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javathehut

McGill vs U of T - business & commercial law

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I'm fortunate to have received offers of admission from my top two Canadian choices - McGill and the Univeristy of Toronto, but I'm really struggling to decide which of the two will be a better long term choice for me. 

My context: 

  • I'm a mature student with work experience that is relevant to and has inspired an early interest in commerical and business law, though I recognize that interests can and do evolve over the course of one's degree.  
  • Because I've had time to work and save up money, I'm reasonably certain that I won't get much or anything in the way of financial assistance from either university (although I understand this could change for UofT in years 2 and 3 after I've burnt through my savings). 
  • I'm currently living in Ontario but not particularly attached to either Montreal or Toronto; that said, I do expect to practice in Toronto given the size of the legal market and my interests and language profile. It's also where I have a nascent network in the legal and business community that I hope to leverage during and after my studies.

McGill: 

  • In a word, the value proposition for McGill for me comes down to money. It's just a heck of a lot cheaper, even as an out of province student paying sticker, than UofT. When you take rent into consideration, this becomes even more the case. 
  • That said, I do weigh the opportunity cost of the additional half year of study that the McGill degrees require against the savings in tuition (yes, I know the degree can be done in 3 years, but everything I've heard from students there would seem to caution against this approach). 
  • I was accepted to McGill without any French interview, but I'm concerned that my language skills still won't be strong enough for me to excel at McGill. My French is OK but not great, by which I mean I can hold a conversation and get through a news article even if I have to guess at a few words.
  • I do have the option of taking the summer to really double down on my French but even then I'm not sure I'd be setting myself up for success given that the program is designed to be bilingual. 
  • I don't plan to practice in Quebec after graduation.  

Toronto: 

  • As best as I can tell, UofT has a very strong track record of placing students on Bay St. in the kinds of practice that I'm interested in right now, which is very appealing. 
  • The amount of debt is a big turn-off however; even with my savings, I know I'll be paying off my student loans for years afterwards. The rental / housing market in Toronto is mildly terrifying. 
  • I do feel that there is an intangible but significant advantage to studying where one wants to practice; I've heard that McGill does well in OCIs with Bay St. and New York firms, but even if the two schools are at par in this regard, I still feel like there is a networking advantage inherent in UofTs location. 

Bottom Line: 

Depending on the day of the week and the weather, I'm  leaning towards UofT but still having trouble deciding. The key questions seem to come down to: 

  • Will my French hold me back at McGill in a meaningful way (ie, can I not only survive, but thrive in a bilingual program as an anglophone with lackluster French?) 
  • Does UofT have enough of an advantage in terms of placements in business and commercial law to justify the signficiant tuition and cost of living differential? 
  • Would I be limiting my ability to build a strong network in Toronto by choosing McGill? Can this be disadvantage be ameliorated by seeking summer work / articling in Toronto? 

I know it's a good problem that I'm very fortunate to have, so I'm really looking for any help in challenging or affirming the assumptions and considerations that I'm relying on to make this significant (and potentially expensive) decision ! 

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U of T and McGill give you roughly equal opportunity at NY/American (not just NY) big law. U of T gives you a higher chance at Toronto big law for sure, but McGill - if you're in the top half of the class, you can definitely get into it if you have the interview skills and interest (you seem to at least have the latter for sure).

If you don't mind working in Montreal for corporate law, at least as a last resort (and your French skills won't hurt you if you're not into litigation), then McGill in aggregate gives you a higher chance at corporate law. Something like 70 percent of our graduates end up in some form of corporate big law firm when all cities are included. U of T is closer to 60, if that. As you noted, the costs are dramatically lower at McGill.

It really isn't that difficult to do it in 3 years. Do two law classes in your 1L summer and do your course selections carefully in 2L to manage work load and you can set yourself up for a fairly comfortable 3 years.

Don't ignore the benefit of doing it in 3.5. If you do poorly in 1L, you get a shot in 2L to up your GPA before the recruits.

Also be wary that Your GPA may drop in 2L (my GPA stayed the same but class rank dropped). So if you do well you can rush your degree and do it in 3.

Lastly, and this generally isn't recommended, you can do the NY and or Toronto recruits on a 3 year track. Then if you don't succeed, lengthen your degree to 3.5 and do it all again. Yes you can do this. Yes I know people who did and succeded the second time round.

 

McGill gives flexibility for corporate law that u of t doesn't. In many many ways.

Edited by pzabbythesecond

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14 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

U of T and McGill give you roughly equal opportunity at NY/American (not just NY) big law. U of T gives you a higher chance at Toronto big law for sure, but McGill - if you're in the top half of the class, you can definitely get into it if you have the interview skills and interest (you seem to at least have the latter for sure).

How many from McGill have gone down to NY in recent years?

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javathehut,

I don't agree with pzabbythesecond that French skills won't hurt you, re: Montreal corporate law.

That said, this isn't a cut and dry decision. Are you potentially interested in a joint degree (MBA)? Are you set on practicing in Canada, or are you interested in NY law? What areas of corporate law are you interested in, and are you potentially interested in a career outside of law longer-term?

 

In answer to your specific questions: 

Will my French hold me back at McGill in a meaningful way (ie, can I not only survive, but thrive in a bilingual program as an anglophone with lackluster French?) 

Not to impose my views, but French won't hold you back in law school; rather, it's a good opportunity. That said, as mentioned, I do think it can be an obstacle in the recruit and professionally longer-term.

Does UofT have enough of an advantage in terms of placements in business and commercial law to justify the signficiant tuition and cost of living differential? 

Depending on your answers to the above questions I posed, it absolutely can have enough of an advantage.

Would I be limiting my ability to build a strong network in Toronto by choosing McGill? Can this be disadvantage be ameliorated by seeking summer work / articling in Toronto? 

Yes. And, yes.

 

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9 minutes ago, jwms said:

I don't agree with pzabbythesecond that French skills won't hurt you, re: Montreal corporate law.

Have you done CaS? Are you a McGill student? What year? 

OP I said what I said knowing who of my classmates got corporate law jobs either in "1L" (McGill 2L winter) or the special recruit in the fall, and what the career office has said.

Firms explicitly told the candidates their anglisicm isn't a detriment to them given their interest in corporate law. While they're strong candidates, as you need to be, they're not medalists or DListers (most of them anyway).

16 minutes ago, jwms said:

How many from McGill have gone down to NY in recent years?

 Ranges from 5-15. But you definitely don't need to be top 5 or 10 numerically to get it. Top 20 percent and strong interview skills + genuine interest can get you the job for sure. Top third and you have a number of OCIs but they're harder to convert to in firms than Toronto just going off the number of people they invite back.

 

@theycancallyouhoju might be of assistance in terms of NY hiring between u of t and McGill. He's a u of t alum who headed down south. I've given you the McGill information I know about. I don't know what u of t numbers or stats are like.

Edited by pzabbythesecond

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I'm not a McGill student.

At some top firms in Montreal, the interview will be conducted partly in French. And French will be the first language of the vast majority of lawyers, and will the the language in the office, in some top firms. Having mediocre language skills could be challenging in that environment. Further, later in one's career it absolutely would be limiting aside from some exceptional instances/practice areas.

 

5-15 students? When was it 15? Are there any stats released on this? I'm very surprised by the 15 students figure. I'm actually surprised if it's been even more than 5-7 in recent years.

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3 minutes ago, jwms said:

I'm not a McGill student.

At some top firms in Montreal, the interview will be conducted partly in French. And French will be the first language of the vast majority of lawyers, and will the the language in the office, in some top firms. Having mediocre language skills could be challenging in that environment. Further, later in one's career it absolutely would be limiting aside from some exceptional instances/practice areas.

 

5-15 students? When was it 15? Are there any stats released on this? I'm very surprised by the 15 students figure. I'm actually surprised if it's been even more than 5-7 in recent years.

I've been quoted 5-15 when they counted people who went down after clerking, and people going to different cities. 

As your career develops then I imagine it'll start to slightly matter more, sure. But by then you'll have had years to improve your French. And that's ignoring the fact that OP likely has moved on from Montreal by then as they indicated.

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Assuming your mother tongue is English, Montreal will give you more opportunities to use French.  The goal is, by the time you graduate, you will be proficient in French to a point where you can use it to provide legal services.  

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25 minutes ago, Porkypig said:

Assuming your mother tongue is English, Montreal will give you more opportunities to use French.  The goal is, by the time you graduate, you will be proficient in French to a point where you can use it to provide legal services.  

Just a small comment here. While it’s true Montreal offers most basic French interactions I don’t think you can properly learn French to a degree acceptable for professional fields just learning through osmosis. I’ve lived here my whole life, in an anglophone community and managed to communicate for the most part in English. Some francophones would think my French is pitiful. Seriously I learned it for 14 years formally in addition to daily interactions, reading, etc. I also have family on both sides that communicate only in French  going to English uni and schools have worsened my skills and made me feel like I could wholly avoid using the language.

i would say you gotta be devoted to the task of learning it rather than simply trying to absorb it by living here. 

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9 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

U of T and McGill give you roughly equal opportunity at NY/American (not just NY) big law. U of T gives you a higher chance at Toronto big law for sure, but McGill - if you're in the top half of the class, you can definitely get into it if you have the interview skills and interest (you seem to at least have the latter for sure).

I am not sure if this is what you intended to convey, but your post implies that simply by virtue of going to U of T, you can get a Toronto big law job, even if your interview skills are below par. 

Your interview and networking skills have to be good regardless of where you go to school. 

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1 hour ago, OWH said:

I am not sure if this is what you intended to convey, but your post implies that simply by virtue of going to U of T, you can get a Toronto big law job, even if your interview skills are below par. 

Your interview and networking skills have to be good regardless of where you go to school. 

Yes thank you for clarifying that. Absolutely you still need interview skills and interest - at both schools.

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Thanks everyone for all the replies ! 

10 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

If you don't mind working in Montreal for corporate law, at least as a last resort (and your French skills won't hurt you if you're not into litigation), then McGill in aggregate gives you a higher chance at corporate law. Something like 70 percent of our graduates end up in some form of corporate big law firm when all cities are included. U of T is closer to 60, if that. As you noted, the costs are dramatically lower at McGill.

...

McGill gives flexibility for corporate law that u of t doesn't. In many many ways.

This is interesting. Does McGill publish hiring stats which allow for comparison with those put out by UofT? (I haven't been able to find them). 

 

10 hours ago, jwms said:

...
That said, this isn't a cut and dry decision. Are you potentially interested in a joint degree (MBA)? Are you set on practicing in Canada, or are you interested in NY law? What areas of corporate law are you interested in, and are you potentially interested in a career outside of law longer-term?

...

Will my French hold me back at McGill in a meaningful way (ie, can I not only survive, but thrive in a bilingual program as an anglophone with lackluster French?) 

Not to impose my views, but French won't hold you back in law school; rather, it's a good opportunity. That said, as mentioned, I do think it can be an obstacle in the recruit and professionally longer-term.

Does UofT have enough of an advantage in terms of placements in business and commercial law to justify the signficiant tuition and cost of living differential? 

Depending on your answers to the above questions I posed, it absolutely can have enough of an advantage.

Would I be limiting my ability to build a strong network in Toronto by choosing McGill? Can this be disadvantage be ameliorated by seeking summer work / articling in Toronto? 

Yes. And, yes.

 

I'm not interested in the joint MBA degree for a few reasons (cost, time, and the fact that I think my work experience already gives me a leg up in pursuing the kind of practice I'm interested in at the moment).

I'm certainly open to the idea of practicing in NY but not so dead set on it that I am willing to pay sticker at an American school. To your last question - my relevant career experience is around mergers and acquisitions but I wouldn't say definitively that this is where I'll end up (or even want to end up) after I complete my degree; I see a lot of value in being open to new practice areas that reveal themselves to me as I make my way through my legal education. 

10 hours ago, jwms said:

...French will be the first language of the vast majority of lawyers, and will the the language in the office, in some top firms. Having mediocre language skills could be challenging in that environment. 

This is the root of my fear about McGill. Law is (as best as I can tell from the outside) a very social profession, by which I mean to say a profession in which networking and building contacts count for a lot. I come from a line of work that is very similar in this respect, and I'm loathe to constrain my ability to build out the network that will support my future career aspirations in any way. 

I also take well the other points made about just how hard it is to learn French in Montreal - I've experienced some of this first hand when I've visited the city and tried to deploy my (admittedly shakey) French only to be rebuffed by a reply in English. It gets frusterating. And knowing myself, I worry that I'd just skate by with minimal French rather than walk away from 3 and a half years in Quebec fluent in Canada's second official language (which to be clear, would be amazing). 

All that being said, $39,000 > $9,000 so... 

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18 hours ago, javathehut said:

I'm currently living in Ontario but not particularly attached to either Montreal or Toronto; that said, I do expect to practice in Toronto given the size of the legal market and my interests and language profile. It's also where I have a nascent network in the legal and business community that I hope to leverage during and after my studies.

No brainer...go to U of T. 

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12 minutes ago, Constant said:

No brainer...go to U of T. 

Would u say it is true for other kinds of law like family that one should pick u of t over McGill? Or entertainment law? IP? 

I am having a hard time justifying the u of t price tag 

Edited by Megbean123

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50 minutes ago, javathehut said:

I'm not interested in the joint MBA degree for a few reasons (cost, time, and the fact that I think my work experience already gives me a leg up in pursuing the kind of practice I'm interested in at the moment).

I'm certainly open to the idea of practicing in NY but not so dead set on it that I am willing to pay sticker at an American school. To your last question - my relevant career experience is around mergers and acquisitions but I wouldn't say definitively that this is where I'll end up (or even want to end up) after I complete my degree; I see a lot of value in being open to new practice areas that reveal themselves to me as I make my way through my legal education. 

 

I brought up the MBA option for two reasons: one, if you're potentially interested in NY law -- even for a few years -- then you have a much better chance with that joint degree. And the pay difference between Canadian corporate law and NY is huge. Second, if you intend to practice law but may exit at some point in the future, the MBA can be a difference-maker. If neither of these points apply to you, then it absolutely is not worth it.

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9 minutes ago, Megbean123 said:

Would u say it is true for other kinds of law like family that one should pick u of t over McGill? Or entertainment law? IP? 

I am having a hard time justifying the u of t price tag 

Not to be rude, but haven't you gotten a lot of responses and advice about family law and UofT? 

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1 hour ago, jwms said:

Not to be rude, but haven't you gotten a lot of responses and advice about family law and UofT? 

Yep I want to know all there is to know and make sure i consider everything. Usually whenever I get an answer people have something new to contribute. I am finding it very difficult to pick between the schools. Ultimately no one has really shared their concrete experience with me about going into family post McGill in Toronto. Perhaps because family law is unpopular or something or it just isn’t a path many people take. The people I have asked from Montreal who left to Toronto all pursued IP, corporate or tax. 

Also I wanted to know if this particular poster said it was a “no brainer” due to the fact OP wants corporate law or a no brainer in general

Edited by Megbean123

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56 minutes ago, Megbean123 said:

Yep I want to know all there is to know and make sure i consider everything. Usually whenever I get an answer people have something new to contribute. I am finding it very difficult to pick between the schools. Ultimately no one has really shared their concrete experience with me about going into family post McGill in Toronto. Perhaps because family law is unpopular or something or it just isn’t a path many people take. The people I have asked from Montreal who left to Toronto all pursued IP, corporate or tax. 

Also I wanted to know if this particular poster said it was a “no brainer” due to the fact OP wants corporate law or a no brainer in general

Maybe reach out to people in the field on LinkedIn. Also, I've read many of your posts and it's clear that you want to go to U of T, and want people to tell you that it's ok for you to go there.

It's ok; go to U of T. You can always transfer out after 1L if you change your mind. No family law firm in Toronto gives a rat's ass where you go for law school. Just confirm this yourself by emailing senior lawyers at these firms and students. Not sure why you're repeating the same questions ad nauseum on lawstudents instead of reaching out to actual students and lawyers in the field. They could do more to help you make a decision than anons on a website. There are very few, if any, family lawyers and students on this website (from what I can tell). 

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21 minutes ago, Deadpool said:

Maybe reach out to people in the field on LinkedIn. Also, I've read many of your posts and it's clear that you want to go to U of T, and want people to tell you that it's ok for you to go there.

It's ok; go to U of T. You can always transfer out after 1L if you change your mind. No family law firm in Toronto gives a rat's ass where you go for law school. Just confirm this yourself by emailing senior lawyers at these firms and students. Not sure why you're repeating the same questions ad nauseum on lawstudents instead of reaching out to actual students and lawyers in the field. They could do more to help you make a decision than anons on a website. There are very few, if any, family lawyers and students on this website (from what I can tell). 

It’s more the opposite that I want to go to McGill but make sure I’m not making a mistake. I think the consensus is that it doesn’t matter too much for the field I’m interested in but that’s a really good idea, i think. Thanks!

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