An American Neophyte Lawyer in Vancouver (May 12-15, 2011)


Day Twenty: An American Neophyte Lawyer in Vancouver (May 12-15, 2011)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently had the opportunity to present a paper at the 16th Annual Interdisciplinary Legal Studies Graduate Students’ Conference at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The topic for this year’s conference was “Creative Law,” and I think it’s fair to say that we pushed that envelope just about as far as humanly possible. You can see for yourself here (I’m in Panel 3A on the afternoon of May 13). All in all, it was a great experience. Here are some of my impressions about the whole trip, in no particular order:


  1. It was good to get back into the  academic world, for a brief time. There were a lot of very interesting  papers, on a wide variety of subjects. In my law school experience, most  of the time my classmates and I were plowing through casebooks, reading  the cases for the next classroom discussion. It was cool to see what my  fellow presenters did when they were left to their own creative devices,
    from examining the dissents of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., to creating a zine about social injustice, to creating a board  game based on Michel Foucault’s theories of Panopticism. My legal career will probably take me back to academia at some point, and this conference was a good remider that I can still function in that world. But I want to stay out here in the “real world” for a while first.
  2. Should speaking with a “foreign”  accent be considered a protected class for employment discrimination under  the EEOC? One of the most interesting papers was presented by two  practitioners from Vancouver, Jennifer Glougie and Jonathan Hanvelt. They argued that employment discrimination based on linguistic proficiency (as  separate from ethnicity or national origin) should be considered a valid  cause of action. It was a very interesting argument, to say the least.  After all, one’s ability to learn to speak a foreign language fluently (without an accent) becomes increasingly difficult after one reaches
    puberty. In that sense, having a foreign accent is just as much an innate
    physical condition as a physical handicap. Shouldn’t they be treated the
    same for the purposes of protection from discrimination? I don’t know the
    answer to that. But the question is intriguing.
  3. The U.B.C. Campus is gorgeous.
    Really. If you ever get a chance to visit, take it. Be sure to visit the Nitobe Memorial Garden on campus. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two on a spring afternoon.

Anyway, it was a great way to spend the weekend before my admission ceremony. I don’t know what the topic for next year’s conference will be, but I would recommend submitting an abstract, if you have a seminar paper or other research that fits. The folks at the U.B.C. Faculty of Law, both students and faculty, are wonderful hosts. You’ll have to pay your own way, but such is life.


About W. Lewis Black

W. Lewis Black is an associate attorney at Dunn & Dunn, P.C., located in Salt Lake City, Utah. His practice focuses on personal injury, employment law, workers compensation, and Social Security Disability claims. He is a past member of the Ensemble at Pinnacle Acting Company in Midvale, Utah. He can be contacted at
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