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Noway

Foreign grads: an outside perspective

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Posted (edited)


I am neither a law graduate nor a law hopeful. I am a member of the general population who came here seeking info on this phenomenon of overseas legal education. 


I have to say that I find it disheartening that the discussions that I have seen here seem to centre around whether foreign grads will ever actually enter the profession and, if so, how prestigious their jobs will be. I would like to remind overseas potentials that there are other elements that are more important, particularly professional responsibility. 

I have seen many of the comments, looked at the school's sites and reviewed some stats and know people who went both routes, and no matter what people argue, these overseas schools have tremendously low admission standards and low competition within their schools. (Admission based solely on grades as low as B-), which seems to create a lot of variability in terms of the quality of their admitted students and their graduates. 

Remember that while British, Aus and US all have education systems on par with, or better than, Canada's, that doesn't apply to these schools, most of which have poor reputations even in their own countries. Remember that students going to school abroad are checking out of the stream part way (ex: in UK a law degree doesn't qualify one to be a lawyer, grads have to have a 2:1 to do postgrad barrister/solicitor training programs + two year training contract; Canadian students w/ a lower 2:2 can come back to Canada, write the bar up to 8 times and article for one year in a dodgy firm run by their uncle; the US is known to have degree mills which is why the bar is notoriously hard to filter them, the same is not true in Canada). I personally think that students w/ foreign degrees shouldn't be considered by the NCA until they have fully qualified as a lawyer in the jurisdiction in which they studied and possibly spent a few years working w/ references required. This keeps the door open to legit foreign lawyers while closing the doors on law school tourists.

The evidence shows that many of these people are indeed passing the bar and practicing as lawyers in Canada, just in small firms and low status practice areas. This reality is troubling, as they are more likely to have a clientele that is already vulnerable and low income (family law, immigration law) and a bad lawyer can be harmful to their access to justice.

As professionals, these graduates will have serious fiduciary responsibilities to vulnerable clients. Students taking advantage of the minimal admission standards abroad should ask themselves honestly if they are able and willing to meet the professional and ethical standards that are required for competent practice. If not, the most professional decision one can make is to opt out of law before they harm people's cases or get sued.

They need to ask themselves why they did badly as undergrads and whether they are likely to suddenly have the high levels of engagement, self-motivation and leadership ability required for professional competence. Are they actually able to handle mooting, working in the legal clinic or research alongside law school (because only the recklessly ill-prepared could think that legal skills are learned in the classroom), or the ongoing professional training, reading and overtime that is required in practice? Is this a vocation for them or a 9-5 status symbol? 

There are some overseas hopefuls/graduates posting here who do not demonstrate a grasp of basic grammar and argumentation, which speaks volumes about the clarity, precision and rigour of their future work - and no, it does not matter that they are writing on the internet. 

As a potential consumer, I question whether a person like that would require more billable hours in order to produce competent work (if at all) when they can't spit out something sensible under pressure and without editing. I question the professionalism, commitment and judgment of someone who doesn't recognize that their presentation affects their credibility and that of the profession, right or wrong. 

 People like me are becoming more aware of this backdoor process and I suspect that you will start seeing negative responses from your potential clients. If I had a choice, I wouldn't hire  some of the people who post here who are made woefully unimpressive by either their presentation or the motivations that they tacitly express.

It is honestly depressing how singularly focused some people here are on money and jobs, without consideration to what you can bring to the profession and whether you can handle the significant responsibilities therein.
Edited by Noway

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Valid point on focusing on more than just getting jobs, but the competence to do that job.

 

However, I strongly disagree that the burden should be on those students. If they want to go play law school tourist, it's their loss (or their family's) if they end up without money/losing out/whatever else. 

 

The responsibility is on the law society for creating and enforcing a sufficiently rigorous bar exam. That is literally what the exam is for. So either we work with the premise that the bar exam meets that duty - which leads to the conclusion that the foreign grads who pass it are competent (and not to blame/worry about) - or we work with the premise that the bar exam isn't sufficient and needs renewal.

 

I'm generally of the latter camp. But no, I don't blame the students. It's not their job to determine their competence before they pass the bar. They have that duty after the bar, but that relates to competence in fields of law, not general legal practice. It's a bit perverse to put the onus on foreign law students because the law society refuses (or is too incompetent) to do their job properly.

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Posted (edited)

The onus is on all actors, including the lawyer. I also stated that the accreditation body should change its requirements to block these students. 

But personal and professional responsibility means that at the end of the day, if you are not fit to practice, you need to recognize it and get fit to practice. That is actually a part of most professional codes of conduct. 

I will give you an example: the judge who told a rape victim that she should have closed her legs received his legal education in South Africa and passed the bar in Canada. Who was to blame for his statement? He claimed his legal education was so focused on apartheid that he was not fully aware of women's rights. He couldn't blame the NCA, the bar society or his institution and instead got fired.

Getting the big bucks and having a professional title means that you can't pass the buck to accreditation bodies or your employer when you screw up or are not fit. 

Edited by Noway

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, Noway said:

As professionals, these graduates will have serious fiduciary responsibilities to vulnerable clients. Students taking advantage of the minimal admission standards abroad should ask themselves honestly if they are able and willing to meet the professional and ethical standards that are required for competent practice. If not, the most professional decision one can make is to opt out of law before they harm people's cases or get sued.

They need to ask themselves why they did badly as undergrads and whether they are likely to suddenly have the high levels of engagement, self-motivation and leadership ability required for professional competence. Are they actually able to handle mooting, working in the legal clinic or research alongside law school (because only the recklessly ill-prepared could think that legal skills are learned in the classroom), or the ongoing professional training, reading and overtime that is required in practice? Is this a vocation for them or a 9-5 status symbol? 

There are some overseas hopefuls/graduates posting here who do not demonstrate a grasp of basic grammar and argumentation, which speaks volumes about the clarity, precision and rigour of their future work - and no, it does not matter that they are writing on the internet. 

As a potential consumer, I question whether a person like that would require more billable hours in order to produce competent work (if at all) when they can't spit out something sensible under pressure and without editing. I question the professionalism, commitment and judgment of someone who doesn't recognize that their presentation affects their credibility and that of the profession, right or wrong. 

It is honestly depressing how singularly focused some people here are on money and jobs, without consideration to what you can bring to the profession and whether you can handle the significant responsibilities therein.

 

In bold are concerns that apply to students and graduates of almost every law school in Canada.

Edited by easttowest

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3 minutes ago, easttowest said:

 

In bold are concerns that apply to students and graduates of almost every law school in Canada.

But Canadian students are vetted with their capacity in mind. There are, of course, false positives and people who are unsuccessful despite going to school in Canada. The same is not true of students admitted abroad. Some are very strong, having missed good law schools by a thread and others were probably laughed at by admissions committees in Canada. Students should know for themselves which ones they are and, as I said, consider whether they are able to meet th responsibilities required.

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Again... 

You are assuming that someone with a 3.8 and 165 is capable of meeting the responsibilities required. 

 

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There may, however, be something to your idea about requiring an applicant to be qualified as a lawyer in their jurisdiction of study before allowing that person to write the bar. 

Given that some form of NCA would still be required to bring a candidate up to a level where he or she could pass the bar, that financial burden could seem unfair to many. Additionally, I can't see many candidates successfully obtaining a training contract when it was clear they planned on leaving at the first opportunity. 

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10 minutes ago, easttowest said:

There may, however, be something to your idea about requiring an applicant to be qualified as a lawyer in their jurisdiction of study before allowing that person to write the bar. 

Given that some form of NCA would still be required to bring a candidate up to a level where he or she could pass the bar, that financial burden could seem unfair to many. Additionally, I can't see many candidates successfully obtaining a training contract when it was clear they planned on leaving at the first opportunity. 

I don't see how this makes sense. In some US states graduating from law school in that state means no bar exam required. Or if not that situation, still no experience required, can just write the bar exam and get admitted. How does that help ensure that the person is any more competent? And if it doesn't, I don't see how it is a possibly valid check on competence, rather than pretextual protectionism.

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1 minute ago, epeeist said:

I don't see how this makes sense. In some US states graduating from law school in that state means no bar exam required. Or if not that situation, still no experience required, can just write the bar exam and get admitted. How does that help ensure that the person is any more competent? And if it doesn't, I don't see how it is a possibly valid check on competence, rather than pretextual protectionism.

Agree with all of this. I was spitballing because I didn't know anything about the UK requirements until I read this thread. I think OP's concerns apply to domestic students more than he or she realizes. 

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3 minutes ago, easttowest said:

Again... 

You are assuming that someone with a 3.8 and 165 is capable of meeting the responsibilities required. 

 

 

Law schools in Canada look at more than your grades and LSATs. They are looking at multiple data sources that can attest to raw intelligence, ambition, work ethic, personal drive, engagement, social power and personal motivation. 

Canadian law programs adjust their admissions criteria to constantly capture a picture of what is correlated with success in their program and beyond. 

It is not unreasonable to conclude that someone with personal references, a strong CV, demonstrated leadership ability while scoring high grades, and a high standardized test scores probably is more likely to have the material for professionalism than someone who does not.

Your argument seems to be that nothing is predictable from past behaviour and that nothing is knowable.

 

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That is not entirely accurate. Some law schools do use GPA/LSAT exclusively. The holistic schools factor in a number of things but no one knows exactly how that works. However there is no doubt LSAT and GPA reign supreme for the vast majority of the consideration. 

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5 minutes ago, Noway said:

 

Law schools in Canada look at more than your grades and LSATs. They are looking at multiple data sources that can attest to raw intelligence, ambition, work ethic, personal drive, engagement, social power and personal motivation. 

 

With respect to a few of our schools, including one top one that I know about, this is not true.

I'm not saying that Canadian law students' applications are not predictive. I'm saying that you're putting too much faith in the admissions offices in this country. 

My undergraduate GPA was 2.5. I'm on the Dean's List at a Canadian law school. How's that for predictive?  

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9 minutes ago, easttowest said:

With respect to a few of our schools, including one top one that I know about, this is not true.

I'm not saying that Canadian law students' applications are not predictive. I'm saying that you're putting too much faith in the admissions offices in this country. 

My undergraduate GPA was 2.5. I'm on the Dean's List at a Canadian law school. How's that for predictive?  

While I agree with your general sentiment, that a law school at which you are on the dean's list admitted you with a 2.5 GPA, speaks well as to that specific admission's office predictive abilities, does it not?

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1 minute ago, epeeist said:

While I agree with your general sentiment, that a law school at which you are on the dean's list admitted you with a 2.5 GPA, speaks well as to that specific admission's office predictive abilities, does it not?

Nice. 

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13 minutes ago, epeeist said:

I don't see how this makes sense. In some US states graduating from law school in that state means no bar exam required. Or if not that situation, still no experience required, can just write the bar exam and get admitted. How does that help ensure that the person is any more competent? And if it doesn't, I don't see how it is a possibly valid check on competence, rather than pretextual protectionism.

Again, I am not someone who is in the legal profession or has an interest in it. I only recently learned about this, so I was not at all aware that's in some US states there is no bar exam. I was under the impression that US states had extremely hard exams to filter those who came from degree mills. I stand corrected.

My concern there is that jurisdictions create a stream that has filtering at various points,, so people dodging in and out of countries allows them to avoid the filtering process. A student with a B or B+, poor LSATs and no ECs could not get in to law school in Canada, but they can can in the UK. They earn a lowly 2:2 in the U.K. and they would probably never be hired to practice there, but they can if they come back to Canada? Like, what?

getting fully qualified with experience allows you to get rid of those people.

I concede that you are more knowledgeable on the subject. What could a fair balance look like? Bar only measures legal theory not practice and NCA is degree content.

There are gaps in evaluating competence in a holistic way and article get and employment are the filters. Do you think that it should be left up to employers? If so, doesn't that mean letting desperate and incompetent people in to law just because of how much money they gave and who they know? How is that meritocratic or professionally responsible? 

 

 

 

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9 minutes ago, easttowest said:

Nice. 

I wasn't trying to be snarky, while I went years ago even with a high LSAT I came from an engineering program in which good grades (for that program) were << good grades in many other programs, which was a problem (plus, I think predictive value is greater for e.g. marks in history or political science or English than marks in maths and sciences, but that's another thread).

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Just now, epeeist said:

I wasn't trying to be snarky, while I went years ago even with a high LSAT I came from an engineering program in which good grades (for that program) were << good grades in many other programs, which was a problem (plus, I think predictive value is greater for e.g. marks in history or political science or English than marks in maths and sciences, but that's another thread).

I know you weren't. 

I'm applauding your poster; I even hung it on my wall. 

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11 minutes ago, Noway said:

Again, I am not someone who is in the legal profession or has an interest in it. I only recently learned about this, so I was not at all aware that's in some US states there is no bar exam. I was under the impression that US states had extremely hard exams to filter those who came from degree mills. I stand corrected.

My concern there is that jurisdictions create a stream that has filtering at various points,, so people dodging in and out of countries allows them to avoid the filtering process. A student with a B or B+, poor LSATs and no ECs could not get in to law school in Canada, but they can can in the UK. They earn a lowly 2:2 in the U.K. and they would probably never be hired to practice there, but they can if they come back to Canada? Like, what?

getting fully qualified with experience allows you to get rid of those people.

I concede that you are more knowledgeable on the subject. What could a fair balance look like? Bar only measures legal theory not practice and NCA is degree content.

There are gaps in evaluating competence in a holistic way and article get and employment are the filters. Do you think that it should be left up to employers? If so, doesn't that mean letting desperate and incompetent people in to law just because of how much money they gave and who they know? How is that meritocratic or professionally responsible? 

 

 

 

[emphasis added]

1) To clarify, there are some states with a bar exam, which however exempt from having to write the bar, graduates of a law school within that state. E.g. Wisconsin:

"...Diploma privilege
Under diploma privilege, graduates of the University of Wisconsin Law School and Marquette University Law School are admitted to the practice of law by complying with the terms of SCR 40.03 PDF—their school certifies their legal competence and the Board of Bar Examiners certifies their character and fitness for the practice of law...."

https://www.wicourts.gov/services/attorney/bar.htm

There's still a bar exam, it's just that graduates of one of those Wisconsin law schools don't have to write it to be admitted in Wisconsin.

2) Getting into law school in Canada is more difficult than the difficulty of competently practicing law warrants in many cases. That is, getting in is far more difficult than it needs to be to protect the public. It's understandable why, given limited spaces, but it's still a higher threshold.

For say medicine, not that I have firsthand experience, but medicine is hard to get into, hard to succeed in, and hard to practice (well, maybe family/GP is easier, but still stuff can arise). Law is hard to get into (though not as much as medicine!) but law school and the competent practice of law in many areas is easier in a sense. Excellence in practice is very difficult, and some areas are very difficult, but I think many people of average intellectual ability would do fine as competent lawyers, if they were interested and could get admitted to law school. So your concerns about someone with a B+ and poor LSAT going someplace else, doesn't concern me. I care about competence, not impressive marks or hireability.

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15 minutes ago, epeeist said:

[emphasis added]

1) To clarify, there are some states with a bar exam, which however exempt from having to write the bar, graduates of a law school within that state. E.g. Wisconsin:

"...Diploma privilege
Under diploma privilege, graduates of the University of Wisconsin Law School and Marquette University Law School are admitted to the practice of law by complying with the terms of SCR 40.03 PDF—their school certifies their legal competence and the Board of Bar Examiners certifies their character and fitness for the practice of law...."

https://www.wicourts.gov/services/attorney/bar.htm

There's still a bar exam, it's just that graduates of one of those Wisconsin law schools don't have to write it to be admitted in Wisconsin.

I checked and this only applies in Wisconsin. All other states require students to pass a bar exam. If a student were to go to to Wisconsin,  they would be evaluated holistically for admission and be one of only 10% of applicants receiving admission, they would complete 4 years of legal training (unlike the degree mill schools that recruit Canucks), including additional courses to fulfill the 'bar' requirements (not automatic in that JD program).

In my hypothetical world, where foreign grads have to fully qualify in the jurisdiction where they studied, qualification would still be a limiting factor

http://law.wisc.edu/prospective/stats.html#adminstats

 

 

 

 

 

15 minutes ago, epeeist said:

2) Getting into law school in Canada is more difficult than the difficulty of competently practicing law warrants in many cases. That is, getting in is far more difficult than it needs to be to protect the public. It's understandable why, given limited spaces, but it's still a higher threshold.

For say medicine, not that I have firsthand experience, but medicine is hard to get into, hard to succeed in, and hard to practice (well, maybe family/GP is easier, but still stuff can arise). Law is hard to get into (though not as much as medicine!) but law school and the competent practice of law in many areas is easier in a sense. Excellence in practice is very difficult, and some areas are very difficult, but I think many people of average intellectual ability would do fine as competent lawyers, if they were interested and could get admitted to law school. So your concerns about someone with a B+ and poor LSAT going someplace else, doesn't concern me. I care about competence, not impressive marks or hireability.

I personally believe that engagement and wit, as measured by grades/LSATs, ECs, references, personal statement, is what is most important. A person may be average intellectually, but above average in terms of diligence, seriousness and drive and it makes all the difference. Someone with a BA in Sociology should not have a B+ when As are very attainable. I would have different expectation of someone studying say, hard sciences. 

If I had false criminal charges against me, I would prefer not to have a lawyer who is dumber and lazier than me, Canadian grad or otherwise. For me, competence is intrinsically linked to impressive marks and Hireability, because they say something about motivation, care and drive. Perhaps I am wrong! 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, easttowest said:

With respect to a few of our schools, including one top one that I know about, this is not true.

I'm not saying that Canadian law students' applications are not predictive. I'm saying that you're putting too much faith in the admissions offices in this country. 

My undergraduate GPA was 2.5. I'm on the Dean's List at a Canadian law school. How's that for predictive?  

I see you are at U of O, which is a decent school for both law and mediCine. You must have had a strong profile to have been admitted despite pretty low grades. You obviously also had significant potential which they correctly predicted. Engagement and motivation are there even if you made mistakes in undergrad and as an outsider, I would still trust you as a lawyer and clearly the school made a good choice. My faith is solid because there is evidence that ytheir choice is solid.

A situation that shakes my faith in law is one where a (real person I know) student with a B average is admitted to a foreign school without vetting anything except their ability to pay, and displaying no change in work ethic or motivation, they return to Canada to practice. Bar is not hard, just arduous, and anyone can pass eventually. Then they get a job in a sketchy DTES law firm scamming immigrants or mishandling legal aid cases. 

Certainly it is not an absolute - many foreign students missed Canadian law school by a thread - and some Canadian students do badly - but most Canadian law schools have a decent reputation because they produce decent graduates who can work well and who don't get their firms sued. 

I could be wrong, but I just want to reflect that from an outside perspective, the profession appears less credible. There are no stats that a I can find about foreign grads and malpractice, lawsuits, professional complaints and the like, so I can only judge by their weaker profiles, how they present themselves and how they interact with training standards. 

Edited by Noway

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