Opportunities To Study Law
Most people go to law school because they want to become a lawyer. Pre-law students spend much of their time asking the answerable question of: what are the chances of getting into law school? Furthermore, they worry incessantly about Canadian law school rankings. Yet, many pre-law students in Canada are unaware of the range of opportunities available to them. The purpose of this post is to (at the very least) make you aware of the range of opportunities available to you. It is NOT to give specific advice about programs. Remember that the “trend is always your friend”. Think about my predictions. A global legal practice is becoming the rule rather than the exception.
First – What Should Be The Goal Of A Legal Education?
The purpose of law school is NOT to teach you the law of any specific jurisdiction. The world is getting smaller by the day. A legal professional will certainly be called upon to address legal problems that transcend provincial, state or county borders. Therefore, the purpose of legal education is to teach you how to learn the law and apply it to the facts at hand. Any lawyer can tell you what the law is. The difference between a good and bad lawyer is that the good lawyer will be able to apply the law. Therefore, the fact that a law school is “located in Canada” does not mean that it should be teaching (at least exclusively) Canadian law.
Prediction: The law school of the future will be one that proudly claims to not teach the law of any particular jurisdiction.
Second – How Long Should Law School Be?
Law school is three years because it has always been three years. It doesn’t take three years to learn the basic research and reasoning skill taught in law school. It is therefore not a surprise that:
- after first year, law school has few required courses; and
- there are many joint degree programs that can be finished in three years but ensure that some of the three years will NOT be spent studying law. The Western J.D./MBA program is a good example of that principle.
Prediction: Law school will cease to be a three year degree.
Third – Is There A Reason To Attend Law School In Canada If You Want To Become A Lawyer In Canada?
Although people are “used to the idea” of attending law school in Canada, it is not a requirement. There are a large number of superb law schools outside of Canada (particularly in the U.S. and the U.K.). The Law Society’s rules make specific provisions for (see http://www.flsca.ca) for how to get your foreign law degree certified as being equivalent to a Canadian law degree. Furthermore, Ontario’s Fair Access To Regulated Professions Act, imposes clear rules on the the Law Society when it comes to certifying foreign law degrees.
You could become a lawyer in Ontario by attending law school in Cambridge Ontario (if they had one), Cambridge Massachusetts (Harvard) or Cambridge U.K. That said, there is bit more work to do if you want to enter the lawyer licensing process in Ontario. At the present time those with a three year law degree from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, are in a position to earn a certificate of equivalency.
(It is also worth noting that U.K. and Australian law schools do not require the LSAT and the expenses associated with LSAT preparation courses. On the home front, the ABA is reconsidering whether the LSAT should be a requirement for law admissions in the U.S. The are good reasons to believe that the GRE could become a substitute for the LSAT in the near future.)
Prediction: Within in a decade, more people will be admitted to the Ontario Bar with law degrees from outside of Canada than from law schools located in Canada.
Fourth – Wherever You Attend Law School, Is There A Reason To Get Just One Law Degree?
No. It is just as easy to get two or more degrees. Here are some examples:
- UBC, Alberta, Ottawa, Windsor and Osgoode offer Joint law degree programs with U.S. law schools which allow you to earn both degrees;
- McGill and Ottawa allow you to earn both a civil law degree and a common law degree in three years
- In the U.K., there is the possibility of earning both an LL.B. and LL.M. in three years;
- There are many more joint degree programs offered by different law schools
Prediction: More and more Canadian law schools are offering joint law degrees. Within a decade all Canadian law schools will offer joint law degrees. In other words, that is what law school will be.
Fifth – I Have My Law Degree, Now What?
The purpose of a law degree is to give you the academic qualification to become admitted to the bar. There is no reason why you cannot become admitted to the bar in Ontario, one or more U.S. states and the U.K. It’s relatively easy to do PROVIDED THAT YOU DO IT SOON AFTER GRADUATING FROM LAW SCHOOL!
Remember, that there is a requirement of good character to become a lawyer in Ontario and other jurisdictions.
You will, at a minimum, make yourself more employable.
Prediction: Membership of the bar in more than one country will become a presumption!
Conclusion: The world is your Oyster
There are lots of opportunities available to you. You owe it to yourself to take advantage of them.