Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Working in law in the Arctic

What’s it like working in law in the Arctic, you ask?

Ever watch the law drama The Good Wife? It’s exactly like that. Except instead of pantsuits, I wear snowpants. And instead of drinking a glass of wine when I get home, I drink Inuit tea.

So here's a little bit about what it’s like to work in one of the northernmost law offices in North America, along with some photos from the walk I take to work every day.

The commute. My commutes to work are very short and very beautiful, involving walking along a frozen beach at sunrise.

The wardrobe. My officewear tends to be quite formal and my morning dressing rituals are quite elaborate. “Is today going to be jeggings or Lulelemons? Which hoodie should I wear today?” Plus Airwalk sneakers with purple shoelaces. (One day, when I’m a bigshot lawyer, I’ll splurge on Converse shoes.) Sometimes, when I particularly feel like dressing up, I wear a….No, I don’t. I never feel like that.

The clients. The majority of my office’s clients are Inuit folks. Sometimes Inuit artists stop by my office, just to say hi and sell their carvings, which is kind of nice, since usually people just come to see us when they have problems.

the Elders' Palace

The law office. We’re in a downtown all-glass office on the twenty-second floor of a tall skyscraper owned by TD Canada Trust. A lot of expensive art on the walls, and a whole row of support staff fetching us lattes. Psych!(Do kids nowadays still say psych?). We’re on the bottom floor of a two storey building, the second floor being residential units. We’re across the street from the meat plant. There’s a fancy Keurig coffee machine that makes my day amazing. When we lock up at night, we have to scrape off all the ice that’s formed on the doorframe so that the door can properly shut. We have an office vehicle, a big red truck, that we have to turn on and leave running every once in a while to keep it going through the cold. We do have great art on our walls, actually, prints from Inuit artists.

We have a big map of Nunavut on one of the walls, and every once in a while, I look at it, realize how far away some of our clients live, and I laugh in amazement.

The law. Nunavut law is pretty exciting. Nunavut only became an independent territory in 1999, when its legislation and legal system was imported from the Northwest Territories. A lot of things are quite new. For some legal questions, there isn’t case law from Nunavut speaking to certain legal issues, so we have to look to other jurisdictions for guidance. This means the nature of my work is interesting and many issues quite novel. The other day I read a case that was one of the first civil litigation cases to go through the Nunavut Court of Appeal…in 2006. That's pretty recent

The ability to stream Youtube when you want to procrastinate. Nope.

Office scotch? Nope. That would be cool though.

One of my favourite stores in town, The Arctic Closet