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Bike Tester

Went to uOttawa law, graduated, and got an articling position, AMA

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I was waiting for something like this to pop up.

 

I was hoping you could comment on the experiential learning opportunities in the common law program through the internships. Did you or anyone you know participate in any and what were your/their feelings on it (if any)?

 

Also, Ottawa markets itself as a school with a competitive advantage being in the capital. Is there any advantage to this aside from an intellectual one? I mean, I know there's value in hearing SCC justices speak, or learning about legislation from people who actually drafted it, but is there any competitive advantage in terms of career opportunities? I suspect this one won't actually have a definite answer, but it's worth getting your two cents on I would say.

 

Are there any cool leather jackets for law students similar to the ones the engineers have? Also, on a side note, why do engineering students have a monopoly on leather jackets on university campuses (except Guelph, where it's the Aggies)?

 

Anyways, thanks for this. I'll have more questions I'm sure. 

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There are a TON of amazing experiential learning/internship opportunities at uOttawa, many of which can count for course credit. Most people don't take advantage, but they're definitely there if you look. I took a bunch myself and have nothing but good things to say about these programs. They were one of the highlights of my law school experience. 

 

I don't know about competitive advantage. People tend to believe, rightly or wrongly, that uOttawa is a lower-tier school, and I can't think of any actual advantage from being in the capitol. That said however, in my anecdotal experience I've never found that my choice of law school put me at a disadvantage. I personally had 45 articling interviews with every type of legal employer imaginable, including biglaw, midlaw, small firms, boutique firms, government departments, corporate in-house departments, etc. I (obviously) had a bit of an issue with closing the deal, but that's on me. Seeing uOttawa on my resume didn't prevent me from getting my foot in the door with any type of employer.  

 

No leather jackets unfortunately. School spirit at uOttawa does kind of suck, and that's one downside I've found. 

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Was wondering if you could comment on the state of the Ottawa legal market. There's not to much info floating around, but from the few threads I've read in the past, it seems to be kind of rough even for born and bred Ottawans. 

 

Could you comment on your experience with how things are, the kinds of firms out there, how competitive is it really and whether not speaking french could potentially disadvantage you? I really wouldn't mind one day living/working in my hometown but reading that firms tend to pay fairly low (relative to the bigger cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary) and being at a disadvantage by not being bilingual sometimes makes me re-consider where I'd like to try to put down roots one day. 

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I'd like to know if the competition for articling positions in the Ottawa market was really tough? It seems you've done well and many do, but are there are there a lot of people (proportionally speaking, comparative to other schools) that don't get positions or solid jobs (assuming they've done somewhat well in terms of grades)?

 

Also, what kind of opportunities do you have with Toronto firms and positions in terms of OCIs? How about approaching the bar in the USA (NY, CA)? Are there any alumni or people you know who've been successful going down that road coming out of Ottawa? 

 

Finally, what's the Doug Fauteux building like? I've heard they've done some recent renovations but am curious as to how you feel about the building, the food options around there, the social vibe, etc.

 

It seems to me that you enjoyed your experience at Ottawa, but are there any serious drawbacks from studying law there? What was the biggest inconvenience for you? Also, if you had the chance, would you have chosen another school (If so, why)?

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Could you comment on your experience with how things are, the kinds of firms out there, how competitive is it really and whether not speaking french could potentially disadvantage you? I really wouldn't mind one day living/working in my hometown but reading that firms tend to pay fairly low (relative to the bigger cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary) and being at a disadvantage by not being bilingual sometimes makes me re-consider where I'd like to try to put down roots one day. 

 

Disclaimer: Anglophone from southern Ontario who took immersion programs throughout school and university. I've had jobs where I did some work in French (ex. brief a French FC judgement), but I'm by no means bilingual.

 

Being able to work in French or at least speak it is a valuable skill in Ottawa. I would say that being able to practice in French is a very high level skill, that few people have unless they have a very high level of bilingualism. I think most firms would appreciate it if you could read a document or answer an email French.

 

In my experience, my OCIs were all completely in English if I remember correctly. There were rumours that one firm in particular would switch to French during the interview if your resume mentioned any sort of proficiency in French, but I don't think that actually happened. I had one in-firm interview that was partly in French. When the woman called to offer the interview she changed to French throughout the phone call and asked if I would be answering interview questions in French. Finally, I debriefed with a firm that I was interested in after multiple in-firm/lunch interviews, and found out that they chose the other candidate because of their native bilingualism.

 

All that said, it's not essential for every position, but it's a highly marketable skill. Most legal work being done in Ottawa is in English, but being able to work in French is the factor that may push you ahead of another candidate in the eyes of a particular firm. While can win/lose you a job in certain cases, firms are generally for broader skills and you won't be ignored for not being bilingual, assuming that your other qualifications are strong.

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Was wondering if you could comment on the state of the Ottawa legal market. There's not to much info floating around, but from the few threads I've read in the past, it seems to be kind of rough even for born and bred Ottawans. 

 

Could you comment on your experience with how things are, the kinds of firms out there, how competitive is it really and whether not speaking french could potentially disadvantage you? I really wouldn't mind one day living/working in my hometown but reading that firms tend to pay fairly low (relative to the bigger cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary) and being at a disadvantage by not being bilingual sometimes makes me re-consider where I'd like to try to put down roots one day. 

 

Ottawa is a major city and there are all types of firms here. Due to the oversupply of uOttawa grads it is very competitive however, not going to lie. French definitely gives you a leg up in Ottawa, but very few firms see it as a prerequisite per se. Pay is somewhat low compared to Toronto (not sure about Vancouver or Calgary markets) but from what I've heard, the hours are much more reasonable compared to Toronto so it's a trade-off.

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I'd like to know if the competition for articling positions in the Ottawa market was really tough? It seems you've done well and many do, but are there are there a lot of people (proportionally speaking, comparative to other schools) that don't get positions or solid jobs (assuming they've done somewhat well in terms of grades)?

 

Also, what kind of opportunities do you have with Toronto firms and positions in terms of OCIs? How about approaching the bar in the USA (NY, CA)? Are there any alumni or people you know who've been successful going down that road coming out of Ottawa? 

 

Finally, what's the Doug Fauteux building like? I've heard they've done some recent renovations but am curious as to how you feel about the building, the food options around there, the social vibe, etc.

 

It seems to me that you enjoyed your experience at Ottawa, but are there any serious drawbacks from studying law there? What was the biggest inconvenience for you? Also, if you had the chance, would you have chosen another school (If so, why)?

 

Competition in the Ottawa market is pretty brutal. It took me and a number of my friends a while to nail down a position. However, in my friend circle at least, everyone eventually found an articling position. I don't personally know of anyone who was left out in the cold and had to do the LPP.

 

The thing about uOttawa is that, for some reason, it tends to attract a lot of people who aren't interested in Bay Street. However, of the people I know who were seriously interested in Bay Street, they almost all secured jobs there. Plenty of successful Bay Street lawyers come out of uOttawa. The American markets are tougher. I actually do know one guy who went to Baker & McKenzie in New York so it is possible, but I wouldn't count on it.

 

I'll be blunt. Compared to most other law schools I visited, Fauteux as a building isn't the greatest. It's far too crowded and most of the building is rather aesthetically unattractive. Food options are not great, and I almost always prepared my own lunches for this reason. Aside from a very good poutine shack nearby, most of your options are going to be overpriced and underwhelming.  

 

Overall I think I had a very good experience at uOttawa and I'd do it again. There are some drawbacks like any place, however. My biggest gripes are the building itself and the often incompetent administration (not to be confused with the professors, who are excellent). One gripe I personally had is with the lack of intellectual diversity. Almost every discussion of politics and reform turned into a far-left echo chamber. I know almost every academic institution in Canada leans left, but I feel like this is particularly true at uOttawa. They really don't even try to provide balance, which is something I found somewhat off-putting. 

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Congratulations!! 

 

Were any of your fellow graduates from Vancouver? If so, were they successful in securing articling positions in BC?

 

It's mostly an Ontario school. A couple people from Vancouver, but not too many. To my understanding though, most of the relatively few people from BC and western provinces did find jobs there. 

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I know almost every academic institution in Canada leans left, but I feel like this is particularly true at uOttawa. They really don't even try to provide balance, which is something I found somewhat off-putting.

I always found this sentiment to be sort of odd. The two universities I've been to for my degrees are similar to uOtawa in that they're really 'hippy-dippy'. Sure, some of that is because of the academic talent that's attracted, but for the most part discussion is dictated by the students, is it not (at least in upper year courses)? To that extend it's incumbent on the participants to explore different sides to the issues being discussed. That's how I saw it at least. And all professors I've ever had have been open to that type of dialogue. Like you said though, it's an echo chamber where the same point is made three or four times in a row so people can get their participation marks and very little is added to the discussion.

 

The only time I've personally heard gripes from student is when they submitted poor work and blamed it on ideological differences. And I'm not trying to say this is indicative of BikeTester's experiences, just giving my experience in areas outside of law school. I'll be looking for this now though and at least passively try to inject balanced discussion.

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I realize this might not relate to your experience at uOttawa, but I figure it's worth a shot. 

 

I am currently considering applying to law schools in the fall (uOttawa, McGill and Moncton). I have visited Ottawa a few times (I have friends doing undergrads at Ottawa) and I like the campus. My question is, do you know how uOttawa is in terms of following the fully french common law program, and perhaps how it seems to compare to the bilingual program McGill offers or Moncton.

 

McGill is my preference, however even the thought of english courses worries me - but the tuition and reputation is very appealing. Do you know of any sort of disadvantage one might have from following the full french common law at uOttawa in terms of employment later on? 

 

A little background info: I am a french first language studying a degree in health sciences (also completely in french) and would only be applying to french law programs.

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I realize this might not relate to your experience at uOttawa, but I figure it's worth a shot. 

 

I am currently considering applying to law schools in the fall (uOttawa, McGill and Moncton). I have visited Ottawa a few times (I have friends doing undergrads at Ottawa) and I like the campus. My question is, do you know how uOttawa is in terms of following the fully french common law program, and perhaps how it seems to compare to the bilingual program McGill offers or Moncton.

 

McGill is my preference, however even the thought of english courses worries me - but the tuition and reputation is very appealing. Do you know of any sort of disadvantage one might have from following the full french common law at uOttawa in terms of employment later on? 

 

A little background info: I am a french first language studying a degree in health sciences (also completely in french) and would only be applying to french law programs.

 

I'm a student currently in the French Common Law Program. I'll start by saying that I speak multiple languages, and French is not my first language.

 

What people need to understand about the French Common Law Program is that, while all teaching and course work is conducted and completed in French, the program is nevertheless a common law program and it is training students for the Ontario bar. Accordingly, a lot of your readings and course materials will be in English. When I think about my experience, I definitely see it as one where I'm studying in both languages, and I consider that an advantage. We are basically trained and taught to use the law in all it's glory, which comes with some practical advantages since, in most cases, unilingual lawyers will not have the added benefit of being able to interpret the law in both official languages. This is in addition, as mentioned by the other posters above, to the advantage one has in being bilingual when applying to jobs.

 

As for McGill, from what I gather, the program doesn't require the same level of French competency. In fact, I think many people have been able to get through the McGill Law program without using much French at all. I guess the way I like to see it is that the FCML program at uOttawa is bilingual, with a strong emphasis on French competency given that it's easy to get away with doing everything in English if those stringent requirements weren't imposed (so one needs to be more than just passively bilingual as is the case at McGill).

 

That being said, if you are extremely uncomfortable in English, then perhaps a Civil Law program would be more suited to your needs? I'm not one to advocate taking the easier way out, but I just think it's important for people to realize that as important as French is to the FCML program, it doesn't downplay the importance of English.

 

Hope that helps. 

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I'm a student currently in the French Common Law Program. I'll start by saying that I speak multiple languages, and French is not my first language.

 

What people need to understand about the French Common Law Program is that, while all teaching and course work is conducted and completed in French, the program is nevertheless a common law program and it is training students for the Ontario bar. Accordingly, a lot of your readings and course materials will be in English. When I think about my experience, I definitely see it as one where I'm studying in both languages, and I consider that an advantage. We are basically trained and taught to use the law in all it's glory, which comes with some practical advantages since, in most cases, unilingual lawyers will not have the added benefit of being able to interpret the law in both official languages. This is in addition, as mentioned by the other posters above, to the advantage one has in being bilingual when applying to jobs.

 

As for McGill, from what I gather, the program doesn't require the same level of French competency. In fact, I think many people have been able to get through the McGill Law program without using much French at all. I guess the way I like to see it is that the FCML program at uOttawa is bilingual, with a strong emphasis on French competency given that it's easy to get away with doing everything in English if those stringent requirements weren't imposed (so one needs to be more than just passively bilingual as is the case at McGill).

 

That being said, if you are extremely uncomfortable in English, then perhaps a Civil Law program would be more suited to your needs? I'm not one to advocate taking the easier way out, but I just think it's important for people to realize that as important as French is to the FCML program, it doesn't downplay the importance of English.

 

Hope that helps. 

 

Thanks for your reply. I understand the reality of Ontario is French is a minority, and thus I shouldn't expect to work in a French environment. However does the fact that a student completed the French common law program negatively impact him looking for employment elsewhere (i.e. in Toronto) because of an employer underestimating the student's abilities to work in English?

 

In regards to McGill, I understand the passive bilingualism at McGill and how that can lead a student to go through the program almost entirely in English, but I imagine that it would also allow a student to complete the program almost entirely in French. But the McGill discussion isn't really pertinent to this thread.

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Thanks for your reply. I understand the reality of Ontario is French is a minority, and thus I shouldn't expect to work in a French environment. However does the fact that a student completed the French common law program negatively impact him looking for employment elsewhere (i.e. in Toronto) because of an employer underestimating the student's abilities to work in English?

 

In regards to McGill, I understand the passive bilingualism at McGill and how that can lead a student to go through the program almost entirely in English, but I imagine that it would also allow a student to complete the program almost entirely in French. But the McGill discussion isn't really pertinent to this thread.

 

Well, one of the mandate's of the FCML program is to train lawyers who will be able to provide legal services in French to the Franco-Ontarian community and the French-Canadian community living outside of Quebec. In that sense, it is not necessarily out of the question to end up working for a firm where the large majority of clients are Francophone and where you therefore conduct most of your work in French. That could very well be a possibility even in Toronto. 

 

That being said, if you are interested in corporate jobs, or Bay Street, then that will implicate different considerations. I personally have a preference for those sorts of jobs and I don't think completing this program will put me at a disadvantage for the reasons I stated above. Being able to operate in both languages will never be a disadvantage, and in almost all cases, it will be an advantage. HOWEVER, if you are in fact interested in Toronto corporate/Bay-St. jobs and feel like you can't convince an employer that you will be able to work in English, then yes, I do believe that it will be a disadvantage. This is the case not because you would have attended the French common law program, but rather because English is a necessity for those jobs.  I highly doubt there is a presumption among Toronto employers that students coming out of the FCML program can't operate in English, and I definitely know of people from this program who are currently working on Bay St. and NYC. 

 

To conclude what I was saying about McGill, I'm not so sure that it's as easy/possible to complete the program entirely in French as it would be to complete it in English, but someone who actually attended McGill can clarify that point for you. 

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Well, one of the mandate's of the FCML program is to train lawyers who will be able to provide legal services in French to the Franco-Ontarian community and the French-Canadian community living outside of Quebec. In that sense, it is not necessarily out of the question to end up working for a firm where the large majority of clients are Francophone and where you therefore conduct most of your work in French. That could very well be a possibility even in Toronto. 

 

That being said, if you are interested in corporate jobs, or Bay Street, then that will implicate different considerations. I personally have a preference for those sorts of jobs and I don't think completing this program will put me at a disadvantage for the reasons I stated above. Being able to operate in both languages will never be a disadvantage, and in almost all cases, it will be an advantage. HOWEVER, if you are in fact interested in Toronto corporate/Bay-St. jobs and feel like you can't convince an employer that you will be able to work in English, then yes, I do believe that it will be a disadvantage. This is the case not because you would have attended the French common law program, but rather because English is a necessity for those jobs.  I highly doubt there is a presumption among Toronto employers that students coming out of the FCML program can't operate in English, and I definitely know of people from this program who are currently working on Bay St. and NYC. 

 

To conclude what I was saying about McGill, I'm not so sure that it's as easy/possible to complete the program entirely in French as it would be to complete it in English, but someone who actually attended McGill can clarify that point for you. 

 

Thanks for your reply. uOttawa is particularly appealing to me because of the fact that the teaching and course work is entirely French. I guess we'll see where things go for me. 

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I realize this might not relate to your experience at uOttawa, but I figure it's worth a shot. 

 

I am currently considering applying to law schools in the fall (uOttawa, McGill and Moncton). I have visited Ottawa a few times (I have friends doing undergrads at Ottawa) and I like the campus. My question is, do you know how uOttawa is in terms of following the fully french common law program, and perhaps how it seems to compare to the bilingual program McGill offers or Moncton.

 

McGill is my preference, however even the thought of english courses worries me - but the tuition and reputation is very appealing. Do you know of any sort of disadvantage one might have from following the full french common law at uOttawa in terms of employment later on? 

 

A little background info: I am a french first language studying a degree in health sciences (also completely in french) and would only be applying to french law programs.

 

 

I'm a student currently in the French Common Law Program. I'll start by saying that I speak multiple languages, and French is not my first language.

 

[...]

 

@Karadayi, can you speak to taking the Ontario bar coming out of French Common Law? I'm in English, but I've heard that the French bar study materials are just a translation (and a poor one) of the English study materials? Does this affect students as they study for the bar?

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@Karadayi, can you speak to taking the Ontario bar coming out of French Common Law? I'm in English, but I've heard that the French bar study materials are just a translation (and a poor one) of the English study materials? Does this affect students as they study for the bar?

 

Given that I'm not finished law school yet and haven't looked into the question too deeply, I can't say much on it, though Ive heard it to be the case, and it doesn't necessarily surprise me - although I did hear that something was being done about it.

 

That said, this is just another reason why I think it's important to view the French common law program as a bilingual program rather than a purely French one (even though the French requirements are strict). I personally plan to take the bar in English, not only for the potential problem you mentioned, but also to solidify my knowledge of the legal terminology in both languages.

 

Our study materials definitely present us with complex documents in both languages, however someone who is significantly uncomfortable in English may only take in what he or she learns in French, rely on previous French summaries of English cases, etc. and may therefore be faced with some problems down the road if, for example, there may be some advantages to taking the bar in English, or the person wants to work in Bay-St level corporate. None of these obstacles are insurmountable of course, I just think it's important for students to know the actual nature of the program, and the social context of practice thereafter, so that they can be prepared and willing to perfect their skills in both languages. 

 

Edit: I want to clarify that I do think there is great reason and merit in administering properly written French Bar exams, since it upholds the linguistic rights of Francophone lawyers and since many people graduate the program with the specific desire to work in the Francophone communities in Ontario and across the country (outside Quebec), and thus to whom a lot of what I'm saying may not necessarily apply. I guess my concluding point is that this program's mandate is to ensure that legal services can be properly and equally provided in both official languages (not just English), which for obvious reasons would require an improvement of the French bar exam if those problems actually do exist. 

Edited by Karadayi

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The only time I've personally heard gripes from student is when they submitted poor work and blamed it on ideological differences. And I'm not trying to say this is indicative of BikeTester's experiences, just giving my experience in areas outside of law school. I'll be looking for this now though and at least passively try to inject balanced discussion.

 

I have no idea whether that actually happens or not. Personally, I didn't chance it. I spoke my mind in class, but on exams and assignments, I just repeated the professor's opinions (with reference to case law and everything obviously). Blind grading is a great thing.  

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Just going back to what you said about articling and going to 45 different interviews. Were these opportunities across a variety of different types of law? Or was there one particular field you were interested in?

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