The first-year program offers a high degree of contact between students and faculty members. All courses are taught by full-time faculty members who do not use teaching assistants. Our first-year curriculum includes seven core courses: Legal Process, Professionalism and Ethics; Administrative Law; Canadian Constitutional Law; Contracts Law; Criminal Law; Property Law and Torts. Through these courses, students are introduced to a wide range of views and a diversity of perspectives on law and legal reasoning.
Three additional elements enrich the student experience and make our first-year program distinctive: the Introduction to Law Academic Orientation, the Legal Research and Writing Program, and the Professionalism and Ethics Intensive Program.
Introduction to Law - Academic Orientation
During the first week of law school and through lunchtime sessions during the fall, students are exposed to the fundamental building blocks of legal education through our Introduction to Law program. Students receive instruction on common law reasoning, the parliamentary system, the structure of the courts, stages of the legal process, and how different perspectives on law shape legal analysis and understanding.
The Legal Research and Writing Program
Analytical writing requires students to grapple with and synthesize legal concepts contained in an established set of materials. At the Faculty of Law, students learn and start to improve their analytical writing skills in their first-year courses, specifically in their small groups and mid-sized sections.
The Faculty's small-group program allows students to take one of their first-year courses in a small (18 to 20 students), seminar-style environment. The intimate nature of the small group format gives students an excellent opportunity to complete and obtain feedback on written work, as well as gain exposure to the basics of legal research. The small group also presents a distinct classroom experience which ensures each student has the advantage of close personal interaction with a law professor and a small group of students in an intense learning atmosphere.
In addition, all first year students attend a mandatory set of ten tutorials on legal research and writing skills. Tutorials deliver a consistent set of basic skills and are led by teams of writing instructors and law librarians. Students have an opportunity to draft their first legal memorandum in this ungraded, low-pressure context, receive extensive individual feedback on that memorandum, and rewrite it. This program is completed well before the end of the first term.
First-year students also take another of their core courses in a midsized section of approximately 45 to 50 students. In this setting, legal research and writing skills are developed further through extended writing assignments.
The Professionalism and Ethics Intensive Program
In the fall, all regular courses are put on hold for one week to facilitate intensive instruction in Legal Ethics and Professionalism. The intensive format exposes students to various ethical issues as esteemed members of the profession come together at the Faculty to discuss the importance of professionalism. Such an intensive program is unique to the Faculty and a response to the increased emphasis on professionalism within the bar and by the public at large. The creation of a new Centre for the Legal Profession at the Faculty of Law also engages students in the discussion of issues of professionalism and ethics throughout the year.
Peer Mentoring Program
Finally, our Peer Mentoring Program is designed to facilitate a friendly, welcoming first-year experience. The program matches first-year students with upper-year mentors who can answer questions, provide support and help new students feel more connected to the broad range of academic and co-curricular activities available.
For detailed information about the First Year Program, see the First Year Academic Program from the Academic Handbook.
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The upper-year program at the Faculty of Law is rich and varied, with more than 180 courses offered each year. The breadth and depth of the curriculum allows the law school to tailor programs of study to the individual needs and ambitions of students. Students are encouraged to pursue their own interests and to undertake advanced work, including independent study under the supervision of a faculty member.
Writing and Directed Research
In the upper years, students' legal research and writing skills evolve further through ambitious writing projects under the close supervision of faculty members, either in seminars or directed research. For example, the Supervised Upper-Year Research Paper (SUYRP) provides an excellent opportunity to conduct rigorous legal research and writing in consultation with a supervising professor in an area of mutual interest. For detailed information about the SUYRP see the Academic Handbook.
Students are required to take at least one Critical Perspectives course concerned with the nature, sources, and purposes of legal regulation in general rather than with the study of legal doctrine in a particular area. Students must also complete an International, Comparative or Transnational Law Perspectives course to enhance and deepen their understanding of the changing global legal order. Intensive courses do not satisfy the perspectives course requirement.
The Distinguished Visiting Faculty Program
A defining feature of the Faculty's upper-year program is the Distinguished Visiting Faculty Program. Each year the Distinguished Visiting Faculty Program brings approximately 15 world-renowned academics to the Faculty to teach two-week intensive courses in their area of specialty. This program allows students to learn from some of the best legal scholars, jurists and policy-makers in the world. In past years, Distinguished Visiting faculty have included justices from the Canadian Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal, and from the supreme courts of numerous other countries; leading legal scholars from Canada and from around the world, including from Europe, Asia, Australasia, Africa and the Middle East; and Canadian and international scholars in a wide range of other disciplines.
Students continue to learn outside the four walls of the Faculty's classrooms through a co-curricular education program that includes four legal clinics, four student-run law journals, a client-counseling competition and a mooting program that is one of the best in the country.
Through various exchange programs and internships, upper-year students can study and/or work across Canada and around the world, in countries such as Hungary, Singapore, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, UK, Scotland, China, Australia and Japan. A recent new offering is the Centre for Transnational Legal Studies, a global education centre based in London, England where highly qualified students can pursue legal studies together under outstanding faculty from participating schools such as the University of Toronto, Georgetown University, the University of Fribourg, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, King's College London, the University of Melbourne and the National University of Singapore. Each academic year the Centre hosts up to 10 University of Toronto J.D. students and two faculty members.
The Capstone Program
A highlight of the final year of law school is the capstone course, in which students engage in an intensive, academically rigorous and meaningful faculty-supervised study opportunity, with participation by leading external experts. Notable capstone courses have included a focus on equity and diversity in the legal profession, Ontario's electoral system, the use of forced labour in Burma, the future of law reform in Ontario, and access to and enhancement of civil justice.
The Academic Stream Intensive
In their final year of study, third-year students interested in pursuing an academic career are also able to undertake original research and writing in an advanced workshop setting. This includes a pedagogical skills-training component to support and encourage students in their goal of becoming law faculty members
The Faculty of Law also offers the widest range of Combined Programs of any law school in Canada. Students in the Combined Programs should review their specific combined program information to determine their courseload
For detailed information about the Upper Year Program, see the JD Degree Requirements from the Academic Handbook.
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