Attention: what follows is not me, my head shot above is not representative of the following paragraphs. Over the course of the summer Veronika Kollbrand has been of invaluable assistance working with us as a reference assistant. Veronika has completed her first year as an Information Management student here at Dal and will be embarking on her 1st year at Schulich Law in about a week+. As I have done previously I wanted to give her a Slaw blank slate to post on a topic she was interested in, the only guidance I provided was to generally keep it law related and what follows is what she wrote.

Legal Research and Writing

As a dual degree student, I currently reside in the alternate universe in between finishing the first year of the Library & Information Studies program and starting the first year of the Law program. Having worked in the law library for a year now, both at the circulation desk and as a reference intern over the summer, I feel like I’ve gotten a fortunate glimpse into the 1L lifestyle before being plunged into the deep end in my first year. One of the great things about law school is that the first and second rules don’t apply like they do in Fight Club: everyone here seems to want to talk about law school. As such, I’ve received a wide range of advice from librarians, upper year students, research students, and professors.

One of the most confusing attitudes I’ve come across was the general disdain for the Legal Research and Writing (LRW) course. Some students weren’t interested, some felt it was a distraction from their “real courses” and some seemed to hate it just on principle. This was confusing to me for the very simple reason that the two main goals of most graduating law students are: (1) finding a job and (2) keeping and doing well at said job. Here’s how I did the math, from my admittedly limited perspective as a 0L:

Finding a Job

One of the biggest determining factors in securing a job upon graduation is your grades, including your first year grades. Exams are most, if not all, of your mark in a lot of courses. Writing is the key component in the vast majority of your exams. Legal Research & Writing teaches you how to write. Conclusion? Do well in LRW.

Keeping a Job / Doing Well

Legal Research and Writing teaches you how to do research and how to communicate this research effectively. It makes life easier for a firm to have a summer or articling student that is already capable of efficient research and coherent legal writing. Making life easier for the firm makes your supervisors happy. Making your supervisors happy is directly related to your success. Conclusion? You guessed it, do well in LRW.

Hearing the complaints about this course gave me a new respect for the Legal Research and Writing instructors who have the courage to teach a course that few students grasp the long-term importance of or even have the courtesy to pretend that they can stand. For all of the LRW instructors out there, how do you convince your students that your course is important?


  1. For all of the LRW instructors out there, how do you convince your students that your course is important?

    Tell them that, if they practice law in a firm that has a lawyer like me, it could help them get hired and avoid getting fired – unless why they’re in the firm in the first place has nothing to do with their ability to practice law.

    Or, it’ll help them avoid this: Wilson v. Bobbie, 2006 ABQB 22

    [42] Since neither counsel cited the binding decisions of the Court of Appeal (or indeed, any authority at all), neither party is entitled to costs of this motion.

    The judge who wrote that? He’s now on that province’s appellate court.

    Remind that that judges (we’re told) tend to have long memories. Ask them if they want to be known by judges – assuming they plan be a part of the profession that appears before judges of any type – as a person who cannot be relied on to help the judge with the current law.

    Or, since they’re in law school, on the assumption they’re there for reasons other than merely graduating, that they might not only learn something – the subject they’re supposed to be studying – but learn something that matters.

    Ask them if they care about their clients, assuming they will be in private practice.

    If not, ask them if they care about their own integrity.

    Or, failing all of that, tell them something about what they’ll learn might one day help them avoid being sued.

    We’ll leave for another day the question of whether most students who need to be told anything that you’ve written ought to have been accepted into law school in the first place. And, for those who have undergraduate degrees, how they got them.

  2. For those in the plus ca change (accents implied) mode