By Peter Boisseau

From the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Nexus

A survey of new students is busting some old myths about who goes to law school at the University of Toronto.

The ongoing survey of incoming classes, now in its third year, indicates 59 per cent of students in the 2017 class have parents who were born outside of Canada. As well, 23 per cent of the students were born outside Canada.

Also among the students in the 2017 class, 41 per cent speak one other language beside English, 33 per cent identify as a visible minority or person of colour, and 14 per cent are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer or two-spirited.

Overall, 84 per cent say they are the first in their family to attend law school. Another 33 per cent report that a parent/guardian did not have a university degree, and nine per cent are the first in their family to attend a post-secondary institution. These numbers are significant because educational attainment is widely recognized as a proxy for family income level.

The survey of the 208 students in this year’s incoming law school class is particularly telling because it is based on a 100 per cent response rate to the questions.

U of T is one of the few common law schools in Canada to collect self-reported demographic data about its incoming classes, which is considered an important part of the larger discussion about encouraging more diversity in the legal profession.         

The school also offers many programs and support initiatives aimed at increasing access to legal education. They include providing financial assistance to 50 per cent of its students, and offering outreach programs to help young people facing financial and other socio-economic barriers to apply to law school.

“While we are pleased to see some important shifts in the demographics of law school students, we are not crowing about how great we are, because we know there is a lot of work still to do to make law school accessible to all segments of society,” says Alexis Archbold, assistant dean of the JD Program.

“We think gathering and publishing the data about our incoming class is an important step, and we would also like to see all Canadian law schools publish data about the demographics of students who apply, those who are accepted, and those who attend.”

Click on the image below to open the full-sized graphic

1L class profile