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UVic vs. UBC/UofT

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Hi! I am applying to all three schools I listed in the title this September and, for the sake of this question, assuming I get into all three. I am asking this question before knowing because I am looking to make a move out of Toronto soon (maybe) and I am curious on opinions of UVic vs. the other three as UVic is the school I am heavily leaning towards based on wanting to move to Victoria.

I am leaning away from UBC and UofT because I went to UofT for my undergrad and I want to try something new. I found UofT's size bothersome and I like the idea of going to a smaller school and UBC is relatively the same size (as far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong). I also like the idea of leaving Toronto because I have lived here all of my life and I want a slightly slower pace of life and I want to try something new. UVic is significantly cheaper so that is also obviously appealing.

I do not want to go into corporate law or "big law". I am most likely interested in family. I am someone who is very interested in practicing law but would like good work/life balance and is happy to take a significant paycut to maintain that. 

I suppose my concern revolves around the "prestige" of these schools. I worked for an older lawyer who went to UofT and he told me the law school you attend really matters in the labour market. I wonder whether anyone else can give me some perspective on this idea. Essentially my question is: if I get into UVic, UBC, and UofT, would I be remiss to not go to UofT or UBC over UVic in terms of employment opportunities? Is the education somehow better at these bigger schools or does the prestige carry weight?  Also definitely interested in opinions about the overall experience at each school if you have anything to share.

Also please allow me to say I do not have anything against smaller schools or think they lack prestige - I am simply asking for younger perspectives on this idea I have heard a few times from older lawyers.

Thanks in advance :)

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Do you think you'd still want to go into family law after dropping 100-200k into law school?

If so, U of T may just be the place for you! 

In all seriousness, save your money. If family law is the goal, you can go to any law school and it would not make a difference in your career prospects. 

Almost no one goes into family law and other personal services straight out of U of T. The debt needs to be paid off first. 

https://www.law.utoronto.ca/student-life/career-development-office/career-statistics

What I would focus on is clinicals and course selection. See what each of these schools offer in this regard. Look into how you can clerk at the Family Court in the future as it would be an invaluable experience (you would need strong grades in law school to do this). Look into the Welsh Family Law Moot and Negotiation Competition. 

Lastly, go to law school where you want to practice. Family law is a small bar and you want to start making connections with the local bar and court systems in your region as early as possible. 

The same advice above applies to other areas of law. It is more important to take advantage of opportunities presented to you in law school, rather than which law school you went to. 

Family law in particular is a field that has a high turnover rate and wants lawyers that are client-oriented and entrepreneurial. These are skills you can gain anywhere. 

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14 minutes ago, Deadpool said:

Do you think you'd still want to go into family law after dropping 100-200k into law school?

If so, U of T may just be the place for you! 

In all seriousness, save your money. If family law is the goal, you can go to any law school and it would not make a difference in your career prospects. 

Almost no one goes into family law and other personal services straight out of U of T. The debt needs to be paid off first. 

https://www.law.utoronto.ca/student-life/career-development-office/career-statistics

What I would focus on is clinicals and course selection. See what each of these schools offer in this regard. Look into how you can clerk at the Family Court in the future as it would be an invaluable experience (you would need strong grades in law school to do this). Look into the Welsh Family Law Moot and Negotiation Competition. 

Lastly, go to law school where you want to practice. Family law is a small bar and you want to start making connections with the local bar and court systems in your region as early as possible. 

The same advice above applies to other areas of law. It is more important to take advantage of opportunities presented to you in law school, rather than which law school you went to. 

Family law in particular is a field that has a high turnover rate and wants lawyers that are client-oriented and entrepreneurial. These are skills you can gain anywhere. 

Thank you! This is very helpful. I have had the same thoughts about the debt. I worked as a clerk in family law and found our clients and their cases really interesting, I suppose that is where my interest comes from. I may change my mind but I doubt I'd go into anything much more competitive. But I do know I am not a corporate law person. I am very people-centric and not driven by money whatsoever beyond the point of what I need to live comfortably (and it's not much) so I can't see myself going into that. Thanks again for your reply.

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Posted (edited)

Based on what you've written here, you should go to UVic. It'd make no sense to pay UofT tuition if your aim is to pursue family law, and as a current UBC student, I find UBC to be a relatively corporate-leaning school as well. 

The older lawyers you spoke with may not grasp how much tuition prices have skyrocketed since they were in law school. 

Edited by Tagger

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35 minutes ago, Tagger said:

Based on what you've written here, you should go to UVic. It'd make no sense to pay UofT tuition if your aim is to pursue family law, and as a current UBC student, I find UBC to be a relatively corporate-leaning school as well. 

The older lawyers you spoke with may not grasp how much tuition prices have skyrocketed since they were in law school. 

Thanks, good to hear an opinion from UBC! The one thing I do know is that I won't end up doing corporate law so I think a smaller school is for me.

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The difference between the established Canadian schools in the employment market is negligible. UofT does slightly better, but it has markedly better students. 

Uvic is a fantastic school by any metric.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, astridlaw said:

I do not want to go into corporate law or "big law". I am most likely interested in family. I am someone who is very interested in practicing law but would like good work/life balance and is happy to take a significant paycut to maintain that. 

As a U of T student who has spoken to a couple of family law lawyers because I am also interested in the field, I would not recommend U of T based on your priorities.  

Although it is not the best economic decision, I believe there are cases in which practicing family law after U of T can be feasible. Family law departments within full-service, regional firms and boutiques that practice high net-worth divorce law compensate their associates fairly well. However, I would expect to work long hours and sacrifice work/life balance at these firms ⁠—something you're not very interested in doing. Given this, you will be better off going to UVic or UBC (both very well-regarded schools). 

Side-note: If you do want to practice family law, just be aware that you will need a thick skin. A family law lawyer said that clients/spouses of your clients can be verbally abusive and even go so far as to send death threats. However, it is very personal, which is what you are looking for. 

Edited by Twenty

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Twenty said:

As a U of T student who has spoken to a couple of family law lawyers because I am also interested in the field, I would not recommend U of T based on your priorities.  

Although it is not the best economic decision, I believe there are cases in which practicing family law after U of T can be feasible. Family law departments within full-service, regional firms and boutiques that practice high net-worth divorce law compensate their associates fairly well. However, I would expect to work long hours and sacrifice work/life balance at these firms ⁠—something you're not very interested in doing. Given this, you will be better off going to UVic or UBC (both very well-regarded schools). 

Side-note: If you do want to practice family law, just be aware that you will need a thick skin. A family law lawyer said that clients/spouses of your clients can be verbally abusive and even go so far as to send death threats. However, it is very personal, which is what you are looking for. 

Thank you! This is much appreciated. I don't see any point in going to UofT for my own personal goals anymore (solely because of cost) but it is definitely an excellent school. 

I used to work at a suicide hotline and with kids with mental health issues and for a family lawyer where I sort of became the resident counsellor so I am very comfortable with this kind of work! You are right, for anyone reading this in the future, family law can be very traumatic. Even as a clerk I would answer the phone to people screaming at me on the other end, some of the opposing lawyers would even be borderline abusive towards me. It is a highly emotional area of law and you will get really wrapped up in what is often the darkest part of a person's life.

Edited by astridlaw
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I think the other responses here are good, but I think one additional factor should be mentioned. No matter what law school you go to, it’s going to be relatively distinct from the university it’s associated with. For that reason, I think your concerns about size aren’t that applicable. U of T doesn’t feel like you’re one student at a school of 61,000, it feels like you’re one student at a school of 600. UVic doesn’t feel like you’re one student at a school of 21,000, it feels like you’re one student at a school of 600. The exception to this is in housing and the campus, where with UVic you’ll be able to live walking distance to campus relatively cheaply, and the campus is pretty small and pleasant to walk around.
 

With that said, I agree with everyone above regarding going to one of the BC schools if you want to practice family law. U of T’s debt load is just too high. And though @Twenty is right that some family law gigs pay well enough to service that debt load, they’re in the minority. Expecting to land one of those gigs is like going to U of T planning to land at Marie Henein’s shop. 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

that said, I agree with everyone above regarding going to one of the BC schools if you want to practice family law. U of T’s debt load is just too high. And though @Twenty is right that some family law gigs pay well enough to service that debt load, they’re in the minority. Expecting to land one of those gigs is like going to U of T planning to land at Marie Henein’s shop. 

I am not claiming to be an authority, but at the same time I have spoken with family lawyers and have researched a bit about the field.

My hunch is that breaking into high net worth family law is not as competitive as getting a job at Henein Hutchison. Although I would not be surprised if it is still competitive. 

For example, if you want to be competitive for a family law associate position at a regional law firm, you need to be able to compete against applicants looking to summer/article at Torkin Manes, Lerners, Blaneys, etc. Granted, it won't be a walk in the park, but it's also not equivalent to landing a position at Henein Hutchinson. 

With respect to boutiques, Epstein Cole and Martha McCarthy attract very competitive candidates, but they aren't the only high net worth family law firms around. Although @BlockedQuebecois is right that only some family law firms practice high net worth family law, I also think the average law student would be surprised at the number of boutiques that have a high net worth family law practice.

In summary, getting into high net worth family law is probably competitive, but I think it's unlikely that someone needs to Dean's List/medal/clerk at the COA or SCC to break in. However, I am more than open to being corrected and hearing from any of the family law lawyers in this forum. 

Edited by Twenty

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Twenty said:

I am not claiming to be an authority, but at the same time I have spoken to family lawyers and have researched a bit into the field. 

My hunch is that breaking into high net-worth family law is not as competitive as getting a job at Henein Hutchison.  Although I would not be surprised if it is still competitive. 

For example, if you want to be competitive for a family law associate position at a regional law firm, you need to be able to compete against applicants looking to summer/article at Torkin Manes, Lerners, Blaneys, etc. Granted, it won't be a walk in the park, but it's also not equivalent to landing a position at Henein Hutchinson. 

With respect to boutiques, Epstein Cole and Martha McCarthy attracts very competitive candidates, but they aren't the only high-net worth family law firms around. Although @BlockedQuebecois is right that only some family law firms practice high net worth family law, I also think the average law student would be surprised at the number of boutiques that have a high net worth family law practice.

In summary, getting into high net worth family law is probably competitive, but I think it's unlikely that someone needs to Dean's List/medal/clerk at the COA or SCC to break in. However, I am more than open to being corrected and hearing from any of the family law lawyers in this forum. 

 

Fair point, Henein Hutchinson is a stretch. It’s probably the firm with the single highest standards for hiring new calls in Canada. 

The crux of my point, though, is that well paying family law associate positions are only marginally less rare than well paying criminal law associate positions. They exist, but they’re uncommon and competitive. And even if you do end up articling at a full service shop that practices family law, the likelihood of getting hired into those groups is quite small because those groups are quite small (the same goes for white collar crime defence groups).

So yeah, if you’ve already made the mistake of attending U of T and want to go into family law, there are routes that won’t bankrupt you and will get you there. But if you’re an applicant and have the choice between U of T and a much cheaper school, you’re much better off going to the cheaper school. 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois

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20 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Fair point, Henein Hutchinson is a stretch. It’s probably the firm with the single highest standards for hiring new calls in Canada. 

The crux of my point, though, is that well paying family law associate positions are only marginally less rare than well paying criminal law associate positions. They exist, but they’re uncommon and competitive. And even if you do end up articling at a full service shop that practices family law, the likelihood of getting hired into those groups is quite small because those groups are quite small (the same goes for white collar crime defence groups).

So yeah, if you’ve already made the mistake of attending U of T and want to go into family law, there are routes that won’t bankrupt you and will get you there. But if you’re an applicant and have the choice between U of T and a much cheaper school, you’re much better off going to the cheaper school. 

Morgan's laughs at this.

(But in truth, Stockwoods does too, no?)

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Posted (edited)
55 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Fair point, Henein Hutchinson is a stretch. It’s probably the firm with the single highest standards for hiring new calls in Canada. 

The crux of my point, though, is that well paying family law associate positions are only marginally less rare than well paying criminal law associate positions. They exist, but they’re rare and competitive. And even if you do end up articling at a full service shop that practices family law, the likelihood of getting hired into those groups is quite small because those groups are quite small (the same goes for white collar crime defence groups).

So yeah, if you’ve already made the mistake of attending U of T and want to go into family law, there are routes that won’t bankrupt you and will get you there. But if you’re an applicant and have the choice between U of T and a much cheaper school, you’re much better off going to the cheaper school. 

Yeah, while I was writing my post I was like "is there even a firm that is as competitive as Henein Hutchinson?" haha (there probably are, but you get what I am trying to say). 

Is it really marginally less rare? I don't know. I am not necessarily disagreeing, but just pointing out that this could be a debatable point that I think should not be taken for granted.

As for your comment about getting a family law position at a full service shop, I'd like to propose the following theory: full service shops allocate where new calls are placed according to market demand. Given that the demand for (high net worth) divorce has increased*, these shops will be more than happy taking on new calls interested in family law. Furthermore, even without COVID spiking the demand for divorce, family law does seem like an area with generally healthy demand regardless of the economy, so there may still be a decent chance of a full service hire getting into a family law department.

I admit that I could be exposed to some underlying cognitive bias given I'm at U of T and am interested in family law, so I could be totally wrong. But I do hope readers weigh both our views. 

I find though that I do not disagree with your overall statement about not going to U of T (I still think OP should not go to U of T). To be honest, even from my position, I think the smart decision would be to not put all my eggs in the high net worth family law basket and apply to other firms as well when 2L/3L hiring comes around. 

*I know that it's a UK source, I just think it's an interesting read haha. But I also won't be surprised if it's the same over here! 

Edited by Twenty

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10 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Morgan's laughs at this.

(But in truth, Stockwoods does too, no?)

Nah, they hire all kinds of chumps. Most of their associates aren’t even medalists, and only half of them are former SCC clerks! 

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Family law positions are not uncommon, not sure where that information is coming from. 

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Lots of ignorance with respect to remuneration in family law in this thread. 
 

Busy firms in major centres pay very close to or equivalent to Big Law salaries for fewer hours. The work isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure, but if you can handle it and you have sales skills, you can do very well. 

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Oh, on topic: OP, I would consider UBC, but not for any reasons remotely related to any notion of “prestige”. That’s not really a thing for family law. 
 

I would consider UBC because the cost is comparable to UVic and it gets you geographically closer to a lot more potential work. UVic is  a fine school, but it’s still on the island. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

Busy firms in major centres pay very close to or equivalent to Big Law salaries for fewer hours. The work isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure, but if you can handle it and you have sales skills, you can do very well. 

Would these firms also include those that do not have an active high net worth divorce practice?

I don't ask how much money an associate at a firm is expected to make when I call lawyers (this is a faux pas right?), but a partner at a full service did mention that family law associates at his/her firm do very well. A lawyer who described their practice as primarily high net worth divorce also mentioned they do well (both unprompted). I've only talked to one lawyer who practiced family law outside of downtown, but they did not mention how much associates at their firm get paid and I did not want to bring it up. Given all of this, I still do not know if it's possible to get paid Big Law salaries at a "typical" family law firm and was wondering if you may have some insights? 

Also, I am not saying that family lawyers cannot have good work-life balance, but I've seen one family lawyer who definitely seemed overworked based on how they were describing their experience (they mentioned junior associates in particular are really busy). I understand it could be a firm-by-firm thing, but I've become disillusioned with the idea that practicing family law necessarily means you will have good work life balance (though Big Law probably sucks even more). 

Edited by Twenty

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Going to UofT to break into family law is not a good idea, especially if you want to practice in BC. The tuition at UofT is unjustifiably high, even more so if the end goal is family law.

Go to one of the BC schools, get your hands on some family law experience, tailor your resume to family law positions and this is what will help you get where you want to be.

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1 hour ago, Mal said:

Family law positions are not uncommon, not sure where that information is coming from. 

I don’t think anyone said family law positions are uncommon, not sure where that information is coming from. 

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