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I am interested in maybe clerking at a court, but I understand for positions in 2020 I would have to apply this winter. I am wondering if anyone has any advice or experience regarding the application process. I'm thinking the federal court, federal court of appeal or the Ontario court of appeal. I have decent grades out of 1L (2 B, 5 B+ and 1 A-), but I believe I am lacking in legal experience on my resumé.

How important are grades when applying for a clerkship, and more generally, how could I stand out as a candidate with little legal experience?

Thanks

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Posted (edited)

Grades are hugely important. Yours might be a bit low for OCA (depending on school.)

What do you mean by legal experience? No one has that in law school. 

Edited by providence

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For appellate clerkships, those grades will be hard to get over. Maybe if you publish something or get a good RA job, those might help. You can apply again next year as well.

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3 hours ago, PoutineKing said:

I am interested in maybe clerking at a court, but I understand for positions in 2020 I would have to apply this winter. I am wondering if anyone has any advice or experience regarding the application process. I'm thinking the federal court, federal court of appeal or the Ontario court of appeal. I have decent grades out of 1L (2 B, 5 B+ and 1 A-), but I believe I am lacking in legal experience on my resumé.

How important are grades when applying for a clerkship, and more generally, how could I stand out as a candidate with little legal experience?

Thanks

Grades are low for FCA and OCA. Possible for FC. You have a better chance if you've gained experience in the areas of law that these courts deal with - immigration and refugee, intellectual property, taxation, etc. Clinic experience will help if it's in these areas of law. I know people who did clinics in tax and immigration, for example, with B+ averages who are at the FC and FCA. 

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Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

What kind of grades does one generally need for the FCA and OCA? 

Top 10% of the class at least. Well above the curve. At least, it used to be. Will somewhat depend on school as they will go deeper into some schools and from other schools you will need to be almost at the top of the class to get a sniff. Bilingualism is an asset especially for federal courts.

Edited by providence
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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, providence said:

Top 10% of the class at least. Well above the curve. At least, it used to be. Will somewhat depend on school [...]

10% seems a bit high, and I don't believe there's any strict filtration system that closes the door to anyone under an A average (maybe at the SCC, but I'd still like to think that exceptions are made in special circumstances).

I'd advise anyone interested in clerking to [1] have above average grades, period; [2] apply broadly to appellate and trial division alike, and be open to different regions in Canada (the big cities are typically the most competitive); and [3] realize that, like pretty much any position, the better your grades, the better your chances, duh, but if you don't apply you have zero chances, so just apply.

Sure, it's hard work to go through the process of applying to any job. And maybe if you have straight D's an SCC clerkship is out of the question.

Otherwise, OP if you want the job go for it. Also, depending on your school, your Fall grades will be included in your transcripts, meaning they can raise (or lower) your average making you a more competitive candidate.

20 hours ago, PoutineKing said:

 how could I stand out as a candidate with little legal experience?

Though your role may vary depending on the court and region, the job mostly requires writing and editing skills and research skills. It shouldn't be hard to find experience to show of your skills here; and as Jaggers notes above, getting published or working as an RA may help set you apart from those who only have their grades to show. If you can't get that far, edit a journal or blog, and write about the law whenever the chance arises. It's always great to have published work, and it doesn't have to be a law journal to count.

Also, since your clients would be judges, it wouldn't hurt to be able to demonstrate diplomacy and tactfulness and some level of maturity (not necessarily maturity in terms of age, mind you, but rather being able to handle advising judges and being comfortable with telling them they may be wrong while also giving deference considering their lifetime of experience and the fact that you're not even a lawyer yet.) For the latter skills, taking on leadership and volunteer roles may be useful.

Finally, don't overlook subject matter expertise. For one, if you're interested in appellate courts, perhaps you may want to show off your administrative law chops. Further, if you're applying to the Federal Courts you should know the scope of its jurisdiction, and be able to show off at least some expertise in an area it hears with regularity.

Hope that helps, and good luck.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
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Based on the discussion I take it that grades need not be quite as high for trial level courts?  B+ average would be ok?  For someone interested in criminal and possibly family law work, would a trial level court provide a more useful experience for practice?  And do these courts look for different qualifications/experience than appellate courts, or is that fairly consistent across the board?

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Anything less than an A average likely eliminates you at the SCC. Maybe a B+ average with a truly exceptional application; but the SCC selects from the best of the best. As in, the SCC will (and regularly does) turn down medalists for clerkships. The same is also true of at least the ONCA and the BCCA, to a slightly lesser extent -- those courts tend to hire from the top of the class, with many of those clerks going on to clerk at the SCC later. You might be able to squeak into the ONCA or the BCCA if you're outside the top 10% of your class, but it's unlikely. 

The FCA is about on par with other appellate courts across the country. Not as insanely competitive as the BCCA/ONCA, but it still hires only exceptionally strong students. If you're outside the top 10% of the class, you're going to have difficulty at the FCA or other appellate courts (unless you're fluently bilingual and/or have other exceptional skills or experience). 

Trial courts are less competitive. If you're personable and good at interviews, you might want to aim for an FC clerkship -- those judges hire their clerks individually, so they're more likely to hire someone they click with than just hire the person with the highest grades. With your grades, and assuming good fall grades (i.e. a few more As), I'd recommend trying all the appellate courts and trial courts that you're interested in. You never know what will happen. If you really want an appellate court, you could also clerk at a trial court for your articles and then clerk at an appellate court -- I think at least the ONCA and the FCA will allow you to do that (likely others too). 

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On 6/18/2018 at 7:22 PM, IllegalBeagle said:

Based on the discussion I take it that grades need not be quite as high for trial level courts?  B+ average would be ok?  For someone interested in criminal and possibly family law work, would a trial level court provide a more useful experience for practice?  And do these courts look for different qualifications/experience than appellate courts, or is that fairly consistent across the board?

B+ might be okay. It's still quite competitive so around A- is probably ideal, but if you have a killer writing sample / lots of research experience then that would definitely offset a lower average. The interview is also very important - the judges want somebody who they can get along with. 

If you're interested in crim and family (and litigation in general) then Superior Court clerkship would probably be a better option for you over the Federal Court. Federal Court you'd be dealing with A LOT of intellectual property law as well as some immigration and just general admin here and there. Superior Court / ONCA will give you exposure to almost every kind of law, on the other hand.

Nothing stopping you from doing more than one clerkship, either. The Superior Court only accepts articling students as clerks so if you want trial level experience definitely would encourage you to apply there for articling. Then after that you can go on to apply to the other Courts which allow non-articling students to clerk.

 

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On 7/6/2018 at 8:47 AM, legallyblonde9 said:

B+ might be okay. It's still quite competitive so around A- is probably ideal, but if you have a killer writing sample / lots of research experience then that would definitely offset a lower average. The interview is also very important - the judges want somebody who they can get along with. 

If you're interested in crim and family (and litigation in general) then Superior Court clerkship would probably be a better option for you over the Federal Court. Federal Court you'd be dealing with A LOT of intellectual property law as well as some immigration and just general admin here and there. Superior Court / ONCA will give you exposure to almost every kind of law, on the other hand.

Nothing stopping you from doing more than one clerkship, either. The Superior Court only accepts articling students as clerks so if you want trial level experience definitely would encourage you to apply there for articling. Then after that you can go on to apply to the other Courts which allow non-articling students to clerk.

 

ONCA does not accept applicants once they are out of law school either. 

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But you can still apply in third year, which means you article/clerk elsewhere, then clerk at the Court of Appeal. 

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I'm not sure if this is true for every school - but at least at Ottawa U it's recommended that you receive a Dean's letter for ONCA and SCC applications. You have to apply for that letter and the cut off for the application for ONCA is mid-B+ (which would be just shy of top 10% - during my time at Ottawa U top 10% was above mid-B+ average). For the SCC the cut off was A- average. 

Now, it's true that you can apply to those spots without the Dean's letter -  but I would think the reason for the cut-off is because the faculty doesn't believe that anything below those averages is competitive. I would think the same is true for FCA - I had a high B+ average and received interviews there with that average. I'm not sure how low you could go for the FC or Ontario Superior Court - but I doubt that anything below a B+ is competitive. 

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In my (limited) experience + anecdotes:
 

Trial courts / appellate courts outside BC / ON - B+ average minimum

BCCA / ONCA - A- average, or top 10%

SCC - A average for truly competitive app, A- or high B+ with strong French + softs + LORs

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On 7/9/2018 at 5:07 PM, resipsa said:

In my (limited) experience + anecdotes:
 

Trial courts / appellate courts outside BC / ON - B+ average minimum

BCCA / ONCA - A- average, or top 10%

SCC - A average for truly competitive app, A- or high B+ with strong French + softs + LORs

How do you approximate what percentage of the class you're in? I don't think that information is provided to us, but is it something we can ask for?

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45 minutes ago, Hathi said:

How do you approximate what percentage of the class you're in? I don't think that information is provided to us, but is it something we can ask for?

Depends on the school- at U of T you get notification of distinction (top 10%) on your transcript. That may just be due to our inscrutable grading system. Ask your CDO?

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1 hour ago, Hathi said:

How do you approximate what percentage of the class you're in? I don't think that information is provided to us, but is it something we can ask for?

At Ottawa U you can request your ranking at the end of each year. A criterion to meet "Dean's List" used to be that you had to be within the top 10%. Therefore if that designation was on your transcript you knew that you were within that percentile. I'm not sure whether that criterion still exists now though.  

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1 hour ago, Hathi said:

How do you approximate what percentage of the class you're in? I don't think that information is provided to us, but is it something we can ask for?

You’re at Osgoode, aren’t you? Our transcripts have the class distribution of grades on the back page. The top ~12% or so get A/A+, with the A+ range normally being 1% of that. So if you’re a mid-A  student, say at or around an 8.0 gpa, you’re top 10% (and likely close to a top 5%).

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38 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

You’re at Osgoode, aren’t you? Our transcripts have the class distribution of grades on the back page. The top ~12% or so get A/A+, with the A+ range normally being 1% of that. So if you’re a mid-A  student, say at or around an 8.0 gpa, you’re top 10% (and likely close to a top 5%).

Super helpful, thanks!

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