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How much does it matter where you go to school?

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In terms of whatever factors you can think of. Quality of education, significance of reputation, breadth of opportunities, etc. 

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If you are asking about common law schools, I think the general consensus is that quality of education is more or less equivalent across all Canadian law schools. This is probably true particularly for first year for which most of these schools have similar curriculums. Torts class is probably not that different wherever you take it.

In terms of reputation, it depends on the market. Across Canada, U of T, UBC, Oz, and McGill are IMO the most "prestigious" schools. But again, Canadian schools all have good reputations in Canada. The only schools that might struggle a bit in this regard are the newly established ones, but that will continue to change as these schools churn out more successful graduates and employers become familiar with them. 

In terms of "breadth of opportunities", schools diverge in terms of upper year courses, clinics, particular specializations, exchanges, access to particular legal markets, etc. But all of them give you a more or less inescapable opportunity to become a lawyer.

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Ask a student from U of T/McGill/UBC, etc, it does. Ask a student from Windsor, TRU, Lakehead, etc. it doesn't. 

 

Truth of the matter? Probably a little, but it's not "prestige" - employers don't really care. it's just having a more "talented" class pool in terms of stats upon admission.

What really plays the biggest factor though is how impressive you as a candidate are. And in this, what plays a large role is what ECs you do, how they're geared to what area of the law you want to pursue, etc. And the school can have a large influence here in terms of what opportunities are offered to you. Of course, grades matter, but these factors I find are heavily disregarded by incoming students.

Edited by pzabbythesecond
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On 9/23/2017 at 2:15 PM, pzabbythesecond said:

Ask a student from U of T/McGill/UBC, etc, it does. Ask a student from Windsor, TRU, Lakehead, etc. it doesn't. 

 

I don't know about that for sure. I think lots of folks at U of T now think it doesn't matter or that if it does it's much more limited to a handful of firms and perhaps clerking. That being said, I don't know why we'd ask students about this anyway since that's only 3 or 4 years of your life versus the entirety of your career afterwards.

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3 hours ago, HammurabiTime said:

I don't know about that for sure. I think lots of folks at U of T now think it doesn't matter or that if it does it's much more limited to a handful of firms and perhaps clerking. That being said, I don't know why we'd ask students about this anyway since that's only 3 or 4 years of your life versus the entirety of your career afterwards.

I kind of doubt that lots of uoft students think that. They might say it, but I can't see them paying the extra tuition if they didn't think it mattered. 

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7 minutes ago, Coolname said:

I kind of doubt that lots of uoft students think that. They might say it, but I can't see them paying the extra tuition if they didn't think it mattered. 

I can't speak for everyone but all I can say is that for lots of people at U of T the money isn't really a factor for whatever reason and for those it does matter to there may be other reasons to want/need to stay in Toronto.

Additionally, I wouldn't assume this is a stable belief. Maybe lots of people believe it beforehand but not so much once actually becoming better acquainted with the legal profession and having their views changed at which point the hassle of transferring is probably a big consideration.

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There may of course be personal reasons why some schools are better than others, e.g. cost of going there (both money and personal cost, e.g. if you have to try a long-distance relationship or break-up or if you'd rather be closer to family and current friends, whatever). More generally, based on the reputation of the school all other things being equal there may be an advantage - but that's all other things being equal, high marks at one law school make you much more desirable a hire than indifferent or poor marks at a school with a better reputation. Going to law school in the province/city you want to work in has some advantages, both in terms of some statute-specific courses you'll learn that province, and you may be more likely to be interviewed by alumni who may even unconsciously prefer fellow alums.

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I'm kind of confused by the OP's question. All Canadian schools are good. But that's not to say they are all the same. Are you really indifferent between (if nothing else) the cost of your JD and location in which you'll spend much of your 20s (presumably)? The only sensible way to compare schools requires you to reflect first on your resources, preferences, and objectives. (Suffice it to say that the 'prestige' rankings are, at best, a heuristic.)

We could start to rattle off all the ways schools are distinct. But that's an infinite list. And it's impossible for strangers to evaluate those differences.

Finally, as someone who goes to U of T: cost is absolutely a factor, outweighed by other considerations. 

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43 minutes ago, HammurabiTime said:

I can't speak for everyone but all I can say is that for lots of people at U of T the money isn't really a factor for whatever reason and for those it does matter to there may be other reasons to want/need to stay in Toronto.

Additionally, I wouldn't assume this is a stable belief. Maybe lots of people believe it beforehand but not so much once actually becoming better acquainted with the legal profession and having their views changed at which point the hassle of transferring is probably a big consideration.

fair

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Where you go to school matters a lot - but not for any of the reasons the OP suggests.

Let's take U of T.  U of T's big advantage isn't that it has a good reputation, strong professors or it's incoming class tests well, although those things are true.  No, U of T's advantage is that it is located in Downtown Toronto.  Your classmates at U of T will be your colleagues for your entire career.  Whole law firms have been established because several people were in the same first year law school class, became friends, and decided to go into business with each other.  Many of your professors will have ties to the local bar, or are active practitioners in the local bar.  Well before graduation you will begin to know, and be known by, the local lawyers in Toronto through various moots, law clinics, and other meet and greets.

However, that all is only true if you're going to be a lawyer in Toronto.  If you're from Calgary and want to return there after law school, none of that applies.  You'd be much better off going to U of C despite it not being as "prestigious".

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41 minutes ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

Where you go to school matters a lot - but not for any of the reasons the OP suggests.

Let's take U of T.  U of T's big advantage isn't that it has a good reputation, strong professors or it's incoming class tests well, although those things are true.  No, U of T's advantage is that it is located in Downtown Toronto.  Your classmates at U of T will be your colleagues for your entire career.  Whole law firms have been established because several people were in the same first year law school class, became friends, and decided to go into business with each other.  Many of your professors will have ties to the local bar, or are active practitioners in the local bar.  Well before graduation you will begin to know, and be known by, the local lawyers in Toronto through various moots, law clinics, and other meet and greets.

However, that all is only true if you're going to be a lawyer in Toronto.  If you're from Calgary and want to return there after law school, none of that applies.  You'd be much better off going to U of C despite it not being as "prestigious".

Yup. I definitely feel being at a disadvantage when it comes to networking from afar. 

 

But again there are other considerations, so I wouldn't say it's just location. The program, its practical opportunities, type of legal education, debt - all play a role. 

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2 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Yup. I definitely feel being at a disadvantage when it comes to networking from afar. 

 

But again there are other considerations, so I wouldn't say it's just location. The program, its practical opportunities, type of legal education, debt - all play a role. 

I wouldn't say it's only location, but it's most of it.

Cost is one factor.  It might make sense if you're saving tens of thousands of dollars by going to one school over another.  Acceptance is another - if you're not accepted at the local school you obviously can't go there.  But beyond that - the education you receive at any Canadian school is about the same.  No one school has any program that is so dramatically different that I would forgo those three years of networking in order to go somewhere else.

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24 minutes ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

I wouldn't say it's only location, but it's most of it.

Cost is one factor.  It might make sense if you're saving tens of thousands of dollars by going to one school over another.  Acceptance is another - if you're not accepted at the local school you obviously can't go there.  But beyond that - the education you receive at any Canadian school is about the same.  No one school has any program that is so dramatically different that I would forgo those three years of networking in order to go somewhere else.

In the common law world, sure. McGill is an exception, but an exception that exists regardless. 

 

But further on my original point, I really would consider clinical/practical opportunities available over location; what's the point of being in a certain city, if there's 20 spots, of general practical opportunity available to a class of 200? I'm obviously exaggerating, but you get the idea. You'd never even get the chance to network, outside of general events held by the bar, associations, or firms, etc.

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36 minutes ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

I wouldn't say it's only location, but it's most of it.

Cost is one factor.  It might make sense if you're saving tens of thousands of dollars by going to one school over another.  Acceptance is another - if you're not accepted at the local school you obviously can't go there.  But beyond that - the education you receive at any Canadian school is about the same.  No one school has any program that is so dramatically different that I would forgo those three years of networking in order to go somewhere else.

Well, in fairness McGill or Windsor with their respective dual-degree programs might for some candidates be important (or another law school with an exchange program resulting in both Canadian and US law degrees, or Ottawa to get a BCL with an extra year or whatever).

EDIT: partly ninja'd...

Edited by epeeist

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 As a U of T grad, I CAN say that I've never NOT had someone remark on the fact that I graduated from U of T in a positive way (you know, the usual "You went to U of T? Wow, that's great!" kind of general stuff).

 

How much that actually has mattered in my life is unclear though - is it giving me an edge up in interviews, etc? No clue, but so far it doesn't seem to be hurting at least.

 

I think that ultimately, everyone else is right - there are way more important considerations than pure prestige. Is prestige 100% irrelevant and existing only in your head? Probably not, but it's also not clear that it does anything other than allow you to brag about going to a prestigious school, if that's the kind of thing that you care to do.

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2 hours ago, darkangel45422 said:

 As a U of T grad, I CAN say that I've never NOT had someone remark on the fact that I graduated from U of T in a positive way (you know, the usual "You went to U of T? Wow, that's great!" kind of general stuff).

 

How much that actually has mattered in my life is unclear though - is it giving me an edge up in interviews, etc? No clue, but so far it doesn't seem to be hurting at least.

 

I think that ultimately, everyone else is right - there are way more important considerations than pure prestige. Is prestige 100% irrelevant and existing only in your head? Probably not, but it's also not clear that it does anything other than allow you to brag about going to a prestigious school, if that's the kind of thing that you care to do.

+1 for UBC and the Vancouver area.

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I think it's pretty simplistic to say that people go to a school solely to brag about it. A more "prestigious" school may open more doors for a person. If you have no connections, this can be attractive.

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15 hours ago, providence said:

I think it's pretty simplistic to say that people go to a school solely to brag about it. A more "prestigious" school may open more doors for a person. If you have no connections, this can be attractive.

I was reminded recently seeing some article about Ms. Malala Yousafzai being accepted to Oxford which (if I recall correctly in the article I read) seemed to have something of the air of, oh great for her she was accepted to Oxford, and isn't it nice that Oxford accepted her.

To which my reaction was WTF? If you're a Nobel laureate, whether or not a particular university admits you, however prestigious they may be, is of negligible importance in terms of how successful you'll be in life - you're already tremendously successful and really, is anyone going to not interview you for a position in future because you didn't attend a prestigious university?! (Oh, I see you won the Nobel prize for Peace, and have continued to work for the rights of women, but you don't have a degree in political science from a prestigious university so we're not going to interview you for this policy position...).

And also, the notion that there was any question that she would be admitted to pretty much any university she applied to (and rightly so), as if there was some suspense...Oxford would have had a problem if it had rejected her, more than she would have had a problem if she were rejected by Oxford.

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11 minutes ago, epeeist said:

I was reminded recently seeing some article about Ms. Malala Yousafzai being accepted to Oxford which (if I recall correctly in the article I read) seemed to have something of the air of, oh great for her she was accepted to Oxford, and isn't it nice that Oxford accepted her.

To which my reaction was WTF? If you're a Nobel laureate, whether or not a particular university admits you, however prestigious they may be, is of negligible importance in terms of how successful you'll be in life - you're already tremendously successful and really, is anyone going to not interview you for a position in future because you didn't attend a prestigious university?! (Oh, I see you won the Nobel prize for Peace, and have continued to work for the rights of women, but you don't have a degree in political science from a prestigious university so we're not going to interview you for this policy position...).

And also, the notion that there was any question that she would be admitted to pretty much any university she applied to (and rightly so), as if there was some suspense...Oxford would have had a problem if it had rejected her, more than she would have had a problem if she were rejected by Oxford.

She actually didn't immediately get accepted to Oxford, she was given a conditional acceptance based on achieving certain grades and then she achieved those grades. I actually like that she had to go through the process like everyone else. 

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18 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

She actually didn't immediately get accepted to Oxford, she was given a conditional acceptance based on achieving certain grades and then she achieved those grades. I actually like that she had to go through the process like everyone else. 

I can see, on one level, that I too would like that.

On the other hand, and more overwhelmingly, it seems to me to be a triumph of credentialism and formalism over substance.

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