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For law student Brittany Skinner, the best discussions took place after class over a game of darts at Koerner’s Pub - photo by Martin Dee
For law student Brittany Skinner, the best discussions took place after class over a game of darts at Koerner’s Pub - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 5 | May 1, 2008

Using Law to Change the World

By Lorraine Chan

Fun, trust, idealism and collaboration -- these words crop up repeatedly when Brittany Skinner describes her education at the UBC Faculty of Law.

“I would say these have been absolutely the best years of my life,” says Skinner, who will receive her LLB diplomas during May Congregation.

One of her favourite moments was winning the law school’s annual Guile Debate, which emphasizes humour and camaraderie. In front of visiting judges -- actual members of the Supreme Court, Provincial Court and Court of Appeal -- Skinner had to argue why passion and law aren’t natural bedfellows.

“That’s not my view at all,” laughs Skinner, “but to make a convincing argument, I read out a supposed Valentine from my boyfriend that was written entirely in dry, legal language. It was entitled A Memorandum of Loverstanding and was written in triplicate.”

Skinner says she’s known around the law school as a strong advocate for work-life balance. Staying positive and working hard to create a culture of cooperation rather than competition has earned her that reputation.

“In your first year,” recalls Skinner, “you hear horror stories about the insane pressure, and how some students will rip pages out of reference texts so no one else can see them.”

Yet, Skinner found the opposite to be true. A case in point, she says, were the CANs, which are annotated notes that students write up to amplify and explain lecture notes.

Skinner says no one recalls what the acronym CAN stands for other than annotated notes. “But everyone knows good ones are like gold.”

Skinner says she and her friends made a point of sharing their knowledge.

“People are actually relieved when that happens. Everyone ends up doing better because someone will say, you’ve missed a point here, or have you thought of this argument?”

The diversity of people in the Faculty of Law also brought added depth to discussions, says Skinner. “It’s so interesting to hear the perspectives of someone who’s coming to law as an engineer or a biologist, people who come from all over Canada and the world.”

Given their wide-ranging views, Skinner says she and her classmates often continued their debates long after lectures have ended.

“We love going to Koerner’s Pub. Over some beers or a game of darts you get to talk about ideas in a way that’s not about grades, but rather the meaning of law and methods of change to the world.”

Skinner is specializing in labour law. She says she’s over the moon about landing her “dream job” which starts next month. Skinner will be articling with the in-house legal team at the B.C. Government Employees’ Union in Vancouver.

There, Skinner say she hopes to put into action the principles she learned at UBC -- that law is fluid, it always undergoes revision and “that I can effect that change.”

Voted valedictorian by her classmates, Skinner has also received from the UBC Centre for Feminist Legal Studies the Auriol Gurner Young Award. This award recognizes LLB students for their feminist contributions to the Faculty of Law and to the community at large -- either through their academic achievement, volunteer work or community activism.

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“The law is a foreign language to a lot of people. It’s scary to a lot of people. Being able to speak that language frees your ability. You can speak the code, you know the secret handshake and it gives you the tools to make change.”


Last reviewed 29-Apr-2008

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