay extremely determined. Being a lawyer isn't for the faint of heart and you have to really want it if you want to make it. As a new lawyer, sometimes you're so used to learning from books and teachers you forget that the legal work environment that surrounds you sometimes give you the best lessons when it comes to operating in a successful manner.
Be a good listener and observer so that you can be a sponge and absorb the lessons around you. Don't let your curiosity that you have in law school fade away, because that curiosity will be your best tool when it comes to operating as a lawyer. Ryerson cultivated this curiosity when I was there in my undergrad and seeing the law school include a practical and interactive component really shows their focus in fostering skills that go beyond the theoretical level.
A Trend of Innovation at the Highest Court
A Review of 2020 Decisions and the Ways the Supreme Court of Canada has Adapted to Unprecedented Times
By: Katrina Grogan-Kalnuk
The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) has been very traditional in the way it operates. But in September 2019, the SCC sat outside of Ottawa for the first time when all nine Justices heard two appeals in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Moreover, in 2020, the Court saw more innovation than in previous years, this time prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. History was made in June 2020 when the SCC held its first virtual hearing on Zoom. The Main Courtroom was eventually adapted for physical distancing. A second bench was added, and Plexiglass dividers were installed to increase the safety of the Justices and all participants. The SCC was forced to revolutionize their process, limiting the number of decisions released to 45 in 2020; which is a significant reduction compared to the 68 decisions released in 2019. You can watch the evolution of the SCC by visiting the Archived Webcasts page on the SCC website. In footage from June 2020, you will see the Justices videoconferencing from separate locations, uniformly appearing in front of virtual backgrounds of the Main Courtroom. By September, the Justices returned to the Courtroom, with counsel often directed to appear via videoconference. Through all of this adaptation, the SCC delivered several significant decisions that have widespread effects on multiple areas of the law. The following is a round-up of some of those decisions with a particular focus on what is relevant to Ryerson Law’s pillars and curriculum.
Contract and Tort Law
In regards to contract law, C.M. Callow Inc. v Zollinger, 2020 SCC 45 reinforced the duty of honest performance and good faith in contracts. Another notable decision came from Uber v Heller, 2020 SCC 16, when the SCC held that the arbitration clause in Uber’s contracts with its drivers was unconscionable. Contract and tort law intertwined when issues of privity came up in 1688782 Ontario Inc. v Maple Leaf Foods Inc., 2020 SCC 35 and a claim for pure economic loss initiated an analysis of the duty of care and proximity
The SCC also addressed bail and unreasonable delays in criminal trials in 2020. In addition to reiterating the default form of bail in R v Zora, 2020 SCC 14, the SCC held that in cases of a failure to comply with bail standards under section 145(3) of the Criminal Code, the Crown must establish subjective mens rea. R v K.G.K, 2020 SCC 7 carved out a new approach for deciding if a trial judge has violated an accused’s section 11(b) Charter rights in verdict deliberation times, stating that the proceedings will be stayed if the trial judge took markedly longer than what was reasonably necessary in the circumstances.
Constitutional and Aboriginal Law
The SCC’s clarification of gender inequality and adverse effects of discrimination will likely have far-reaching effects. In Fraser v Canada (Attorney General), 2020 SCC 28, the SCC held that female RCMP officers’ substantive equality rights under section 15 of the Charter were violated when they lost their ability to buy back pension credits after joining a job-sharing program to accommodate child care needs. In addition, the SCC held that the 2017 Genetic Non Discrimination Act is constitutional under federal criminal law power in Reference re Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, 2020 SCC 17. Finally, issues of aboriginal title, property rights, and jurisdictional disputes surfaced in Newfoundland and Labrador (Attorney General) v. Uashaunnuat (Innu of Uashat and of Mani‑Utenam), 2020 SCC 4 where the SCC held that Quebec courts had the power to make declarations about the Innu’s traditional territory, even though some of that territory extends into Newfoundland and Labrador.
Now that we have had a chance to follow the technological innovations playing out in courts, we will undoubtedly have the opportunity to address more access to justice issues as we take in the jurisprudential developments of 2021. One thing is for sure, Canadians continue to seek justice, even in the most unprecedented times. Surely, we will continue to witness innovation as we look forward to the end of the pandemic, asking ourselves what a return to “normal” looks like for the justice system.
My Role Models
By: Shelly Bard
Special thank you to Jerome Goldshlager and Tara Rosenblatt
When I started looking into law as a career option, I began by talking to a couple lawyers I knew. I talked to Jerome, who works as a sole practitioner, and Tara, who is a managing director and associate general counsel. We train together at the same Karate dojo and I have known them for several years. I felt it was important to share the wisdom they passed on to me with the greater Ryerson Law community.
After getting his LLB from Western, Jerome Goldshlager articled at a firm in downtown Toronto. He opened his own practice shortly after completing his articles and has been a sole practitioner since 2004 running his own shop in Real Estate, Corporate and Wills & Estates law.
Tara Rosenblatt co-leads the Toronto legal investment team at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (OTPP). Prior to joining OTPP in 2008, Tara was an associate at McCarthy Tétrault LLP and Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg LLP before that. Tara earned an LLB from the University of Ottawa and a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University. I asked Jerome and Tara seven questions about their interests in law and the choices they made in the field. Here are their answers.
Why did you become a lawyer?
Jerome: I had no inclination to be a doctor, dentist or chiropractor, and although I have my MBA, I didn’t think I was a good fit in a structured business world.
Tara: At the time, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do from a career perspective and law seemed to be a path that could lead to many different careers. I saw it as a steppingstone as I figured out what I wanted to do. In the end, I really loved law school and practicing law and never needed to pursue other potential avenues.
Did you have a professional plan when you were in law school and did you follow through?
Jerome: My plan in 1st year law was to join Bay Street. I wanted to be a big-time corporate lawyer.
Tara: As a law student, I thought the definition of being a successful lawyer was to be a partner at a large law firm. While that is one great career path, it wasn’t ultimately the path I wanted for myself and my family. Before becoming a partner, I decided to make the move to an in-house position.
If there were changes to your plan, what were they?
Jerome: My 1st day of articling was 9/11, so there was a lot of tumult that year economically speaking. Later that year, the internet bubble completely burst leaving a dearth of corporate law positions for junior lawyers. The firm I articled for offered me a job after articling…but not in corporate law (they offered it in insurance defence litigation). I didn’t think it would be a good fit, so I didn’t take the offer. After articling, I was out of work for a few months until I decided to set up my own practice.
How did you approach getting a summer job or articling position?
Jerome: I applied to all the firms that I wanted to try and get into in Toronto. Because of my undergraduate degree and my MBA, some firms thought I could be a good fit with them. I also networked with my family friends and the siblings of my friends who were lawyers to see if they can put in a good word to get my foot in the door for an interview. It is very important to be personable and approachable.
Tara: I summered and articled at Davies. I applied for a summer position through the general recruitment programs that the large law firms organized and ultimately was offered an articling position through my summer experience.
How do you balance work life with personal life?
Jerome: When I first opened my practice, Blackberrys (there were no iPhones) weren’t readily available to the average person and data plans were exceedingly expensive. However, that changed in 2008-2009 as phone technology got better and data plans got cheaper. As a result of technology today, lawyers are expected to be online all the time when a client contacts us, so the balance isn’t always there. That said, when I can, I unwind by watching TV, reading, or exercising. But the balance is only complicated by having a family where my time is now split between family obligations, client obligations and my own personal mental and physical health. It is a constant juggling match.
Tara: Ultimately, I left private practice as I was finding it difficult to find work life balance as a private practitioner with a corporate practice. I think balance really is about your mindset, setting limits and being open with those who support you in your career. For me, balance isn’t about one day or the next- its about overall balance over time. It is also about establishing the supports and services that will help you maintain that balance.
Why did you decide to work for a firm or open your own? What are the benefits?
Jerome: I didn’t decide, per se, to open my own firm. It was decided upon me since I couldn’t get into a firm with the area of law that I wanted due to the market at the time. That being said, opening my own office has huge benefits but some drawbacks too. One of the best things is that there are no office politics to put up with. However, running your own office also means being chained to it because you are also the administrator and deal with office supplies, technology breakdowns, not taking sick days and always being online.
Tara: I have been at the same organization for 13 years and feel grateful each day. I work for a bold organization that continues to challenge me, offer development opportunities, and support my professional and personal growth.
If you had one piece of great advice to share for 1L students what would it be?
Jerome: Be personable and while marks are important, extra-curricular is also important.
Tara: Be open to change and see every challenge as opportunity to grow.