By Craig Forcese

Full Professor
Faculty of Law

Email: cforcese[at]

Twitter: @cforcese


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Bleaching Law

Welcome to my blog on teaching law.  I have entitled it "bleaching law". This is an obvious contraction of "blog" and "teaching".  It is also a play  on words capturing the endless struggle of a law professor to convey as neat, tidy, proper and well-starched things that are emphatically not, like the standard of review in administrative law.  All opinions are my own and do not reflect on anyone else who I work with, for or around. 


The Mechanics of Classroom Flipping: A Brief "How to" Screencast

Peter Sankoff (Alberta) and I just did a session on the "flipped classroom" at uOttawa.  As promised, I have archived a brief screencast on the tools I use to record video and audio podcasts that "outsource" my lectures to the internet, leaving classroom time for exercises and skills development.  You can access this 7 min screencast here or embedded below:


First Run of Fall Season for uOttawa Running Group this Sunday

The uOttawa law running group kicks off its Fall season.  A few of us are gathering Sunday morning.  Distances will be 6 km loop and then longer for people who want to keep going.  Newcomers more than welcome.
Oct 6, 2013 (Sun), 9:00am to 10:30am.  We meet along the Rideau Canal in front of the Government Conference Centre (across from the Westin Hotel) (There is (or at least was, last time I was there) some public art there -- wooden carvings of some people dressed in 1980s clothes balancing on a beam.)

Hello, Upper Yr Students Looking for Practical Experience...

Lorne Waldman and I are spearheading a pilot this Fall on public interest litigation.  It was described this way in the uOttawa course selection guide:

In this directed research project, two students in both Fall and Winter semester will work on on-going public interest litigation projects.  This initiative constitutes a pilot project for a larger national seminar on public interest litigation.  Students will be expected to work closely with counsel in public interest cases selected by the course supervisors.  Students will meet periodically with the course supervisors to discuss and reflect on key skills and aptitudes developed during the practicum.

Workload should be consistent with that of an upper year seminar (that is, roughly 90 hours of work over the course of the semester).  The distribution of the workload, however, will reflect the litigation timetable and not necessarily a commonplace academic schedule.  The supervisors will work with counsel and students to establish a reasonable distribution of work over the academic term.

We wanted to start this up over the summer, but no one applied.  Since I have never run a project like this without applications, I am either now very unpopular or nobody was able to get an application in by the July 8 deadline.  But we want to do this.  So if there are students interested, here's the new deadline for applications:


Registration is by application.  Application process:  Interested students must apply by submitting a résumé, transcripts (electronic version is fine) and a very brief cover letter explaining their interest in this course to Professor Forcese by no later than Thurs Sept 12, 2013 (for Fall term) and Monday December 2, 2013 (for Winter term).  Submissions must be made by email at: (NOT in hardcopy).

We need to see grades as basic due diligence -- the successful student will be representing our law school.  But I am mostly interested in reliability, determination and commitment.

Since selection is by application, students interested in pursuing this project should ensure that they register in a full complement of courses, dropping their registration from one of these courses only when their application has been reviewed and accepted.  We will do our review by the end of drop/add.

Registration for this course must then be done in person at the Academic Affairs Office at the beginning of the academic term, once selected.  



Virtual Orientation: Extending the Squeezed First Year Orientation

At the beginning of this month, we launched our "virtual orientation" for first year law students, covering a range of introductory topics, ideas, nomenclature and program-related information.  The hope is that the incoming class of 2016 will listen to these audio podcasts and find the learning curve during the first few months of law school less steep.  These are matters that are simply impossible to communicate and have students digest in the time-constrained first year orientation after Labour Day.

Statistics from my podcast site suggest that, in some cases, more people than we have incoming students have visited the podcasts. 

There are two ways to access the podcast series.  First, you may visit my podcast website.  Please be sure to sort the podcast episodes by "date" – or alternatively listen to them in keeping with the number with which they are labelled. 

Second, you may also subscribe to the podcast series on iTunes, by clicking here and then viewing the series in iTunes, or simply going to the iTunes store and searching "orientation podcast" and looking for the red icon labeled "Virtual Orientation" in the results. 


Lifehacking: Productivity and the Standing Desk

In tribute to the truly idiosyncratic nature of this blog, I occasionally include entries on tools and techniques that I think make working in my profession easier.  I figured it was time for one on which a lot of people have commented.

Specifically, I think by this point every colleague and student who has visited my office has reacted to my workstation set up. To wit, I use a standing desk.  I am often asked why.  The short version is: I think I am more productive.  The longer reason is: the literature on prolonged sitting and the irreversible micro-damage it does to the body is pretty scary. 

The productivity claim is more hypothesis than empirically demonstrated.  I have been administrator and not scholar during the period in which I have been using a standing desk.  So "productivity" means "I write a lot of emails".  But my impression is that I am more alert for longer using a standing desk, and less achy at the end of a lengthy session. 

I want to also emphasize that my standing desk is not an act of perpetual penance.  I do not stand all the time.  My setup allows me to move relatively seamlessly from sitting to standing and back.  In other words, I bob between positions.  That is what makes me more alert -- I am not lulled into inactivity.  The bobbing facilitates thinking.  It's better than simply jiggling a leg while seated.

How to Do It?

A number of people have said they would like to try it.  So here is my "lifehack" guide to a standing desk.  First, do not buy a standing desk.  The reason for this is simple: price-tag.  A decent sized standing desk is some notable percentage of the cost of the average fighter jet.

In my office, I have a desk procured by the university.  It is not, as best I can tell, a standing desk.  It is a drafting table.  It is meant to be elevated, but does not elevate to the level required for my standing height.  And so I have had to tinker with it in various workarounds that are imperfect.

When I decided to move to a standing desk platform at home, I aimed to avoid these problems and the ridiculous cost.  And so I searched for a hack.  I am by no stretch "handy".  There is a reason why I am an academic.  And so the solution had to be idiot proof.  Eventually, I found some suggestions on using various Ikea parts to construct a large sized standing desk, and tinkered with them to suit my needs.  I also procured an inexpensive drafting stool from Costco that elevates to great height, allowing me to bob from seated to standing with ease.  On top of the desk, I also purchased some narrow profile shelving that fits under the desk and in which I can discretely placed the various printers, external harddrives, routers etc. to which my computer is attached.

The result is pictured below.

What do you need?

Here are the specific Ikea items I used for this project:


 BESTÅ VARA (shelving unit doors)

Door, black-brown

Width: 60 cm

Height: 64 cm

Article Number : 801.058.33





BESTÅ (shelving unit)

Shelf unit/height extension unit, black-brown

Width: 47 1/4 " / 120 cm

Depth: 15 3/4 " / 40 cm

Height: 25 1/4 " / 64 cm

Article Number : 201.021.54





LACK (Monitor table)

Wall shelf, black-brown

Length: 74 3/4 " / 190 cm

Depth: 10 1/4 " / 26 cm

Thickness: 2 " / 5 cm

Article Number : 401.037.51





VIKA AMON (Desk table)

Table top, black-brown

Length: 78 3/4 " / 200 cm

Width: 23 5/8 " / 60 cm

Thickness: 1 3/8 " / 3.4 cm

Article Number : 501.214.53





BESTÅ (Monitor table legs)

Leg, square, chrome plated

Min. height: 3 7/8 " / 10 cm

Max. height: 4 3/8 " / 11 cm

Package quantity: 2 pack / 2 pack

Article Number : 801.341.90





VIKA BYSKE (Desk legs)

Leg, chrome plated

Diameter: 2 1/8 " / 6 cm

Min. height: 27 1/2 " / 70 cm

Max. height: 42 1/8 " / 107 cm

Article Number : 846.090.85





The Vika legs can be adjusted to a range of heights.  If you are very tall, the Vika legs may not be quite long enough at their maximum extension.  For me (at 180 cm) they are perfect, with a little room to spare.  (Taller users could add shims under the table top, attaching those shims to the table top and screwing the legs into the shims).

Total cost: $249 for the desk and $389 for the whole unit, including the shelving.  This is a tiny fraction of the cost of a prefab standing desk.

I also added inexpensive "drawer lighting" that I picked up on Ikea to illuminate the underside of the monitor table and the keyboard. (The photo also shows an older set of ideas drawers I had kicking around and kept.)

There, now I have undermined my productivity by writing this entry on productivity.

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