sponsor content: After Canadians study law in Australia, they come home to a great legal career

Jordan Assaraf, Lawyer

Jordan Assaraf
Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers
Year of Call: 2013

For Jordan Assaraf, going to law school at Australia’s Bond University was a no-brainer. “I’m a hands-on learner,” he says. “So when I learned that Bond offers small tutorials and practical-skills training, I thought, What a fit! That’s the law school I want to go to.”

Such a reaction is well deserved. Bondies like Assaraf don’t just learn about the law — they learn how to be lawyers. Once they arrive at the school’s picturesque Gold Coast campus, they’re taught more than the latest legal theory. They learn how to research for a case, conduct client interviews and argue in court (in front of real judges). The school takes courtroom experience seriously, so it’s no surprise that Bond regularly fields world-class mooting teams. (The school often wins the top prize at competitions around the world.)

After Assaraf graduated, in 2012, he landed an articling position at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers. Since getting hired back, it’s been smooth sailing. Assaraf credits his success to the top-notch training he received Down Under. “Bond taught me to anticipate the questions judges like to ask,” he says. “When prepping me for court, our founding partner gave me the same advice.”

Liana Rossi, Lawyer

Liana Rossi
Baker & Company
Year of Call: 2014

That’s a common experience for Bond grads. “I acquired advanced research skills a lot of people don’t have when starting out,” says Liana Rossi, a 2013 graduate and third-year associate at Baker & Company, a corporate boutique in Toronto. “I felt so confident, as if I’d been litigating for years.”

But a Bond degree can also take students to surprising places after graduation. “The knowledge and skills acquired when studying law are useful in a range of careers,” says Kathy Atkins, an associate dean at Bond. Take Cristina Wadhwa, who graduated from the law school in 2011. Today, she works for member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary, Omar Alghabra. One of her central job duties is to prep him for constituent meetings. “Bond taught me how to analyze complex problems by giving me a formula to break them down,” says Wadhwa. “I use it every day.”

And because Bond offers classes year-round, students can squeeze three semesters into a year. That means they can earn a J.D. in just two years.

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Cristina Wadhwa
Parliament of Canada
Year of Call: 2015

But beyond the training, the degree is easy to accredit in Canada. If students spend just one more semester at Bond, after finishing their law degree, they can sit for their Canadian equivalency exams and, at the same time, earn a master of laws. “Bond allowed me to fast-track my degree,” says Rossi, who, after returning home, began articling immediately.

Two and a half years away from home might feel long, but with technology like Skype and FaceTime, distance isn’t an issue. Meanwhile, with over 150 Canadian law students at the school, home doesn’t feel so far away.

And no, the Gold Coast isn’t a snake- and spider-ridden death trap. “I didn’t come across snakes once,” says Rossi. “And the spiders I saw were no different than in Canada. We weren’t in the outback.”

The biggest perk, though? The life-changing experience of living in a new place. “Studying abroad lets you learn about who you are,” says Rossi. “It changed the way I look at life.”


The price is right

When it comes to tuition, Bond is an affordable choice

It’s not as expensive as you might think to study law on the other side of the globe. The total tuition costs to earn a degree at Bond are about $106,000 CAD — a pretty reasonable price tag that’s about half the cost of many American law schools. And Bond costs only a bit more than the law school at the University of Toronto, whose tuition fees over three years are about $100,000 CAD.

“Better still, since Bond students can finish in just two years, that’s a full year they aren’t paying rent, groceries and other living costs,” says Atkins. “And that means they can start their careers, and start collecting paycheques, one year earlier. That adds up to a lot of money.”


When the bell rings

For three sweet weeks in between every semester, Bond students are officially on vacation. Here are four popular spots they jet off to

Sydney

“Sydney has great food and nightlife,” says Rossi, who made sure to visit Australia’s most popular city. “The atmosphere is vibrant. I visited the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.”

Flight time from Bond: 1.5 hours
Cost of round-trip flight: $250
Best time to go: Australian spring or fall

Bangkok

“Staying in Thailand is very cheap,” says Assaraf. He made it to the country’s capital, plus almost all of the country’s islands. “I visited the most gorgeous cove, went on a boat ride and fed monkeys. Oh, and did I ever eat a lot of Thai food.”

Flight time from Bond: 12 hours
Cost of round-trip flight: $600
Best time to go: November to January

Kuala Lumpur

“I found a cheap ticket, so I did a four-day trip here,” says Wadhwa. “I explored the downtown markets and historic sites, such as Buddhist temples.”

Flight time from Bond: 9 hours
Cost of round-trip flight: $650
Best time to go: May through July

Bali

This utopic island in Indonesia is, quite simply, stunning. “The scenery was magnificent,” says Assaraf. The aquatic scene, chock-full of breathtaking coral reefs, is a must-see. “I surfed and went snorkelling.”

Flight time from Bond: 15 hours
Cost of round-trip flight: $850
Best time to go: May to September (dry season)


This content was paid for by Bond University. Learn more about Bond at bond.edu.au/lawcanada

On the Record: Even among second-year lawyers, women earn less than men

Walk into any big law firm in the country and select a pair of associates, one a man and the other a woman, both called to the bar two years ago. Ask how much they make a year. Odds are the man will out-earn his colleague by about $10,000.

Such is the reality at the largest firms in Canada (those with more than 100 lawyers), according to a recent survey of junior lawyers published by the University of Toronto. And it doesn’t get much better at smaller firms or other sectors of law. The study shows that, on average, second-year male lawyers make $5,500 more than their female counterparts.

“It’s hard for lawyers to imagine how this could happen,” says Ronit Dinovitzer, the sociology professor who authored the study. Indeed, conventional wisdom holds that men start earning more than women at the senior-associate level, as women take maternity leave and prioritize raising children over their careers. But this can’t explain pay inequity among second-year lawyers. As Dinovitzer points out, of the more than 1,000 lawyers she surveyed, a greater percentage of men had children than women.

So what’s going on? Dinovitzer suggests the answer lies not in base salaries — which large firms often fix for junior associates — but in bonuses. The most likely cause of the pay gap, she says, is that partners are more likely to put men on the most lucrative files, meaning they rack up the most billable hours. “If women are systematically kept off these files, they’ll earn smaller bonuses.”

Though the statistics are grim, says Dinovitzer, they’re hardly surprising. “I’ve studied American lawyers for the last decade, and I’m used to finding a gender gap,” she says. “People think that Canada is different, but it’s not. We need to accept that this is going on.”

 

The scales of imbalance

Total average compensation of full-time, second-year lawyers across Canada:

Type of practice

Male

Female

Solo $60,000 $47,500
Private firm (2-20 lawyers) $75,000 $70,000
Private firm (21-100 lawyers) $85,000 $80,000
Private firm (101-250 lawyers) $86,000 $76,000
Private firm (250+ lawyers) $110,000 $100,100
Provincial or local government $78,000 $76,000
Federal government $70,000 $65,000
Non-government public sector $62,000 $65,000
Private sector (in-house and non-practising lawyers) $100,000 $79,000
Other $88,500 $83,304

Source: A 2015 study published by the University of Toronto


Cover of the Fall 2015 Issue of PrecedentThis story is from our Fall 2015 issue.

Precedent takes home 3 gold at the Canadian trade magazine awards

Last night, at the Kenneth R. Wilson Awards — an annual celebration of trade magazine publishing in Canada — Precedent scored big, with three first-place wins.

We took home gold for best photo, for a portrait of securities lawyer Greg Harris taken by the inimitable Daniel Ehrenworth. We also collected the top prize for best one-of-a-kind article for our roundtable on the future of law and best art direction of a single issue for last year’s fall issue.

Shout out to all the fantastic contributors who make Precedent so spectacular, including photographer Margaret Mulligan, illustrators Raymond Biesinger and Jeannie Phan, and our talented art directors at the Office of Gilbert Li. We literally couldn’t do it without them.

Precedent has also been nominated for awards from the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors and the National Magazine Awards. Fingers crossed!

Editor’s Note: Decoding the bencher elections

Every time someone joins our staff, they get a vocabulary lesson. Most people on the Precedent team are not lawyers — they bring other skill sets, like marketing, editing, writing and design, and then learn the law part when they walk in the door. It’s a smart group of people, but there are aspects of legal reporting that are indecipherable to an outsider. And now that it’s bencher election season, our language is at its most obtuse. Case in point: We are electing benchers to lead the Law Society of Upper Canada. They will meet once a month under the leadership of the treasurer at Convocation.

It’s like a secret code. And so I explain: Well, a “bencher” is an elected representative. The “Law Society of Upper Canada” is really the Law Society of Ontario. “Convocation” is a meeting. And the “treasurer” is really the president. Ah, now it makes sense.

It’s not just language that makes the profession’s self-governing body inaccessible. As you’ll read in our coverage of the 2015 bencher elections, getting elected as a bencher can be pretty inaccessible, too. Running a campaign can be expensive and it’s tough to win without the support of a big firm. And yet, it’s in our best interest that Convocation represent the diversity of the profession. Not only when it comes to area of practice (right now almost half of all benchers are litigators), or gender (60 percent are men), but also when it comes to age. Today, only two out of 40 benchers are under the age of 50.

Over the next four years, benchers will have to decide whether to continue the Law Practice Program, and discussion will be heated about whether to allow alternative business structures in Ontario. With so much future-thinking on the docket, it would be nice to see some younger lawyers leading the discussion.

Of course, Convocation isn’t the only place where you can be a leader in law. In this issue, you’ll meet more than a dozen productive lawyers who excel at their careers and manage to fit the rest of their lives into their busy days. See our feature story “Making it work.” I promise you, you’ll be blown away by these amazing role models.

While the lawyers we’ve featured are awesome all on their own, you might notice they look especially great in this particular issue: Precedent has undergone a redesign. We’ve changed our fonts, updated our style and added new departments. We make this magazine just for you. We want to be sure that we continue to both inform and delight. I hope you agree that Precedent looks better than ever. Thank you to my dedicated staff (who now can discuss “benchers” and “Convocation” with the best of them) for working so hard to bring us something so clever and beautiful.

Sincerely,

Signature

 

 

Melissa Kluger
Publisher & Editor

 


Post Script: My secret productivity weapons

Metropass by mail

Every month, the TTC debits my account and mails me my pass. Even when I don’t get my money’s worth in terms of cost-per-ride, it’s worth it for the convenience.

OurGroceries iPhone app

This brilliant app lets you sort your grocery list by area of the store. Plus, you can keep recipes on your phone and add the ingredients to your list with the touch of a button.

Uber everywhere

The taxi app with estimated pick-up times, automatic billing (tip included) and, best of all, professional invoices. No more of those pesky blank receipts.


More from the spring issue:


Angela ChaissonEdible Witness by Jeannie PhanJesse Razaqpur secret lifeEmma Gregg House CallHarvey Specter suits wardrobe

 


Opinion: The new law that will cost Canadians their privacy

NAKED PICTURES! Did I get your attention?

Recently, a group of internet agitators tried that same strategy, threatening to release naked photos of actress Emma Watson to gain notoriety. Watson had just appeared before the United Nations as a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women to speak in favour of gender equality. In the end, no pictures were released. Thankfully, it was all a hoax.

But in the weeks prior, at least one hacker did release naked photos of female celebrities. Reportedly, the hacker stole the pictures from password-protected iCloud accounts, and shared them online, where they were seen and saved by many. Once the images went viral, the women had no way to claw them back.

The consequences of this kind of privacy breach can be devastating. The tragic case of a teenager from Nova Scotia is an example of the havoc the dissemination of a single picture can wreak on someone’s reputation and mental health. The teen, whose name is now protected by a publication ban, attempted suicide after a photograph of her — naked from the waist down, vomiting out of a window with a young man pressed up against her — spread throughout her high school community. She later died in hospital. At one point, the group Anonymous threatened to release the names of the boys allegedly involved. However, the girl’s family urged against vigilante justice. In September, a now-20-year-old man pleaded guilty to the charge of making child pornography after admitting he took the picture on his cell phone.

I will leave it to the sociologists to determine what drives people to such malicious behaviour. But clearly it’s time for the law to catch up with technology.

Bill C-13, which is currently before Parliament, is a good start. The proposed law, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, makes it a criminal offence to post or send an intimate image of another without his or her consent. Unfortunately, the bill comes with some alarming side effects in the name of safety. If it passes, Bill C-13 will allow police to access people’s private metadata — showing who they’ve emailed, called or texted — simply by proving reasonable suspicion (the possibility of criminal behaviour) rather than the higher standard of reasonable and probable grounds. It also gives legal immunity to companies that voluntarily hand over customers’ private info. This is big: in 2011, government agencies made 1.2 million requests for such data. And with Bill C-13, companies are free to hand it over. Calls to split the bill — to remove these privacy infringements — have gone unheeded.

In the meantime, victims of revenge porn do have legal options. In addition to criminal charges of harassment, unauthorized computer use, extortion and, in the case of photographs of minors, the making, possession or distribution of child pornography, civil litigation is also an option.

In 2013, partly as a result of the Nova Scotia case, the province passed the Cyber- safety Act. This allows victims to sue for general, special, aggravated and punitive damages. Where a defendant is a minor, parents are on the hook for damages unless they prove they were exercising reasonable supervision over the minor at the time.

The Cyber-safety Act, along with existing privacy laws in other provinces, offers a reaction to revenge porn after the fact, but we need to deter people from maliciously posting intimate photos in the first place. And that’s where Bill C-13 can help: posting intimate photos without consent should indeed be a crime. It’s just a shame that the government is using the laudable aspects of the bill to force Canadians into accepting diminished privacy rights.

If only we could attract some public attention to the issue . . . I’m open to your suggestions, but please — let’s leave naked pictures out of it.


Julia Lefebvre is an associate at Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn LLP with a focus on media and defamation law. 


Illustration by Miko Maciaszek


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustration by Miko Maciaszek

Bennett Jones lawyers kick off a pot practice

Whatever happens to the movement to legalize pot, one thing is clear: medical marijuana is becoming a full-fledged industry. Everything changed in April, when the federal government passed a law that allowed licenced businesses to grow weed on a mass scale. This was a big deal. Until then, people who used marijuana for medical reasons had to grow it themselves, or name someone as their personal grower. But now, companies like Tweed in Smiths Falls, Ont. are growing medical-grade marijuana for thousands of Canadians. Plus, because the new law permits doctors to prescribe pot, investors think more Canadians will use the drug in the coming years, driving sales skyward.

Lawyers, too, are taking note. In January, Mike Lickver, a third-year associate at Bennett Jones LLP, saw how the updated marijuana law could spawn a new legal field. He and Hugo Alves, a partner in the corporate department, launched a fledgling practice group with one goal: to “become the go-to lawyers in the medical marijuana field.”

To get started, they examined the industry, identifying existing companies that could partner with large-scale growers. They have since built a network of clients that includes security consultants, HVAC companies and low-energy lighting manufacturers. It allows them to act as the central hub in the marketplace. Legal advice alone, Alves notes, is “table stakes in today’s hyper-competitive market.”

Alves and Lickver also represent independent growers who, after years of growing under the old law, developed marijuana strains that treat specific diseases. They help those individual growers license their formula to commercial producers. One strain, called Charlotte’s Web, can help treat epileptic seizures without causing a psychoactive high. Alves says such unique strains are “one of the things that’s of real value in the industry.”

So far, the market is small: Health Canada has only approved 21 large-scale businesses to produce marijuana out of more than 1,000 applications. But the federal government still predicts the medical marijuana industry will be worth $1.3 billion and serve 450,000 Canadians in 10 years. With that kind of windfall on the horizon, Lickver knows his position as a trailblazer will pay off long-term. “How often in a lawyer’s career does an industry come out of nowhere?”


Photo: Tweed’s 160,000- square-foot facility in Smiths Falls, Ont. 

Major Australian firm looks to expand in Canada

The world’s first publicly traded law firm has Canada in its crosshairs. 

Slater & Gordon, one of the largest law firms in Australia, is “absolutely” considering coming to Canada if the country’s law societies permit non-lawyers to invest in law firms, says Andrew Grech, managing director of the firm. “We are studying the market, trying to make sure that, if the opportunity arises in Canada, we’re in a position to make some intelligent decisions.” 

At the moment, Slater & Gordon can only operate in Australia and the U.K., where non-lawyer investment is legal. 

But that could change soon. The Canadian Bar Association recently said firms with non-lawyer owners, called alternative business structures (ABS), should be legal. And the issue is under discussion at the Law Society of Upper Canada. 

In the meantime, Slater & Gordon continues to grow at a rapid pace. Since the firm went public in 2007, its annual revenue has skyrocketed from $63 million to about $420 million. According to Grech, the firm achieved about 60 percent of that growth by acquiring other firms across Australia and the U.K. 

If Slater & Gordon entered the Canadian market, Grech says it would focus on everyday legal problems, such as family and personal injury law. 

In the Canadian legal community, many fear that publicly traded law firms will ultimately put the interests of shareholders over those of their clients — a concern that Grech dismisses as “nonsense,” so long as the industry remains well regulated. (In fact, the firm’s prospectus warns potential investors that “the duty to the client will prevail over the duty to Shareholders.”)

Grech also says that Slater & Gordon has increased access to justice for everyday people, particularly in the field of personal injury law, which makes up 80 percent of the firm’s global practice. The money the firm has raised from non-lawyer investors, he says, has helped the firm “fund many more cases than we otherwise would have been able to.” 

But Adam Wagman, a partner at Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP in Toronto, says that, at least in Canada, there is no access-to-justice crisis in personal injury law. 

“Do clients have difficulty finding lawyers to handle personal injury cases? Absolutely not,” he says. “All [injured people] need to do is turn on their television, turn on their radio or do a quick Google search and they’ll have many lawyers who will want to take on their case.” 

In his view, the most pressing access-to-justice problems exist in the realms of criminal and family law — and thus law societies should not allow firms such as Slater & Gordon into Canada unless it is clear that doing so will address that need. “If we can get those unrepresented criminal law defendants and family law litigants some representation, and we believe [alternative business structures] are going to help with that, because we have actual empirical evidence that says that it will, I’m all for it.” 

The ins and outs of insourcing legal work

This fall, Torys is launching a “legal services centre” in Halifax, where a team of six lawyers will support files — by performing document review and writing contracts — from Toronto at reduced rates on fixed fees, says Chris Fowles, a Torys partner who’s moving to Halifax to oversee the new location. Lawyers in Halifax will charge clients less money than their Toronto counterparts, he says, because of the cheaper overhead in Atlantic Canada, plus they’ll be using technology to be more efficient. And, by keeping the office in the country, rather than moving abroad, Fowles says the firm can keep a close watch on the quality of the work.

Meanwhile, global behemoth Baker & McKenzie has built an insourcing empire — with a flagship office in Manila that employs more than 500 secretaries, translators, marketing and financial analysts, staff lawyers and support staff. Kevin Coon, managing partner of Baker & McKenzie in Canada, admits that a Halifax office would have its benefits — it’s a short flight from Toronto and the lawyers would likely be from known Canadian law schools.Canadian and Filipino flags

But, in his experience, sending work — which could be almost anything, including document review of entire files — to a staff lawyer in the Philippines or to an associate down the hall presents the same problem: “I still have to check the quality of that work before I send it to a client.” When it comes to quality control, he argues, the location of the lawyer is irrelevant.


For more on how to make your firm more efficient, read our roundtable, where six big-name lawyers gave us their take on how to make law better.


Icon by Isabel Foo

Three cities with growing legal markets

Fort McMurray, Alta.

fort-mcmurrayTechnically, it’s not a city — it’s part of Wood Buffalo, a municipality in northeastern Alberta. But, as the central hub of the oil sands, Fort Mac stands on its own as an economic powerhouse. Since 2005, its economy has grown by an average of 6.5 percent each year, almost quadrupling the national average. Between 2006 and 2013, its population mushroomed to 77,000 from 47,000 as skilled workers flocked to the region.

So far, though, the lawyer population remains small, says Mark Baril, partner at Stringam Denecky LLP’s Fort McMurray office. He says firms can barely keep up with the demand in family and criminal law — areas that see a boost when population spikes. “There is no shortage of work.” 

 

St. John’s, Nfld.

st-johns-cities-with-growing-legal-marketsNot just a blue-collar fishing town, this coastal city is a hotbed of oil and gas development. “Newfoundland used to be a have-not province, but in the last few years it’s just caught on fire,” says Lynn Iding, manager of professional development programs at McInnes Cooper LLP, one of the largest firms in Atlantic Canada. Thanks to a surge in offshore drilling, St. John’s boasts one of the most rapidly expanding economies in the country. “Firms are growing,” explains Iding. “There’s tons of work in energy and natural resources.”

Plus, Iding says any lawyer who heads east will be struck by the natural beauty. “You can’t drive for more than five minutes without coming across an ocean, a lake or a park.”

 

Saskatoon, Sask.

saskatoonLike the other two cities on this list, Saskatoon is on the upswing due to a white-hot resource market. Countries around the world, including China, are paying big bucks for oil, precious metals and potash from across Saskatchewan. Last year, the city’s economy expanded by 6.7 percent — faster than any other mid-sized city in the country.

Many resource companies, large and small, are based in Saskatoon and they hire local firms, says Troy Baril, an associate at Miller Thomson LLP’s Saskatoon office. Young lawyers, he says, should take note: if you want a career in corporate law, you don’t have to practise in Vancouver or Toronto. “We have a commercial team here — and they’re busy.”


Beyond these three cities, find out why Thunder Bay is on the cusp of an economic boom


Illustrations by Isabel Foo


This story appears in our 2014 national Student Issue

Opinion: Waiting to inhale

The federal government is deeply attached to its “tough on crime” agenda. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have made major changes to criminal law, largely through omnibus legislation. One of their main targets? Weed. They’ve introduced harsher sentences for drug production, despite strong evidence that criminal sanctions have little to no impact on marijuana use. And to the increasing calls to legalize marijuana? Harper’s response: “It will not happen under our government.”

What the prime minister should know is that he can get tougher on crime by decriminalizing marijuana. If Conservatives are serious about tackling crime, they must stop wasting resources on policing marijuana use through criminal law.

More than 26,000 people in Canada were charged with marijuana possession in 2012. This is an enormous cost for the criminal justice system, from the police time involved in processing charges to the clogging of courthouse dockets, overloading of duty counsel and putting stress on legal aid offices. This over-burdening occasionally results in serious charges being stayed because of the length of time they take to get to trial. Staying charges that do not make it to trial in a reasonable amount of time is just and in keeping with the Constitution. But how can the government claim to be tough on crime when charges like murder and sexual assault are tossed because of a bull-headed adherence to an outdated and ill-informed law?

The cost of the war on marijuana is staggering, and it’s time to start asking ourselves what the point is, exactly.

Attitudes toward marijuana use and possession are changing. Politicians of the famous (Justin Trudeau) and infamous (Rob Ford) variety have admitted to smoking marijuana and still have viable political careers (in some cases, astoundingly).

Even law enforcement officials are on board to decriminalize pot. In the summer of 2013, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police asked the government to allow police to issue a ticket rather than lay a charge when they find a citizen carrying less than 30 grams of marijuana. This decriminalization (not legalization) would allow the Conservatives to maintain their position that marijuana should be illegal, while addressing some of the costly consequences of the current criminal regime.

There is hope for change. Justice Minister Peter MacKay is considering tabling legislation that would grant the request made by police chiefs. Although he insists possession would still be a crime, new legislation could give police more discretion on how to deal with people found with small amounts of pot.

MacKay says the government is still ironing out the details of the ticketing approach. What’s the hold up? The ticketing system could easily be modelled after the way we regulate speeding. Marijuana possession would result in fines but no criminal record and offenders, like those caught speeding, would have three options: admit guilt and pay a fine, discuss a resolution with a prosecutor or go to trial. Justices of the peace could preside over the trials. Existing municipal prosecutors could be subcontracted out to the federal government, or paralegals could be hired specifically to fill the role at a much-reduced cost compared to federal Crown attorneys.

While this option doesn’t address all the consequences of the illegality of marijuana, it does allow the Harper government to maintain its tough-guy image while addressing the most serious issues. There are surely better solutions out there (hello, Colorado), but this would be a small, conservative step in the right direction.

Illustration by Adrian Forrow


Amelia R. Martin is a solo criminal defence lawyer and former per diem Crown attorney and provincial prosecutor. Though not a card-carrying member of any party, she has seen first-hand the toll of pot policing on the justice system.

Illustration by Adrian Forrow