Louell Taye (1L)
When I woke up at 7:00 am this past Friday morning, I immediately had one thought: it’s too early. So, I went back to sleep. For the next forty-five minutes, in my semi-oblivious state of half-slumber, everything seemed all right. Eventually, my inner keener kicked in, and I forced myself to face the reality of my situation: it was time for the Faculty of Law’s mandatory “Joint Professionalism Training.”
It’s never a great time when I have to go to school in the morning, but it’s especially rough to do so the morning after pub night (note: I accidentally overshot my nap Thursday and ended up sleeping through pub night, but I’m trying to build a narrative here). From my seat perched up at the back of the Moot Court Room, I had a nice vantage point from which to survey everyone’s screens. As I looked out over a horde of enthusiastic, bright young scholars on Facebook, YouTube, and various news outlets, with the occasional Redditor sprinkled in, I couldn’t help but feel that we weren’t getting the most out of our day. On top of this, I’m sure the guest speakers realized that the quite audible clattering of fingers on keyboards probably wasn’t people taking notes—if the fact that many people were literally (figuratively) glued to their screens wasn’t already a tip-off that their attention lay elsewhere.
Now, about the work we were supposed to do prior to the session. We were assigned readings totaling seventy-seven pages and I know this not because I read them, but because I counted them just now, to make a point. It seems the expectation is either that people are going to carve out the time to do these readings—somewhere amidst regular readings, classes, firm tours, summer job applications, various extracurriculars (apparently another hundred and fifty or so pages of reading for those who tried out for the Moot), and whatever degree of a personal life they manage to eke out—or that no one will actually read these materials at all. So, on the one hand, we have an extremely optimistic and perhaps unreasonable assessment of the character of the student body at U of T law; or, on the other, a tacit admission that the sessions are not exactly the best use of everybody’s time.
Although not all of the day’s segments were created equal, there were certainly some important issues being addressed during these sessions. In particular, the abhorrent treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada and the legacy of that treatment within the criminal justice system is absolutely a subject that we have an obligation to engage in. And I sincerely don’t mean to disrespect the guest speakers who took the time out of their days to talk to us. In all honesty, I think the material we covered during Friday’s session was a step up from last term. I say ‘I think’ because I initially wanted to compare the two sessions to illustrate that point, but then I realized that I literally (actually literally) remember nothing from last term’s session—except that I should delete all of my Facebook and Instagram photos and that all lawyers are some degree of suicidal addict.
My gripe lies more with the medium than the message. I question whether making a group comprised of hungover, stressed out, and/or tired people (I imagine most were probably all three) sit for pretty much a full work day with little break time is the best way to impart any long-lasting values. I question whether students can really be expected to truly engage with the material being provided while also having to keep up with everything else on their plate.
Having said that, it wasn’t an entirely unproductive day; I did manage to work on a couple of cover letters. And it’s not like I have a suggestion for how to improve things. I guess it’s easy to criticize without offering an alternative, but it seems plain to me that what we have right now is not working. What’s the old saying again? If it is broke, you should probably fix it?
And, as a cherry on top, on a day dedicated to the vital importance of professionalism and ethics in one’s career—as we were implored to maintain a sense of integrity, decency and tolerance, no matter what path we ended up pursuing—Donald Trump was officially sworn in as President of the United States.