First Year Program

The first-year program offers a high degree of contact between students and faculty members. Our first-year curriculum includes two courses that are preparatory in nature: (1) Legal Methods; and (2) Legal Research and Writing; and six substantive law courses: Constitutional Law; Contracts; Criminal Law; Legal Process; Property; and Torts. Collectively, these courses provide a rigourous legal foundation and introduce students to a wide range of views and a diversity of perspectives on law and legal reasoning.

Legal Methods Intensive 

One of the central goals of our JD program is to train students to “think like lawyers.” For this reason, the first year program begins with a two-week legal methods intensive course delivered over the last two weeks of August. The course is designed to introduce students to the foundational information and reasoning needed to make the most of the JD program from the outset. 

Legal Research and Writing (LRW) 

The LRW course offered in the first term of the first year program provides students with the opportunity to further develop their legal analysis, and to write and conduct research competently. LRW is taught in classes of 25 students, and is evaluated through a series of writing and research assignments that allow for extensive instructor feedback..

Substantive Law Courses

For each first year student, all but one of the substantive law courses is taught in larger sections of up to 90 students over a single term (two in the first term, three in the second). These courses are evaluated through a total of five final examinations, two in December and three in April. The remaining substantive law course is taught in a small group of 16-18 students, taught during the first term, and evaluated principally through writing assignments (small group courses do not have a final examination).  The nature of the small group format gives students an excellent opportunity to obtain feedback on written work, as well as gain additional exposure to the basics of legal research. The small group provides a seminar-style learning experience in which students interact closely with a law professor and fellow students in a convivial learning environment. Although legal methods, LRW, and legal process are offered in the same format and sequence for all first year students, the remaining five courses (constitutional, contracts, criminal, property and torts) will vary in their format and sequencing for each student. 

Peer Mentoring Program

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.

Further Information

For detailed information about the 2023 - 2024 first year program, please see the First Year Academic Program from the Academic Handbook. 

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Upper Years

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.

Upper Year Requirements

There are some important requirements in the upper years, as students acquire a solid foundation to study law by completing the first year program, and the Faculty wants upper year students to explore the vast possibilities opened by legal study during their final four terms.  The seven upper year requirements are as follows:

  1. Administrative Law.  All students must complete a course on Canadian Administrative Law in order to graduate.  Because this is a co-or pre-requisite for many upper year courses, the Faculty advises students to take Administrative Law as early in the program as they can.
  2. Critical Perspectives.  All students must complete at least one Critical Perspectives course concerned with the nature, source, and purpose of legal regulation in general rather than with the study of legal doctrine in a particular area.  Intensive courses do not satisfy the Critical Perspectives course requirement.
  3. International, Comparative, Transnational Law.  All students must complete at least one International, Comparative, or Transnational Law (ICT) course to enhance their understanding of the changing global legal order.  Intensive courses do not satisfy the ICT course requirement.
  4. Oral Advocacy.  All students must complete an oral advocacy program, either by trying out for and being selected to represent the Faculty in a Competitive Moot, or enrolling in the Upper Year Moot.
  5. Ethics and Professionalism.  Students graduating in 2015 or later must complete at least 24 hours of a course of study dedicated to ethics and professionalism. 
  6. Intersession Intensive Course.  Students graduating in 2021 or later must complete an intensive course during January of  either their second or third program year.  (See Distinguished Visiting Faculty Program, below.)
  7. Legal Process Course.  Students must complete Civil Procedure or another course on legal procedure.

Writing and Directed Research

In the upper years, students have many opportunities to develop their legal research and writing skills. These include:

  • Seminars: Many professors offer seminars in their areas of research. By enrolling in a seminar, you have the opportunity to interact closely with a professor and to complete a significant piece of legal writing. In addition, many seminars offer a “supervised upper year research paper option: the opportunity to produce a more substantial paper under the professor’s supervision, for additional credit (LAW599H).

  • Directed Research Program (LAW291H or Y): Students wishing to undertake original doctrinal, interdisciplinary or empirical research may approach professors to seek supervision for a research project, and then propose the project to the Faculty’s Directed Research Committee for approval.

  • Student Scholarship Workshop (LAW505H): Many students produce publishable academic writing while in law school. If you have written an academic paper in a seminar and are interested in transforming it into a publishable work, you should consider this workshop.

  • Advanced Legal Research, Analysis & Writing (LAW307H): This course, taught by professional research lawyers, aims to provide practical research and writing skills.

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 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.  Beginning in January of 2020, the Faculty offers these intensive courses in early January, before the Winter term upper year classes begin.

Experiential Learning Opportunities

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

Combined Programs

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 course load

Further Information

For detailed information about the Upper Year Program, see the JD Degree Requirements from the Academic Handbook.

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