Blockchain Regulation and Governance Course

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Blockchain and distributed ledger technology are considered by experts to be the biggest technological change since the invention of the internet. Since ancient times money has been the domain of governments. Because digital currencies such as Bitcoin are not created by governments as a central authority, and are being increasingly used to transfer wealth, regulators struggle on how to categorize such digital assets.

It is predicted that 10% of the global GDP will be handled by blockchain by 2027. Starting this Fall on September 19th, The Chang School of Continuing Education part of Ryerson University, is offering a course on blockchain regulation and governance.

The course is being taught by Professor Timothy Storus. Timothy Storus is the former Head of Legal and Compliance Department, Chief Compliance Officer, and Chief Anti-Money Laundering Officer at the Bank of China (Canada).  He has held General Counsel positions at various banks and trust companies over the years.

The course is geared towards legal professionals, regulators, and people with an interest in technology, start-ups, and cryptocurrencies. For lawyers, understanding blockchain and the current law will help them advise clients on contracts, securities, and litigation. Examples of current commercial applications of all three typologies will be explored.

Each class will focus on a different aspect of blockchain technology, including:

  • the difference between crypto-currency and traditional money;
  • the uses of block chain technology;
  • utility tokens;
  • security tokens;
  • fraud, theft, and anti-money laundering efforts; and
  • smart contracts.

The course is taught over 12 weeks, from 6pm-9pm, on Thursday nights (starting September 19). To learn more about the course or to enrol click here.

(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

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Buying Your Way into College: The Advantage of the Wealthy that Persists Past College

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It’s been alleged that dozens of parents have bought their children’s way into some of America’s most prestigious colleges. As a result of these allegations, many people have been forced to confront the myth of equal opportunity in America.

The image that once you are 18, you are making your own way through the world and that class doesn’t matter is a myth. However, exposing the illegal practices of gaining admission will not solve the problem of inequality.

The arrests this week won’t address the deeper issues of income inequality that exclude primarily black and latino students. As writer Matt Kwong for the CBC pointed out in his article “What bribery in U.S. college admissions says about the ‘myth’ of meritocracy”, wealthy parents will still be able to give their children an unfair advantage. They will still “send their children to SAT tutoring, place them into learning academies, or fly them to another state for on-campus tours to boost their admission chances by showing ‘demonstrated interest’ in the college.”

Even more troubling is that once students graduate college, the set of advantages or disadvantages from growing up wealthy or from a working class background continues throughout people’s lives.

In the article by Joe Pinsker “The ‘Hidden Mechanisms’ That Help Those Born Rich to Excel in Elite Jobs, Pinsker writes about research that shows how the customs of elite workplaces can favor those who grew up wealthier. The research was conducted by Daniel Laurison and Sam Friedman and can be read in their new book, The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays to Be Privileged.

Laurison and Friedman’s research shows that a series of “hidden mechanisms”, such as unwritten codes of office behavior and informal systems of professional advancement, benefit individuals that grew up wealthy. These same systems simultaneously disadvantage those with working-class backgrounds. For example, young adults from wealthier families may have their housing subsidized at the beginning of their career. Thereby allowing them to take lower paying jobs that can lead to greater professional advancement. Or the set of advantages may help people know the “unwritten” rules of appropriate office wear or talk. Making it easier for children of the wealthy to be “sponsored” by leaders in their office.

The effect of the series of hidden mechanisms can be seen in the New York Times article “Elite Law Firm’s All-White Partner Class Stirs Debate on Diversity. In the article, the announcement of the law firm Paul, Weiss of its new partner class was dissected. The new class of partners was made of 12 lawyers. All lawyers were white. Almost all of them were white men. “More than 20 women and people of color interviewed for [the New York Times] article described obstacles to achieving diversity at Paul, Weiss. Many said that opportunities to be groomed for partner are harder to come by for women and minorities. … they failed to break into the good graces and social circles of the firm’s top lawyers, who must champion those hoping to earn a lucrative spot as a partner.”

The researcher Laurison points out that one way to even the playing field is to “change workplace cultures to be closer to what … working-class people—and women, racial and ethnic minorities, and other historically excluded groups—bring rather than just trying to teach those ‘others’ how to adapt.”

Although inequality in opportunity will likely never be eradicated, we can begin to break down barriers by recognizing our own unconscious biases and working towards overcoming them.

(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

Banning Laptops in Law School Classrooms

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Should laptops be banned in law school classrooms? Yes

Should we extend this ban to juries in the courtroom? Maybe

In “Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting“, Susan Dynarski writes that research shows that: “college students learn less when they use computers during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them.”

Dynarski explains the downsides of laptops. When using a laptop students are focused on transcribing the lesson. They are not focussed on processing information.  However, when using paper and pen students are focused on processing information. They have to condense the lecture into simple notes. Otherwise they cannot keep up with the lecture. “The handwritten versions were more succinct but included the salient issues discussed in the lecture.”

Additionally, laptops distract the user and the students around the user. Students become distracted while watching another student’s laptop screen.

The effects of laptops in the classroom were studied by the United States Military Academy. Their research revealed that students performed substantially worse in classrooms with laptops when compared to students in classrooms without laptops.

Given the advantages of paper and pen over electronics, what role should laptops/tablets play in the courtroom?  Should we allow jurors to use tablets, even if they are unconnected to the Internet? Should judges be discouraged from using laptops in the courtroom? How should we reconcile this research with the move from a paper based court system to an electronic based system?

I would argue that a courtroom is similar to a classroom, and that this research should be considered carefully by our courts.

 

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization. This post was originally posted on slaw.ca)

Dodek for Dean

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“Dodek for Dean” was the name of a Facebook group created years ago by adoring students. And today, it was announced that Professor Adam Dodek will be the Dean of the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, starting in January 2018.

This honour is well deserved. Professor Adam Dodek is fair, kind, professional, and ethical. Above all, he is the embodiment of Adam Grant’s “giver” as set out in the book Give and Take.

Adam Grant describes givers as individuals who “look to help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring or sharing knowledge, without any strings attached.” By helping people, they build good will in their relationships. People in turn “go out of their way to promote and help and support givers, to make sure they actually do get rewarded for their generosity.”

There will be many people promoting Professor Adam Dodek’s success as Dean and by extension the success of the University of Ottawa. The University of Ottawa is honoured to have him as Dean.

(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

 

 

Commentary: The Lawyer, The Addict

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The law is a jealous mistress and requires a long and constant courtship.” – US Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story in 1829

In the New York Times article “The Lawyer, the Addict”, the prevalence of addiction is discussed. Lawyers are said to one of the most depressed, anxious, unhealthy group of people.

Why?

The billable hour, the gruelling demands, the expectations of perfection, the hostile work environment, the threat of opposing counsel – are all named.

Interestingly, the article also cites the effect of law school. And refers to research that “shows that before [ ] law school, law students are actually healthier than the general population, both physically and mentally… They drink less than other young people, use less substances, have less depression and are less hostile.”

But the formal structure of law school changes students. “We have seven very strong studies that show this twists people’s psyches and they come out of law school significantly impaired, with depression, anxiety and hostility,”

Research studying lawyers’ happiness supports this notion. “The psychological factors seen to erode during law school are the very factors most important for the well-being of lawyers,” …“the factors most emphasized in law schools — grades, honors and potential career income — have nil to modest bearing on lawyer well-being.”

After students began law school they experienced “a marked increase in depression, negative mood and physical symptoms, with corresponding decreases in positive affect and life satisfaction,” the professors wrote.

Students also shed some of their idealism. Within the first year of law school, students’ motivation for studying law and becoming lawyers shifted from “helping and community-oriented values to extrinsic, rewards-based values.”

I agree with this research. The structure of law school and law firms shapes the minds of lawyers. And I would argue that the experience of law school and working in a law firm rewires the brain. In some ways for the better, and other ways for the worst – as neurons that fire together, wire together.

At its heart, law school is a homogenizing force. No selection of law students can change that. Selecting diverse law students does not translate into strikingly diverse lawyers. Or even translate into happier lawyers. The all too common effect of the herd mentality is strong. Diverse students enter. Homogenous students exit. Perhaps by addressing this issue, law schools can chip away at the “law school effect”.

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)