Ethics, advice and bros

It’s orientation/beginning of law school time for North American law students (Can./U.S. at least) and things are ramping up to get nuts.  I’ve barely started school and I’ve already had to deal with one ethical issue which I won’t get into and there will be many more to deal with I’m sure.  Dealing with ethical problems isn’t just special to law students and lawyers of course, but so far my legal training certainly makes me think about ethics already and I appreciate it.  I know I’m going to be suffering a lot with all the detailed readings of my core courses soon, so it will help me to think about the big picture: what are the purposes of our laws and what do they say about us as a society?

On a somewhat related note (this is a terrible segue, but I’m going with it), law orientation is great, but I am already tired of hearing unsolicited advice from upper year law students and some professors about how I should operate my life while in law school.  I know most people mean well, care about our success and, hearing the advice once or twice is probably sufficient, but this week alone I had at least 10 people discuss the importance of eating well and exercising, even about regular personal grooming.  I get it – stressed out students probably don’t always prioritize taking care of themselves, mentally or physically. But this week I felt a little bit like I was in a day camp for seven-year-olds, who themselves understand the importance of personal grooming.  Come on guys, it’s law school.  People didn’t bust their butts to get to law school so they could to hear these things over and over.

That said, do not worry upper year students!  Pretty sure soon enough you’ll be able to give advice all the time and hopefully get paid for it, but remember, all of your future clients aren’t likely to be children (not that we should be condescending to them either!).

Also, I notice some ‘broism’ at law school.  Law school has probably always been like that, since the concept of law school as we know it was born. Law still remains a white male dominated profession and is still primarily taught with the so-called Socratic Method (the pros and cons of which I won’t discuss here).  And I get the bro thing to some extent.  Men want to make man-friends. Or as they call each other “bro”, or “bruh”, as in, “Hey bruh, did you see ‘Straight Outta Compton’ yet?…No bruh, gonna check it out this weekend”.  Men should have man-friends, and women should have woman-friends.  But men should also make female friends, and stop ignoring women as if they’re invisible while they are doing their special bro-handshakes to each other.  There is probably some evolutionary-bonding-hunter-gatherer-cooperation explanation for the broism thing. But most people as far as I know, don’t need to coordinate hunting woolly mammoths anymore.

Not all men with male friends do this and I’m not suggesting that.  But for the ones that are making women feel excluded: grow up, because most of your class is female and these women aren’t just there as potential dating material (besides, if you date them, you might get a sexually transmitted infection anyway).  There are also those from the LGBT community, or maybe other cultures, who don’t get what you’re doing. You will have a lot of female and other colleagues who don’t look or act like you, and it is increasingly likely that you will have a female boss.  Excluding women and others just ain’t cool anymore, and remember that the women you’re in class with probably studied and will study harder than you.  And also, one day they just might wipe the floor with you in the courtroom.

Now there’s some unsolicited advice for all of you “brahs” out there.  One day maybe I’ll get paid to give it.


I made it to law school

Well folks, I haven’t posted anything of note at all for a number of months at this point because I was studying for my LSAT and attempting to gain acceptance to law school.  I have managed to do that.  Classes are going to start and I’m getting (dis)oriented with the law school experience.

If there’s anything I’ve always thought about lawyers, it is that they are totally weird.  I’ve met plenty of weird people generally, and in every profession, but some lawyers just have a very strange way of thinking and behaving.  If I become a lawyer, which I hope will happen (I should say ‘when I become a lawyer’, but it’s still a long road ahead), I will still probably think that lawyers are very weird.  Then again, I’m going to law school so I must be weird too!  I have a background in science and engineering; however, so I will probably always think along those lines — I have a feeling that this background will serve me well during my studies and in my career.

I find it funny when students reply that they want to be lawyers “because their parents and/or grandparents are lawyers”. This isn’t a good “main” reason to go law school at all!  This isn’t to say there may not be an influence from a close family member to pursue law, but one goes to law school to think for his or herself, not because mom or dad suggested you do so.  One needs more compelling reasons than that.

I am older than the average student, so I am finding my class to be full of generally nice people, but detecting some sense entitlement from some law students.  Perhaps it’s generational and/or just nervous students posturing, but I find the arrogance unusual considering these folks are not yet lawyers, nor do they have much life or employment experience!  Even as a lawyer, arrogance is likely quite off putting to folks who already find accessing legal representation/justice to be a challenge, if not downright impossible.

Luckily though there are also students who seem to understand this and my instructors have spent enough time in the real world to demonstrate humility.  I don’t think that law schools are helping the cause of access to justice either, by putting a high price on legal education, in particular in the United States.  There are plenty of law school “scam” blogs on the web too, but maybe I’ll talk about that on another day.

Either way so far I am excited to be embarking on a new career path through the appreciative eyes of someone with some life experience, after being caught up in a career that wasn’t really doing it for me for a lot of reasons.

I’ll try to post more regularly, but things are already starting to get nuts with my schedule.

Bring on the weirdness, lawyers!

Credit Card Scam?

I realize that I complain a lot sometimes.  But what irks me is lousy customer service (in case you haven’t noticed!) especially when it is because of just bad, or dishonest practices.  I woke up early thinking about this, so obviously it really annoys me and, here I am writing about it.

Happily, I live in Canada, where the banking system has been and continues to be stable, since we have a fairly robust set of laws that hopefully won’t allow our banks to do overly corrupt and hair-brained things like make bad mortgage loans to people who can’t afford them, thereby causing a financial meltdown.

This doesn’t mean of course that banks in Canada don’t do incredibly stupid things, like falling for fraud schemes that are so completely transparent that a 5 year old could have determined that fraud was occurring (this happened to us recently). This caused such a big problem that our lost faith in the competence of the bank’s employees will result in us moving to another financial institution in the near future.

The other week I went into my local major Canadian financial institution branch (this is a different bank than the one mentioned above re: fraud) to do a basic cash withdrawal.  A few weeks later I received a visa card in the mail from said bank.  I could not figure out for the life of me how I got the card, and of course, it made me a little bit paranoid that I received a credit card for which I didn’t apply.

I phoned the institution’s customer service to cancel the card which wasn’t a problem (unlike trying to lose Comcast cable service in the USA, which was like trying to lose an arm).  I also asked the agent how it was that I came to receive a credit card for which I didn’t request, and I was told that I “applied” for the card when I visited my local branch.  I never even mentioned the word ‘credit’ while dealing with tellers at this particular branch.

My feeling is that this is a two-part problem.  The employee who decided to facilitate the false credit application was first and foremost dishonest.  The reason she was dishonest though is probably because the bank expects its employees to meet unattainable sales targets, and this particular employee felt she needed to prop up her sales numbers by sending me a credit card.  I just cancel it, no harm no foul, and either way this employee gets her ‘sale’.

The problem with this dishonest practice is that people like me receive a credit card and worry that there is some kind of identity theft at worst, or, at best, end up annoyed and inconvenienced by having to cancel a product that was forced.  What if I was an elderly customer whose family member was stealing money?  A shiny new credit card would make online shopping easy, for example.

Since I sometimes feel like a little powerless consumer up against big bad corporations in a world where no one seems to give a crap about ethics or customer service, the least I can do is write about it here!

Have I mentioned that Comcast has abysmally bad service?

Screw you, Comcast.
(Used under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0.  TheBird by Dave Dennis)

Today was the third (and fourth) time I phoned Comcast to cancel my internet service.

After entering my telephone number 3 times; twice to the electronic phone system and once to a human, my account information would not come up based on my phone number.  I find this odd, and this is obviously a failing of Comcast’s IT system, assuming the customer service agent was telling the truth in not being able to bring up my information.  I also find it very ironic that customer information can’t be found when customers call in, given Comcast’s line of business.

I was told by the customer service agent that even though I could verify my address and name, I could not cancel my account because I would be required to verify the account number.  Well, guess what?  I’m moving, and my bills are packed, Comcast. Since I wasn’t allowed to cancel three weeks ago, I now don’t have a bill readily available with my account information, and your system should be able to bring it up after I had entered it THREE times in one phone call.  I logged into my online banking, and provided the last 5 digits of my account number to the agent, but this wasn’t the WHOLE account number, so she would not allow me to cancel.

When I called back, for some reason the system magically pulled up my customer information based on my phone number. I was then able to cancel.  Weird, no?

Moving isn’t stressful enough; I need Comcast to make life more difficult. Thanks a lot.

Now I have to return the modem, and you can bet your ass that I will be taking pictures of this process when I drop it off at UPS, in case it accidentally gets ‘lost’.

Let’s hope the final bill is correct, but at this point it is a crap shoot.

Another Comcastic Experience

So it’s been awhile since I posted, but I thought I would complain about Comcast one more time.  There still may be another rant forthcoming, but that remains to be seen.

My partner attempted to cancel our service with Comcast, but since he wasn’t the primary account holder, he couldn’t do it. Fine. But that isn’t the problem.

I spent 10 minutes on hold today, with the intention of cancelling my Comcast service (10 minutes isn’t too bad, but that isn’t the point).  I had to give them my account number.  After finally speaking to a human, giving her my account number again, and waiting for her to input all of my customer information,10 minutes later I was told that I couldn’t cancel my service until 2 weeks prior to moving.

20 minutes of my life I won’t get back.  20 minutes of my partner’s life he won’t get back.

Is this not useful information to give customers on a pre-recorded message, or at least as soon as they tell someone they are cancelling?  For example, when my partner called 2 days ago, this information wasn’t important enough to tell him so as to preclude me from wasting my time?

You’d think having cable service with this company was rocket science.  Except that it isn’t.

How to stay regular in winter

I decided to take break from studying for a bit so I made some Ukrainian borscht.  This was the first time I tried to make it.  A lot of chopping and shredding involved, so I used a food processor for the shredding.  As you can see from the photos this is a soup that eats like a meal.  I was going to double the recipe, which would have been a bad idea, unless I had 2 very large pots.  Anyway, if you don’t know what to eat in the winter and you want to stay regular, this is the way to do it.  Perhaps you would also like to feed an army (making for very regular soldiers).

I am an excellent housewife, yes?  I am also hungry.

Are we there yet?  I'm borscht.  And I have to pee.

Are we there yet? I’m borscht. And I have to pee.

Fried onions for borscht.

Fried onions for borscht.

Discussion surrounding sexual harassment and assault in Canada

There has been a great deal of discussion in the Canadian media about sexual harassment and assault as of late; even The Economist has published an article about the subject.  This discussion stems from formal and informal allegations from a number of women who say that they were assaulted and/or harassed by Jian Ghomeshi, the recently fired host of the CBC Radio show “Q”.  Prior to this, I learned that over 300 current and former female RCMP employees were pursuing a class action lawsuit against the RCMP over issues regarding gender discrimination, harassment and bullying.

Also making headlines these days is the controversy over Justin Trudeau’s suspension of two male Members of Parliament (MPs) within the Liberal Party’s caucus; some are viewing his decision to suspend the Members for personal misconduct as politically motivated — done to gain favor of female voters at the expense of the alleged victims’ privacy.  Two female MPs claim that the two now suspended male MPs engaged in harassing behavior towards them.

I read an article in the Globe in Mail recently about a female journalist who was fondled by a drunk male colleague while at a Christmas party, early on in her career.

Sheila Copps, the former deputy Prime Minister of Canada, also came forward recently explaining that a male colleague attempted to kiss and fondle her when she was starting out in her career as well.

When I learned about the RCMP cases coming forward, I felt that the women coming forward were finally taking a stand to say that their experiences were unacceptable, but I didn’t feel as if the issue received enough attention.  Was it because of Ghomeshi’s “celebrity” status that the discussion surrounding sexual harassment and assault has finally gotten some steam?

Regardless, it is positive that many people are thinking about and dissecting the issue. In particular, there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of how society engages in “victim blaming” when people come forward with allegations, which plays a big role in deterring victims from reporting these events.  People are also discussing the fact that many instances of assault or harassment become a “he said/she said” scenario because there are often no witnesses*.  These two factors compound distress for the victims, and the latter could even create issues for the falsely accused, making for a very complex issue.  Let’s face it though, do women make this stuff up?  With the way society burdens victims and blames them, it’s almost as if we believe that they do.  The most important issue at hand is the under reporting of harassment or assault because of the burden placed on the victims, and how we can better support them.

Better yet, how can we deter potential harassers and abusers from committing these acts in the first place?  This is not a new question, but one solution is for victims to demand respect when formally reporting these events to create a culture more geared to supporting them.  Lately we are seeing women discussing these issues more publicly.  If perpetrators knew there was almost a guarantee of victims reporting I imagine inevitable consequences could be an effective deterrent.  I realize this is easier said than done, however, as part of the male power dynamic of engaging in this type of activity implies that the victim’s will during and after the fact is manipulated by the perpetrator.

All of this said, I hope all of this discourse means that we are at a crossroads where awareness will help us to make systemic changes to how women are treated both in and out of the workplace.

By the way, where is Jian Ghomeshi anyway?  Is he still in Canada?

* I realize that the instigators of harassment/assault are not always men, and that the victims are not always women, but this is frequently the case.