The final week and a half of the exam season awaits first year law students at Michigan State University. Of the 264 students in the Class of 2019, only 41 students attended MSU before entering MSU Law. 53% of the Class has a permanent residence located outside of Michigan. I, myself, am one of eleven international students. Aside from the complex and novel legal concepts, law school at MSU has been a foreign experience for the majority of us. What have we learned about ourselves in this first year of legal studies? What is unique about MSU? Hopefully this blog post provides you with an opportunity to reflect on your own personal journey and how far we have come as a collective. As an international law student at MSU, here are a few noticeable observations and experiences from my first year on campus:

No New Friends “Make a ton of new friends!” – had Drake attended MSU Law.

Chances are, your pursuit of becoming a lawyer is inextricably linked to your affinity for social conversations. MSU affords perhaps one of the best environments to forge new friendships. The disposition of most in law school is generally open and inviting. When you couple the friendly nature of law students with the daily lunch and learn events, Saturday football tailgates, and the Grand River/Albert Ave bar scene, MSU and the greater East Lansing area provide an unparalleled opportunity to maintain and grow your social circles. I never imagined during Immersion Week, as an intimidated incoming student, that it would be relatively easy to form new friendships here. Law school is a noticeably different arena when it comes to this. Never be afraid to simply say hi or strike up a conversation with someone you see in the halls. Analogous to the way that before a place becomes your favourite it is somewhere you have never gone before, so too is a person you have yet to meet. That person who you finally talk to might end up becoming your new bestfriend. Or your law school enemy. Either way, keep being open to new possibilities, MSU Law. You have done a great job thus far.

Still Jenny From the Section 3 Block

Tying into the discussion about making new friends above, the fluid social dynamic at MSU begins in your 1L section. It will be sad to let go of the section you once belonged to, in place of inter-sectional mixing for the upper years. Nonetheless, one is likely to never forget the section that they came from. This is where you attempted humour for the first time and made some really great friends with those sitting around you. Your section became your second family. You saw everyone five days a week for eight hours a day. It was truly a pleasure getting to know everyone. Thanks for sticking with me throughout all of my bad jokes!

“Prepare More For the Final Than Any Individual Class” – Professor Kalt

Perhaps the single greatest piece of advice bestowed upon those in section 3, also applicable to all other MSU Law students, arrived from torts and admin law Professor Kalt: “prepare more for the final exam than you ever do for any individual class.” Exams creep up on you fast after a four month grind. Most of us started out law school preparing intensely in anticipation of getting called on in class – thoroughly briefing cases and even, occasionally, practicing their lead joke in front of a mirror (or maybe that was just me). Things quickly changed when we realized that cold calls seldom have any influence on your final grade. That 100% final exam, however, does. Heed the advice of Professor Kalt and prepare more for the final exam than you ever do for any individual class.

Exams Won’t Kill You, But Cyclists Might

Seriously, what is up with sidewalk cyclists on the MSU campus? I cannot count the number of times that either myself or peers have faced a game of chicken with cyclists or nearly been ran over. It is worse than exiting the main train terminal in Amsterdam, unfamiliar with the three independent lanes of traffic devoted to cars, pedestrians, and cyclists, and finding yourself on the bicycle path (true story). Except, at MSU, there is no bike path around or near the law school! It is great that a bicycle is a staple method of transportation at MSU, but these cyclists belong on the road where a demarcated path is absent. Until then, the plight of pedestrians around MSU Law continues.

Good luck with the rest of finals and best wishes for the summer. See you in August, MSU Law!

In less than a week, on April 6, 2017, I will deliver a presentation to a panel of judges on the campaign that I ran in the law schools social media contest. The audience will also include my fellow competitors, peers, faculty, and law school personnel.

The central idea behind the contest was to leverage connections while building a personal brand on a social media platform. The Career Services Office at MSU Law described the goals of the contest in the following way:

Develop your personal brand. Connect with professionals around the world. Learn and establish expertise. Use social media to better market yourself to potential employers and clients.

I would like to reflect on how my performance measures in relation to the stated goals of the contest. That is, how have I both met and exceeded each of these goals?

Develop your brand

As a Canadian studying at an American law school, with aspirations of one day teaching comparative law and politics courses at the university level, the goal of my campaign was to connect with academics, students, and practitioners on topics of cross-border legal significance. Diversity of thought and opinion is an integral part of an academic environment. Only when we challenge perspectives, respectfully of course, can we achieve an optimal level of truth and justice. I believe that I am in a unique position, as a  Canadian at MSU Law, to offer comparative outlooks on political, social, and legal issues that enrich the overall academic community. The idea behind my campaign was to position myself as someone with enough knowledge in both common law regimes to contribute positively toward intellectual discussions.

Connect with professionals around the world

My social media platform, primarily on Twitter, had both a global appeal and outreach. My goal was essentially to spur interest in legal issues which affect both Canada and the United States. As a result, I connected with academics, students, and practitioners on both sides of the border. The dual degree program between MSU Law and the University of Ottawa helped to facilitate these connections. As a prospective applicant, I tapped into this network of current students, seeking insight and sharing this information with other interested students. I also contacted Canadian alumni of MSU Law, both those who participated in the dual JD program and those who chose not to, through LinkedIn to learn about their experiences and job prospects. I earned informational coffee meetings and interviews with a lot of these Canadian graduates of MSU Law. I focused on Canadian students and graduates for the benefit of my shaping my own network in the country and cities I would like to work in. However, that does not mean that I didn’t connect with anyone outside of that group. I constantly connected with other academics and lawyers across the United States. Their views can be found scattered throughout my twitter page, by way of retweets and likes.

Learn and establish expertise

Living without cable television in what is technically a foreign country to me has been challenging. Using Twitter, however, has allowed me to compile a broad range of news sources in one location. I seriously use Twitter as my primary news source. Twitter not only allows you to receive the major breaking news headlines, but you also get more nuanced and unfiltered insight from experts around the country and across the world. In order to help organize what could have been an overwhelming amount of information, I created 2 distinct lists – Canadian/American law, and MSU Law. I used the Canadian/American law list, comprised mainly of preeminent scholars, to share information with my followers and learn more myself. I created the second MSU Law list, comprised of faculty and school personnel, as a resource for anyone interested in MSU Law. My intention, by creating this list, is to attract incoming students to my profile. Here, I have a chance to grow my brand among the law school community that I belong to for the next 2 or 3 years.

Additionally, with the help of LexBlog, I was able to start this blog and share both this post and a few others with you. I intend to use this blog throughout the summer to share more condensed versions of academic articles I plan to write and hopefully publish.

Use social media to better market yourself to potential employers and clients

Midway through this contest, I awoke one night with the thought of a personal slogan: “there can be no remedy without Remy.” Get it? There can be no REMedY without Remy. I thought it would work well if I ever entered the personal injury field (which I don’t foresee, but you never know!). Overall, I believe that I have produced an image of myself on social media that is extremely professional and polished.

What’s next?

I look forward to presenting a more detailed portrait of my social media campaign to the judges on Thursday, April 6, 2017. I will also be attending my first Canadian Political Science Association Conference as an observer in late May/early June in Toronto. I will definitely live tweet most of the sessions I find interesting.

Following their meeting at the White House last week, President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau spoke on the phone today about a wide range of bilateral relations issues; namely, on border security and the looming softwood lumber dispute that is likely to occupy tension against a backdrop of NAFTA reform. Border security, however, is the issue of the day in Canada. In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Justin Trudeau continued to defend his government’s proposed legislation, Bill C-23, titled the Preclearance Act, to expand border preclearance at Canadian airports and land-crossings as the third-party New Democrats attempted to stall the bill in its second reading.

The NDP argue that Bill C-23 fails to account for a “climate of uncertainty” at the border, which they attribute to the recently introduced immigration policies of the Trump administration. Proponents of Bill C-23 believe that the new legislative measures will speed the flow of both goods and people across the border. In contrast, critics decry the proposed legislation as another notch of eroded sovereignty, among other concerns of excessive powers that would grant United States customs official’s authority on Canadian soil.  The controversy surrounding the Preclearance Act is both cause for and deserving of discussion on its own, perhaps receiving attention in this blog at a later time.

Trudeau has been careful not to directly criticize the new Trump administration, ignoring the demands of the NDP’s outgoing leader, Thomas Mulcair, to “stand up to Trump’s racism and hatred.” The Prime Minister does not see it in Canada’s economic interest, especially with NAFTA cited as a Trump priority, to potentially anger the temperamental President. What sort of weight, then, does presidential-prime ministerial relations have on influencing the direction of Canadian policy? If Trump and Trudeau did not get along, how would that sour relationship affect Canada? We could consider a number of counterfactual and hypothetical scenarios, but not enough has occurred in the infant stage of this Trump-Trudeau relationship. What lessons does history afford us? How have the executives of each respective country, whether positive or negative, historically affected Canada’s policy discourse?

The historical relationships between US Presidents and the Canadian Prime Ministers is well documented: http://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/canada-us-conversations-and-relations/us-presidents-and-canadian-prime-ministers-good-vibes-or-not/

Under a historical lens, the private relationship of Trump and Trudeau should matter little. The political discourse of each country is largely determined by the extant political, social, and economic landscape. It relies less on how well the President and Prime Minister get along. The relationship of presidents and prime ministers is rather a fixation of the media, which views both parties in a celebrity light. However much the relationship deteriorates or thrives, the inextricable link between Canada and the United States remains.

History, however, might prove dispensable when considering a Trump presidency. Although the Trump-Trudeau relationship is off to a practicable and friendly start, disagreement over particular issues is inevitable. Those issues, relating to the environment, immigration, and trade, are more widely dependent on US action than ever before. The Trump presidency will likely dictate terms, leaving Canada with perennial ultimatums. Should Canada choose to assert its non-negotiable values, the private relationship between Trump and Trudeau will matter far more than presidential-prime ministerial relations ever has.

Isolated disputes, such as the matter of nuclear warheads on Canadian soil, created enough tension within Canada to displace the governing party at the time. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s government lost power when Lester Pearson agreed to meet Kennedy/LBJ’s demands. If Parliament had not fractured into a four party system in the 1990’s into the early 2000’s, would a viable Conservative Party, had the right united in ’02 instead of a year later in ’03, have defeated Chrétien’s decision not to support the Iraq War?

Trudeau will confront more bilateral relations issues than any previous Prime Minister. In a joint news conference with President Trump, Trudeau stated on US-Canadian relations that:

There have been times where we have differed in our approaches and that has always been done firmly and respectfully. The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves. The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves. My role and our responsibility is to continue to govern in such a way that reflects Canadians’ approach and be a positive example in the world.

Canada and the United States have disagreed on much, perhaps more than they have ever agreed. Normally, the private relationship of a president and prime minister would matter little. The type of complex issues that will confront these two countries in the near future, however, renders their personal relationship of chief importance. How well Trudeau and Trump continue to maintain good vibes will largely determine opportunities for compromise.

How that relationship is perceived by Canadians might also influence the outcome of the next election. The NDP desire deterioration of that relationship based entirely on who Trump is. Trudeau risks losing the progressives that brought him into office, depending on how friendly that relationship is perceived. The Conservative Party would welcome that deterioration, harassing the incompetency of the Prime Minister to maintain positive relations. Ultimately, presidential-prime ministerial relations, aside from meaning more now than ever for Canadians, probably matters immensely for the fate of Justin Trudeau.

 

Disagreement is the syndrome of diverse ideas, interests, and opinions. In law, dissent provides departure from consensus, marking distinctions between equally calculated camps of rational thought. In politics, disagreement is embodied by different political parties. A just society, finding its most optimal balance on a wide range of issues, necessitates the careful consideration of both sides to any argument.

Although this blog considers salient issues belonging to both the legislature and judiciary, the setting of Parliament alone gives rise to this blogs title. The distance across the floor in the House of Commons, between the government and opposition benches, measures 3.96 metres, said to be equivalent to two swords’ length. The distance relates to “times gone by in the British House.” Members of Parliament no longer wear swords, “but red lines marked on the carpet two swords’ length apart still serve as a reminder to seek resolution by peaceful means.”

In effect, this blog attempts to achieve a modicum of the same type of discussion and deliberation that two swords’ length of distance promotes.

Welcome to Two Swords’ Length Apart. I hope that whatever reason brought you here satisfies an intellectual curiosity, challenges you in some way, and motivates you to seek further enlightenment.

Thank you.