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Tanny213

What type of Law is each school known for?

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I’d like to offer the contrarian position.

The only sense in which your school matters is in providing a platform for you to obtain a job along the way to a career.* Law schools do not make lawyers, they make stem cells that can become lawyers, while providing some minor skills development in some cases (principally, litigators tell me that moots really are helpful in developing your rudimentary advocacy skills). I don’t think my corporate law prof at UT was a good teacher in any respect - I would have learned more if they’d cut out class time and increased required readings - but it has not even slightly impacted my ability to learn how to practice corporate law. I don’t even practice Canadian law, and I wouldn’t say my colleagues who attended US schools, learning US law had anything resembling a meaningful advantage over me when we started. If I was simply too blind to notice the advantage that existed, it has long since evaporated. Law school does not make you a lawyer, lawyering does. Asking which faculty teaches such-and-such best reflects a primarily academic approach to picking a school. If you’re not interested in being a legal academic, I would dismiss the question entirely.

So what does that leave? Hiring. Reasonable people disagree on whether the school you go to really does impact your hirability - some think certain schools place better with given classes of employers because of institutional reasons (eg UT has the highest admissions standards, so all UT students are seen as coming from a more competitive context; McGill has a strong history placing on the SC, creating network effects, and is reliably bilingual) and some think a given student could obtain the same outcome no matter where they go. I think the latter is a poor argument - it assumes network effects are non-existent and that the ‘noise’ that gets read into your resume is zero, both of which are implausible. Others will just say it’s not ‘impossible’ to obtain any outcome from any school (except going to a firm in NY or HK or London, etc), which carries a degree of truth but ignores the reality that greater precision is possible.

Now let me back track a minute. You listed areas of law, not jobs. I may be wrong, but that reads to me like a standard applicant - you likely have not taken any serious look into the careers of lawyers. The way you break up categories suggests you’re basically as unfamiliar with lawyering as a career as I am with civil engineering - bridges are involved?

Law school will cost you three years of life and somewhere between $30k and $150k in costs, broadly speaking. Plus the opportunity cost. Plus, in my experience, a general sense of sunk costs - people will pursue lawyering even as they hate it to avoid the sense they made the wrong choice. And let me be clear, a number of my classmates are in careers they strongly dislike, or already left practice altogether. That’s a big investment just for things to not work out. I’m not saying it’s the most likely outcome, but I would strongly, strongly suggest that you spend time - a year even - really learning what lawyers do and deciding there is a real lawyer job (or two or three) you actually want before making this mortgage-sized investment. I think going to law school without that research is equivalent to buying a home without viewing it. 

Most lawyers you speak to won’t agree, because most of them went to law school with only vague ideas, like you have. But that’s a form of confirmation bias - you’re not going to get the views of people who left law or hate their careers because they don’t seek out opportunities to mentor and don’t come on law forums. And most importantly, there is no significant downside to delaying the choice to go to law school for a year. 

That rant being done, here’s my advice:

- Research careers. Law school is short, a career is long, it’s self-evident which one matters more.

- If you identify lawyering jobs that are attractive to you, identify the locations you’d like to work in. If you want to keep corporate law open, do you want the option of NY? London? It’s my experience that people who say they’re interested in international law often mean a career with international elements and travel. Do you want to work in a specific Canadian city? Rural? Urban? This will effect your cost benefit analysis.

- Build an understanding of the real costs of each school, including living expenses. Price the three years because they vary wildly between schools.

- Make easy eliminations based on jurisdiction/price. If you want to be a rural crim lawyer in Alberta, UT is stupidly expensive and wasteful. If you want to go to NY, UA is a very poor choice.

- If you have a narrow range of job options you like, choose the school in the acceptable price/jurisdiction range that places best in those jobs. If not, go to the school with the broadest hiring reach, assessed in conjunction with price risk.

*As you can see, some people think it’s important to pick a city you like for the three years. As long as you prioritize the long term career over the short term of law school, consider any factors that materially impact your happiness. Likely those two will overlap - If you need to be near family to sustain your emotional wellbeing, there’s a good chance that will also mean you want to work near family. But don’t pick UT because it’s be fun to be in Toronto for three years even if you want to work in rural BC - the cost difference is simply too silly. 

Obviously, if you’re spending your parents’ money instead of your own and don’t feel a need to do so efficiently, then go nuts. 

Tl:dr is that if you ignore everything else in here, at the very least, the decision to go to law school ought to be based on a desire for researched careers and that means you need to spend preliminary time figuring out which careers you might enjoy, rather than which bodies of law, speaking abstractly, sound cool. The opposite approach works out fine for lots of people, but it also works out shitty for lots of people, so just put in a reasonable amount of research. Good luck. 

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On 9/14/2018 at 3:05 PM, TdK said:

The advice posted above is great. I'll add that no matter where you go to school, so long as you dedicate your time to achieving your goal, you can do it. I know it sounds fluffy, but those who are devoted and intelligent rise to the top, one way or another. Yes, some schools are better connected. Some students get solid jobs due, at least in part, to who they or their family members know. However, if you work hard and separate yourself from the pack, you'll get to where you want to be.

I'll mention Lakehead because it's generally forgotten (probably due to being too new and too north) and I chose Lakehead myself. Working in a firm for four months rather than being stuck in class for 3L is great, and better prepares students for the day-to-day practice of law. Now, you have practically zero networking opportunities to get to Toronto, if that's what you're going for. In saying that, I note that myself and a few others landed the coveted downtown TO positions despite our inability to name-drop lawyers or mention a single professor they knew. Those who demonstrate their dedication will succeed, no matter the school. I often joke that Lakehead simply provides an additional challenge.

As for what Lakehead is known for? Its inability to keep a dean for more than a couple years, clearly.

As others have said, pick a school and perhaps a city that suits you. At the very least, pick a school with a solid pub close by to drown your sorrows. Good luck, OP.

By way of example, I disagree with this quite a bit.

First, I don’t really believe anyone can be the A student and I definitely don’t agree that work ethic is the determining factor. I’ve long been told my experience with how much work law school requires (less than undergrad) is wildly inaccurate, and I certainly knew people who hung out at the library till late all 1L or described huge work loads and got Bs. I wouldn’t say I worked especially hard on the schoolwork, neither did my few close friends, and we all were in that top cohort. Some people just do school well and I believe whatever goes into that is most often already set by your early- to mid- 20s. (Whether that means they do anything else well is an entirely separate question.)

Second, as mentioned above, I don’t buy that there’s no noise in your resume by way of your school. Part of the reason is that I now help with hiring. A bigger part is that I believe from experience there are enough lawyers who think a B from a highly competitive school means more than a B from a less competitive one. On that point, I don’t just mean large firms - I include smaller practitioners I’m friends with.

Third, I don’t think name-dropping has much to do with anything. But if you don’t come from a family or prior professional context that gives you experience with how a class of lawyers you want to join socializes, thinks and represents themselves, exposure is helpful. People often frame this as acting like a straight white man with a cottage to get a corporate law job, but you just as well need to know how to get along with the criminal bar if that’s where you want to succeed, or the equivalent anywhere else - in any profession, at any income level, your ability to have fun and comfortable times with peers matters. 

I don’t mean to pick on @TdK. The points they advocate are all common positions. I just disagree and took this as the best post to frame the rebuttal. 

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5 hours ago, theycancallyouhoju said:

I’d like to offer the contrarian position.

The only sense in which your school matters is in providing a platform for you to obtain a job along the way to a career.* Law schools do not make lawyers, they make stem cells that can become lawyers, while providing some minor skills development in some cases (principally, litigators tell me that moots really are helpful in developing your rudimentary advocacy skills). I don’t think my corporate law prof at UT was a good teacher in any respect - I would have learned more if they’d cut out class time and increased required readings - but it has not even slightly impacted my ability to learn how to practice corporate law. I don’t even practice Canadian law, and I wouldn’t say my colleagues who attended US schools, learning US law had anything resembling a meaningful advantage over me when we started. If I was simply too blind to notice the advantage that existed, it has long since evaporated. Law school does not make you a lawyer, lawyering does. Asking which faculty teaches such-and-such best reflects a primarily academic approach to picking a school. If you’re not interested in being a legal academic, I would dismiss the question entirely.

So what does that leave? Hiring. Reasonable people disagree on whether the school you go to really does impact your hirability - some think certain schools place better with given classes of employers because of institutional reasons (eg UT has the highest admissions standards, so all UT students are seen as coming from a more competitive context; McGill has a strong history placing on the SC, creating network effects, and is reliably bilingual) and some think a given student could obtain the same outcome no matter where they go. I think the latter is a poor argument - it assumes network effects are non-existent and that the ‘noise’ that gets read into your resume is zero, both of which are implausible. Others will just say it’s not ‘impossible’ to obtain any outcome from any school (except going to a firm in NY or HK or London, etc), which carries a degree of truth but ignores the reality that greater precision is possible.

Now let me back track a minute. You listed areas of law, not jobs. I may be wrong, but that reads to me like a standard applicant - you likely have not taken any serious look into the careers of lawyers. The way you break up categories suggests you’re basically as unfamiliar with lawyering as a career as I am with civil engineering - bridges are involved?

Law school will cost you three years of life and somewhere between $30k and $150k in costs, broadly speaking. Plus the opportunity cost. Plus, in my experience, a general sense of sunk costs - people will pursue lawyering even as they hate it to avoid the sense they made the wrong choice. And let me be clear, a number of my classmates are in careers they strongly dislike, or already left practice altogether. That’s a big investment just for things to not work out. I’m not saying it’s the most likely outcome, but I would strongly, strongly suggest that you spend time - a year even - really learning what lawyers do and deciding there is a real lawyer job (or two or three) you actually want before making this mortgage-sized investment. I think going to law school without that research is equivalent to buying a home without viewing it. 

Most lawyers you speak to won’t agree, because most of them went to law school with only vague ideas, like you have. But that’s a form of confirmation bias - you’re not going to get the views of people who left law or hate their careers because they don’t seek out opportunities to mentor and don’t come on law forums. And most importantly, there is no significant downside to delaying the choice to go to law school for a year. 

That rant being done, here’s my advice:

- Research careers. Law school is short, a career is long, it’s self-evident which one matters more.

- If you identify lawyering jobs that are attractive to you, identify the locations you’d like to work in. If you want to keep corporate law open, do you want the option of NY? London? It’s my experience that people who say they’re interested in international law often mean a career with international elements and travel. Do you want to work in a specific Canadian city? Rural? Urban? This will effect your cost benefit analysis.

- Build an understanding of the real costs of each school, including living expenses. Price the three years because they vary wildly between schools.

- Make easy eliminations based on jurisdiction/price. If you want to be a rural crim lawyer in Alberta, UT is stupidly expensive and wasteful. If you want to go to NY, UA is a very poor choice.

- If you have a narrow range of job options you like, choose the school in the acceptable price/jurisdiction range that places best in those jobs. If not, go to the school with the broadest hiring reach, assessed in conjunction with price risk.

*As you can see, some people think it’s important to pick a city you like for the three years. As long as you prioritize the long term career over the short term of law school, consider any factors that materially impact your happiness. Likely those two will overlap - If you need to be near family to sustain your emotional wellbeing, there’s a good chance that will also mean you want to work near family. But don’t pick UT because it’s be fun to be in Toronto for three years even if you want to work in rural BC - the cost difference is simply too silly. 

Obviously, if you’re spending your parents’ money instead of your own and don’t feel a need to do so efficiently, then go nuts. 

Tl:dr is that if you ignore everything else in here, at the very least, the decision to go to law school ought to be based on a desire for researched careers and that means you need to spend preliminary time figuring out which careers you might enjoy, rather than which bodies of law, speaking abstractly, sound cool. The opposite approach works out fine for lots of people, but it also works out shitty for lots of people, so just put in a reasonable amount of research. Good luck. 

This. Tread carefully. I am only 1 year into practice and already know a decent number of people from for glad class who are out of law. For some, their careers failed to launch (e.g. they did not secure an articling position, or they did article but were not hired back, and still have yet to find and associate position 1 year later). Others practised law but after only 1 year decided they had already seen enough and determined law was not for them. These people either moved into other jobs (government; non-government but law adjacent gigs; etc). Others went back to school for other training. The motivations for these people leaving vary tons. But some common positions I have heard that I think are all legitimate qualms: they could not handle the long hours; the long hours despite being tolerable, were not worth actually tolerating on a ost-benefit scale because other professions paid similar wages to what they were making in law but a pension and an 8 to 4 lifestyle (albeit it seems those jobs have less earning potential long term); the work at the junior level was simply boring and uninteresting a lot of the time, and was not worth sticking out because they thought they would burn out of law before having enough experience to get the juicer tasks, anyway. 

 

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On 9/12/2018 at 11:59 AM, Tanny213 said:

Hello everyone, I was wondering about what each of the schools (mostly the ones in Ontario) were known for in terms of different divisions of law. Specifically, I was wondering if anyone knew which schools are best for the following subjects that I am looking to possibly pursue: Business Law, Constitutional Law, International Law, and Litigation (I realize Litigation is what a trial lawyer does, however, I'm sure some places are better at preparing young people for this than others).

Thank you!

I would agree with @theycancallyouhoju that this is overly broad. "Business law" encompasses many things. Do you mean working for a large, national law firm or do you mean working in a small law office that meets the needs of small businesses? Do you want to work in tax, or insolvency, or banking, or securities, or mergers, etc? "Constitutional law" isn't really an area of practice in the same way. Do you want to work for government providing opinions as to whether proposed legislation is constitutional and/or litigating that? Do you want to work in criminal law where Charter issues come up frequently? (Probably the most "constitutional law" you will do on a regular basis.) There are plenty of posts here about how "international law" isn't really a thing for the vast majority of new calls. Do you mean you want to do international business law? Be a lawyer in another country? (then you should study there.) "Litigation" again is very broad - criminal law? Defence or crown? Civil litigation? What kind - corporate litigation, or family litigation, or poverty law? You haven't thought about this much yet. Neither did I before law school, so this is not a criticism. But if you are picking a law school based on what they teach, you should probably give this more thought.

My personal opinion is that any law school can prepare you for any area of law, because law school just gives you a general background to get a legal job and you take it from there. However, some law schools may have opportunities, such as moots or clinics or a specific prof, that can scratch an itch you have and spark your interest and possibly give you an opportunity that will open a door or give you a talking point. Other law schools may have a reputation that can open more doors for you generally if you do well. But you can become some sort of a business lawyer, or criminal lawyer, or family lawyer, or litigator, from any school. When the schools say they specialize in X area, it is mostly just a marketing tool to get law students to go there. Law is supposed to be a general degree and inasmuch as people specialize, it is later in their careers.

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On 9/29/2018 at 1:47 PM, providence said:

My personal opinion is that any law school can prepare you for any area of law, because law school just gives you a general background to get a legal job and you take it from there. However, some law schools may have opportunities, such as moots or clinics or a specific prof, that can scratch an itch you have and spark your interest and possibly give you an opportunity that will open a door or give you a talking point. Other law schools may have a reputation that can open more doors for you generally if you do well. But you can become some sort of a business lawyer, or criminal lawyer, or family lawyer, or litigator, from any school. When the schools say they specialize in X area, it is mostly just a marketing tool to get law students to go there. Law is supposed to be a general degree and inasmuch as people specialize, it is later in their careers.

This is the correct answer. You don't learn how to be a lawyer at law school, because law schools aren't interested in teaching you how to be a lawyer, and frankly, they don't know how, because 80% of your teachers will never have practiced a day beyond articling, if that.

What you get out of law school is what you put in, so really it's the opportunities et al that separate law schools (beyond obvious stuff like location, tuition, etc.)

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17 hours ago, Chambertin said:

This is the correct answer. You don't learn how to be a lawyer at law school, because law schools aren't interested in teaching you how to be a lawyer, and frankly, they don't know how, because 80% of your teachers will never have practiced a day beyond articling, if that.

What you get out of law school is what you put in, so really it's the opportunities et al that separate law schools (beyond obvious stuff like location, tuition, etc.)

Lol my theory is that law schools teach you how to be clerks and profs. That's what they did so obviously that's what you do, right? 

On the other hand though, any practitioner I have had for a prof has been a complete disaster. They don't tend to know the entire area of law well enough to teach it with coherence. I appreciate the practical tips and expertise in a few areas, but it becomes a nightmare during exams. 

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6 hours ago, grishamlaw said:

Lol my theory is that law schools teach you how to be clerks and profs. That's what they did so obviously that's what you do, right? 

On the other hand though, any practitioner I have had for a prof has been a complete disaster. They don't tend to know the entire area of law well enough to teach it with coherence. I appreciate the practical tips and expertise in a few areas, but it becomes a nightmare during exams. 

This is interesting, because it really hasn't been my experience in 2L.

I would agree that I'm happy my 1L professors were academics, because the fields they teach are so broad. But I'm happy that my Securities Regulations professor is (or was) a securities lawyer for a large Bay Street firm – it allows him to add a certain number of "practice points" to classroom discussions. Maybe I'm losing something by having him teach that class instead of an academic and just don't know enough to know that I'm losing something (in the world of securities regulations, this is a distinct possibility), but I don't feel like I am. 

May I ask why you found exams with them were a nightmare?

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