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Family Law Career for U of T Grad

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Hey guys!! So U of T is my dream school and I'm hoping to go into family law; I know that there is a focus on corporate law at U of T but I'm wondering if anyone pursued family law and how they found their experience as a student and after they graduated? TIA 

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Although I am not in family law, I'll give you several related thoughts to consider.

It's perfectly fine to have a "dream school" but if you were able to articulate exactly what about U of T makes it a dream school for you that would help anyone reading this to give you some idea if your hopes are sensible, based in reality, or simply the product of some misconception of what you'll actually find there. Of course the obvious reason is that U of T has the highest entry standards. But just because somewhere is the hardest place to get into doesn't necessarily mean it's where you want to be. I'd hope you have some better reason than that, and if so you should try to locate and describe it.

You are right that you won't find any "focus" on family law at U of T. It's a reasonable rule of thumb that you can learn any kind of law anywhere, and there are few schools associated strongly enough with any practice area that it's sensible to say "if you want to get into X, there's an advantage go going here." But you should be aware that you are unlikely to encounter hardly any classmates or lawyers affiliated with U of T who are aiming towards or involved with family law. And while that won't stop you from doing it, you'll never know what opportunity might have come your way elsewhere that you missed out on.

Finally, there's the reason for most of that point above. And that's because most people follow and internalize - whether consciously or otherwise - the advice I'm about to give you. The biggest barrier to a career in family law isn't finding work in the field or somewhere to start. It's that the work pays significantly less well than many other areas of law. And here my advice is rock solid, because it's true of my practice area also - which is criminal. I constantly advise anyone interested in criminal law to not go to U of T, even if they can. Because the biggest thing that will prevent them from following that path in the future is too much debt.

If you come from money and your tuition is being paid from a trust fund and there's really no concern for how much it costs to follow your "dream" whether for logical or illogical reasons, then by all means go for it. But if you need your future income to support the debt you're going to take on in law school, my advice to anyone hoping to pursue criminal law, family, immigration, etc. would be to minimize debt. Which is by far the most important criteria to apply when deciding where to attend law school.

Good luck.

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12 hours ago, Diplock said:

I constantly advise anyone interested in criminal law to not go to U of T, even if they can. Because the biggest thing that will prevent them from following that path in the future is too much debt.

Alright. So where should a person who is interested in family or criminal law go?

Is there anything wrong with Ryerson or Windsor?

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51 minutes ago, SNAILS said:

Alright. So where should a person who is interested in family or criminal law go?

I can't speak to family law and I get the sense that this is an Ontario-centric discussion, but for those not tied down there, UBC is actually a fantastic criminal law school and it blows my mind that only a handful of students interested in criminal law go there and that the culture tends to be so corporate-focused.

-Low tuition ($12k-$13k/year)
-Criminal Law Clinic with top notch practitioners as supervising lawyers and feedback from judges
-The UBC Innocence Project and associated clinic
-Great course offerings (in addition to the standard fare like evidence and ad crim pro there is principles of sentencing, law of homicide, penal policy, preventing wrongful convictions, white collar crime, criminal organizations, international criminal law, etc as well as various trial advocacy-related courses)
-LSLAP provides opportunities to work on criminal files literally within the first week of starting law school (which is terrifying but everyone needs to get thrown into the deep end sooner or later)
-Exchange opportunities at Leiden University, right by The Hague and thus the ICC

I've been blown away by the fact that my only dilemmas throughout law school have been that there are too many relevant volunteering opportunities and courses and not enough time or spots on my schedule to accommodate them all. And since you can count on one hand how many students actually take advantage of all of these crim offerings, those that do tend to have no problem obtaining summer jobs and articles in the area (even with terrible grades). I can't recommend UBC enough for this and I do not understand how so few people appreciate this.

(I realize the OP is about family law and you were asking about Ryerson and Windsor but screw it, I need to pump UBC for this because all of these resources deserve to be taken full advantage of by people who would properly appreciate them.)

Edited by CleanHands
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1 hour ago, SNAILS said:

Alright. So where should a person who is interested in family or criminal law go?

Is there anything wrong with Ryerson or Windsor?

CleanHands has given a much more detailed reply than I would have. Different people have different lives, with differing abilities to minimize debt by living with family, perhaps, may be tied to specific areas for other reasons, etc. And eligibility for either merit-based scholarships or needs-based bursaries may also factor in. But once you've done the math and figured out where it's most economically feasible to attend law school at the lowest cost, for you, that's my answer on where you should go.

Note if it's close, then sure, there's no harm at all in looking at clinics, considering other factors, etc. And maybe UBC is a great school to look at for these reasons, btw. CleanHands makes some interesting points, there. But in my traditional answer I usually don't even get as far as factoring in those points.

The only things wrong with Ryerson and Windsor, as relates to my answer, is that despite their claims to preparing students to work on "social justice" type related law and issues (and certainly a lot of family, crim, etc. fall in there) they are still on the expensive end of law school tuition. And hence, they implicitly avoid confronting - even though they are surely aware of - the very point I've just made. Teaching law students about the issues that affect the poor and vulnerable is one thing. You also need your graduating law students to be able to afford to work in these areas of law for what they pay.

Anyway, that's it.

Edited by Diplock
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If I recall correctly, the cheapest schools were uvic, UBC, UNB, and Manitoba. I’d go to one of those schools, if I had a redo. 

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16 hours ago, Diplock said:

Although I am not in family law, I'll give you several related thoughts to consider.

It's perfectly fine to have a "dream school" but if you were able to articulate exactly what about U of T makes it a dream school for you that would help anyone reading this to give you some idea if your hopes are sensible, based in reality, or simply the product of some misconception of what you'll actually find there. Of course the obvious reason is that U of T has the highest entry standards. But just because somewhere is the hardest place to get into doesn't necessarily mean it's where you want to be. I'd hope you have some better reason than that, and if so you should try to locate and describe it.

You are right that you won't find any "focus" on family law at U of T. It's a reasonable rule of thumb that you can learn any kind of law anywhere, and there are few schools associated strongly enough with any practice area that it's sensible to say "if you want to get into X, there's an advantage go going here." But you should be aware that you are unlikely to encounter hardly any classmates or lawyers affiliated with U of T who are aiming towards or involved with family law. And while that won't stop you from doing it, you'll never know what opportunity might have come your way elsewhere that you missed out on.

Finally, there's the reason for most of that point above. And that's because most people follow and internalize - whether consciously or otherwise - the advice I'm about to give you. The biggest barrier to a career in family law isn't finding work in the field or somewhere to start. It's that the work pays significantly less well than many other areas of law. And here my advice is rock solid, because it's true of my practice area also - which is criminal. I constantly advise anyone interested in criminal law to not go to U of T, even if they can. Because the biggest thing that will prevent them from following that path in the future is too much debt.

If you come from money and your tuition is being paid from a trust fund and there's really no concern for how much it costs to follow your "dream" whether for logical or illogical reasons, then by all means go for it. But if you need your future income to support the debt you're going to take on in law school, my advice to anyone hoping to pursue criminal law, family, immigration, etc. would be to minimize debt. Which is by far the most important criteria to apply when deciding where to attend law school.

Good luck.

Thank you so much for your in-depth response! It is my dream school because of the JD/MA program that they offer, and also because it is close enough for me to commute and live at home. (mostly the JD/MA thing though, that's a big thing for me.) 

Debt is not a huge concern for me because I have family help paying for my tuition, but I will definitely take this into consideration! I'm not married to the idea of family law, but I figured it was better to have an idea now than when I'm already committed to a school. Thanks again :) 

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I'm a current student, and while I am not interested in family law myself, I know at least one person that will be pursuing a family law career after graduation. Here are a couple of family law specific opportunities that are available at the law school:

  • U of T's legal clinic, Downtown Legal Services, has a busy family law division that hires summer students and takes for-credit volunteers during the school year. Students in all divisions at Downtown Legal Services can expect to get hands on experience working with clients, preparing documents, and attending court.
  • The Walsh Family Law Moot is an annual advocacy competition that takes place before various members of the judiciary and senior family law practitioners. The U of T team is usually coached by some excellent family lawyers (from my understanding, this year's team is being coached by lawyers from Martha McCarthy and Co). 
  • There are usually a couple of family law courses on offer, including Introductory and Advanced Family Law (Advanced Family Law may or may not be offered in alternating years because I do not see it on the course list this year). Students who are interested in family law may also consider taking Negotiation, which is basically a weekly negotiation simulation. 
  • Finally, while not exclusive to family law, the alumni mentorship program may also be helpful. The program usually does a solid job of matching first year students with lawyers in their area of interest and mentors have generally been very candid and helpful.  

Hope this helps :)

 

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14 hours ago, piglet2017 said:

I'm a current student, and while I am not interested in family law myself, I know at least one person that will be pursuing a family law career after graduation. Here are a couple of family law specific opportunities that are available at the law school:

  • U of T's legal clinic, Downtown Legal Services, has a busy family law division that hires summer students and takes for-credit volunteers during the school year. Students in all divisions at Downtown Legal Services can expect to get hands on experience working with clients, preparing documents, and attending court.
  • The Walsh Family Law Moot is an annual advocacy competition that takes place before various members of the judiciary and senior family law practitioners. The U of T team is usually coached by some excellent family lawyers (from my understanding, this year's team is being coached by lawyers from Martha McCarthy and Co). 
  • There are usually a couple of family law courses on offer, including Introductory and Advanced Family Law (Advanced Family Law may or may not be offered in alternating years because I do not see it on the course list this year). Students who are interested in family law may also consider taking Negotiation, which is basically a weekly negotiation simulation. 
  • Finally, while not exclusive to family law, the alumni mentorship program may also be helpful. The program usually does a solid job of matching first year students with lawyers in their area of interest and mentors have generally been very candid and helpful.  

Hope this helps :)

 

Thank you so much, all of these resources are very useful!

 

14 hours ago, cherrytree said:

To add to @piglet2017 's list, you can also look into volunteering at the Barbra Schlifer Clinic https://www.schliferclinic.com/legal-services/ and getting involved with the Family Law Project through PBSC's volunteer program https://pbsc.law.utoronto.ca/family-law-project-flp 

thank you, this is awesome!!!

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