Thank you for asking this. You’re right, there isn’t a lot of chat on this forum about student experiences at Bora Laskin. I hope that doesn’t give you any negative impression of the BL community, because our small size is a huge strength in terms of our internal support network! I will try to share as much as I can with you here about my time so far at Lakehead.
I love it at this school, and I was worried about liking the program before accepting my offer. The school itself and the class sizes are small, which I have found to translate to more attention on you and your needs as a student. Another upside is that the student perspective is actually influential to the directors. This allows us to shape our current experience and ask for improvements for future 1Ls!
There are about 65 students in 1L, split into two sections of ~32, and we have all become very close. The two groups of 32 merge in 2L. This closeness is thanks to events hosted by the school early in 1L, and students in 2L & 3L passing on an attitude centred around support and communication. I have a mentor in 3L, but I am comfortable approaching any upper year or alumni for advice! This may be the case at other law schools as well, but it is at least my experience here. Indeed law school is competitive once you are here, but there is a strong sense of being on a team at BL.
I am an access student, and BL has been highly accommodating to my needs.
There are also a lot of volunteer opportunities and clubs open for students. This 1L class has created two new clubs and has hosted talks/events at the school! There is almost always free pizza or lunch somewhere in the school. Also there is free coffee, tea and treats in the student lounge year round! (Which is a good casual setting to mingle with upper years)
The classes and professors are great so far as well. 1L consists of x4 year long courses and x2 half year courses per semester on fundamental areas of law (constitutional, criminal, property, etc). 2L will be much harder than 1L from what I have heard, due to the workload volume. 3L is supposed to be slightly more easygoing due to the one semester placement in a law firm anywhere in Ontario. If you choose to be placed at a law firm in Thunder Bay, often times that translates into a job after graduation!
Your profs will know your name by October because of the small class size. The ones I have had are all approachable, kind, and keen to help. The size also makes it easier to raise your hand in class to engage with the material. They will even bring their dogs by the school for a morale boost!
If you have any issues, the Director of Student Services at the school is an amazing person. I met her at a law school info convention in Toronto before applying, and she is a total cheerleader for all BL students.
I have found that the IPC factor has also turned out to be a significant help in crafting legal writing & practical skills. Oral advocacy has been the largest component, with 1L students doing a mock bail & sentencing hearing, writing & presenting a factum, and drafting numerous faux memos, contracts & opinion letters. This helps break down your grade - so far only one half-course has a 100% exam. These assignments continue into 2L & 3L. For example, in 2L there is a mandatory year long Civil Practice course which has each student do a mock trial from start to finish.
Mooting and the Legal Clinic are popular. This new school is pumping out good litigators - we just won the Arnup Cup for a 2nd year in a row! My plan is to hopefully Moot in 2L, and in 3L do half a year of Legal Clinic before I go to my placement. If you choose to do Clinic in 2L, you have to do it for a full year.
The classes are a lot of work and it is important to keep up. As with any law school, expect to read for 2hrs minimum every day. No complaints about the content or teaching style so far!
My only serious complaints would be about Thunder Bay. I have some gripes about the weather! (I am from Toronto) The wind off of Lake Superior is no joke. December & January it snowed a ton. Now in February it doesn’t snow anymore, but it is a dry/frigid cold. March and April are unfortunately supposed to be messy. However you will get a locker at the school to put your winter jacket & boots for class.
That being said, the City does a great job with speedy snow removal.
The bus system is reliable and far reaching, so getting groceries isn’t a problem. However you will need a car (or a friend with a car) to enjoy the parks and conservatories just outside the city.
There are a lot of skating rinks in the city, and a local ski hill (Loch Lomond) that offers $15 night skiing!
Sleeping Giant Brewery is a fun place as well - check them out on Instagram!
The neighbourhood around the law school is lively. Red River Road and the Historic District have a lot of shops/bakeries/bars to enjoy! Thunder Bay has improved drastically over the last 10 years, but there are still some areas that need help.
Bundle up and find a room or house to rent near the Law School!
Feel free to ask any specific questions if I didn’t touch on something you would like to know. I have grown so much since the start of my studies, and I would certainly choose Bora Laskin again!