realpseudonym

Ask a 1L at Dal

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Hi, I'm a 1L at Dal.

 

I've seen people posting these elsewhere and I know that a lot of Dal applicants have a March 31st deadline. So I thought I'd offer to take some questions. Hopefully other Dal students will join in. Feel free to ask me about the school, the city, or anything else you might be wondering. I'll do my best to answer. 

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I am currently trying to choose between Dal and UNB law and I was wondering if you could speak to the benefits or advantages of going to Dal over UNB?

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Already some good answers here and here

 

Work

The consensus on these forums is that you should study somewhere you might like to practice. Where do you want to practice?

 

I'm not sure what the numbers are for either school. But at Dal, students are from all over Canada and they want to practice all over Canada. Given that, and the fact that it's a bigger school, large firms from Ontario and parts of Western Canada recruit here. If you're interested in that sort of environment and are qualified, you can get a job through OCIs. You can also work in Halifax (although the market is pretty saturated), St. John's, and other parts of the Maritimes.

 

I've heard that UNB is more geared towards rural Atlantic Canada. I'm not at that school, so I can't really elucidate much. 

 

Ultimately, it's going to be easier to find summer jobs and articling closer to your school. Being in a region affords you the opportunity meet people. If you're lucky, those people might hire you or refer you to others who will. That's an advantage of studying where you want to work. 

 

Finances 

I'm not sure what your finances are, but in general UNB's tuition is cheaper than Dal. Like about $7000 a year cheaper.  If you're financing this through debt, that's a big consideration. It's even bigger if you don't want to go the biglaw route. $20,000 more in debt will probably constrain your options once you finish. If I were picking again, I might have looked harder at cheaper schools.

 

Cost of living is also lower in Fredericton. 

Location

This is more about subjective preference. I know people who looovve living in Fredericton. Love it. You couldn't get them to move. Montreal? Nah. Barcelona, probably not. For them, that city on the St. John River is all that you could ask for. I've only visited a few times. It wasn't for me. I'm a city person, and while Halifax isn't Manhattan or Toronto, I like it. If you live on the south end of the peninsula, everything is pretty walkable. It has alright nightlife, some good restaurants, a couple of nice parks, etc. The transit system can be ... underwhelming at times and not all rentals are amazing. However, overall, I'm happy with the city. Again, this is really a matter of personal preference though. 

 

School

I'm sure either school will offer you a good legal education. Dal might have a little more diversity in course selection. I've heard UNB is largely focused on a black letter law curriculum. But again, I'm not sure what it's like there. 

 

I'm relatively happy with the school itself. Good profs, mostly good people. If you read enough of this forum's commentary on Dal, you'll see complaints about a variety of different problems (the CDO sucks, no one likes Legal Research, the library hours are bad etc). Those are all true -- although the library hours have improved recently. However, a lot of them aren't all that important to me personally, and I think that they might more general law student complaints, than issues that are exclusive to Dal. 

 

Hope this helps. It's hard to provide a proper comparison, since I've only been to one of the two schools. If you have any other questions, ask away.  

Edited by realpseudonym
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Hi! Do most students use kijiji to find housing in Hali?

 

I want to know the answer to this too -- good question.

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Hi! Do most students use kijiji to find housing in Hali?

Pretty much. That's what most students do.There's also a site called places4students. It partners with Dal, but it's pretty much the same as Kijiji (most posts link to Kijiji) with less selection. If you're looking online, then Kijiji is probably best. 

 

I've usually relied on it, except for this year. I just signed a lease through one of the big rental companies (e.g., Killam, Capreit, Templeton, Universal Properties). Dal provides a list. It's a little outdated and not comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of who the bigger property management companies are.

 

A lot of the landlords are small companies / individuals. 

 

To this point, it definitely helps to see places. If you can't, it's not essential to do so. I've taken my chances before with mixed results. But there are some questionable houses/landlords in Halifax. The city has lots of old Victorian houses. They look pretty, but aren't always well maintained.  Some are full of holes. This means they might be cold, especially if heat isn't included. If the garbage isn't managed properly (and its often not), you'll have rats. Gross. So if you can't see places, ask for lots of pictures / skype tours / having a friend look before signing anything. 

 

I'm not sure if you're familiar with the city. The city as a whole is the Halifax Regional Municipality. That includes the Halifax peninsula (what I usually think of as Halifax) and a bunch of bedroom communities that were amalgamated into the HRM. These are places like Bedford, Dartmouth, Sackville, Spryfield, etc. If you're getting a place without being here, definitely look at the map. Some places are quite far from the school. Many do live farther away and there are some good deals. But, the bus system is passable at best, and not as reliable as big city transit. So, unless you have a car, your lifestyle might be a little different. You probably won't be popping in and out of social functions as easily. Again, it's doable and sometimes beneficial. But there are trade-offs. 

 

Edited by realpseudonym
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Thanks for doing this! How are the first year courses/profs/workload? Have you had much experience with the Legal Aid Service? How does it work and how many positions are there for first years? 

 

Edit: One more question: how racially diverse is Dalhousie/Halifax? Do you or some of your classmates have thoughts about what it's like living in Halifax as a racial minority? (I had culture shock going from a very Asian suburb of Toronto to Montreal/McGill so I'd like to know what I'm getting into here).

Edited by solas
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Thanks for doing this! How are the first year courses/profs/workload? Have you had much experience with the Legal Aid Service? How does it work and how many positions are there for first years? 

 

Edit: One more question: how racially diverse is Dalhousie/Halifax? Do you or some of your classmates have thoughts about what it's like living in Halifax as a racial minority? (I had culture shock going from a very Asian suburb of Toronto to Montreal/McGill so I'd like to know what I'm getting into here).

I'll answer some of these separately to keep it from looking like a big text wall. 

 

 

First Year Courses / Workload: 

At Dal, there are seven first year classes in total.  

  • Contracts
  • Orientation to Law
  • Criminal 
  • Public Law
  • Research and Writing
  • Property Law
  • Torts
Like most schools, there are no electives or choices in 1L. You just block register and are assigned to section A, B, or C. 
 
Orientation to Law & Research and Writing
Orientation to law only goes until October. It’s this strange  little three times a week lecture series, in which the school dumps a bunch of information on you from different professors and practicioners. They teach you everything that is similtaneously essential— race and the law, theory, some legal history, ethics, etc — but not important enough to make into an actual full-year mandatory course. It’s pass / fail based upon an oral exam. Everyone passes. Everyone knows everyone passes. Everyone freaks out before hand. It’s a time-honoured ritual here. 
 
Research and writing is a little weird too. It’s two sub-parts of the same class. There are all these little assignments in the first semester. They are highly educational, time-consuming, a pain in the ass to write, and even worse for the prof to mark. Classes end in January. You have a final, larger Research Memo due in March. Then the class is done. You will be free to forget all the useful things you learned until you start working. 
 
The five other courses
Contracts,  criminal, public, property, and torts are full year courses; you have them from September to April.
 
Public Law
Public law classes end in March. There is a take-home exam, which I think was worth 30% (I should pay attention to stuff like this). Then there is a final exam worth 70% in April (and a failsafe that is worth 30% if you do better in Dec. than you do on the final)
 
Small Group:
One of your classes is with a small group (15-20ish?) other students. There are three assignments throughout the year + participation marks. There’s no sit-down, closed book exam. 
 
Others:
The three remaining courses last all year. They are 100% finals with the 30% failsafe. 
 
In general
^^ It sounds a little confusing now (a little like an easy logic games puzzle). You’ll figure it out when you get here. 
 
As you can see, the class schedule starts tapering off throughout the year. It’s kinda intense in September and October, but slows down in the winter term. 
 
To you actual question: the workload is significant, but not unmanageable. There’s enough of it to keep you busy all the time if you want to. It helps if you’re efficient (I’m not … like, at all). The first semester might seem scary, because you’ve (presumably) never studied law before. Initially, you probably have no idea what’s important. If you think you do, you’re probably wrong. Although you'll probably have a better grasp of what you should be doing by then, the winter semester is harder, partly because you know you have finals coming down the pipe. There are also lots of other little take-home things due every few weeks to keep you busy. Exams are soon, so it's ramping up now. 
Edited by realpseudonym
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Legal Aid Service

If you mean the legal aid clinic, I have no experience with it. It’s for third years. I think there are sixteen spots a semester. Not everyone gets one. They’ve told me that you can if you want to. “Wanting to” seems to mean taking family and evidence, so you’re supposed to take those in second year if you want a spot in the clinic. I've heard good things from clinic students / alumni.

 

There are other opportunities in first year. A lot of them come through Pro Bono Students Canada, which are placements for supposedly 5 hours a week or less. They are sometimes great. There are a few people who seemed a little underwhelmed with what they got. Some other people don’t get placed at all. I have some clinical-ish activities that I really like. I found them by joining other societies.

 

Diversity in Halifax

Halifax is a funny little city. There are an absurd amount of universities, and therefore, an absurd amount of university students. You get foreign students adding some racial diversity, I guess. There’s some diversity amongst the general population too. But less so than in Ontario and the West.

 

It will be significantly different than Toronto or Montreal in that respect. How you experience this is quite personal, in my opinion. I guess it varies depending on how you appear to others, how they react to you, how attuned to it you are, and your preferences. Some cultural shock is quite possible. The amenities aren’t as plentiful. Non-white, non-Christians are less the norm here than in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. I have seen and heard of examples of racism / xenophobia in the city. Does that make it less tolerant than other places in Canada? Not significantly so, from I’ve experienced. That stuff happens everywhere.

 

That said, it’s also not a tiny little town. It’s not like people have never seen a black guy before (I’ve lived in places like that) or never met a woman in a hijab. 

 

Maybe someone else would be willing to chime in on this point. 

Edited by realpseudonym
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Are there any books or texts you would recommend reading in the summer that could possibly help or prepare a student going into first year law?

PS thank you so much for doing this!! :)

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Are there any books or texts you would recommend reading in the summer that could possibly help or prepare a student going into first year law?

 

PS thank you so much for doing this!! :)

 

 

There isn't really anything I would recommend reading. Perhaps you could read Getting to Maybe, a book on law school exams. It's not necessary though; professors often (though not always) tell you what to expect. And even if you don't figure it out before December, talking to profs after you get your fall marks back will help you understand what to do for the exams that count. The first set are failsafes. i.e., they only affect your mark if you do worse in April. 

 

I think that any substantive reading — studying criminal law cases or something — is probably a waste of time. You won't know what to look for yet, you might not be reading the right materials, and what you need to learn can be very specific to your prof. Instead, I'd work and relax. They'll teach you the material once you get here. Your job will be to learn it and figure out how to apply it within a limited time frame. 

 

If you feel the need to prepare yourselves, I'd recommend a couple of things. First, if you're a slow typist, it might help to work on your typing speed. Quantity isn't everything. However, law exams at Dal are done on your laptops. If you are fast enough to get a certain amount down, that really saves you from having to make difficult choices about what to write in the exam room. Also, in some classes, you might want parts of your notes to be verbatim. Good typing helps. 

 

Second, if you haven't already done so, try to build good, general lifestyle habits. Law school (not to mention legal practice) can be stressful. You might not have the energy to develop new cooking skills or get into a new exercise routine once it's December and you're studying 10 - 14 hours a day. Being healthy and feeling good help me through the grind. In my opinion, it's easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle, if it's something you do regularly. Try and build good habits. 

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On the topic of exercise, I see Dal is getting/has a new gym to accompany the Dalplex. Can you offer any feedback on it? 

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On the topic of exercise, I see Dal is getting/has a new gym to accompany the Dalplex. Can you offer any feedback on it? 

 

Not really, no. It doesn't resemble a gym yet. Just construction. FYI, the exterior parts of the law building are undergoing some sort of maintenance and renovation. They're covered in scaffolding. They've been like that all year. 

 

Here's what they're describing the new gym as. Here is what some students told a person named Violet MacLeod about it. If you're really interested, you can follow the construction process here, where Dal releases scintillating play-by-play of the whole process. Oooh, ahhh -- new tendering stage. Apparently, it's projected to be finished midway through the class of 2019's second year.  

 

 

Edited by realpseudonym

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Not really, no. It doesn't resemble a gym yet. Just construction. FYI, the exterior parts of the law building are undergoing some sort of maintenance and renovation. They're covered in scaffolding. They've been like that all year. 

 

Here's what they're describing the new gym as. Here is what some students told a person named Violet MacLeod about it. If you're really interested, you can follow the construction process here, where Dal releases scintillating play-by-play of the whole process. Oooh, ahhh -- new tendering stage. Apparently, it's projected to be finished midway through the class of 2019's second year.  

 

 

 

That makes sense. It sounded like the work was "in process" but at the same time won't be done for a while. Of course, none of these things is a make-or-break for attending Dal -- but interesting nonetheless. Thanks!

Edited by Pseudonym123
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Legal Aid Service

If you mean the legal aid clinic, I have no experience with it. It’s for third years. I think there are sixteen spots a semester. Not everyone gets one. They’ve told me that you can if you want to. “Wanting to” seems to mean taking family and evidence, so you’re supposed to take those in second year if you want a spot in the clinic. I've heard good things from clinic students / alumni.

 

There are other opportunities in first year. A lot of them come through Pro Bono Students Canada, which are placements for supposedly 5 hours a week or less. They are sometimes great. There are a few people who seemed a little underwhelmed with what they got. Some other people don’t get placed at all. I have some clinical-ish activities that I really like. I found them by joining other societies.

 

Diversity in Halifax

Halifax is a funny little city. There are an absurd amount of universities, and therefore, an absurd amount of university students. You get foreign students adding some racial diversity, I guess. There’s some diversity amongst the general population too. But less so than in Ontario and the West.

 

It will be significantly different than Toronto or Montreal in that respect. How you experience this is quite personal, in my opinion. I guess it varies depending on how you appear to others, how they react to you, how attuned to it you are, and your preferences. Some cultural shock is quite possible. The amenities aren’t as plentiful. Non-white, non-Christians are less the norm here than in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. I have seen and heard of examples of racism / xenophobia in the city. Does that make it less tolerant than other places in Canada? Not significantly so, from I’ve experienced. That stuff happens everywhere.

 

That said, it’s also not a tiny little town. It’s not like people have never seen a black guy before (I’ve lived in places like that) or never met a woman in a hijab. 

 

Maybe someone else would be willing to chime in on this point. 

 

Re: Legal Aid Clinic 

I was given the same impression in 1L (I'm currently in 2L) but the Legal Aid Clinic was relatively hard to get into for this Summer term, 29 people applied and only 12 got in for the Summer term. That said, in Fall/Winter of 3L it is probably less competitive with people on exchange in the Fall, and many people opt for the Summer route so that they can finish 3L in December. 

 

Everyone I know who has done it has absolutely loved it! I am planning on applying for Fall/Winter, I think how competitive it is to do will depend on the term and how many of your classmates are into legal aid, I just remember also being given the impression if you want to do it that you can, however I am more skeptical of that now. 

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From your experience in 1L did you find most students friendly to one another? Or was the environment more competitive? 

Also is it possible for students to spend most of their time studying at home? Or is it essential to go to the library?

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From your experience in 1L did you find most students friendly to one another? Or was the environment more competitive? 

 

Also is it possible for students to spend most of their time studying at home? Or is it essential to go to the library?

 

 

Friendliness vs competitiveness

The two aren't mutually exclusive. People are friendly. There's also an underlying sense of competition, as we're graded on fairly strict curve. In any case, I haven't found that competition has ever undertaken the collegial atmosphere. Lots of people are very good friends. People help each other out with notes and stuff. It's a friendly atmosphere.

 

I'm not sure whether others in my year/section felt this way, but things sort of settled down after the failsafes in December. People have a slightly better idea where they stand in relation to others and, for the most part, no one's showing off in class discussions or anything now. I'd also imagine that it's a little less intense after first year, when you aren't with the same 60ish people all the time. Although, I suppose that's when the job hunt starts. 

 

I can't speak for others, but I'm not paying much attention to other people right now. Just prepping for exams. In any case, I think it will be whatever you make of it. If you're friendly, other people will be the same way. There's a bit of weirdness — there always is — but it shouldn't necessarily impact you much. 

 

Where you study

There's definitely no general rule. Some people are always in the library. Others — including people who have done very well on things all year — are rarely there. Some people study at home during the year, and library-it-up at exam time. Others do the opposite. Do whatever works for you.

 

Actually, the library's been much emptier than I would have expected lately. So a fair number of people must study at home. 

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Are there many older (35+) students? 

 

I wouldn't say that there are many people older than 35. I can think of two people in my section who are 35+ (hopefully I'm not forgetting someone). Then there are a few people who are in their early thirties. The most common age group is early to mid-twenties, but that certainly isn't exclusive. I'm not really sure about the other two sections in first year or the exact make-up of the upper-year classes. 

 

I'm assuming that you're asking, because you're over 35 -- maybe I'm wrong and it's just curiosity that motivates your question. I'm guessing if you're significantly older than the rest of your classmates, then your law school experience might be a little different than that of others. In my opinion, that's usually the reality of being different than the people around you. That's especially true if your circumstances are different. For instance, if you have a family, you probably have different priorities than others who don't. You might not hang around after class, you could be at the bar less, and you might have to be more organized and disciplined with your study habits. 

 

However, maybe it's just because I'm not older, but no one's age seems to be a particular impediment here. Some of the older folks (older being a relative term, thirty-plus is not actually old) seem to be doing quite well academically. They are well-liked. Most people are and they are no exception. 

Edited by realpseudonym
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Hey Realpseudonym.... (nice handle....lol)

 

 

Thank you for the response. Yes, you are correct in thinking I am over 35. I am actually 40... eeek!!  I assumed my experience would be a lot different starting out,  as I am aware that most 1L’s are in their early to mid 20’s. I am actually interested in that, as the laws for my generation, were a lot different then, then they are now.

Let me correct myself, the laws are not different, the things that the law had to deal with, and enforce, were a lot different.

Take social media for example, at no time in my youth, did I have to worry about myself, or any of my friends being charged with distribution of pornography for e-mailing a photo to a friend. 

 

Anyway...Not to get off topic.....

 

I am appreciative of your response. I am also, anxious for a reply with regards to my acceptance. I have applied as a “Special Applicant” ( Old...(lol)...and have a been to College, and University)  I have also run two successful businesses, worked for two different companies, bringing in millions of dollars for each and currently work for a not for profit organization.  

 

I have not herd anything back yet.

 

I am just curious as to the importance the admissions committee would see in admitting someone who has not only academic experience, but also life experience; with family, divorce, business, sales, philanthropy, community and economic development...etc.  Not that you have any control over that. I guess I am just curious if they do actually admit people like me.

 

I feel like I am now selling myself to you...lol.  I appreciate the feedback. I think it is great that you offer your feedback to new students. As a mom, I cant help but appreciate the calming effect you are giving to new students. I Thank you for that, and hope to someday have the pleasure to meet you.

 

Your interest in helping others pursue their legal career speaks volumes. You should be proud!!

 

I wish you all the best in you Law career. You have obviously made the right choice.

 

Cheers,

A :-)

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