The Allard High Experience

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Author: Tahsin Najam

Why, hello there dear incoming law student. Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life. What’s that? Perhaps you haven’t obtained admission into the hallowed halls of Allard Hall? It’s quite all right – this guide will be just as pertinent to your inquisitive and curious self.

Allard Hall. A rather glorious building nestled in one of the far-reaching corners of the never-ending UBC campus. Don’t fret, there’s a reason why this building is so illogically placed. Seclusion and pretension are instrumental in creating an air of hauteur within the law school atmosphere. Implictly understood is that if university campuses were divided into a class-system, the law students would be consorting with each other at the very top with a mutual disdain for those lowly undergrads.

There are a variety of main and side entrances to Allard, but it doesn’t matter. The second that you, a student not currently within law school, enters, we know. You will be met with looks of contempt and superiority. Has this person written the LSAT? Sociology, calculus, and psychology – please. Until you have composed 1000 words on why your trip to Africa made you yearn for a legal career to put right those ghastly wrongs in the world, you are an outsider. Hope, social justice and activism? While you use them to get into law school, the faculty sneers at such things. They spend every moment of three years extracting such ideals from your mind. They won’t stop until you can rationalize global corporations killing baby pandas for the sake of laying down mile-wide oil pipelines, and maybe a dog-fighting casino (sponsored by Michael Vick). That doesn’t make sense? Doesn’t matter, you’ll justify it.

Upon entering, you must go to the front desk to declare your presence. As stated before, we know you shouldn’t be here. If you’re able to make it past the accusing glares and gain admission into the prestigious elite, the front desk allows you to put a red sticker on your student card succinctly stating, OK.” This red sticker signifies that you are a law student and that you are indeed, okay. Anything else would be intolerable, and such imposters are stamped and put in a line, subsequently being slowly trudged out of the building as the law students pelt them with old statutes and gavels. Though one history student died of traumatic head injuries upon being flattened by the Criminal Code, there have never been any other casualties.

The Law Students:

Ahhh, the law students. If you are lucky enough, then one day you too can join the ranks of these neurotic and perverse souls. There are three types of law students – one for each year they attend the educational quagmire that is law. The longer they have attended, the more likely it is that they have completed their transformation to jaded and narcissistic suits.

First Years (Or otherwise known as, the 1Ls): If you ever gain admission into law school, you will be able to experience the peculiar life of a confused first-year law student. Often described by practicing lawyers as the most difficult year of their lives, fresh-faced individuals from all walks of life come together to undergo a torpid yearlong roller-coaster ride. This isn’t the plot of a movie, it’s an actual phenomenon, and Roger Ebert just gave it a post-humous two thumbs up. Faced with an onslaught of hundreds of pages of readings, one hundred percent finals, and a brand new way of thinking, these students look up to their upper year mentors and choose the only sensible option available – drinking their sorrows away. Indeed, besides the other required courses they take, law students gain an introduction to their inevitable descent into alcoholism.

Travelling in packs around the building wishing to avoid any contact from those outside their year, 1L’s often tremble and sweat profusely if addressed directly. Used to having been in the top of their classes, they come to understand that they are dreadfully average in law school and that there’s no better wave to ride than the class curve. Many events and social functions are offered to first-years to continue their legal education and serve as an opportunity for them to meet the socially inept people that they too will become in just a few years. This culminates with a final end of the year party after which they try and cleanse themselves of that feeling of contamination that just won’t go away. Fear not 1Ls, that feeling is there for the rest of your lives.

2L: By this time, students have become accustomed to the grind of the law school life. Besides their search for a job (a process so inhumane, one breaks several Geneva Convention standards simply by alluding to it), second-years have realized that their best opportunity to not remain alone for the rest of their cat-loving lives comes from the students around them. Equally awkward and motivated, students begin to pair off in increasing numbers in a Discovery Channel-esque mating ritual. Always beginning with an inebriated fling and resulting in a contractual relationship rather than breakfast the next morning, they tolerate one another and take solace in the fact that they aren’t that other law school couple. As a wise man once said, “if you ain’t no punk, holla we want pre-nup.”

3L: By their final year of law school, students have given up all pretense of being interested in their academic pursuits. Having usually figured out which desk at what firm they are going to be spending the rest of their lives performing menial tasks at, students simply drink and live. 3L, don’t care indeed.

The Premises:

Upon gaining access to Allard, there are several areas in which you can luxuriate in your newfound status. The first is the law cafeteria, or as the Faculty pompously calls it, the Hong Kong Alumni Student Lounge. This speaks to a maxim that you must take to heart for your career in law. Why state anything concisely when you can add half-a-dozen more words and a more impressive noun? Though primarily used to confuse non-legal folk into paying lawyers for inane work, there is also a precedent to put law students through excruciating pain by reading decisions and statutes hundreds of pages too long simply because the judges and lawyers themselves had to do such things. See that sentence? It could have been half as long and just as effective.

Moving back to the cafeteria however, it is a central location in which students sit amongst each other and discuss pretentious things that they all know nothing about. Meanwhile, the large-screen TV inundates the students        with news of global politics and disasters to which they throw an occasional glance as they wait for their turn to speak. While law students take pleasure in the sounds of their own voices, they eat from the over-priced and very bland café. It operates much in the manner of any campus cafeteria, serving slop on rice and other baked and somewhat healthy goods. The difference? This nutrition is worldly; that’s not just beef stew on rice – it’s Mongolian beef with Venezuelan baby carrots. Every day, law students eat the same slop while taking pride in their cultural acceptance.

Next are the lockers downstairs. Law school is not simply an illusion of high school, it is a deliberate recreation of the best times of some of these student’s lives. As students gather around their lockers partaking in the latest gossip, or mock-complaining about their time in law school, they are secretly assessing each other’s social value whilst trying to evaluate who they must befriend or dispatch from their inner circle. Once you make it past the lockers, you see that there are card-access showers where law students fornicate with one other in an attempt to never leave the building. Or washrooms where cardigan-wearing men ogle at themselves in the mirror whilst their female counterparts do the same in a variety of outfits ranging from outlandish to severe business professional.

Finally, you can retreat to the law library where a sullen despair reigns throughout the year. There is no happiness to be found within these three floors of study spaces and stacks. As students pore over volumes of confounding legal nonsense, they, as a unit, pull out their packs of highlighters and multi-coloured tabs. As they attempt to outdo each other by making the most beautiful flowcharts, case summaries, and lecture outlines, this twisted dance can only be interrupted by one thing. SNAILS. No, I’m not speaking about terrestrial pulmonate gastropod molluscs, but the presence of non-law students. You see, it is a privilege to be able to study in this tortured space; so much so that they have coined a term for the intruders. Students not actually in law school, or SNAILS. If any such person attempts to cram their much-less complicated material on these desks, law students will stare daggers at them, and occasionally unsheathe their actual daggers in a menacing manner. These SNAILS are only spared when the monitoring library staff asks to see their stickered student card. Upon coming up empty, the SNAILS are marched out while law students shower them with salt only to return to their studies with a vindictive silence.

The Professors:

The professors are like a cast of a frenzied musical – each playing their own role, each peculiar in their own way. Whether through illegible scribbling, unintelligible barking or whispered murmurs, these professors communicate the secrets of law as students hurriedly and peevishly take down every word coming from their hallowed mouths. Never actually found in their offices, the professors are often away on exotic trips to distant parts of the world, or just found in the faculty lounge where they drunkenly swap stories of old courtroom battles just like the grizzled veterans in your favorite forlorn pub. If you do manage to get some time with a professor to ask class-related questions, they will often take that time to distract you and regale you with stories of past students and their favourite refrain – “You’re going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right.” Whilst also acting as a cover to mask their forgotten knowledge surrounding their class material, this constant expression is used to build a façade to anesthetize law students into believing that they are indeed going to be all right, or put more plainly, make the exorbitant amounts of money that they came to school for.

Unfortunately for law students however, not everyone is going to be all right. Faced with suffocating debt, this is where career services play a role. A legendary branch of law school, these three women glow so bright that students have mistaken them for Greek gods sent to help students navigate through the mire that is trying to obtain a legal career. As they bring offerings for pieces of advice, students are funneled into corporate openings as firms test potential hires by first intoxicating them and subsequently asking them to complete complex legal problems while concurrently perfecting the weekly crossword. The students who fail this standard test are tossed aside only to be seen during commercials of your favorite legal drama offering their own legal services in exchange for just about anything.


Finally, back to you, a potential Allard Hall student. Have you been swayed by the grandeur of law school? Fear not, if you do one day decide to attend law school, you will be welcomed with pasty open arms and clenched hearts. Despite being a breeding ground for Patrick Bateman types, the legal community is just that – a community. All it will cost you is a piece of your soul, impending alcoholism, and a skewed sense of right and wrong. Welcome to Allard High.

The Confusing Road to Allard Hall: One Step at a Time


Seems like a 45 degree angle to me.

Warning: this article contains personal opinions about stepping-stones based on actual facts.

Written By: Dawid Cieloszczyk, 2L.

Do you ever feel like you’re taking steps in the wrong direction? Does the path to your destination seem like a nonsensical winding, side-ways, unevenly spaced, awkward series of motions? Because this, is precisely what the new steps leading to Allard Hall feel like.

Just look at them. I am doubtful that Allard changed its admissions standards to invite individuals with extraordinarily long legs, or who are generally comfortable walking sideways, AND have a high LSAT/GPA. With TRU and a possible TWU looming about, this scenario becomes frightfully more realistic.

Here’s the thing about ‘funny’ architecture. It’s just not very humorous at all. As a functional thing, ordinary people usually take pathways cutting through fields in order to save some time; effort is presumably reduced. “Yes, but we are absurd beings though”, says the existential architect. “We must embrace the futility of progress, and that straight, evenly spaced steps are simply le mainstream”. Can we rid ourselves of our fragile mental shackles and embrace the awkward path before us? For these steps are more than just slabs of rock, my dear friends. They are the burning in the loins, because you usually find yourself overextending to avoid taking 100 baby steps and mud on your shoes.

Could you imagine how complacent students would get walking straight to class, without navigating their footing oh so fanatically? It would be like Groundhog Day: every day is exactly the same. We can only shudder at such a reality.

There’s a popular theological argument called “Paley’s Ontological Argument”, in which a person walking by the beach discovers a watch, knowing nothing about it or where it came from. He/she can only be led to the conclusion that a watchmaker or intelligent designer was responsible for the complex gadget, and draws an analogy to an intelligent designer for the universe. When I look at these steps, my mind goes blank, because I only see the design part. Well.. yeah, at least they were designed.

Surely Allard Hall isn’t all about the schadenfreude, as a progressive institution of learning with all of these egalitarian values. Could this have really been done to watch your tortured friends attempt to shimmy across the field awkwardly? I guess we’ll never know..


Just look at those failed footprints.

The Courage to Love: Fear and Unconditional Love

Fear and Unconditional Love

What is the nature of man? John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.” This is some heavy stuff. Basically, John is just cribbing from when Michael Jackson sang, “You are not alone / I am here with you / Though we’re far apart / You’re always in my heart / But you are not alone / ‘Lone, ‘lone / Why, ‘lone.”

Thanks for that, Michael.

Law school can sometimes feel like an exercise in fear and loathing. And you will be somewhere around the topic of estoppel on the edge of sanity when the coffee finally begins to take hold of your addled brain. You’ll remember saying something like, “I feel the distinction between using estoppel as a sword and a shield is making me lightheaded; maybe you should explain again…” And suddenly there will be a terrible roar all around you and the sky will be full of what looks like a flock of robed judiciary, all swooping and screeching and diving around your seat. Okay. That’s enough.

It’s important to love people unconditionally. This is hard, though. Especially when you’re frantically competing against these same people to be ranked on a metric of, here’s a fact pattern riddled with grammatical errors and logical inconsistencies and you have 3 hours to justify your million-dollar legal career that potentially hangs in the balance. But the alternative is even more horrible—letting an island-woman drift aimlessly in the deep blue sea of law school without a friendly face to get her through the day.

Reach out and say hi to someone you wouldn’t normally have thought to talk to. Be kind. Don’t be quick to judge them. Learn to be comfortable in your skin. Speak up in class! Listen to what others have to say and try to relate to them and understand why they might have come to hold their position instead of jumping to quick antagonist conclusions. The more you can put yourself into a positive mental headspace by loving and accepting unconditionally the people around you, the better you’ll feel about every other aspect of your life. I’m being real and chill as heck here. Just ease up on yourself and others.

Meanness stems from insecurity and fear. So throw away your insecurities and your fears at the door of Allard Hall. The unconditional love that you can summon up the courage to give to the world will be repaid tenfold (if not by the world, then by me).

Brandon McCartney, alias Lil B (look up the etymology of alias), put it succinctly when he wrote, “We have a chance to build a world filled with Positive / Love / Possibility / Freedom, and / Self-acceptance.” He also wrote, “We all did weird stuff. Let it go.”

That stuck with me.

10 Vancouver coffee venues to help get you through the grind

Coffee Beans


Now that the school year is underway, it’s high time to turn our minds to a staple of the law student’s diet – coffee. I brew mine at home with a setup involving a Porlex tall hand grinder with an inverted Aeropress and Able fine disk filter, but I appreciate that you might not be as hardcore. If you just want a delicious cup of liquid motivation without the accompanying labour of love, you may be curious to know what some of the better coffee offerings in Vancouver are, especially if you happen to be new to the city. (Also, if you fall into the latter category, I apologize in advance for the deep depression you may find yourself in during the upcoming months of endless rain combined with tedious case law.)

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but is merely intended to offer a glimpse into our city’s burgeoning coffee scene while also inspiring java-fuelled study sessions. Obligatory earthsaving mention: bring your own mugs! I know you have at least one law firm branded reusable mug somewhere!

  1. Matchstick Coffee (6239 East 15th Avenue). The darling of my neighbourhood, Matchstick serves up excellent coffee, delicious pastries, and freshly roasted beans for all your home brewed needs.
  2. Kafka’s Coffee and Tea (2525 Main Street). Pourover, Aeropress, syphon, espresso, or even tea, everyone will find something to their liking at Kafka’s. They also support local artists by exhibiting a revolving showcase of their work.
  3. Revolver (325 Cambie Street). The epitome of hipstery coffee snobbery, for the true connoisseur. Revolving list of carefully sourced coffee is meticulously brewed by the cup (read: slowly). Good luck finding a seat during peak hours.
  4. Rocanini (127 West 5th Avenue). This location is primarily a roastery, which means that it’s definitely not the cozy, sit-and-stay-awhile type of place. However, you can and should pop in for a cup of expertly brewed coffee, and they sometimes host free tastings (and maybe even impromptu glimpses at the roaster if you ask nicely). If you find Sharif here, he is super friendly and happy to chat about everything coffee-related. They also sell whole beans here alongside brewing equipment.
  5. 49th Parallel (various). A Vancouver original. The 4th Avenue location is the OG, but the Main Street location also houses Lucky’s Doughnuts, so choose wisely.
  6. Elysian Coffee (various). I haven’t been to the 5th Avenue location of Elysian, but have had many tasty cups of coffee at their Broadway location (which also has a delightful outdoor seating area).
  7. Caffe Cittadella (2310 Ash Street). A beautiful heritage house transformed into wonderful café with seating upstairs, downstairs, indoors and outdoors. They use 49th Parallel beans, and do a fairly masterful job of turning them into tasty caffeinated nectar. Their food also doesn’t look half-bad for coffee shop fare.
  8. JJ Bean (various). JJ serves consistently decent coffee and enormous cookies and muffins (with vegan options) for when you just need a rainy day pick-me-up. Beware the sometimes surly service, and some of their locations might still be wifi-less.
  9. Our Town (245 East Broadway). One of the many places where you might find a law student in the wild (as in, not in the confines of Allard Hall). Free wifi and great window seats if you can snag one. Our Town is open until decently late, and also offers libations for when you need to switch from coffee to wine. It appears that they are working on a new location at the intersection of Kingsway and Knight (they sure love their corner spaces).
  10. The Grind (4124 Main Street). So, the coffee here is entirely forgettable, but I include it on my list for a very important reason –  this is one of the rare few coffee shops in Vancouver open late nights/early mornings (the jury is still out on whether it’s truly 24 hours or not?), with free wifi and a decent number of power outlets. I’m too distractible to be able to study effectively at coffee shops (or even really study at all, to be honest), but if you’re the type to really hit the books hard with a mug of coffee and a pair of earplugs at 11:00pm, then you’re welcome.

Angela is, inter alia, a 2L, Ontario transplant, skeptic, coffee snob, and lover of good vegetarian food. You won’t find her on Facebook, but you can find her on Twitter at @ange7a or occasionally fleeing Allard Hall at top speeds if you ever want to talk about books, coffee, food, culture, the implications of technological innovation, the colonization of Mars, the meaning of life, or just about anything else. 

Sisyphus, and why your life is absurd…



(Specially dedicated to all us struggling to survive law school)

A famous Greek myth, illustrated by Camus, depicts a cursed being named Sisyphus rolling his boulder up to the top of a summit, only for it to plummet to the bottom again, where the cycle resets. Yet we don’t need to have our existential fancy-pants on whilst lighting a cigar to appreciate how each of us have our own Sisyphean stone to push.

The stone represents the glaring absurdity of the fact of life itself; the burning and toiling that you undergo throughout the course of your existence does not somehow conclude with a celebratory event like your graduation ceremony with welcome signs reading, “You did it!” Instead, all of your accomplishments, your resume, your friends, will blow away in the dust.

Although we could consider this the ultimate absurdity, that of human life in general, there are ones lurking in the very moments of our day-to-day life, which can be either the cause of distress or empowerment.

You’re working on improving your health, eating well, catching some extra sleep, and so on, and your body protests and rejects your hardest work with one fell-swoop – perhaps thanks to some illness, or emotional distress. You are working diligently on what you think is a brilliant idea for your boss, s/he examines it for a moment, scoffs, and pretends you don’t exist. You try to open up your formerly tender heart to a new lover, and they demolish you for the risk you took. You happily proclaim that you are riding your bike to work to reduce emissions, despite its inconvenience, but China acquires more coal-powered energy…

Upon reality contradicting your will, your perseverance, in such a mundane but truly arbitrary fashion, the first reaction is often decided angst. This is where the existentialist sits in their cafe sobbing and realizing that they are like Sisyphus, no matter how intelligent, beautiful, popular, or powerful they are.


This is however certainly not the end. While it is possible for us to pound our fist on the stone that we must hurl to the bottom and roll back up again, we might wish to seek empowerment through the absurdity of these day-to-day events.

There is a famous Latin expression known as amor fati, which means love of one’s fate or life. You don’t have to be a believer in a mystical thing like fate to appreciate the use of this though. If you can imagine the universe reproducing our lives, exactly the way they are right now, again, and again, do you wish to be breaking the bones in your fist against the Sisyphean stone thanks to the absurdities of life? Or perhaps you might collect your emotion and realize that this is going to be a long journey. Perhaps the only thing that makes sense here is to love your contradictory burden and feed off of it, so as to overcome the contempt that only adds to the weight of the stone.

This time Sisyphus lets out a satisfied laugh. The stone now smells fresh; the rough edges of the rock feel good against his tormented and tattered hands, because he now notices the things that he allowed to escape from his mind while despairing about the future. And so he sings ‘amor fati!’ on the trek up the mountain, as if he knew nothing else.