Reflecting on Law School & My Interview with Nikos Harris
Crime, Justice & Law in Canada
In 2018, I ran a half marathon for the Fall Classic at the University of British Columbia. It was my first time running 21 kilometers, and I remember passing Peter A. Allard School of Law. During this time, I was practicing for the Law School Entrance Exam (LSATS) at Starbucks, while my partner Rebekah worked. The photo above is Allard Law School, I remember running past the school and feeling that I would likely never go to that institution. Yet, in 2019, just one year later I was a full-time student.
Peter A. Allard School of Law, has incredible architecture, brilliant professors and is right near beautiful pristine ecosystems. On its face, the building is immensely intimidating. Personally, it felt like the building itself expected more of me. Some of the greatest lawyers in Canada have graduated from UBC law school, and that was a humbling thought to hold in the back of my mind each class and every day.
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The school only accepts approximately 200 students each year, and to be one of 200 encourages modesty. I don’t believe that individuals with greater educational attainments are “better than” anyone else, but it certainly gives you a different level of analysis than other people. When a biologist sees a tree, they may look at the foliage of the plants, the distance of the roots, or the ecosystem the tree creates.
When a lawyer listens to a problem, they begin pondering the applicable federal, provincial and municipal laws that may be relevant. They begin considering the impacted stakeholders, the arguments that could be put forward and vulnerabilities to the case. The lawyer has been taught how to form persuasive arguments both in written and oral form, where to gather information and references from, and has been given endless opportunities to build long-term relationships with other great legal minds. In short, this is what a legal education provides.
Nikos Harris is an award winning professor, who teaches at Allard Law School. In my first year of law school, he was my Criminal Law professor. He exemplifies all the hallmarks of a great educator. He is energetic, passionate, thoughtful, and an absolute expert in criminal law. He is also the director of experiential learning and the Faculty Lead for of Indigenous Legal Studies Academic Leadership Certificate. Nikos is admired by students, and well respected by colleagues.
Many students (including myself) struggle with staying focused in class. The laptop beckons to you with emails, to-do lists, news and social media posts. The temptation is often irresistible for students. Some educators say “if you’re going to distracted then that is your fault”, or say “you’re wasting your money if you don’t focus”. Nikos views that distraction as a competition, with the hopes that he can make the class more interesting than the distractions on your devices.
In class, he would enter with no powerpoint, no notes, and nothing written on the white board. He would start with an elevated voice, then quiet down for important points. He would describe the circumstances of the criminal case, and break down all the different arguments being made. Nikos would grab out a white board pen and draw scribbles across the white board as he spoke. By the end of class, you would have what some might call abstract art on the wall. Many students would leave with a grin on their face and a sense of inspiration.
I reached out to Nikos Harris to learn more about his background. In school, we often don’t get to hear about the background of the professor. Why did Nikos go to law school? How did he become a professor? Where did his teaching style come from? I also wanted to know his thoughts on our criminal justice system. Specifically, I was interested in his thoughts on financial crimes.
When we think of criminals, we often think of petty crimes like theft, assault, and murder. If someone asked you to name a criminal, you might say Robert Pickton. If I asked you to name some of the individuals involved in the 2008 financial crisis, that may be a bit of a challenge. However, one could argue that their crimes impacted people across Canada. Often we call this white collar crime, and we treat it somewhat differently than low-level crime. Is this fair? Should something be changed? These were some of my questions for Nikos Harris.
It was such a pleasure to sit down with Nikos, and he was incredibly supportive of the podcast. You can watch the interview on Spotify and YouTube, and listen to the full conversation on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and all other podcast platforms.