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PlatoandSocrates

UVic vs UBC vs UofA (with scholarship)

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Hello everyone. I have been fortunate enough to receive early acceptances to all of my top three schools this cycle. This leaves me with the difficult, yet welcome, problem of deciding which school to attend. I appreciate that comparisons between these schools are fairly common, with these exact 3 being the subject of another very recent post, but all of the threads that I have read have been tailored to those posters exact scenarios, so I feel that another thread is necessary to get at my exact situation. I appreciate your advice in advance, thank you for bearing with me! Some quick facts for context:

 
  • Lifelong B.C. resident
  • Interest in criminal and family law
  • My number one goal from a distance is to become a provincial crown counsel in B.C.
  • If there was some advantage, either from the school itself or in employment opportunities later on to staying in Alberta I would be happy to do so.
  • I appreciate that goals and interests are subject to change in the course of law school, and I am prepared to be light on my feet with my aspirations. I am also interested in pursuing family law, but I can’t imagine there’s any advantage between different schools on this front.
 
With that out of the way here are some things that I am concerned about:
 
Cost
This is one of my concerns. I have savings and generous help from family such that I can reasonably expect to pay for about 2/3rd’s of law school (including tuition and living expenses) out of pocket, depending, of course, on which school I choose. I’ve been offered a generous $7500 entrance scholarship from UAlberta, which would mean I would have to take on very little debt to complete my education there. Couple that with lower cost of living, and Edmonton becomes a fairly attractive option. Cost is also one of the things pushing me away from UBC. Tuition is reasonably close to the others, but the cost of living in Vancouver is off putting. I appreciate that UVic suffers from this same problem, but anecdotally it seems to be a bit more affordable. 
 
Area
 
This is something I’m concerned about as well, though in a way that’s fairly tied to cost. I understand that the general consensus is to go to school where you want to practice, so that pushes me towards the schools in B.C. On the other hand, if there was some employment advantage to staying in Alberta I would probably be open to relocating there long term. I’ve heard that crown positions are easier to come by in Alberta, but I have no idea how true that is. That said, I have preference to stay in B.C. if possible, and am concerned about the ease of finding employment and articles from UofA. 
 
Experiential Opportunities 
 
The difference here seem to be somewhat balanced to me. UBC has a criminal law clinic, and UAlberta seems to have a lot of experiential opportunities as well. The COOP program at UVic is also very attractive. It is also the only opportunity (that I’ve seen anyhow) to get family law experience out of these 3 schools. I am also somewhat interested in exchange programs. Can anyone, from any of these schools, speak to the availability of these opportunities? As a final point for this section, course selection seems to be about the same across the board, at least for my interests. I haven’t heard much about the relative availability of courses though. 
 
Vibe
 
Sorry for using the word vibe, but I think it captures my question pretty well. I would say that I’m fairly laid back, and prefer a collaborative atmosphere to a competitive one. I have heard great things about the atmosphere at UVic on this front, and roughly the same out of UofA. I have heard UBC is more competitive, but also that that is more confined to the Big Law hopefuls. I even had an undergrad instructor who attended UVic and UBC completely decry UBC and it’s character. Obviously question is inherently anecdotal, but I’d appreciate if you guys had any more anecdotes for me. (Side note, I have to live in one of these places for 3 years, and the availability of Punk/Ska/Hardcore shows & craft beer is a great soft factor)
 
I think that about covers it in broad strokes, sorry if I got a bit wordy! 
 
I’ll put a summary of questions here:
 
  • Concerned about cost, especially pertaining to rent in Vancouver
  • Prefer to live in B.C.
  • Looking for chill west coast vibe
 
What do you all think?
Thanks in advance!
 
  • P&S

 

Edited by PlatoandSocrates

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1L at UBC here. I was also deciding between UVic and UBC earlier this year. I ended up choosing UBC because I wanted to work in Vancouver and the cost factor (I was able to live at home and save $$$). I was also worried about the competitiveness at UBC but so far it hasn't been an issue. People are super friendly and collaborative, much more so than in undergrad. It was really easy to make friends and form study groups despite the fact that I'm not that outgoing.

There is  competitiveness in the sense that everyone is trying their best and striving to be above average but I doubt that that's uniquely a UBC thing. The small group you're placed in also makes a difference. I've heard some posters say their small group is very corporate focused but I found mine to be the opposite - full of social justice and public interest folks. The school is also large enough that you will probably find people with similar interests as you. 

If you are interested in criminal law, the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic and the Innocence Project are also great experiential learning opportunities. I'm not sure how competitive these are but an upper year told me that if you're really interested in clinic placements, you should be able to get into one but it may not be your top choice. You could also volunteer at LSLAP within the first month of law school. I didn't do this, but I know people who were going to court in their third month of law school.

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On 12/11/2019 at 11:14 PM, PlatoandSocrates said:

I’ve heard that crown positions are easier to come by in Alberta, but I have no idea how true that is. That said, I have preference to stay in B.C. if possible, and am concerned about the ease of finding employment and articles from UofA. 

Even if that were true (I have no idea), I'd wouldn't put much stock in that given the recent hatchet job of a provincial budget.

That said, 2L at UCalgary here and I think everyone I know who was looking for a Vancouver summer got one. So being the next province over isn't the end of the world if the scholarship comes into play as a big factor.

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I'm a 2L UBC student as well. I'd say go to UBC.

If you live at home, you'll save a lot more than going to UVic or UoA. If you don't live a home, that might be a different story, but you're not save a ton more if you go to UVic instead.

If you want to work in BC, go to school in BC.

None of these law schools will give you an edge in Crim law. You best bet is to learn the law in the jurisdiction you want to work in. A few of my friends are going down the crim track and I think it's partly a matter of carving out your own path. The two main crim clinics are crim clinic and Innocence Project. LSLAP also gives you great experience with crim files and court experience. We also have solid crim profs (several of which have taught SCC judges evidence law).

While many people at UBC are big-law, corporate oriented, they are but a subset of the student population. UBC is mindful of this reputation, which is likely why they removed Business Organizations as a required course.

We definitely have a nice building than UofA (which makes a difference if you find yourself spending a lot of time at school).

I can't speak much to vibes at other schools. I have good friends here and generally get along with people. I get to leave the building and explore the rest of campus. There's socials if you like those, various clubs and lots of hang-out spots.

In conclusion, come to UBC  :)

Edited by Psychometronic
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If you want to work in BC, then being in BC is only going to make that easier (both local law, and local connections), but Alberta is unlikely to be a bad choice for that, it just doesn't have the local benefits. It would likely have a lower cost (even Vic living would be more, never mind Vancouver). UVic coop can offer some unique opportunities unavailable to students at other schools, but it also doesn't guarantee anything, and you might find yourself competing against other students for great jobs anyway (especially for during summer).

 

One thing to bear in mind with UVic is that funding is heavily needs-based, so if you're in a position to pay for 2/3 of things upfront as you say, that might actually work against you a little, as people who can pay for things are expected to, and people who can't get the bursaries - which is a thing it's a little hard to complain about because people without money are the ones who need it, but it also means the ones who diligently saved can feel a little punished for being responsible. That said, it would likely be a mid point of cost between UBC and UoA - Victoria's expensive, it's not Vancouver expensive.

 

And UoA has a prairie winter, nobody wants that.

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On 12/11/2019 at 11:14 PM, PlatoandSocrates said:

I’ll put a summary of questions here:

 
  • Concerned about cost, especially pertaining to rent in Vancouver
  • Prefer to live in B.C.
  • Looking for chill west coast vibe

I really can't comment on UBC vs UVic, so I'll just phrase this as Alberta vs BC.

My advice has long been that all other things being equal, you should go to school where you want to practice.  Law school isn't just about getting a piece of paper - it is building your network of colleagues that you are going to work with for the rest of your career.  Your classmates will becomes your colleagues.  Your sessional professors might wind up hiring you.

But, a difference in tuition and costs can take things out of "all things being equal".  So take a hard look at that - how much will you save being in Alberta?  Remember to factor in a few flights back and forth.  Also where will you be living?  If you can live with family or friends in Vancouver versus renting your own place in Edmonton that can make a massive difference.

Also you should know that since the election, the UCP has lifted the tuition freeze at UAlberta.  No word yet on 20/21 tuition but it is going to significantly increase.

I suspect the difference in cost is going to work out to be very marginal.  The $7500 scholarship is nice, but is only a small percentage of your overall cost of getting a JD, so I don't think it really moves the needle much.  Which means you should probably stay in BC.

If I'm wrong though and the cost saving is significant, you'd get an excellent education at U of A.  Their SLS program is good.  I know from my own Crown office we tend to hire a lot of people from out of province, so there must be something positive that attracts people to come here.  Now I'll admit we tend to hire more from Sask/Man then we do BC, but it does happen.

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I went to both UofA and UBC for law school (2 years at UofA, 1 year at UBC). All of them are good schools. UBC had more resources and better business courses, but UofA had a friendlier class.

Personally, I hated living in Edmonton which is why I did my final year at UBC. My best friend was the same and transferred to UVic after 1L. In your situation I would probably say go to UBC or UVic. The only real benefit UBC has over UVic is that their corporate law offerings are better. 

 

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Agree with UBC or UVic, take you choice. 

The Criminal Clinic UBC offers is excellent, and gives you the opportunity to work with some top-notch criminal practitioners. 

I'm not sure how the UVic offerings compare. 

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I'm in a similar boat! I have been speaking with some friends who are just finishing up 3L (we all grew up in the Vancouver area and did our undergrads at UBC) and have been asking similar questions. Sharing some of the insights they've shared with me + Vancouver info in hopes that it will help you as well.

On 12/11/2019 at 10:14 PM, PlatoandSocrates said:
Area
 
This is something I’m concerned about as well, though in a way that’s fairly tied to cost. I understand that the general consensus is to go to school where you want to practice, so that pushes me towards the schools in B.C. On the other hand, if there was some employment advantage to staying in Alberta I would probably be open to relocating there long term. I’ve heard that crown positions are easier to come by in Alberta, but I have no idea how true that is. That said, I have preference to stay in B.C. if possible, and am concerned about the ease of finding employment and articles from UofA. 
 
  • Concerned about cost, especially pertaining to rent in Vancouver
  • Prefer to live in B.C.
  • Looking for chill west coast vibe

-Re: Finding a job in BC after studying in AB: A close friend of mine did his first two years at UCalgary and landed a job in Vancouver while at Calgary without much difficulty. He noted that Vancouver employers will certainly ask you why you chose to study in AB when you are looking to work in BC (and, naturally, you should be prepared to give a good reason). Of course, UCalgary is different from U of A, so it may be slightly different if you go to U of A.

-Re: Costs: I've been checking out Victoria's rentals, and the prices seem only slightly cheaper than Vancouver. As of last year, you could find a 2 bedroom basement suite in Kitsilano for $1600 (and rooms are often rented out for around $700-800 in the area). I lived in an on-campus, older 2 bedroom apartment for $1400/month at one point, so it's definitely possible to find cheaper options if you look often/early and are willing to have a roommate. Alternatively, places further east are much cheaper and transit is usually pretty good. There are many places in East Van from which you can get to UBC within an hour and downtown quickly (within 30 minutes if you live near a train station).

I'm not very familiar with Edmonton, but my partner's sister lives in Edmonton. She has a decent-sized one bedroom apartment for around $700/month, close to downtown (she recently graduated from U of A). She mentioned that it can be sketchy at times, but then again, so can many (most) parts of Vancouver.

On 12/11/2019 at 10:14 PM, PlatoandSocrates said:

Experiential Opportunities

The COOP program at UVic is also very attractive. It is also the only opportunity (that I’ve seen anyhow) to get family law experience out of these 3 schools. I am also somewhat interested in exchange programs. Can anyone, from any of these schools, speak to the availability of these opportunities?

-Re: Co-op Availability at UVic: Reached out to a friend at UVic about this and was told that there's not much of a barrier to entry and "if you want in you get in."

On 12/11/2019 at 10:14 PM, PlatoandSocrates said:
Vibe
 
Sorry for using the word vibe, but I think it captures my question pretty well. I would say that I’m fairly laid back, and prefer a collaborative atmosphere to a competitive one. I have heard great things about the atmosphere at UVic on this front, and roughly the same out of UofA. I have heard UBC is more competitive, but also that that is more confined to the Big Law hopefuls. I even had an undergrad instructor who attended UVic and UBC completely decry UBC and it’s character. Obviously question is inherently anecdotal, but I’d appreciate if you guys had any more anecdotes for me. (Side note, I have to live in one of these places for 3 years, and the availability of Punk/Ska/Hardcore shows & craft beer is a great soft factor)

-Re: Competitive vibe at UBC:

  • According to a friend who did her entire undergrad at UBC, the student body is very friendly and supportive. As others have noted, she mentioned that it was more of a 'we are really interested in this'/healthy competition rather than a toxic 'we are always comparing grades' vibe.
  • Friend who started at UCalgary transferred to UBC for his last year to be closer to family. One of the first things that he noticed was that the student body was more 'nerdy' in that they're very focused on studying/career-building proper.
  • I would add that this is consistent with my undergrad experience, wherein people were definitely collegial and helped each other with schoolwork, but prioritized coursework far above other activities. For example, lots of flakiness when it came to social activities-- but that is also a general Vancouver issue. This kind of vibe could be good or bad, depending on your personality.

-Re: UVic vibes: Aforementioned friend from UVic mentioned that it has a very chill college town atmosphere. The

Lots of craft beer in Vancouver (and I think Victoria has a fair amount too, judging from the number of breweries I see here from the islands). If you do end up choosing UBC, there are a lot in East Van near Main Street/False Creek and Hastings-Sunrise. The on-campus pubs have a decent selection. The Gallery is probably the best for selection + happy hour prices. I think Koerners Pub brews its own but I never really liked it.

Edited by iamcold
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All I can contribute to this conversation is that I went to the UofA for two years during undergrad. I hated Edmonton, wasn't in love with anything about the school and can absolutely do without the -55 degree winter weather. That should narrow down your choices :)

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6 hours ago, iamcold said:

-Re: Competitive vibe at UBC:

  • According to a friend who did her entire undergrad at UBC, the student body is very friendly and supportive. As others have noted, she mentioned that it was more of a 'we are really interested in this'/healthy competition rather than a toxic 'we are always comparing grades' vibe.

Edit: She did her entire law degree there. Sorry for the mix-up!

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On 12/11/2019 at 10:14 PM, PlatoandSocrates said:

The COOP program at UVic is also very attractive. It is also the only opportunity (that I’ve seen anyhow) to get family law experience out of these 3 schools. 

 
 

 

I am a family lawyer who was in UVIC's co-op program. When I was in school the co-op program had three regular family law co-ops. One was with the private firm Brown, Henderson, and Melbye, which is filled with  smart and awesome ladies and I'm sure they treat their co-op students well (and, I hear, occasionally hire them for articling). The other two positions are for the Ministry of Child and Family Development, which is a little bit more of a niche experience but if you are interested in the government side I don't think you could find a better opportunity and at the very least it would demonstrate interest in family law to private firms.

During my studies Hamilton Fabbro also hired someone through co-op but I don't know if they do so regularly. There are also a number of smaller general practices that hire through co-op which have family law as part of their practice. 

Honestly though, you can probably find a summer family law job without co-op. You just need to be brave and do the work yourself. Cold call 100 firms that do family law, convince them you are interested in summering with them and eventually you will get a hit.

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UBC grad here.

If you're interested in criminal law, UBC has some fantastic experiential learning opportunities to get a sense of what the practice of criminal law is actually like. Off the top of my head there's:

  1. Law Students Legal Advice Program (LSLAP): Legal aid clinic that 1Ls can start volunteering for from day one.  You can start taking on very minor criminal defence files (assault, uttering threats, etc.) and appearing in court right away. 
     
  2. Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC): This is an umbrella organization that can pair you with a public interest group doing work in certain areas. I can't recall exactly what criminal law-focussed programs there were, but I remember reading about a few of them.
     
  3. Innocence Project: I did not take this clinic but my understanding is that there's less courtroom work and more of a focus on research. It sounds like a pretty great opportunity to learn about the criminal justice system. 
     
  4. Criminal Law Clinic: This is a great clinic where you focus exclusively on criminal files in the Downtown Eastside's Provincial Court. Most students work with defence counsel, however, every year the Provincial Crown agrees to take two students on and allow them to conduct bail hearings, sentencing and trials as Provincial Crown. It's a pretty amazing opportunity to see what the day-to-day work of a Crown is actually like.

On top of that, UBC offers a lot great upper-year courses in criminal law and has some fantastic teachers, both practitioners and professors.

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On 12/12/2019 at 6:23 AM, Deadpool said:

I would also go to UBC without a doubt because it is the most reputable of the three. 

I don't know where you are from but in B.C. I would say UBC and UVic are on par in terms of reputation. I don't want to get into a huge debate about this but having a pretty good knowledge of the job market in Vancouver and Victoria, employers weigh the schools the same. 

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3 hours ago, azure said:

I don't know where you are from but in B.C. I would say UBC and UVic are on par in terms of reputation. I don't want to get into a huge debate about this but having a pretty good knowledge of the job market in Vancouver and Victoria, employers weigh the schools the same. 

This is fair and good to know! I am from Ontario and UBC is generally considered to be one of the best law schools in Canada so I went off that. But I've also never heard anything bad about UVic which I understand has high admissions standards and a smaller class. 

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5 hours ago, azure said:

I don't know where you are from but in B.C. I would say UBC and UVic are on par in terms of reputation. I don't want to get into a huge debate about this but having a pretty good knowledge of the job market in Vancouver and Victoria, employers weigh the schools the same. 

 

2 hours ago, Deadpool said:

This is fair and good to know! I am from Ontario and UBC is generally considered to be one of the best law schools in Canada so I went off that. But I've also never heard anything bad about UVic which I understand has high admissions standards and a smaller class. 

As a current UBC student I can attest to what @azure says. In the BC market employers don't seem to draw any distinction between UBC and UVic at all.

However I will say I've had a very easy and fruitful experience obtaining great employment opportunities outside of BC (with above average but not amazing grades) and from what I've been told the UBC degree is a positive distinguishing factor that has helped me. I'm not sure whether UVic has the same reputation nationally but @Deadpool is right that the UBC "brand" appears to carry some weight nationally (well, in the prairie provinces at least) and grant an advantage compared to a degree from UofA/UofC/USask/etc.

Of course, your mileage may vary and I'm sure there are many variables involved, but this has been my experience.

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This could be true- I guess people from other provinces might have a higher opinion of UBC in general compared to UVic (being a larger school in a big city can't hurt either). I wouldn't make it my deciding factor in determining where to go to law school. I would recommend the OP visit the schools and talk to current students/faculty if possible to figure out the best fit for them. 

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