Legally Ranting

Unconscionable Dealing, or Undue Influence?

Posted in Equity, Law School by legalrants on April 14, 2011

The equitable doctrines of Undue Influence and Unconscionable Dealing have often been confused and inappropriately administered. Even within the doctrine of Undue Influence itself, it is not entirely clear as to which is the correct approach.

Let me cite an example. When addressing an action in Undue Influence, does it matter whether the defendant acted with some impropriety (exploitation) towards the plaintiff? According to some UK cases (see National Westminster Bank v Morgan; RBS v Etridge), the answer is yes. In Australia, the approach focuses on the quality of the plaintiff’s consent. This was clearly stated in the case of CBA v Amadio, albeit in an obiter.

Now the problem with the ‘exploitation’ approach is that it gets easily confused with the doctrine of Unconscionable Dealing. This latter doctrine focuses entirely on the defendant acting unconscionably in taking advantage of the plaintiff’s special disability.  Certainly, there are strong overlaps between the notion of ‘exploitation’ and ‘unconscionability’. The blurring of the two doctrines is further compounded if the scope of the ‘special disability’ in Unconscionable Dealing is not set out correctly.

In the High Court of Australia case of Bridgewater v Leahy, the special disability was an affection and fondness of the defendant. Now, when you consider that in cases of Undue Influence, a presumption that there was undue influence can be made out if there is a relationship of trust and confidence between the plaintiff and the defendant, you can see the problems arising — another case of strong overlap, this time between ‘trust and confidence’ and ‘affection and fondness’.

Taken to the extreme, it can be said that there is no discernable difference between the doctrines of Unconscionable Dealing and Undue Influence. In retrospect, this may be to the advantage of the plaintiff, for he may be able to argue two different causes of action on the same set of facts. Nevertheless, the blurring of the two doctrines does no favours to the jurisprudence of Equity.

The Fusion Fallacy — Is it really necessary to separate Equity from the Common Law?

Posted in Contract, Equity, Law School by legalrants on March 5, 2011

A hilarious incident occurred during the Equity lecture two days ago. The lecturer was attempting to explain what forms of equitable relief  are available. It went like this:

Lecturer: A lady signed over her property to her son, in the understanding that she would be able to live in that property for life. She went away for holiday and her rascal son sold the property, and she came back finding that the property was scheduled to be demolished. What form of equitable remedy would she be seeking?

A loud SYMPHONIC TUNE went off, presumable from a mobile.

Lecturer: Not THAT kind of relief, I hope!

In short, the answer to this question would likely to be an injunction. Before I started the Equity unit, I didn’t give two hoots about the available remedies to a civil breach — say a breach of contract. I mean, to me, it was pretty clear cut — injunction? specific performance? damages? rescission? These mixture of equitable and common law remedies were all mish-mashed and bundled in my head, ready to be spewed out according to the context of the case.

Lo and behold — the puritanical law academic would have frowned upon my insolence and ignorance. It’s a FUSION FALLACY, they would say. In my defence, I didn’t even know they were SEPARATE, let alone try to “fuse” them.

Why is it really important to make a clear distinction between equitable remedies and common law remedies anyway? I mean, one would simply dish out the most appropriate remedy right? Who cares if it’s equitable or common law-based? However, in a much celebrated dictum, Professor Ashburner had compared equity and the law to two streams of jurisdiction, though running side by side in the same channel, they do not mingle their waters.

In my opinion, it is still important at the moment to ensure that equitable doctrines are not mixed up with common law principles. For example, exemplary damages (a common law remedy) should not be awarded in a case of a breach of fiduciary duty (an equitable duty) — see the case of Harris v Digital Pulse.

The doctrine of Equity was derived as a supplement, or a “gloss”, to the common law. It steps in when remedies under the law is judged to be inadequate — therefore, a court looks to Equity to award remedies as it sees just. The relationship is not reciprocal. If a dispute requires Equitable doctrines to resolve, it means that the common law was inadequate in some way; if that is the case, why is there a need to bring in common law remedies?

A more appropriate approach, though possibly entailing no change in substance, is to develop the common law incorporating duties that were previously under equitable doctrines. For example, in the case of Harris, a court can hold that a fiduciary duty has a legal component to it, that would attract common law remedies if that duty was breached.

It is still important to keep the “waters” from “mingling” — if common law remedies were available for all breaches of equitable duties, we could see the state of law  decline into a mish-mash of confusion. For example, exemplary damages may be awarded in cases of breach of contract, simply because the judge feels that it is appropriate to do so (when previously, contract law would not administer such a relief).

Boy, isn’t that confusing?

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Which area of law?

Posted in Criminal Law, Domestic Law, Family Law by legalrants on February 4, 2011

Sometimes, events can unfold in the most surprising of ways. Just a few months ago, I was convinced that international law was the way forward for me — I had dreamed about fighting justice from the hallowed chambers of the International Criminal Court or any of the ad hoc UN-sanctioned courts like the ICTY, ICTR etc. Alternatively, I could also see myself arguing national interests in the International Court of Justice.

Through the past few weeks, as I delved deeply into the practice of international law, particularly international criminal law, I was convinced that politics and national agendas governed its mechanisms. The United Nations, noble as it may sometimes be, is alas subject to the economic might and military muscle of the major powers. The Security Council is inherently flawed by virtue of the ability of its 5 permanent members to block a resolution with veto powers.

At the same time, a heightened awareness of domestic issues contributed to my change in direction towards domestic law. Much as law students are enticed by the glitz and glamour of a career in international law or commercial, I believe that there is insufficient attention given to social issues and notions of social justice. The reality is that there are many in a given society suffering from injustices as a result of social pressure, economic deprivation and other forms of discrimination.

I became keenly aware that a strong background in traditional areas of law such as Property, Torts, Criminal and Family Law would be essential in aiding social justice and helping the disadvantaged achieve reprieve through legal means. At the end of the day, it appeals to my inherent sense of justice as well as my inclination towards helping the needy.

Certainly, the stability of common law is a welcome reversion, away from the somewhat iffy nature of international law. Hence, I’ve made the bold decision to drop Intellectual Property Law and Public International Law, in favour of Family Law and Criminal Trial Procedure.

Hopefully, I will continually be inspired in my quest to aid social justice and be given a chance to contribute to society.

The Politics of International Criminal Law

Posted in International Criminal Law, International Law by legalrants on January 14, 2011

The notion of international criminal tribunals or courts conjures up busy, efficient courtrooms, paneled by oakwood and red cushions. At a superficial level these courtrooms, flanked by rows of lawyers facing a panel of judges of various nationalities, appear to be dishing out cold, brutal justice to the many war criminals who have gained the unpopularity of the world media. Or is that the case?

I’ve never stepped into a courtroom adjucating a trial of an international war criminal; for that matter, I’ve never even stepped into a courtroom trial before. Perhaps, for the better. For the past year or so, I’ve deluded myself that these trials were necessary to dish out justice to heinous atrocities attributed to evil men (or women). Perhaps, these war criminals really were as evil as the world media made them out to be. But are they really the only ones who are truly guilty?

As any scholar of international law would inform, politics is undivorceable from the practice of international law. Afterall, what is international law but simply inter-state relationships (at a very basic level). Find me a state that does not have internal political struggles, I’ll show you the Garden of Eden. At the international level, these political struggles are simply juxtaposed onto the world arena.

I barely need to mention the trial of General Yamashita after WWII, in the American Military Tribunal of Manila, to prove my point. For that matter, the legality of that trial is still questionable today (at least to me). 

Why the world stood and watch repeatedly through genocidal regimes and not act, truly baffles me. From the Holocaust to Pol Pot’s Cambodia to Rwanda, the world of international criminal law owes a huge debt to tens of millions of victims to arrive at what we have today. This is not forgetting Darfur NOW!

Ok, so I’ve rambled alot — what do we actually have today? In the 1990s, we have the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR).  From 2000 to 2010, we have the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and the East Timor Tribunal. The most notable court we have today is the International Criminal Court (ICC).

So why am I so dissatisfied? In the early days of the Rome Statute of the ICC, the world was anticipating a new age of accountability — a permanent court that could adjucate criminal justice for international crimes. The world’s biggest only superpower, the USA, was firmly instrumental in orchestrating the birth of the Rome Statute — but it went downhill thereafter.

The ICC came into force in July 2002, after the 60th nation had ratified the Rome Statute. The USA, unhappy that the ICC would have jurisdiction over citizens belonging to a non-state party (amongst other objections), refused to ratify it. Without the muscle of the USA, the ICC seemed doomed to obscurity. Fortunately, there have been 111 states so far that has ratified the treaty and the ICC has begun some work in certain African countries. Not only did the USA strongly object to certain articles of the Rome Statute, the US Congress declared that the President had powers to order force to ‘rescue’ any US soldier who is being held for ICC investigations. It also forced over 100 states to sign a treaty promising not to hand over any US soldier to the ICC if required to.

Because the ICC has intricate links to the UN Security Council (of which the USA is a permanent member with enormous veto powers — basically any resolution by the Council cannot be passed if any of the 5 permanent members veto it), one would think  that the US would veto a Security Council resolution to refer the Darfur situation to the ICC — surprisingly, the US abstained from the vote. An act of compromise, perhaps?

This is the murky world of politics mixed into the arena of international criminal law. While I’m not privy to what goes on in high-level discussions, I can just imagine the US representative in discussion with the other Security Council members to determine whether the US vote was necessary to obtain the 9 out of 15 majority to pass the resolution.

In Cambodia, the ECCC is likely to close down after prosecution of defendant 002. This appears to be the wishes of the Cambodian prosecutors and the government. It is no secret that many of the ex-Khmer Rouge members are now holding governmental positions in the Cambodian government — it is more likely that not that pressure has been put onto the prosecutors to stop any further investigations.

In Rwanda, relationships between the ICTR and the Rwandan government soured after the ICTR begun investigations of RPF rebels (the Tutsi rebel force that now forms the government). Only after the ICTR relented, that relationships normalised.

In the ICTY, the Prosecutor initated investigations into NATO bombings in Kosovo, which killed scores of civilians and desecrated the Chinese embassy, only to be warned of withdrawn support from NATO members.

The extremely applaudable move by Belgium to enact universal jurisdiction into their domestic laws and thereafter, beginning investigations into George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, met with ludicrosity by the US. It threatened Belgium’s status as the NATO headquarters. Belgium had no choice but to amend its laws accordingly.

This is not an exhaustive list of the political pressures that have been placed in the realm of international criminal law — I’m sure many more exist and probably occuring on a daily basis. While I’m no idealistic superhero hoping to save the world by holding war criminals to accountability, I’m certainly deflated in my desire to practice international criminal law in future.

Whenever I get disillusioned with ICL, I always remember a scene from the film “Hotel Rwanda” where the hotel manager, when threatened with death, categorically told the Rwandan army general that he (the hotel manager, that is) was the only person who could testify for the general in an international criminal court — “You wear five stars, who do you think they are coming for?”….after a brief deliberation, the general let him go.

NZ apples to finally enter Aussie shores

Posted in International Law, International Trade by legalrants on December 28, 2010

Not that I’m a big fan of le pomme, but I never did realise that there was a 90 year old law barring NZ apples being sold in Australia. Apparently, the Aussie govt banned the import of NZ apples in 1921 due to fear of risk of fireblight.

In August 2010, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled that the ban on NZ apple imports was illegal because there was simply no credible scientific evidence that vindicates Aussie paranoia — even if infected NZ apples were imported into Australia, it is highly unlikely to affect apple orchards in Australia. In November 2010, the WTO rejected Australia’s appeal on the ruling effectively paving the way for NZ apples to enter the Aussie market.

Like I said, bad apples or not, I don’t really care — but the reaction from Aussie farmers was overall, very negative. The sentiment appears to be the same old story of fear of fire blight infection, affecting their harvests and reputation etc etc. However, underlying these irrational fears is certainly all about trade and market access.

Currently, the price of apples in Australia is between $2/kilo to $6/kilo, depending on where you buy them (tip: don’t buy your fruits and veggies from the supermarkets, you can get them at 1/3 of the price in smaller wet markets). It would be interesting to see what the price range of NZ apples would be once they start entering the Aussie market.

I certainly hope that the Aussie govt would hold true to the ANZAC spirit and promptly remove all trade barriers to NZ apples.

Renewed Vigour

Posted in Law School by legalrants on December 11, 2010

This semester’s results were just released. Thank goodness, I fared significantly better than last semester — I guess in some way, this is really important in renewing my vigour for the remaining 4 semesters. Reflecting back on this semester’s efforts, I realised that I had totally revamped my studying methods, though there is probably more to improve on. Here are some tips to any law school newbies on how you might want to approach studying law:

1) Daily revision — I cannot overstate the importance of this. It is vitally imperative that you refresh your memory on what was taught in the day’s lessons as soon as you get home, or whenever you can. Reflect on what the lecturer(s) had emphasised, the important cases and to extract the main legal principle from each of those cases.

2) Building upon the previous point — I find that sometimes I get too bogged down on the minute details of a case and miss the larger picture. It is infinitely more important to see the “big picture” than to endeavour to arm yourself with all the little nitty gritty facts.

3) Of course, once you are able to see the “big picture”, go on to know (as opposed to memorise) the facts of the case. This is particularly useful if you need to draw analogies to issues in the exams. Sometimes, by cogently and persuasively comparing (or contrasting) the facts of the exam problem to a known case, you save yourself alot of uncertainty. But nevertheless, beware of falling into the trap of conveniently classifying the issues into known categories of cases — examiners often want to see that you are able to be innovative and flexible as well.

4) Don’t read ALL the cases — of course if you can, that would be fabulous. But often, nobody has the time to do that. With cases stretching into hundreds of pages, and each judge giving their own individual judgement, it is often difficult to extract a clear ratio from the case — if you have time, you can dissect each judge’s judgement, if not, just know the “big picture” and extract the main legal principle from the majority judgement.

5) Do not ignore dissenting judgements and obiter dictas. Knowing what the dissenting judges said and other obiters are often very useful in “analysis” type questions because they provide an alternative view which are often motivated by some very practical or persuasive legal concerns. Examiners would be impressed if you can state that Justice XXX disagreed with the majority for the following reasons…..or observe that a seemingly harmless obiter in a majority judgement may have (or indeed had) riveting effects in future cases.

6) Make associations between cases and legal principles. Often, we are thrown huge chunks of facts, theory and legal principles that it is very hard to make sense of it all, or to understand how everything fits in (this is part of the “big picture” concept). I find that the most difficult, or at least tedious aspect of revision is to find a connections and associations between all the cases, principles and facts that were taught to us. This also requires that you know the cases very well. Therefore, it may very well be that you are able to make these connections ONLY towards the end of the course. One subject that immediately comes to mind is Contracts (I hear a few sighs…)

7) Know your strengths and weaknesses and try to find an optimal balance. For example, I know that I often have trouble concentrating in class — sometimes, I get distracted by external things, sometimes, I get so hung up on a legal principle that I lose track of what is going on after that. I decided to bring a recorder into class to record all my lectures and seminars so that I can review them after class. This was working well for a while, then I realised that I was spending too much time attending the lectures/seminars and then reviewing them once again. I finally made an executive decision to bring my laptop to class and take down notes while still recording the lesson. In this way, I jot down the important points in class, and only rely on the recording to review the important material, or the areas which I am unclear about. Along the way, I found that actively jotting down notes in class trained my on-the-spot critical thinking ability and I found that I was less confused and more immersed in the lesson. Bottom line is — find a way that works well for you, it may involve trying different methods, but you’ll get there eventually.

8 ) This is related to exams and assignments — write as much substance as you can without looking like you are talking rubbish. Substance is what gains you marks. It is not enough to just give ONE opinion. Try to offer different perspectives and views and alternative arguements. This makes examiners very happy.

8) Lastly, always come prepared to class. While this may save you some embarrasement when being called upon, it trains your personal discipline and more importantly, enables you to absorb much better and faster in the class. However, I’m often guilty of not preparing for class for various reasons, usually laziness — this is what I endeavour to strive for in upcoming semesters.

This is a snapshot of my reflections over the past semester. Law school certainly has a steep learning curve, I just wished I had developed more of these habits in my undergrad years.

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The irrationality of Xenophobia

Posted in Boat People, Human Rights, Law School by legalrants on August 27, 2010

So far, this semester of law school has been really interesting and wildly different from last semester. It’s true when people say how much you get is how much you put in. It’s certainly the case with law school. At any given time, there is a plethora of activities going on, from basic mooting to UN debates, and negotiation/arbitration competitions to climate change advocacy discussions. Sometimes, there’s so much going on, that you are tempted to take a backseat just so that you can suck it all in and ponder about what to actually take part in!

Anyway, this semester, I took a very last minute decision to elect a unit in International Humanitarian Law, or IHL, as it is so affectionately known as. So far, it has been a thoroughly engaging ride and I find myself always yearning for more information.  For some reason or another, I find myself silently campaigning against the rights of the minority, the weak, the oppressed and the disadvantaged.

This post has nothing to do with International Law or IHL, but I just felt the need to rant about xenophobia, or the distasteful connotations it purports. In Australia, the most apparent form of xenophobia is that against recent immigrants, and specifically towards the ‘boat people’.

Personally, I find the term ‘boat people’ derogatory. It conjures up images of hungry, poor and destitute refugees arriving in a cramped and crowded little boat on Australian shores (or whatever off-shore processing centre that the Federal government operates). Frankly, the most frightening aspect of this depiction is that it may actually be true. Whatever it is, such depictions weakens the public’s opinion that these refugees should be entitled to some form of relief — be it asylum visas or otherwise.

I’m not advocating lofty ideals of Australia opening its arms in accepting every single refugee that comes onto its shores. But I feel that, Australia, as a citizen of First World Nations, should not refrain from doing its part in alleviating the plight of those suffering under harsh regimes and civil wars. I applaud the Australian Labour Party (ALP) for its efforts, though it certainly could more. For that matter, I would like to add that the WORST POSSIBLE MISTAKE Australia can make is to appoint Tony Abbot and his Coalition to govern Australia. Tony Abbot’s policy of unequivocally turning boat people propogates a dangerous message to the country and the world as a whole. For this, and other reasons which are out of the scope of this blog entry, I do not consider him fit to be a Prime Minister.

Strangely, I can see why xenophobia against migrants exists and is potentially thorny issue with minority of white Australians. Here in Perth, there is a significant percentage of Asians living here (like myself), though not all recent migrants. Perhaps, the white Australians feel like human beings of Asian descent offend certain sensibilities of the white culture, but most likely, they simply fear that their (white Australian’s) livelihoods are being threatened. No doubt they are legitimate concerns.

However, what I find strange and irrational is that, these xenophobics do not consider the reality that they themselves were migrants from the past. Mind you, Australia as an independent nation only existed as of 1901, though it had been subject to British colonisation for years prior. More significantly, the native Aboriginals who are widely regarded as occupying the lowest level in the contemporary Australian society, were custodians of the land for thousand of years before the arrival of the first white person.  So my question is: where does the basis of xenophobia really come from?

Recently I chanced upon an Australian online forum that advocated the Australian identity. Curious as I was, I peered into it and was categorically disgusted. The administrators of the forum openly declared that the forum was only for “promoting the interests of white Australians”. Terms such as “asiaganisation” were derogatorily used as well as open suggestions to make boat people as target practice.  The forum advocated support for the Australia Protectionist Party, which is seeking to be registered as a political party. One of their goals is to stop net migration and only “source” for migrants from “traditional sources” like Britain and other European countries.

Perhaps, the true basis of xenophobia is the selfish fear of the effects of progress and open-mindedness. Australians, like all other developed countries, crave the benefits of global connectivity and reap the benefits of globalisation. I’m sure xenophobics are no exception. Yet, they are contended with shutting their doors and distributing the spoils among themselves exclusively. Australia’s economy is hugely dependent on resource exports to China, yet these xenophobics unilaterally urge “buy Australian”.

Perhaps it is just the “red-necks” of Australia that are promulgating these concepts. In law school, I’ve yet to meet a white Australian with outwardly self-containing or racists and discriminatory tendencies. Indeed, many share a strong sense of justice towards the weak, poor, oppressed and disadvantaged. I’m glad that THESE are the people who would lead the country into the future.

The Myth About Open-Book Exams

Posted in Law School by legalrants on July 3, 2010

Having gone through the first semester of law school, I’m not sure if I prefer open-book exams or closed book exams. Sure, open-book exams allow you to bring in any materials you can possibly conjure up: notes, “cheat sheets”, textbooks, your favorite magazines, photos of your dog….you get my drift. Unfortunately, adopting such a mentality is a sure recipe for disaster in the exam.

As my Torts tutor once said, “in an exam, your biggest challenges are nerves… and time” — Oh trust me, these combine together to form a lethal cocktail of palm-sweating, bowel-squeezing, gut-wrenching anxiety.

Let’s face it, real estate is already at a premium in an exam hall. When you have 400 students taking the same paper in a hall, how much space can they really afford to give you for your desktop decorations? I’ve seen students bring in huge water bottles (as if they are really gonna need it or have time to even drink it), snacks, 19th century leather-bound textbooks, notes, seniors’ notes, yesteryear seniors’ notes, comprehensive notes, detailed notes……to put on a table smaller than the size of your laptop computer. This is not to mention that you actually have to find some space to position the exam booklet so as to be able to answer the exam itself.

Ok, my point is really that there is limited space on the exam table. So most students wind up putting their “mini libaries” on the floor below the table, immediately diminishing the usefulness of those materials expotentially.

The thought of an exam being open-book usually has a somewhat calming effect on the most panicky of students who comfort themselves that by bringing in all the materials they can possibly muster, they would be able to find an answer to ANY problem in the exam. Of course, to some extent, that is true….. if you are given 2 days to finish an exam that would otherwise be over in 2 hours.

Like I said above, this mentality is a recipe for disaster simply because there isn’t enough time in the exam to go digging through your personal legal encyclopedia to search for the ratio of an obscure case that is probably only worth 2 marks. This is made worse when you have MULTIPLE sources from which you can find that information because you would want to triple confirm the information you gotten from the first source by comparing that to other sources. Well, it’s not so bad if you actually understand what you are reading, but unfortunately, some or many students go into an open-book exam not having really read and understood their notes or materials. The deadly combination of nerves, pressure, not knowing your stuff usually results in students lifting the information from the material wholly verbatim — of course, you know how that would end up.

From personal experience, it is much easier to have just two sets of notes — one acting as a general outline to all the topics/subjects and supported by a one-liner description of the relevant cases. The second set of notes act as a more detailed, albeit summarized version of the information in the textbook and/or lectures. Oh, and forget about the textbooks….bring it in, but chuck it on the floor and forget about it. Only refer to it in the most desperate of situations. Even so, I’m sure the answer can be found somewhere in your notes.

Lastly, read your notes a thousand times and make sure you know EVERYTHING in those notes backwards — memorize it if need be (sounds counter-intuitive for an open-book exam, I know). I’ve found that knowing your stuff well is more important than the most detailed, comprehensive and exhaustive set of materials that you can bring into an exam. An open-book exam is not the time to do research, but a time to demonstrate the knowledge gained from the  research and preparation that you have done throughout the semester.

Hopefully, this would be helpful to anyone embarking on exams anytime soon!

Really Should Be Studying Now…but…

Posted in Human Rights, Law School by legalrants on June 13, 2010

I really should be studying right now…but I guess I’m kinda burnt out already. Can’t believe that an entire semester flew by in a flash and its the end of exams come tomorrow afternoon. Well, not that it is a permanent break or anything, but at least I’ll get a couple of weeks off to go home.

But I get slightly nervous just thinking of the day when the results would be out. A lot is banking on this semester’s and next semester’s results because I’ll be applying for vacation clerkships solely based on  first year results.  Job prospects in the legal sector aren’t exactly rocking the socks off anybody right now and I expect very fierce competition to secure the all important summer clerkship. It is all the more difficult for me having moved to a foreign land and not really having the “connections” (so to speak). I’ve heard that, in this field, it’s not what you know that matters, but who you know. I guess I have to work on that aspect of networking.

Although I don’t know for sure, I get the feeling that most of my (much) younger classmates aim to work in ‘Big Law’. ‘Big Law’ refers to the big law firms that have hundreds of lawyers on their payrolls and (obviously) pay the best salaries. They are primarily involved in corporate litigation work, mergers and acquisitions, and especially for Western Australia, mining law.

I had a chat with my study group, a few days ago, on our options after we graduate from law. I think everybody is as uncertain about the future as well. Somehow or other, they all have slight apprehension about finding suitable employment back home.

I’m not really sure if it is a good thing or not that I don’t particularly aspire to work in ‘Big Law’. Some senior associates that I’ve spoken to have mentioned that it is good to join a big firm at the start of your career, as it would really help to build a solid foundation. After one or two years, after you’ve learnt the ropes, you can move off to whatever you want to specialise in.  Somehow, the thought of working in a humongous office building, shuffling papers to and fro, shooting emails back and forth, attending meetings hours on end, doesn’t really excite me too much. Afterall, I’ve done all these before, and perhaps that is why I left the working world to pursue a law degree.

On the contrary, I can see myself working in a dingy office, in the corner of town, advocating for the rights of the poor and oppressed. Not that I’m doing any of that right now, nor have I ever done this before. I guess, the reason why I wanted to do a law degree was so that I could make a difference in some way… even a small difference. Of course, I do not need to work in a dingy office in the corner of town to make a difference, but you get my drift. Deep inside, I’m afraid that I’ll get sucked into the corporate world and turned into a corporate zombie, drawing a mega-huge salary but feeling nothing about the work I’ll be doing. Worse, I could be drawing a pathetic salary and also feeling nothing about the work. Wouldn’t that be a huge waste?

I’ve always said to my friends, in a utopian society, a lawyer is the most useless profession. Unfortunately, we live in a society far from utopian ideals. We live in a society full of strife, angst, unfairness, hate, discrimination, war, oppression, subjugation, inequality… and the list goes on… How can I make a difference? How would one little person coming from another place to a foreign land make a difference?

I guess, the truth of the matter is not thinking about making a difference, but just taking the first step forward in doing something worthwhile, in the hope that you can touch somebody’s life in someway.

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The Law of Contracts is not as intuitive as it should be…

Posted in Law School by legalrants on June 9, 2010

I’m taking some time out from studying the Contracts exam tomorrow to rant a little about my dissatisfacton about…well…many things.

Firstly, I can say for sure that I will NEVER ever be a Contracts lawyer (if there is even such a thing) or the equivalent of it. Despite the limited knowledge I have of the Law of Contracts, it certainly appears to me that specialists in such areas are just crafty little nugs out to squeeze every nook and crany of a loophole that is remotely even possible (but this is just my uneducated opinion, so no offence meant to anyone out there who may have a vested interest in the Law of Contracts).

But my real gripe is this: the more I learn about the Law of Contracts, the more I believe that contracts are overrated, and inherently and intrinsically unreliable. There are simply so many ways a contract can be nullified, for example, lack of CONSIDERATION (boy, don’t you love that word!), incompleteness and uncertainty. Sometimes, our good friend, EQUITY, comes into the picture to lend a (destructive) helping hand or two. Of course, there are even more ways to find loopholes — incorporation of pre-contractual statements or the prevention of it (Parole Evidence Rule), implied terms in law/custom/statute and so on.

Seriously, what is the point of having a contract at all?

After griping about the Law of Contracts, I’ll really love to start on my Contracts lecturers, but I’m afraid that there may be an implied term somewhere in the law school offer letter that would prohibit me from doing so…

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