Here are some of the things you will need to do to achieve this goal:
Graduate with your O.S.S.D. (Ontario Secondary School Diploma)
Apply to University for a Bachelor's Degree (B.A., B.Sc., B.Comm., etc.)
You can keep your options open - any university degree is good preparation for law school. There are people at U of T law school who have degrees in engineering, biochemistry, English literature, political science, economics, music etc. If you aren't sure what you want to do, don't let anyone tell you that one subject is better than another for getting into law school.
Finish your degree
Finishing your degree will take three to four years. Most law schools in Canada now require the completion of at least three years of your degree or a completed degree before you can be accepted into law school. Even if the law school you are applying to does not require it, your application will be more competitive if you have completed your undergraduate degree. At the University of Toronto almost all of the law students have completed at least a four-year degree. In recent years, approximately five applicants a year have been admitted without a four-year undergraduate degree.
Write the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
All Canadian and US law schools require the LSAT. It is held four times a year, and consists of several sections of questions and problems designed to test reading comprehension and your ability to think logically and analytically. You may write the test more than one time. However, you should check with each law school to see how they treat multiple writings of the test. Some law schools average the scores and others take the highest or the lowest score. Many applicants write the test in June after third year or during first term of their fourth year undergraduate degree.
The University of Toronto Faculty of Law is offering a free LSAT prep course plus law school admissions support to high-potential undergrad students who have limited financial resources.
Apply to law school
Choose the law schools to which you want to apply:
There are 16 law schools in Canada, six of which are in Ontario, and hundreds more in the US and around the world. When picking a law school, you will consider many things, including the size of the school, its distance from your home, the type of law it specializes in, the composition of the student body and faculty, whether it offers courses or a degree in French, and the philosophy of the school. You must also consider whether you are likely to gain admission to that particular school, based on your grades, LSAT score, and other accomplishments and attributes. There are special programs offered by different law schools as well. For example, at the U of T law school, you can do "combined" degrees in Law and Social Work or Law and Business Administration.
Find out more about Admissions at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
Complete the application form:
All law school applications in Ontario are co-ordinated by the Ontario Law School Application Service. The OLSAS application is completed on-line. The applications are processed by OLSAS and then forwarded to each law school the applicant has applied to for an admission decision. Every law school has different requirements for entrance. However, they all require your academic transcripts, LSAT score and some form of a personal statement. Many law schools also request reference letters. The deadline for applying to law schools in Ontario is usually the first week of November of the year before you want to enter law school. Law schools outside Ontario all have different deadlines.
Once you are in ...
First Year Law: The first year of law school is similar at most Canadian law schools. Students take introductory courses in areas such as Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Property Law, and Contracts Law. There are also special courses designed to teach first year students about other, exciting areas of law. In addition, first year law students are given specialized training in legal research and writing. There are many extracurricular activities and volunteer experiences open to first year students. Many students participate in trial advocacy and client counselling competitions, volunteer at legal clinics or non-profit organizations, participate in student-led clubs and social events at the law school. This is a great way to meet people with similar interests and find out how you can apply your legal training outside of academics.
Summer After First Year: A small number of students get summer jobs in the legal field after first year. For example, students may work at a Legal Aid Clinic, or may do research for a professor. Most students take jobs outside the legal field, but continue to do volunteer work to gain legal experience.
Second Year Law: During second year, there are many opportunities to pick your own courses based on your areas of interest. In either first year or the upper years of the law program, most law schools also require students to participate in a "moot" which is a mock trial, in which students act as "lawyers" on a fictional case and are "judged" by professors and lawyers.
Summer After Second Year: Many students work in law firms, government legal departments or legal clinics doing legal research after their second year of law school. It is a good way to learn about different legal employers, and to decide what type of law, if any, that you want to practice. During the summer, students apply for articling positions and go through articling interviews.
Third Year Law: This is your last year of law school, and it is the year in which you can really get involved in a leadership role in clubs, committees, journals or other extracurricular opportunities at the law school. Students take more specialized courses, and work on lengthy research papers in their areas of interest. Students may also participate in exchange programs. For example, U of T law school offers exchanges with many universities around the world. There are exchanges to the West Indies, Singapore, Australia to name just a few.
Articling & The Bar Admission Course
A law degree is not enough to qualify to practice law (that is, work as a lawyer) in Ontario. You must also "article" and successfully complete the Ontario Bar Admission Course.
- "Articling" involves working (in a paid position!) under the supervision of a qualified lawyer for ten months. Students seek articling positions in the summer after their second year of law school, before they begin third year. Articling is an excellent way to gain exposure to different areas of law, before actually becoming a lawyer. Some students work as "clerks" or assistants to judges instead of articling at a law firm.
- The Bar Admission Course teaches practical skills and tests graduates to ensure they have the skills & knowledge to make the transition from law student to lawyer. Beginning in 2006, the new format of the BAC includes a five-week Skills and Professional Responsibility Program plus two compulsory licensing exams. Once you successfully complete the different phases of the Bar Admission Course, you are admitted to the "bar" and can practice law in Ontario. If you get a law degree from a school outside of Ontario, you may have additional requirements in order to become a lawyer in Ontario.
Working as a lawyer
There are many fields of law that a lawyer can choose. Often, the many possibilities are divided into three categories:
- Law in the Public Interest: Working in the public interest may involve working for a public interest group such as the African Canadian Legal Clinic, or the Women's Legal and Education Action Fund, or doing legal aid work at a legal aid clinic, like the Metropolitan Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.
- Private Practice: Working in private practice means that you have individual clients, which may be people or corporations. This may involve working at a big firm (over 100 lawyers) or a small law firm. Lawyers often specialize in one area of the law, for example, family law, criminal defence law, corporate law, environmental law. Some lawyers do all kinds of law in their practice.
- Government: Working for the government means that the government itself is your client. This may involve working as a Crown Attorney prosecuting criminals or working for a ministry such as the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Labour.
You may decide that you don't want to practice at all. There are many ways to use your law degree and to put to use all the excellent skills you learned at law school. Did you know that many politicians have law degrees? Did you know that many CEOs of companies are lawyers? Another option is to use your law degree to teach law, either at a university or a college. Some people use their law degree to do "mediation" or "arbitration," which involves helping people settle their disputes without going to court.
Getting a law degree is one of the best educations you can get; the possibilities are endless!
For more information about the Career Development Office at U of T visit our website:
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Prepared by the University of Toronto Faculty of Law Career Development Office and the Admissions Office.