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Requesting- Pros and Cons of University of Alberta (An Updated 2017 Guide)

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Well as a student here, I can give some insight

Pros:

- Super collegial atmosphere, don't have to worry about people trying to get ahead, everyone is friendly and will help you

- The school seems to be a pretty important school for Western Canada so a lot of firm hosted programs and such are held here

- Great Career Services staff

- Steve at the Gavel can give you a boost in morale, also has foosball, ping-pong, and generally a nice place to hang out

- Very social school, lots of extracurricular and events

- Rugby #1

Cons:

- Edmonton sucks (snowed in September this year)

- Library sucks (the rooms are okay, but the library itself is filled with international students)

- Lecture room chairs are the least comfortable things ever

Debatables

- Lots of drinking (good if you are social and drink, seems kind of lonely for those who do not attend social events)

- Some profs are amazing, some are pretty bad, probably the same in most schools

- Not really much to do in Edmonton (besides the drinking)

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On 11/24/2017 at 1:50 AM, Rikangi said:

Well as a student here, I can give some insight

Pros:

- Super collegial atmosphere, don't have to worry about people trying to get ahead, everyone is friendly and will help you

- The school seems to be a pretty important school for Western Canada so a lot of firm hosted programs and such are held here

- Great Career Services staff

- Steve at the Gavel can give you a boost in morale, also has foosball, ping-pong, and generally a nice place to hang out

- Very social school, lots of extracurricular and events

- Rugby #1

Cons:

- Edmonton sucks (snowed in September this year)

- Library sucks (the rooms are okay, but the library itself is filled with international students)

- Lecture room chairs are the least comfortable things ever

Debatables

- Lots of drinking (good if you are social and drink, seems kind of lonely for those who do not attend social events)

- Some profs are amazing, some are pretty bad, probably the same in most schools

- Not really much to do in Edmonton (besides the drinking)

I'm an undergrad at U of A, applying to most law schools in Canada besides U of A. The only thing I'll say about this is that the library DOES suck, but not because it's "filled with international students." I'm always in there because it's literally empty all semester except for the last three weeks of classes -- I was in there all day Saturday and saw maybe 10 other people. This hasn't been the case at law schools I've toured recently, like Calgary, York, U of T, Ottawa, and Queens, where the library is always full and seems to be restricted to law students. I'm not sure what this says about the work ethic of students here.

My dad is also a professor in the law faculty. A comment he frequently makes, which is one of the reasons I decided not to apply here, was that the course offerings in upper year are extremely limited. Do not trust what's listed on the website -- the admin beefs it up to appeal to applicants. In reality, most courses are canceled before the semester begins.

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8 hours ago, katefromlawschool said:

I'm an undergrad at U of A, applying to most law schools in Canada besides U of A. The only thing I'll say about this is that the library DOES suck, but not because it's "filled with international students." I'm always in there because it's literally empty all semester except for the last three weeks of classes -- I was in there all day Saturday and saw maybe 10 other people. This hasn't been the case at law schools I've toured recently, like Calgary, York, U of T, Ottawa, and Queens, where the library is always full and seems to be restricted to law students. I'm not sure what this says about the work ethic of students here.

My dad is also a professor in the law faculty. A comment he frequently makes, which is one of the reasons I decided not to apply here, was that the course offerings in upper year are extremely limited. Do not trust what's listed on the website -- the admin beefs it up to appeal to applicants. In reality, most courses are canceled before the semester begins.

Interesting, thanks for the heads up. 

I've only applied to U of C and U of A, but I'm not from Alberta. I have lived in Edmonton before though. One thing I like about U of A's campus is its vicinity to Whyte Ave. You're literally a stone's throw away from everything (restaurants, the river, bike paths, rental apartments etc...). 

I haven't been to U of C during my short visits to Calgary though (regretting it now). It would be cool to compare the two campuses. 

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On 11/24/2017 at 3:50 AM, Rikangi said:

Well as a student here, I can give some insight

Pros:

- Super collegial atmosphere, don't have to worry about people trying to get ahead, everyone is friendly and will help you

- The school seems to be a pretty important school for Western Canada so a lot of firm hosted programs and such are held here

- Great Career Services staff

- Steve at the Gavel can give you a boost in morale, also has foosball, ping-pong, and generally a nice place to hang out

- Very social school, lots of extracurricular and events

- Rugby #1

Cons:

- Edmonton sucks (snowed in September this year)

- Library sucks (the rooms are okay, but the library itself is filled with international students)

- Lecture room chairs are the least comfortable things ever

Debatables

- Lots of drinking (good if you are social and drink, seems kind of lonely for those who do not attend social events)

- Some profs are amazing, some are pretty bad, probably the same in most schools

- Not really much to do in Edmonton (besides the drinking)

What is wrong with international students?

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5 hours ago, Abii said:

Interesting, thanks for the heads up. 

I've only applied to U of C and U of A, but I'm not from Alberta. I have lived in Edmonton before though. One thing I like about U of A's campus is its vicinity to Whyte Ave. You're literally a stone's throw away from everything (restaurants, the river, bike paths, rental apartments etc...). 

I haven't been to U of C during my short visits to Calgary though (regretting it now). It would be cool to compare the two campuses. 

If you have any specific questions about UofC's campus I can try to answer them for you. Took my undergrad there. 

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I graduated from UofA in June and I am currently articling in Ontario.

As an out of province student, my pro was surprisingly the winter. Though it may potentially snow any month of the year, the winter is not nearly as harsh as I find it to be in Ontario. The about of snow Edmonton gets is laughable. 

Another pro from an out of province person is that you can rent a car and go to Banff and Jasper. I lived in residence and they often arranged trips as well

Another pro was that there is a ton of activities that you can get involved with, both through the faculty and the general university. It is also really easy to get a job on campus. 

Biggest pro for me was I got to learn how to play hockey. The team was a lot of fun even when I was terrible. 

I also find that the moot program was really good. Even if you don't want to do a competitive moot, they have a lot of courses where you can learn court skills. 

A pro or con depending on your personality is the drinking culture, though as far as I know that extends to all Law schools. 

A con would be that for my year it was a little like going back to high school where you had the people that thought they were popular and created cliques. 

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4 hours ago, Cmb123 said:

If you have any specific questions about UofC's campus I can try to answer them for you. Took my undergrad there. 

Thanks. I will definitely bug you with questions if Calgary offers me a spot :)

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On 11/26/2017 at 8:55 PM, katefromlawschool said:

I'm an undergrad at U of A, applying to most law schools in Canada besides U of A. The only thing I'll say about this is that the library DOES suck, but not because it's "filled with international students." I'm always in there because it's literally empty all semester except for the last three weeks of classes -- I was in there all day Saturday and saw maybe 10 other people. This hasn't been the case at law schools I've toured recently, like Calgary, York, U of T, Ottawa, and Queens, where the library is always full and seems to be restricted to law students. I'm not sure what this says about the work ethic of students here.

Maybe because you went on a Saturday? I come here every day on weekdays and it's always fairly full. I, like most of my peers I'm sure, study at home on the weekends.

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7 hours ago, savantatlaw said:

Maybe because you went on a Saturday? I come here every day on weekdays and it's always fairly full. I, like most of my peers I'm sure, study at home on the weekends.

Maybe! I definitely wouldn't say it's "fairly full" most of the semester though -- just when people are feeling the heat of exams.

Ultimately, OP -- I hope your decision is not based on the U of A's (perfectly fine) law library, which has dominated this thread for some reason. Hahaha.

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36 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Why is your avatar an upside-down-and-red @Ryn ? What are those things from? 

Well that’s... odd.

My avatar is Chirper, the mascot from Cities Skylines. 

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I agree with “not really much to do in Edmonton (besides the drinking)”. Edmonton sucks but not because of the snow. This winter had barely any snow this year and very warm otherwise so far.

Great Career Services staff I don’t agree with. Although the new Director has certainly improved things this year. Career Services is generally useless. U of C probably wins there by a lot.

Articling placement rate is like 60% or so right now as of end of 2017. Maybe 50% if we count the NCAs.  The Dean though is focused on big law firms in Calgary and Vancouver for purposes of getting large donations. Even though those few firms aren’t hiring at this point in the year and generally little outside of summer recruitment. Of course the Dean also refuses to make any progress in terms of various law societies’ (Ontario/BC/AB) initiatives to have more practice ready and practice/practical based courses or curriculum changes shifting away from the articling model. 

Rugby is not even on most students’ radar. Heard about it when I saw it posted here. Hockey a few. Law show maybe. I don’t do any of those and plenty busy with other things. There’re many activities and clubs to be part of.

Lecture rooms depend on what rooms you have lectures in but they’re ok. The building sucks if that’s what you meant, but even that is getting better.

Lol, the library says nothing about the students. Some students never go to the library and some are always there.

I’m confused if the “course offerings in upper year are extremely limited” comment refers to U of C or U of A. I mean this is definitely the case with U of C due to its small size. That’s mainly why I turned down U of C. The pedways linking the LRT and HUB plus other buildings like Business and Tory is pretty useful though. Makes it bearable being at school for a few more hours without being stuck in the law centre.

At U of A, a handful of classes were cancelled this year, and a few more from year to year, but there is still plenty to choose from. They also added some new things. The bigger problem I have is with the very poor leadership and admin decisions by the Dean, increased enrollment in 1L (like 190+ now?) and the jacked up NCA student numbers (like 20+ a year). Then keeping courses with low enrollment like French Law with like 4 people in it at most, while completely cancelling other courses like class actions, trusts, military law, privacy & access to information, legislative policy & drafting, corporate compliance & ethics, advanced corporations law, firearms & weapons law, etc. While others only seem to exist to keep certain tenured profs employed like Musicians & the Law, and Animal Law. They also added a whole bunch of Aboriginal law focused courses for mostly image reasons that the Dean enjoys talking about every chance he gets. Of course they generally have low enrollment and pretty much all taught by the same academic research heavy recently recruited prof. 

Some of the interesting courses are actually not listed on the website by the way because they are special topic specialized seminars, or individual sections of main courses like jurisprudence with different topics, or just new courses.
 
On the topic of moots, basically selection for most moots and some special courses like Law & Social Media and internship/clerking placements tend to be rigged. Especially in the case of the Moots, and Law & Social Media, where mostly the faculty favourite students tend to get those spots. The Competitive Mooting program “leadership” is the worst with faculty favourites (mainly deans listers or people who make the faculty look better tied to big law) getting spots two years in a row, when technically they’re supposed to give other students a chance who didn’t get to do it the previous year. But no worries, they still suck and didn’t actually win anything for a long time (I suspect mostly due to the biased selection and poor moot program leadership). This is not to be confused with regular courses with  moot components in them as a part of the course, which I highly recommend and there’s several of those; pretty good selection actually like hidden gems with great instructors.

Also, there will be some bad scheduling changes coming with basically reduction of 3h night classes in favour of 1.5h split afternoon blocks sort of thing, but again that’s more in line with the Dean’s poor and misguided admin leadership. He’s pushing out practitioners who typically teach more practical hand-on 3h night classes in favour of a string of new “high-profile” research focused prof hires who publish lots and do academic research, but instead teach several traditional type academic heavy lecture/seminar classes in whatever their research area is. So the course selection and scheduling will be getting worse than before for those reasons, but still way ahead of anything U of C could muster.

In the end it’s what you make of it though. Personally, I would always pick the bigger school just because a bigger institution has more resources and flexibility within the program. Plus, generally more established with more alumni connections.

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35 minutes ago, StudentLife said:

Of course the Dean also refuses to make any progress in terms of various law societies’ (Ontario/BC/AB) initiatives to have more practice ready and practice/practical based courses or curriculum changes shifting away from the articling model. 

Can you elaborate on this? Which schools are doing this well? The u of c seems to be promoting its new curriculum in terms of producing practice-ready students.

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All I know is the Dean said he doesn't want to stray away from the core academic traditional curriculum and doesn't want anything related to articling to be shifted to or integrated at U of A law school in terms of courses, training or curriculum. SLS or legal aid clinics could be set up for credit as part of the curriculum but that was opposed as well for liability reasons I guess. Some schools like UBC I think have clinic participation for credit. Basically, he wants to protect the status quo and focus on core academic tenure profs who do research and that type of core traditional academic curriculum.

U of C is very similar to TRU from my understanding. And U of C is not that different from U of A, just smaller and newer.

UVic I heard has nice co-op terms available. 

Lakehead, Bora Laskin Faculty of Law has Practice Placements or some sort of curriculum that meets articling requirements.

This sounds interesting though, at least for ease of licencing purposes:

“The Bora Laskin Faculty of Law’s Integrated Practice Curriculum includes a third year placement with a supervising lawyer in lieu of articling, the latter of which is the industry’s long-standing apprenticeship model.” 

“The only difficulties I understand graduates are having in finding employment is in the bigger firms in particularly Toronto -- or maybe exclusively in Toronto – that are having some difficulty with the condition that has been enforced since the institutionalization of the law school: that our students at Lakehead University law school receive their experiential training and practical training as part of the curriculum,” he said.”

https://www.tbnewswatch.com/local-news/local-law-grads-articling-for-dream-job-despite-non-requirement-406879

https://www.lakeheadu.ca/academics/departments/law/practice_placements

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2 hours ago, lau said:

Can you elaborate on this? Which schools are doing this well? The u of c seems to be promoting its new curriculum in terms of producing practice-ready students.

Lol...practice ready...as if. 

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I graduated in the past year from the Faculty of Law.

Some of these comments are off the mark.

Should students really want 'practical experience' (i.e. working for free) instead of actually learning the law in a classroom setting?

It seems to be a common refrain that students want more 'practical experience' and want to be 'practice ready'. As an articling student now, let me say that learning practice skills is not the best use of your time in law school. Your goal is to first learn the law, and then become a lawyer.

There are two law school models: the full academic approach (used by the premiere law schools), and the 'practice-ready' approach (used by the newer law schools or at law schools where students cannot get articles). The U of A falls into the first category, but still offers a large variety of practical learning opportunities, such as Student Legal Services (SLS), various clinic/placement courses (such as the JAG placement--the only such placement in Canada, the Human Rights Commission placement, the Alberta Utilities Commission placement).

You will be a far better lawyer by spending the time in law school to learn how the law works, learn the underlying currents beneath the law, and learn a great deal of substantive caselaw, instead of wasting a valuable year of law school cutting and pasting into statements of claim or making very simple court applications over and over again in a 'practical' year.

From the people who I have spoken with, all my peers have secured articles at this point. The Dean mentioned that the articling placement rate post-graduation this year was over 90% again. You will get an article - but it might not be a complete walk in the park to find one. Articling is meant for learning the practical aspects of the law.

How should a student decide which law school to attend?

When you are attending law school, you are learning the law of the jurisdiction you're in.

If you have an interest in practicing law in Alberta, you should attend the University of Alberta Faculty of Law as the largest and most comprehensive law school in Alberta.

Likewise, if you have an interest in practicing in BC, attend a BC law school.

Students forget that the purpose of law school is to learn the law. Provincial variations in the law are pronounced and you will be best served by learning the law of the jurisdiction where you want to practice.

Other considerations should come second to this consideration.

Don't waste your time learning the BC Business Corporations Act if you want to practice in some other province. While there will be some parallels with other provinces, you will miss out on picking up the 'mood' of the law in your own jurisdiction, you will get confused with different section numbers, you will learn cases which cannot be relied upon (cases from other jurisdictions are merely persuasive), et cetera.

In retrospect, how does the University of Alberta Faculty of Law look to me?

In my view I made the right choice to attend the U of A Faculty of Law because I was taught by very well-respected and knowledgeable professors, I made close friends, and came out of law school a different person than when I entered.

Professors:

Tenured professors (not sessional instructors) give a law school its academic reputation. I found that my professors were generally excellent teachers and many (if not all) had published widely. In many cases U of A profs have written texts or compiled casebooks that are used to teach the subject across the country. However, it should be noted that there were a few professors who I stayed away from, either because of reputation or past experience.

I would encourage you to meet your professors outside of class (in office hours or otherwise) and try to get to know them a bit. They are brilliant minds. In practice you will get a kind of spring in your step when you consult Bruce Ziff's book for a file you are working on and remember that he taught you property law.

Quality of legal education:

The Faculty of Law is fiercely competitive, but not in a mean-spirited way. To get good grades, I had to work harder than I ever did in my undergraduate degree, principally because of the strict curve (which is a feature universal to law schools). In the end, this forced me to learn more of the law and become a better future lawyer. But for some people it was disheartening. I observed a sour attitude toward the law school itself among some students that were not doing as well as they did in their undergrad. Everyone likes to get positive reinforcement and it is hard not to do so.

The law I learned was current, very detailed, and accurate. Professors had an encyclopedic knowledge of the law and wanted to share it.

Atmosphere:

When you attend orientation, YOU MUST talk to a few of your peers. Get to know even one person. There are lots of opportunities to do this. This will be the key to building friendships. Remember that everyone is new and knows no one. A small group of friends will greatly assist in your perception of the atmosphere of the law school.  It will also help you get through difficult moments, like a crunch of assignments or exams.

The atmosphere otherwise is quite diverse. You have people who love to go out and have a good time (this dies off considerably after first year), others who get involved with a particular club, and others who simply study together in the library. You will probably find a social group you will fit with at the school. Many law students tend to have some unusual quirk to their personality. The perception that U of A is a 'party' school is overblown, in my opinion. Especially after first year. There are a few people who like to 'go out' but not everyone. When you are out socially, everyone is friendly and open. That was a really nice feature of the school.

Location:

The City of Edmonton is becoming more 'trendy' in an underground hipster kind of way. The U of A is located in Old Strathcona which is a very diverse area that is filled with students, independent retail and restaurants and bars. The population of the greater City area is about 1.4 million. You will find cool neighbourhoods and stuff to do. But there are rougher areas as well. I do not agree with the claim that there is 'nothing to do'. You can go to small coffee shops, a few of Canada's 'best new restaurants', concerts and events, festivals, etc. The City is not quite as urban as Toronto or Montreal, however. The city is more politically left wing than anywhere else in Alberta, if that is your thing. Some Edmonton residents are pretty standard suburban white people.

Career services:

I won't comment on this as I understand the department has been revamped and is under new leadership this year.

Course selection:

Upper year courses are varied and there are many niche courses. You can take a full complement of in depth business law courses (like trusts, judgment enforcement, personal property security, etc), international law (public intl. law, intl. human rights, intl. environment, intl. criminal); aboriginal law, health law, etc. This is a strength but it could still be improved further with more specialized courses.

The popular upper=year courses fill up on the day registration opens, but usually spaces will open up in September if you really want to get in. This is a weaker area - there seems to be more demand than spaces for a number of courses and students are inevitably disappointed every year. This was one of my frustrations at U of A law.

Library:

The library is physically large meaning that you can generally find a place to study. As for library holdings, they are extensive, but some of the titles are out of date due to budget reductions. Librarians are a mixed bag, there are a few really excellent librarians who can really help you with legal research, while others are less capable and don't understand the law (but do understand libraries).

Building:

The Law Centre is a modernist, brutalist style building that has had various modifications over the years which has debased its original elegant concrete and glass character. If you don't like architecture from that era you won't like it.

Campus:

Beautiful. The U of A campus is enormous. If you want to get away from the law building there are many other areas to study that are comfortable and tucked away. There are a variety of food stalls in hub mall which provide cheap and tasty meals. Very nice (but busy) gym and sports complex on campus. Two decent on-campus bars. (Law Centre is near a few off-campus bars as well)

Future career:

U of A students get jobs mostly in Alberta, with an emphasis on Edmonton, many more in Calgary, and rural areas. I know of several who are articling in Toronto as well. Vancouver is not a great legal market...salaries are the same or lower than Edmonton but housing is twice as much.

All in all

Choose a law school in a province where you want to practice. And have fun!! Law school will be a time like no other in your life: challenging, fast paced, intense and possibly life changing. The U of A is a very good law school and I have not regretted my decision to attend. 

One other thing I would add is that the U of A is not a hand-holding school. Don't expect to have everything spelled out and arranged for you. For some of my peers I think this was a bit tough. Whether it comes to graduation requirements, class selection, extra-curricular activities to participate in, social decisions, scholarship availability, or grading, you will be treated as an adult and you will have to look for your own path and do your own research. Some other schools might take a more active approach to things like this than the U of A. This mindset extends to the larger university administration which you might encounter if you get involved with a non-law extra curricular group or wish to take one of your options outside of law (which you are allowed to do). 

Edited by 2017grad
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The purpose of the lecture is for the professor to: Confirm to you that you're on the right track (i.e. you've done the aforementioned Reading stage correctly and understand what the topic is, why you're doing the reading, and that you know what you need to know) Clarify anything in the readings and/or correct any mistakes/things missing from your understanding/notes or the summaries/CANs you've relied on Provide you with their unique perspective/opinion/approach to the topic at hand. You're going to keep this in mind when writing your exam in order to cater to their beliefs, prejudices. For example, if you have a feminist professor, don't argue that sex work should be criminalized on an exam. Present both sides to the argument, and in one sentence say that you support it even if you don't. As a future lawyer, you're going to be arguing a lot of things you don't agree with or believe in for your own personal gain. Might as well start early   Give you any hints about the exam. Professors notice if/when the herd thins out during the school year and some times will be inclined to reward students for attending. There have been multiple times that I've gotten useful hints about exams from a professor simply for being present during a boring lecture in the middle of October Exams - Exam-writing is a skill. Learn it. Read books on how to develop the skill. My recommendation is "Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades" by Alex Schimel. Create your own outline. In your 5 to 15 page outline, you should have every piece of the "what you need to know" part of each of your readings. There should be absolutely no superfluous bullshit, fluff or fat on your outline. You've literally condensed the entire course into those 5 to 15 pages. Your casebook, other peoples outlines/CANs, etc were all just tools for you to arrive at your own outline.  Learn your outline cold. I mean cold. This doesn't only mean just memorizing it. You should be able to open up ExamSoft and type out the blackletter law part of your future exam answer on demand and at near-lightning speed. The only class that I actually did this properly for was the one I finished at the top (and despite missing a major issue on the exam) and the other class that I did this, but sort of half-assed, I got an A- despite writing one paragraph for a question worth 33% question because I blanked out. Once you've learned the outline cold, take a few old exam questions and do timed exams on ExamSoft. Your focus is to type out the blackletter law as you've been doing and then actually apply it to the facts. Review your answer by yourself, then with a professor (if you can reach them/they'll allow this) and finally compare against old exam answers. Many people will disagree with this but once you do a few of these timed exams, you'll start to notice repeating patterns in terms of the issues tested, answer structures, etc (there can only be so many and also many professors are creatures of habit). 
    • Had a similar thing happen: What can you tell me about person X? Should I know person X? They mentioned you in their interview... I have no idea who this person is...
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