Robson Hall Diary…Week 4

So far, so good. My first few weeks at Robson Hall have been uneventful. We’ve had a few full group lectures in Legal Methods, where first year students are being immersed in practical topics ranging from basic legal research to how to think like a lawyer to exam-writing tips. Right now they ought to be finishing off their first case brief assignment, struggling with how to summarize 87 dense pages from the Supreme Court into no more than 6 double spaced pages.

So far, I have been most grateful for the course coordinator, Richard Jochelson. He just joined the Faculty of Law this summer and I’m finding that not only is he well versed in criminal law, but Jochelson is also an organized, creative and articulate teacher. This is making my job as a new instructor ever so much easier.

One of Jochelson’s projects has been creation of a new blog, Robson Crim Legal Blog. While not creatively named, this collaborative blog already features a wide range of posts and perspectives from an array of academics across the country. Judging by the early posts, Robson Crim Legal Blog seems likely to make a meaningful contribution to discourse on criminal law both in the academy and the legal profession. Perhaps it will even be a contender in the next round of Clawbies.

While on the topic of criminal law writing, the Manitoba Law Journal has just put out a call for papers for an upcoming issue of the journal focused on current issues in criminal law. Academics, lawyers, judges and students are all invited to submit papers for consideration by no later than February 1, 2017.

And finally, it warms my social-media loving heart that some of the newer faculty members of University of Manitoba’s law school are becoming more visible on social media. Jochelson (@RiJochelson), Amar Khoday (@amarkhoday) and David Ireland (@irelanddavy) are all present and active on Twitter. This seems like progress in a province where lawyers and academics are notably absent from social media.


  1. Hi Karen

    Did any of the speakers concede that being taught “to think like a lawyer” means one or more of

    1. Absolutely nothing but sounds good, especially for those who are about to go even deeper into debt;

    2. Thinking like an acolyte of an authoritarian hierarchical religion;

    3. Accepting Humpty Dumpty was right;

    4. Don’t panic: There is no number 4;

    5. Accepting that 1 + 1 = 2 if and only if the applicable law declares it does but it need not – see #3;

    6. All of the above;

    7. None of the above;

    8. See #4, too.

    Cheers from Oxford,


  2. It’s easy to downplay the difficulty of what comes naturally to practitioners :-) but just today I was trying to articulate the difficulties I face as a scientific thinker (in the biological or social sciences) trying to learn to think like a lawyer, for the purposes of functioning both as an SRL and as an analyst. I think I can articulate some similarities, but not the differences.
    Both scientific and legal thinking require the engagement of logic within the framework of an established paradigm; both require clinical detachment of emotions while retaining fundamental humanism.
    From there I get stuck and would love to hear a perspective from across the gap.

  3. Ms. Litzcke:

    Your question is asked regularly on Slaw and elsewhere. And answered. If you’d posed it as a law student, you’d likely have been received a reply which is some form of the question: “what attempts did you make to find an answer?”

    One instance of the discussion, on Slaw, is here:

    I use this example not because it has more value than any other instance of the discussion but because it is one I remembered and was able to easily find. There have been others.

    One learns the content of the areas of law that are relevant and one learns the rules that govern how that content is manipulated. That is the full sum of what is involved in “thinking like a lawyer”. If that sounds remarkably like learning how to speak and use a language, that is because that is exactly what law is in this context: a language. Emotional detachment may or may not affect one’s ability to learn and manipulate the rules.

    “Fundamental humanism”? Bear in mind that machine-processed algorithms now exist which are capable of providing valid answers to “legal” questions. The validity of the answer depends on the adequacy of the input. Garbage in; garbage out. There’s no “humanism” involved, fundamental or otherwise.

    You are an SLR? Good luck. Learn the content and the procedure of the area in which you are trying to represent yourself. If you learn he content and procedure adequately, you may be able to represent yourself adequately so long as your your self-interest in the problem involved doesn’t interfere with your ability to process the content.

    Bear in mind, though, that in many areas of law, it takes most people a certain amount of time to become minimally incompetent.

    If the content of an area of law includes a proposition that, from your perspective, is nonsensical because it amounts to a statement that (the equivalent of) 1 unit plus 1 unit need not equal 2 units, then you will have to put aside that perspective, so long as the proposition governs. (See Humpty Dumpty, above).

    If it helps you, you could accept that the Western concept of Law is a version of the the Western concept of religion. Each area of law has certain axioms which are true because that area of law holds the axioms are true. Within that area of the law, you are governed by those axioms. There may or may not be procedure(s) in the system of law by which those axioms are changed. But, until they are, you are governed by them.

    I’ll leave it to others to expand on this, should they wish.

    Once again, good luck.

    David Cheifetz

  4. David, thanks for both the explanation and the illustration :-)