Whim

Victoria vs Dalhousie - input

38 posts in this topic

Greetings,

 

I've luckily been accepted so far to Victoria and Dalhousie for law school in 2013, and just looking for some input from people on both sides to help me make my decision.

 

Dalhousie has already offered me a $5000 entrance scholarship, with consideration for other scholarships at a later date. However, this scholarship really only covers the tuition disparity between the two schools... but it's still nice to get it.

 

I think thus far I am shifting more towards Victoria simply for the nicer climate of the west coast (I'm from Alberta), but I am fond of the history and prestige associated with Dalhousie.

 

Any input is welcome and appreciated!

 

Thank you.

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Also from Alberta. I wrote the LSAT too late to apply to Calgary and U of A for this year. My choices were UNB, Manitoba and Dalhousie.

My friend and pre-law mentor, an Osgoode grad and Crown Prosecutor in Edmonton, told me if I go to Dal, I can hold my head high anywhere in the country.

 

I don't know that the "prestige factor" is the proper way to go about it. And now that I'm here, I get to look forward to very, very expensive flights to and from home. I think the prestige factor is probably one of the least important in picking a Canadian law school.

Edited by Ptolemy

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I don't think there's any real loss of prestige in going to UVic versus Dal, though (albeit Dal is older), so even if one were interested in prestige factor, not sure that would be helpful here. I may be saying that from my admitted UVic bias, though ... outside observers can feel free to disagree with me.

 

OP, where do you want to work (if you know)? Do you have any inklings about what area of law you might be interested in? Do you have any specific questions about the experience at the schools that current students or alumni might answer? (Have you visited either/both schools and will you have an opportunity to do so? I know some people do, although that seems expensive to me.) These things might help us give you input.

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I can't say that I really have an idea now where I would like to work - I deffinitely would prefer a more metropolitan area like Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, or the like. I don't think the province specifically is a concern for me.

 

Between the two schools, I am interested in getting a sense of what the community and camraderie are like, and perhaps what Victoria and Halifax are like as places to live (costs of living, things to do). Also, I so far think that I would be interested in constitutional law more particularly and working in government in some capacity. However, I must admit that this could easily change once I begin my studies and actually get a sense for the various aspects of law.

 

Do both schools have a fairly strong 'national reach' factor? Are there lots of oppurtunities for articling? How would you rank the classes and instructors you've had so far?

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As far as a place to live, while Victoria is very nice and quaint, Halifax is a more interesting city for a law student.

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My two cents:

 

Check out this thread. Some of the "shortcomings" raised in that thread apply doubly to UVic, especially in upper years. For instance, there's a preponderance of "_____ and the law" courses, touchy-feely pedagogy, a hit-or-miss CDO, and, intolerance for right-of-centre opinions (albeit rarely, and this is usually from instructors, not students). I say shortcomings, but there are students who chose UVic specifically because it had certain of these attributes. As well, I've only ever heard tell of one disinterested instructor, and never of any issues with identification on exams, though your mileage may vary.

 

I think Dal has the best national reach of any Canadian law school. However, there are UVic grads working in every major market in the country. Other than a marginally greater chance with Dal that you'll share an alma mater with a future interviewer, I don't think you'll find that a UVic J.D. is a hindrance to national mobility (although I have heard some nasty anecdotes about the preferences of certain Calgary firms). I'm sure both do very well re: articling positions.

 

Cost of living...feh. People want to live in this climate...so, you're gonna have to pay more. Like $750+ for a dingy one-bedroom apartment. Also, they sell beer in sleeves, which contain less liquid than pint glasses but inexplicably cost more. Concerning the economics of the thing, you might want to contact UVic's financial aid office to see if there's anything that can be done to make your decision a little easier. I mean, if they gave me a scholarship...Seriously, drop them a line and tell them the situation. Probably worth your while.

 

Concerning camaraderie, I don't know about Dal (probably similar) but I can tell you that at UVic, you will be surrounded by a couple hundred of the brightest, most interesting, and most fun people you're ever likely to encounter.

 

Good luck with your decision - there's probably no wrong answer here.

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I love Victoria and UVic, and have never been to Halifax, but based on its reputation and knowing Victoria ... there are more things to do in Halifax. Agree with brokebloke on that front.

 

Anecdotal experience suggest to me that UVic places pretty well across the country. (I've only heard that Calgary rumour here on lawstudents but know quite a few students who got jobs there, so I'm not sure how true that one is). We do well in Vancouver and if you end up leaning towards that option, it's easy to get there for the interview process.

 

Victoria has a fairly high cost of living (well, mostly the rent), but the school's tuition is very low. Not sure if your scholarship from Dal is renewable, but if not, could be a factor in your economic calculations. UVic also tends to give out quite a few bursaries which can knock the cost down further.

 

As veecee says, UVic is fairly left-leaning in its course options (and in a fair number of its professors, too). This may or may not appeal to you. I've thought that 90% of the professors I've had have been great. The school's cohort generally has a reputation for bringing a high degree of camaraderie to the law school experience - there are some intentional efforts on the part of the school to favour supportive, cooperative relationships between students as opposed to competitive ones. I personally appreciate that - I'm not a fan of cutthroat behaviour.

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Regarding the decision re: costs and prices, I think if Dal offered you a $5000 entrance scholarship already you should be aware you could easily get one of the larger scholarships later. Last cycle I was offered a similar $5000 entrance award, and then much later offered a larger ($15k instead of $5k; with hypothetical but tough renewability conditions) scholarship from Dal in mid-February. No guarantees obviously, but I wish I had realized at the time that scholarships offers could come as late as reading week, because it changed my decision-making calculus a lot, after I had practically ruled Dal out, and didn't give me a lot of time at that point to re-think my cost/benefit decisions.

 

On the other hand, Halifax's cost of living (while not nearly as bad as some other cities) is hardly as cheap as I would have expected.

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Veecee,

 

You think I might be able to bargain a scholarship out of the financial office? Should I try and go through the law admissions office? (Actually, they are probably so busy that they might find it a nuisance).

 

Kimi,

 

I think I will probably accept admission to Victoria before the deadline, and wait and see if more scholarships roll in from either school as you said. Worse comes to worse - I lose a deposit.

Edited by Whim

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You think I might be able to bargain a scholarship out of the financial office? Should I try and go through the law admissions office? (Actually, they are probably so busy that they might find it a nuisance).

 

Only one way to find out! Also, it's not a nuisance for the admissions office, but rather part of the reason it exists.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Victoria easier to get a job in the Prairies?

 

Well, in principle, you would think so. This would be my first reaction too. However, when I break it down, I'm not so sure that this is the case. To begin with, if you're not in the province, you're not going to be learning the law of that province regardless of where you are. I suppose some schools (e.g.: Ottawa, Lakehead or Manitoba) might offer the law of their neighbour, but I doubt this is normally the case. This means studying for the bar would be as difficult in Victoria as if you were in Dalhousie, notwithstanding the distance. Further, Victoria's reputation (even if not correct) might work against it, in that, it is perceived a left-wing school. I can see how in a right wing province like Alberta, there could (I'm not saying are) be prejudices. Finally, Dalhousie might seem really far from the Alberta oil sands, but I recall reading that there are more maritime folks in Alberta than anywhere else in Canada because of the job market. This might mean that schools like Dalhousie would offer a degree of competitive advantage, since as has been noted, you might have more peers or colleagues from Dalhousie in Alberta than anywhere else; even though these are not the people who were chasing after jobs per se, it is true that Dalhousie grads have the largest national reach in part because of necessity - Halifax doesn't have a large bar compared to other Canadian jurisdictions.

 

That said, there are some obvious disadvantages to Dalhousie, including the possibility less firms come out for OCIs, the travel cost home and to interviews, and the higher moving costs. It's not all sunshine and roses if you pick Dalhousie. My opinion is that you likely cannot go wrong with either choice.

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My opinion is that you likely cannot go wrong with either choice.

 

Agree on this. I think both schools will offer you a good education and a decent opportunity to crack the job market of your choice; the rest of it will be what you make of it, so you might end up having to decide between the schools based on something minor or tangential (ie weather or social opportunities or whatnot).

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Agree with the notion that there is no "wrong" choice, but then again when comparing Canadian law schools that is always the case (well with the caveat that the jury is still out on TRU).

 

I always come back to "where do you want to go to practice". OP is from Alberta. If he wants to come back to Alberta UVic is the better choice. I meet more UVic grads than I do Dal grads, easily. Travel costs alone make this an easy decision. - not only for coming home for Christmas, but for coming out here for firm interviews.

 

Mind you if OP wants to go to Toronto, the answer flips.

 

The second poster was from Alberta and had a UNB, Dal, and Manitoba dilemna (and chose Dal). While I agree he/she can hold their head high, I respectfully would have suggested Manitoba. Again due to proximity I know more Manitoba grads then I do Dal grads, and proximity making for easier trips for interviews.

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Agree with the notion that there is no "wrong" choice, but then again when comparing Canadian law schools that is always the case (well with the caveat that the jury is still out on TRU).

 

I always come back to "where do you want to go to practice". OP is from Alberta. If he wants to come back to Alberta UVic is the better choice. I meet more UVic grads than I do Dal grads, easily. Travel costs alone make this an easy decision. - not only for coming home for Christmas, but for coming out here for firm interviews.

 

Mind you if OP wants to go to Toronto, the answer flips.

 

The second poster was from Alberta and had a UNB, Dal, and Manitoba dilemna (and chose Dal). While I agree he/she can hold their head high, I respectfully would have suggested Manitoba. Again due to proximity I know more Manitoba grads then I do Dal grads, and proximity making for easier trips for interviews.

 

It's hard to know how much of this is selection bias as opposed to real bias, though. Like, to what extent a Dalhousie graduate who wants to come back to Alberta would have a harder or easier time than a Manitoba grad.

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It's hard to know how much of this is selection bias as opposed to real bias, though. Like, to what extent a Dalhousie graduate who wants to come back to Alberta would have a harder or easier time than a Manitoba grad.

 

Fair enough. You don't see a lot of U of T or McGill grads either.

 

But I still maintain that the practice of law is primarily is very personal. Making connections, of whatever kind, can be tremendously helpful. If more of your classmates wind up practicing in the same jurisdiction as you, that will be an advantage you'll have for your entire career.

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Further, Victoria's reputation (even if not correct) might work against it, in that, it is perceived a left-wing school. I can see how in a right wing province like Alberta, there could (I'm not saying are) be prejudices.

 

Perhaps actually being from Calgary might help temper any assumptions about my leanings given the reputation of UVic law, I don't know.

 

The more I look into it, and the more I hear from others such as yourselves, I'm coming to understand that both schools are fairly comparable. Barring some sort of major financial incentive such as a big scholarship, it will likely boil down to, as hefeweizen said, minor issues of weather preference and being closer to home for the holidays (advantage UVic).

 

Again, I thank you all for your input. I am looking forward to starting law school next year, no matter where I might end up.

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Have you applied to other schools? I ask because if there is no particular tie to either of these cities or schools, and you're from Alberta, choosing the two law schools at opposite ends of the country seems unusual. I would hope that you have applied to others and, thus, may have other options in the coming months.

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Two comments: first I agree with Erin that if you are from Alberta it is odd that you aren't going to one of Calgary or Alberta.

 

Second point is that I have had the fortune to attend a few law schools and the one driving difference that made my life better was not class make up but courses offered and who is teaching them.

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