“Whatever I end up doing, I know that I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to go to law school, so I feel an obligation to develop my strengths to their fullest potential in order to better help others.”
Robert Mason participated in the Allard Law History Project Student Survey in 2016. The Project intends to track Mr. Mason's career and build upon this historical record in the future. His responses as a student are below:
Why did you choose to do law?
I’ve always taken a critical view of the rules that structure our society and the ways in which various institutions claim legitimacy to impose those rules. From an early age I was fascinated by the spectacle of politics, which grew into an interest in public policy, and ultimately an interest in law as I progressed through my education. My hope has always been that by studying the things I love I’ll be able to enthusiastically contribute to society in a way that will improve peoples’ lives. So I wrote the LSAT and applied to various law schools with the vague hope of opening some doors in the public sector. It was a decision that I took seriously but perhaps with a less specific objective than many of my classmates.
What do you hope to achieve in your career?
Whatever I end up doing, I know that I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to go to law school, so I feel an obligation to develop my strengths to their fullest potential in order to better help others. To do that I think it’s important to be flexible with my career path, and to measure my success not by my title or salary or any preconceived plan, but by the principles and people that I serve. If I had to be more specific, I would say that I hope to have a positive impact on shaping the development of public policy and the law either through legal advocacy or through other forms of public service.
Describe your most memorable class or professor.
I recently finished a public law seminar class with Maureen Webb that was focused on national security law. It tied together a lot of topical issues in the realm of international law and constitutional law, which are areas of great interest to me. It also strengthened my legal understanding of some important public policy debates that I’ve studied through other lenses, and that will likely grow in complexity and importance over the next few decades. International Environmental Law with Karin Mickelson was also a very rewarding experience for similar reasons.
What was the most challenging thing about law school?
I’ve definitely found the use of 100% exams in most courses frustrating, because it almost inevitably leads to a concentration of stress in December and April. In my view it also adds a substantial element of luck, since the entirety of course material can’t come close to being covered in a two or three hour exam. Sometimes that’s worked to my advantage and other times I’ve been burned by it, depending on what the focus of the questions happens to be. So whenever possible I choose courses that include assignments or research papers instead of just an exam. I hope that such courses will become more common in the future, and I think it’s important for law schools to periodically reevaluate their pedagogical practices in order to strive for the most effective learning experience.
What has been your best experience in law school?
I really enjoyed volunteering for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as part of my placement through Pro Bono Students Canada. I researched and blogged weekly about legislative, policy, and judicial decisions in BC, which allowed me to engage with emerging legal issues and current events. I also had the privilege of working with other student volunteers from the Allard School of Law to host a panel discussion on finding a legislative balance between civil liberties and national security. We were able to secure the participation of a former federal minister of public safety as well as the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. It ended up being a fascinating discussion and a rewarding experience.
How do you think the law or the legal profession will develop over the course of your career?
I expect that the Internet is going to continue to produce novel legal issues and will ultimately challenge many longstanding legal traditions. It’s inherently transnational in nature but it increasingly impacts commerce, free expression, privacy, intellectual property and a whole host of other areas in which governments will continue to want to apply domestic law. It’s facilitating and even forcing some governments and corporations to become more accountable, but it’s also enabling an unprecedented, Orwellian system of surveillance by both. It’s amplifying defamatory speech, harassment and bullying, but also legitimate accusations by victims, as well as marginalized political opinions. So there are a lot of tensions right now that will likely grow, creating both opportunities and risks for Canada and the world. I’m excited to be a witness to it.
*If you are a current student at the Allard School of Law and would like to participate in this initiative, please contact us for more information.