My official last work day was yesterday, Wednesday March 28, 2018. However, I was not ready to say goodbye yet and so I decided to come back for one last day.
I met Guillaume at the Vancouver courthouse on 222 Mainstreet. After a quick adjournment that he had to make, Guillaume and I headed for the exit. He told me that today he was going to take me for lunch at a vegan restaurant called Meet (he knows that I am vegetarian). He also insisted that he would pay for lunch. I think it bothered him that throughout the internship I did not let him pay for my expenses. I had explained to him that I could not have him pay for my expenses because, just like lawyers, I too have my own ethics. If I had it my way, I would pay for his lunches. But I knew he would never agree to this. The least I could do was not allow him to pay for mine.
The restaurant was not open when we arrived. They were still preparing for the day. We decided to wait in a café across the street from the restaurant. We each ordered a cappuccino and grabbed some seats at the end of the café. The rain sprinkled down. It was a sad day, but a perfect day.
After we took some sips from our cups, I decided now was the time to present Guillaume with a gift I had been carrying around for a while. Guillaume was very moved. He wanted to open it there and then, but I asked him not to. I was too nervous. To my pleasant surprise, Guillaume threw his arm around me. We were now friends.
We then began to reflect on our time together. Guillaume mentioned that I seemed to be on the right path. He said that I had the right amount of passion for the work, and a love for people. It is all about people in the law. As Richard Peck once told Guillaume, “There is no such thing as business in law. Law is not a business. It is a profession.” Guillaume felt that I was in it for the right reasons. I cared for humanity. I cared for my fellow human beings. Hearing this was so humbling. To be able to hear these things from a mentor means so much to a student.
However, Guillaume’s comments about people being in the profession for the wrong reasons made me wonder about something. I asked him, “Is law a dying profession?” Guillaume’s answer was a quick and painful “Yes.” People who are in the profession for reasons such as greed, power, and prestige could eventually out-number those who are in it for the right reasons, such as a passion for people, and advocacy. “Clients should not be looked at as another paycheck,” he said.
I then asked Guillaume if the profession of law is dying because humanity is dying? Again, his answer was “Yes.” As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.” People are not one with their own virtues and values, and thus cannot offer any positive meaning to the world around them. In my opinion, this was also the essence of Crim 4400- be real with yourself so that you can be real with the world. However, it seems that the world is becoming more and more disunited because people are disunited with themselves. Going back to law, if the values of lawyers- and some firms- are to just make money, then how will they be able to serve their clients and essentially the world? Clients are not stupid. They can sense when a lawyer is being hard to trust and if they cannot trust you as their lawyer, they will fire you. But, this will mean that the problems of mental illness, homelessness, and segregation will continue because there will be no one to represent those voices who need to be heard. However, Guillaume then smiled and mentioned that this is exactly the reason why he takes on students. His hope is that with one student at a time, the dying profession of law can become lively again.
After our lunch- which was extremely delicious- we headed towards New Westminster court. I had to really control my emotions because this was where it all began for me three months ago. What a way to cap things off.
After another quick adjournment, Guillaume offered to drive me to the sky train station. He wanted to drive me home, but he had a meeting with a client. I do not know why I did ask him to take me to the meeting. I did not want the day to end. I did not want to go home.
Once we got to the sky train station, I jokingly asked Guillaume which court he wants me at tomorrow morning. We laughed. “Well, it was fun man,” he smiled. I shook his hand one last time, thanked him maybe another ten times and walked off. I did not turn around. I could not turn around. I had lived my dream for the last three months. But the dream was now over. It was time to wake up. Law school was about to call.
Joining the practicum program was not only the best academic decision I have made, but also the best personal decision. One of my mentors Elliott Hulse often says that it is experiences in life that make us who we are. I needed an opportunity to see the world from a different angle. I needed to experience the world that my future clients would be coming from- a world of struggle and challenges. I am very blessed to have parents that gave their sweat and blood to make sure that my sister and I were comfortable. But the fact is that I needed to feel uncomfortable to be able to empathize with those I may represent in the future. The practicum allowed me to do that. Due to this, I am also a lot more independent. I went places I had only heard of. I roamed those streets that society tells us not too. I have grown as a person
However, for this growth to become a reality, I needed a mentor- someone who could show me the light in all the darkness that I was about to experience for the first time. Guillaume showed me that I can be myself in a profession that forces so many to become jaded. Guillaume showed me that Atticus Finch does exist.
Death is the inevitable truth of life. If there were no death, there would be no life. If there were no winter, then the beauty of spring would not exist. So, all though the internship has ended, the beginning of my professional life has begun. I once roamed the streets of East Hastings and Main as a student. One day, and I know that day is coming, I will roam those streets as a lawyer.
Today was another milestone day for me. We were supposed to meet in Richmond in the morning, but it turned out the Richmond matter was not going to go through till the next day. I was already on the bus and on my way to the Richmond court when I got a call from Guillaume saying that we were not going to Richmond anymore. He asked where I was and when I said that I was already on my way to the Sky Train station, he asked if I wanted to make an appearance on his behalf in Port Coquitlam (lovingly called PoCo by lawyers). My answer was “Hell yeah”- well, something along those lines. A grateful Guillaume thanked me and gave me instructions for the adjournment. With that, I changed my course of direction. “PoCo, here I come,” I thought with a grin. This was so exciting. I was about to make an appearance in court, ALL BY MYSELF! WOWZERS!
By the time I got to PoCo, the court was taking its morning break. This allowed me to catch a breath and review Guillaume’s instructions. The transit ride to PoCo had really tired me out. But the idea of making an appearance on my own really energized me. But I could not get too excited. I needed to find the Crown counsel to let her know that I was going to call Guillaume’s matter.
Once the morning break ended, the sheriff allowed me into the room. There I was able to find the Crown counsel. She was extremely welcoming and kind, which meant a lot to a student like me. I nervously introduced myself, told her who I was and what I was going to do, and found a seat in the public sitting area- or the gallery as it is formally called. “Oh no,” the Crown counsel said with a smile. “You can sit here.” She was pointing to the chairs in front- WHERE THE LAWYER SIT! “Really?” I asked with wide eyes. “I can do that?” By now the sheriff was chuckling at me too. As the Justice of the Peace walked onto her bench, and the Crown started calling the days matters, I made myself comfortable- but not for too long because it was my turn.
I believe I presented myself well in court. I spoke with a confident and loud enough voice so that everyone could hear me, as Guillaume had taught me, but I was not yelling. I was also able to answer any questions without hesitation and let the Crown and Justice of Peace know about all the instructions that I had. So far, I have had a lot of fun appearing in court on Guillaume’s behalf and I am getting some very precious and relevant experience from this as well. Most people do not get to appear in court until their articling days begin in law school. However, thanks to Guillaume’s mentorship, I am already getting comfortable with court appearances. I can feel myself become more and more at home in the court with every appearance. This is definitely a very valuable experience. Most people my age only do office work in a lawyer’s office as their part “legal experience.” However, Guillaume is allowing me to really get a sense of what it feels like to be a lawyer. He is allowing me to make appearances, handle trial prep work, and even prepare and interview clients in his presence. This internship has been a blessing thus far.
So, you're defence counsel, huh?
The second month is in full swing and my body still feels like mush. The hardest part about early mornings is my upset stomach. I am having a really hard time eating in the wee hours of the morning. My appetite is not helping with my self-care.
Whenever I tell people that ever since I was in high school I have wanted to be a lawyer, they look at me like I am Henry Hill from “Goodfellas”- “As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be gangster.” They throw remarks such as “So you’re going to get the bad guys out?” or “what good do you see in the bad guys?” I do a pretty good job at keeping my cool when I am asked these questions. I know they do not see things the way I do. I know they are ignorant and are only going by what society has “taught” them- that “bad guys should stay in jail.”
However, I have been having a lot of meaningful discussions with my supervisor about this issue. He assures me that all lawyers, especially defence counsel, must endure such comments. A question that my supervisor and his colleagues often get asked is “So you’re a defence counsel, huh? So, you side with the bad guys?” My supervisor says that he often responds by saying “Well…it’s complicated.”
Many people believe that because defense counsel represent individuals that the greater society does not care for, they are agreeing with the wrong doings that their clients have committed. This is an absolutely wrong and unfair opinion in my belief.
What it is that defence counsels do? They provide the “other side” of the story, first and foremost. They provide the courts- and ultimately society- a story that no one, and I mean NO ONE, wants to hear.
In this way, it is important to note that listening and appreciating a client’s side of the story does not make what they did okay. It does not mean that lawyers agree with the client's conduct. However, listening to the client’s story, and presenting it in court will make it more understandable. Listening to these stories, in my opinion, also makes us better people. Listening and representing those who literally have no voice is a very noble deed. Unfortunately, this crucial idea is too hard for society to understand, it seems.
Monk in a suit
I pride myself in being able to connect to people very quickly. It is not something that I was taught, but rather enforced through positive parenting, mentorships, and life experiences. This also happens to be one of the reasons why I believe I will be able to thrive in the legal field. Being able to make connections with clients who are living a reality that most people cannot even imagine is the trait of a successful lawyer. This trait becomes extremely crucial for defense counsels. Their clients are living lives that most people cannot even fathom, let alone begin to understand.
I am also very spiritual. I believe that we are all connected by some power- be it God, or some higher energy. I believe that seeing the good, the light, the “godliness” in everything and everyone is the essence of all religious and spiritual teachings. I am now beginning to believe that this is also the essence of all legal professions.
One of the reasons why I am enjoying my internship so much is that I am able to have very deep, and profoundly intellectual discussions with my supervisor Guillaume Garih. Our discussions about the law seem to grow from an aspect of the law to something more deep and important- human life. My supervisor has given me permission to not limit myself to just the law, but rather allow myself to make connections to higher subjects- such as spirituality- to the law.
Today, our discussion began with empathy, and connection to clients- hearing them out because they too deserve to be heard. However, the more we discussed this, the more we realized that we were talking about something beyond just the workings of the legal profession- we were talking about the core values of all higher teachings.
What is spirituality we asked? Spirituality is being able to see the good in everything and everyone- seeing the divine in all its creation. All religious teachings point to this as well- “Love God and love his people.” Lawyers and other legal professionals- in my opinion- need to go a step beyond.
It is very easy to see the good in, and empathize with someone who is well dressed, speaks well, has a job, and who society revers as a “good person.” We can all do that, anybody can do that. But lawyers and legal professionals empathize with those society does not even want to acknowledge. Society has deemed these people “bad.” For most of society, these people are no names that do not exist. Lawyers, on the other hand, hear their stories, advocate for them, and sometimes even cry with them. This in my mind is true spirituality. It is very easy to be good to those who are already seen as good. Bravery is being able to stand up for those who have no voice. In this way, there is a philosophical element to the profession of being a lawyer, and I am glad my supervisor is sharing this with me.
The weekend has never felt so good. Although this week has been a lot of fun, I am very exhausted. However, the exhaustion comes with a sense of pride. I know I am exhausted because I have worked hard. Guillaume and I averaged three courthouses a day this week! One of our days started in Abbotsford and ended in Surrey, with a quick appearance in Vancouver. I feel like I have accomplished so much already!
One of the highlights of this week was my first appearance in court! When Guillaume mentioned to me that I would be making an adjournment on his behalf, I could not contain my excitement. Adjournments are when lawyers ask for an extension on a matter for various reasons. For example, one reason can be that the defense counsel received new disclosure and need to time to look over it. Another reason can be that a client did not show up for his or her court appearance and so his or her agent will ask for an adjournment to avoid a warrant for an arrest.
I made my appearance in the Vancouver courthouse on 222 Main street. Guillaume explained to me that because I am a student, I cannot appear in front of Judges. Therefore, I could only appear in front of the Justice of the Peace- who deals with administrative issues. My adjournment was regarding our client not being able to come to court due to the fact that he was in the forensic hospital. To avoid an arrest, it was important I mention that to the Justice of the Peace. We created a script to follow. Guillaume mentioned to me that when my court file gets called, I was to bow before the Justice of the Peace and introduce myself before presenting my adjournment. I was now ready to get my first taste of court appearances. (I cannot mention my exact script due to confidentiality reasons)
Appearing in court is such a rush! I was super excited and to everyone’s surprise I was able to deliver my script with great confidence. I did get a little nervous when my court file was called and everyone turned to look at me. It was as if time had stopped. The Justice of the Peace was smiling the whole time I was delivering my script because she knew I was a newbie. Luckily, I did not make a fool of myself.
The best part of the adjournment was when my supervisor, Guillaume, told me he was proud of me for delivering the script so well. That really meant a lot. In law, your reputation is everything and I did not want him to be laughed at because of my failure to deliver the script effectively. My first taste of court appearances was really sweet. I cannot wait to taste it again.