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Cambridge vs UofT

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Posted (edited)

I am currently in the process of deciding whether to attend UofT or Cambridge for law for a JD or BA in law. Here is a bit of background. I am from BC, but am interested in practicing law either in Toronto, New York, or other large international legal markets, such as London. This being said, I would like the option to practice in Canada, as I don't like the idea of not being able to return home and work if something arises. I know the general knowledge that one must go where he/she wants to practice and I also know that UK degrees can be looked down upon. My reasons for going to Cambridge would primarily be for the educational experience itself and the international opportunities. I feel that I could justify my choice to Canadian employers, as it is not like I couldn't get into a law school in Canada. My reasons for going to UofT are that it would likely set me up well to work in big law in Toronto or New York. At Cambridge, I would be doing the 2 year degree, so if I did decide to come back to Canada I could theoretically be done the NCA exams at the time I would be graduating from UofT anyways (although I know there is a huge difference between finishing the exams and securing an articling position). I know that going to Cambridge is considered risky and that people often suggest doing an LLM abroad instead. Does anyone have firsthand experience with how large firms view degrees from Oxbridge and whether I would be seriously hindering myself by missing out on the networking/summer opportunities that UofT has to offer? Further, because the degree at Cambridge is more of an academic degree, I would be missing out on opportunities such as volunteering at a legal clinic. It is hard for me to believe that employers would not see the merit of a Cambridge degree or an alternative route, but based on what I have read on the forum, the far safer bet for employment is to get a Canadian degree. I have spoken to grads from both UofT and Cambridge and they all seemed happy with their decisions; however, those who went to Cambridge were practicing in London, which may make a difference. Financially, both degrees will cost me the same amount due to scholarships/bursaries. Any insight would be much appreciated. 

Edited by kmss5923

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To practice in Canada, you have to be licensed regardless of where you went to school, and as you know, if that is outside of Canada, that entails NCA exams and so on. Cambridge is a good school with a good reputation, but it's not going to license you to work in Canada. If you work in New York or London, you will be licensed there but will still have to jump through hoops (and find a job) to work in Canada. People who go to U of T and work in NY can generally do both the Ontario and the NY bar exams right after graduation, work in NY and not need to do NCA exams later if they return to Canada, so that would seem to be an easier route that allows access to a major market but the ability to return to Canada as opposed to a Cambridge degree, where your networking will all be done across the ocean. (Some Canadian firms have NY offices so it is relatively easy to transfer back. There aren't many firms with Toronto and London offices.) It would seem to me that U of T makes more sense for you. 

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I think I'd disagree with providence. If you want a realistic shot at working in London or NY, U of T is a pretty bad bet. ~5% of their students go to NY. Approximately zero go (straight) to London. 

If you want to have NY, London, and Toronto open to you, I think you need to go to a foreign school. Harvard or Yale would both be good. I can't seem to find stats on what percentage of Cambridge law graduates go on to become lawyers, so I can't adequately comment on whether Cambridge is a good choice. 

But yeah, if you need the option of practicing in NY or London, U of T is a bad choice. 

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

I think I'd disagree with providence. If you want a realistic shot at working in London or NY, U of T is a pretty bad bet. ~5% of their students go to NY. Approximately zero go (straight) to London. 

If you want to have NY, London, and Toronto open to you, I think you need to go to a foreign school. Harvard or Yale would both be good. I can't seem to find stats on what percentage of Cambridge law graduates go on to become lawyers, so I can't adequately comment on whether Cambridge is a good choice. 

But yeah, if you need the option of practicing in NY or London, U of T is a bad choice. 

Well yeah, Harvard or Yale would be better overall, but OP is accepted to Cambridge and U of T so out of those two, if Toronto has to be one of their options and London OR NY the other, U of T makes more sense. Cambridge would make more sense if OP wanted London and NY to be their options, or wanted to go to Asia. 

Not that many people at U of T want to go to NY, so I'm not sure the number going to NY tells you much. OP will need pretty good grades, but Toronto does not rule out NY and it is at least theoretically possible. And I wasn't looking at U of T for access to London. 

From what I understand, getting licensed to practice in London can be a lengthier and more complicated process than it is here... then add getting licensed here as well and it seems quite onerous. 

Edited by providence
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Just now, providence said:

Well yeah, Harvard or Yale would be better overall, but OP is accepted to Cambridge and U of T so out of those two, if Toronto has to be one of those options and London OR NY the other, U of T makes more sense. Cambridge would make more sense if OP wanted London and NY to be their options, or wanted to go to Asia. 

Not that many people at U of T want to go to NY, so I'm not sure the number going to NY tells you much. OP will need pretty good grades. And I wasn't looking at U of T for access to London. 

From what I understand, getting licensed to practice in London can be a lengthier and more complicated process than it is here... then add getting licensed here as well and it seems quite onerous. 

Yeah, without knowing what Cambridge's grad stats look like I think this is all conjecture. But OP would need to be, what, top 10-15% at U of T to go to NY, realistically? Those aren't great odds. Compare that to the chances of getting a Toronto or NY big law job from Harvard or Yale and it looks like a bad bet. 

If OP wants the chance to go to NY or London, U of T is fine. But if OP needs or otherwise would be unsatisfied with not having that chance, they'd be better off at Cambridge (if their grad stats are good) or waiting a year and applying to US schools.

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Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Do you have a UK/EU citizenship, can you get one from your parents/grandparents? This REALLY matters in terms of tuitions you’re paying, public fundings and employment. It matters much more than you think, especially I assumed you didn’t grow up in there, thus have no real “boarding school connections”.
  2. Do you care that you’re getting a Bachelor instead of JD? Keep in mind you’re doing undergrad again in the UK, which means your training/licensing years will be longer than your North American counterparts. 
  3. Do you care about “jumping loops”? In general, I found it’s much easier for foreign grads to pass the UK bar than getting the Canadian license via NCA. 
  4. How much money do you want? NY gives you the most $$$, followed by the Canadian legal market, FOLLOWED by UK/EU. I found the salary given in the UK (even in London) is a joke compare to North America.
  5. How much do you REALLY care about the Cambridge title? I cannot give you any advice on that. It’s a great title to have, but it does not matter that much at the end of the day. If it’s Yale law vs UofT, Yale all the way; but Cambridge, it’s not even Oxford. 
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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Yeah, without knowing what Cambridge's grad stats look like I think this is all conjecture. But OP would need to be, what, top 10-15% at U of T to go to NY, realistically? Those aren't great odds. Compare that to the chances of getting a Toronto or NY big law job from Harvard or Yale and it looks like a bad bet. 

If OP wants the chance to go to NY or London, U of T is fine. But if OP needs or otherwise would be unsatisfied with not having that chance, they'd be better off at Cambridge (if their grad stats are good) or waiting a year and applying to US schools.

I thought they wanted to have the option of Toronto or a bigger city. I don't know if anyone "needs" to be in NY or London, but I agree that if it's that important, I'd go to a top US school if I wanted NY more, Cambridge if I wanted London more (looks like most of their grads end up in London http://ba.law.cam.ac.uk/beyond-law-at-cambridge/ ) A very small proportion of Yale grads are working outside the US https://law.yale.edu/student-life/career-development/employment-data/class-2017-employment

Edited by providence
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1 minute ago, providence said:

I thought they wanted to have the option of Toronto or a bigger city. I don't know if anyone "needs" to be in NY or London, but I agree that if it's that important, I'd go to a top US school if I wanted NY more, Cambridge if I wanted London more (looks like most of their grads end up in London http://ba.law.cam.ac.uk/beyond-law-at-cambridge/ ) A very small proportion of Yale grads are working outside the US http://ba.law.cam.ac.uk/beyond-law-at-cambridge/

Good find. I agree with you. 

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, SassyLittleGenius said:

How much money do you want? NY gives you the most $$$, followed by the Canadian legal market, FOLLOWED by UK/EU. I found the salary given in the UK (even in London) is a joke compare to North America.

Magic circle firms pay more than Canadian firms. They all look like they're between £70,000 and £90,000, which puts them above all the big corporate firms. Except Davies, which is about equal (~£75,000).

Edited by BlockedQuebecois

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3 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Magic circle firms pay more than Canadian firms. They all look like they're between £70,000 and £90,000, which puts them above all the big corporate firms. Except Davies, which is about equal (~£75,000).

I have heard that London is really expensive though, so that money may not go as far there as in Toronto and may be why they have to pay more. 

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33 minutes ago, SassyLittleGenius said:

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Do you have a UK/EU citizenship, can you get one from your parents/grandparents? This REALLY matters in terms of tuitions you’re paying, public fundings and employment. It matters much more than you think, especially I assumed you didn’t grow up in there, thus have no real “boarding school connections”.
  2. Do you care that you’re getting a Bachelor instead of JD? Keep in mind you’re doing undergrad again in the UK, which means your training/licensing years will be longer than your North American counterparts. 
  3. Do you care about “jumping loops”? In general, I found it’s much easier for foreign grads to pass the UK bar than getting the Canadian license via NCA. 
  4. How much money do you want? NY gives you the most $$$, followed by the Canadian legal market, FOLLOWED by UK/EU. I found the salary given in the UK (even in London) is a joke compare to North America.
  5. How much do you REALLY care about the Cambridge title? I cannot give you any advice on that. It’s a great title to have, but it does not matter that much at the end of the day. If it’s Yale law vs UofT, Yale all the way; but Cambridge, it’s not even Oxford. 

Oxford and Cambridge are both top schools!

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In the UK:

"It generally takes at least six years to qualify as a solicitor, which includes a three-year law degree, a one-year LPC and finally a two-year training contract with a law firm. 

Becoming a fully-fledged barrister takes five years - including three years for your law degree, one year for your BPTC and a one-year pupillage in chambers."

3+1 years in Canada, and 3 years if you directly to NY. By the time you work the 2-3 extra years, you're making more. Plus, yes, LONDON is VERY expensive. 

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1 minute ago, providence said:

Oxford and Cambridge are both top schools!

HAHAHAHAHAHA, I know. Some of us might be biased because he/she went to the other school.

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36 minutes ago, providence said:

I have heard that London is really expensive though, so that money may not go as far there as in Toronto and may be why they have to pay more. 

It is insanely expensive. 70-90k pounds is not enough to live comfortably if you want to live in downtown London

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for all your insight! Does anyone know the process of going from Cambridge directly to NY? If I did this, I would still have to write the NCA exams if I ever wanted to return to Canada, correct? Can anyone elaborate on how difficult it would be to get my foot in the door at Bay St. if I go to Cambridge? Does anyone think a degree from Cambridge would be viewed negatively there? If I am proactive and work hard to connect with firms, could I potentially be okay getting a job there because my degree is from a reputable school? For the record, I reapplied this cycle with the goal of Harvard and the result was waitlisted with an interview post waitlist, which was a slightly better outcome than waitlisted with no interview last year, although disappointing. I was accepted at Columbia, which would have been amazing for the NY opportunities, but I just had no way of financing it. So, I completely understand that American schools may be better for my goals, but right now I am between UofT or Cambridge. Thanks again.

Edited by kmss5923

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Posted (edited)

I'd go to Cambridge and wouldn't think twice about it. Cambridge is a once in a lifetime opportunity. U of T is fine, but honestly it's pretty meh compared to Cambridge.

If you said something like "I want to only practice law in Ontario or maybe BC" then maybe I'd say U of T. It's easier and more straightforward to practice in Canada with a Canadian degree, as everyone will say.

But if you want the possibility of New York or London? Cambridge by a mile, 10 miles, 100 miles. Cambridge and Oxford can reasonably be compared to Harvard and Yale when it comes to "dat preftige" international opportunities, and what I call the swinging big dick factor. U of T wouldn't even be in the conversation. Doors would open to you in New York and most definitely in London that would never budge if you came from U of T.

Further, nobody (sane) will look down on Cambridge in Canada. It's one of the most elite and prestigious universities in the world. People will understand why you went there. I believe, but am not sure, that New York will consider your education equivalent to theirs, i.e. you can write the bar immediately upon graduation. Check to make sure, but I believe your education will be considered the same as if you attended a Canadian law school. You already have an undergraduate degree. From what I remember when I looked, New York takes a dim view of people trying to sit for the bar exam only 3 years removed from high school. 

You'd have to do the NCA to practice in Canada. It will be a pain. But so what? You'd have a year to take the exams to be in the same place time-wise as Canadian students, and once done, nobody will ever question it or care again. At least in a negative way. People may comment when they see Cambridge on your resume in an interested/positive way. A law degree (or any degree, really) from Cambridge will always be viewed as sort of awesome. And the experience of attending there would be like none other (except maybe Oxford).

If it were me, I'd say it's easily worth it. The most important thing for me that you will be losing by not attending in Canada is the local network. Your friends from school who will become your peers and coworkers when you graduate. The connections you make with professors, practicing lawyers, employers, and even judges in your time at law school. Although if you end up working in New York or London, going to U of T would be just as useless in this regard.

 

tl;dr -- I'd go to Cambridge and be thrilled about it. For your goals, the only schools that would give me pause would be Oxford or HYS. If you just wanted Canada, I'd go to the cheapest school in the province you want to be in because schools in Canada aren't different enough in quality or opportunity to justify paying more money to attend.

Edited by ludo
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Funny, I remember being recruited by Oxbridge when I was applying/searching. U of T didn't accept me. How can that be?

 

The answer should be obvious - U of T is a second degree entry program. Cambridge is not. It changes the game.

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Here's my point of view:

If you want to go to law school to become a lawyer in Canada (i.e., if that is the primary objective), then UofT is the better choice for multiple reasons.

If you want to go to law school for pretty much any other reason, then I'd go to Cambridge.

I think you really need to figure out where you want to be in 2-3 years time in order to make the right choice.

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A couple of considerations that haven't been discussed much so far:

Teaching style: UofT has the same teaching style as you're likely used to from undergrad (lectures + exams/essays). Cambridge has a very different style (disclaimer: I know this is true for undergrad law students, which I assume you are even though it's technically your second degree). You do have lectures, but once a week you (and 0-2 other students) write an essay on a topic and meet with your Supervisor (a Professor) to discuss your essays and the area of law. I've heard it's a lot of work (compared to just going to lectures and cramming before exams) but can also be very rewarding and interesting.

Area of law and foreign qualification: do you want to be a solicitor (transactional work) or a barrister (litigation)? If litigation, do you want to do criminal, corporate-commercial, other? I ask because these considerations could be determinative of your choice, in my opinion (for example, if you want to do criminal litigation I'd strongly suggest avoiding London, where criminal barristers are struggling to survive). Qualifying in London can be quite difficult: Solicitors must do a two year trainee contract, while barristers must do a 12-18 months pupillage. Both are paid, often very well. But, it is generally harder to go from London -> Toronto, in terms of qualifying as a practicing lawyer. This is because a London lawyer coming to Toronto has to go through the NCA process which can take a long time, whereas a Toronto lawyer has a relatively easier path to becoming a London solicitor (no trainee contract required, can actually start working right away) but a more difficult path to becoming a London barrister (anywhere from 3-18 months of pupillage). However, this just takes into account qualification - I can't speak to how easy it would be for a Toronto lawyer to find a job in London or vice versa (though I know people who have gone both ways, so it's definitely doable). As for New York, my understanding is that New York will be equally accessible to you from either London or Toronto from a qualifying standpoint, as with either you'll just have to write the NY bar - but again, I can't speak to how easy it would be to find a job.

I'd imagine that you will be able to get a job in any of Toronto, London, and New York from either school if you get top grades at whatever school you choose - so perhaps the best option is to choose the school you feel you'll do best at (if you already have a social network in Toronto or Cambridge, how comfortable you are living abroad, money issues).

Either are great options. Personally, putting aside tuition and cost of living differences (I'm not too familiar with that), I'd probably choose Cambridge just for the fun of it.

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4 hours ago, kmss5923 said:

Thank you for all your insight! Does anyone know the process of going from Cambridge directly to NY? If I did this, I would still have to write the NCA exams if I ever wanted to return to Canada, correct? Can anyone elaborate on how difficult it would be to get my foot in the door at Bay St. if I go to Cambridge? Does anyone think a degree from Cambridge would be viewed negatively there? If I am proactive and work hard to connect with firms, could I potentially be okay getting a job there because my degree is from a reputable school? For the record, I reapplied this cycle with the goal of Harvard and the result was waitlisted with an interview post waitlist, which was a slightly better outcome than waitlisted with no interview last year, although disappointing. I was accepted at Columbia, which would have been amazing for the NY opportunities, but I just had no way of financing it. So, I completely understand that American schools may be better for my goals, but right now I am between UofT or Cambridge. Thanks again.

I don't know if most of us know enough to really advise you. But it doesn't look to me like many Cambridge grads go to NY. And the distance could be problematic for interviewing etc. I would check with Cambridge to see if they can give you stats/information as to how possible that is. I would guess that the people who work in NY from Cambridge get hired by London firms that have NY offices. And as was pointed out, the process of becoming a lawyer in Britain entails several years of study. 

If you go to Cambridge and want to go to Bay then you have to do NCAs. It's not that a Cambridge degree is looked at negatively - of course it is a top school, but law is jurisdictional and Cambridge is not in this jurisdiction.

If NY is your top choice and you can't afford the US, and you want Toronto as an option, then U of T would make more sense than Cambridge.     

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