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Policywonk

Western vs UofT for becoming a Toronto government lawyer

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Hi everyone,

I applied to law school and policy schools when I was in undergrad and ended up doing a MPP. I have a successful ~5 years working in policy but now want to go to law school to be a lawyer.  I'm currently  interested in administrative, environmental and criminal law but my interests might change. I'm currently aiming to get a job at MAG or the DoJ Toronto office. I really want to be a lawyer in Toronto because that's where my family, my partner and most of my friends live. Where should I go? UofT has a lot of pros but would I be stupid to save $50k?  

Western 

Pros

  • Lower tuition and cost of living. Western offered me a $20k scholarship and I could still receive financial aid. I estimate I would save $50k of debt going to Western over UofT. 
  • Could afford a 1 bedroom apartment. 
  • Eligible for jobs in London and the GTA (London employers would likely see me as a flight risk if I went to UofT)
  • Toronto firms do OCIs at Western (I don't think MAG or DOJ does?)

Cons:

  • ~2hours from family and friends. I know no one who still lives in London 
  • Would need to find a 1L summer job. Would have to rent a place in Toronto if I got a 1L or 2L summer job in Toronot. 
  • Harder to get a 2L job and marginally harder find an articling position
  • Harder to network in Toronto 

UofT

 

Pros:

  • Keeps my options open. Easier to land job. ~95% students have articling before they graduate compared to Western's 90%. MAG does OCIs or info sessions at UofT?
  • Overall does better in the 2L recruit. Don't know how well they do for Government jobs
  • Family, partner and most of my friends live in the GTA
  • Easier networking with Toronto government offices and firms
  • UofT offered me a paid research assistant position for my 1L summer  
  • Prestige?

Cons:

  • More expensive tuition and cost of living. I estimate it would cost me $50k more over 3 years compared to Western even after UofT's financial aid. 
  • Would have to have roommates 

 

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I am a recent UofT law grad. Arguably, UofT's only benefit is a higher chance of landing a big law bay st. job (not sure if this benefit is worth 50k in debt though). If you are looking to work for the government, and there is a way to pursue that goal saving 50k, save. the. 50k.

Edited by Ghalm
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I'm a Western student. Here's a few points to consider:

  • Going to Western does not prevent you from networking in Toronto. Most students from Western end up working in Toronto. Sure it might be "harder" to network, but not by any significant amount.
  • MAG and DoJ do OCIs at Western (unsure how many slots they have though)
  • There's a lot of threads about this, but prestige is not a significant factor with Canadian law schools (the only exception being if you want to work in biglaw in New York)
Edited by lewcifer
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45 minutes ago, lewcifer said:

I'm a Western student. Here's a few points to consider:

  • Going to Western does not prevent you from networking in Toronto. Most students from Western end up working in Toronto. Sure it might be "harder" to network, but not by any significant amount.
  • MAG and DoJ do OCIs at Wester (unsure how many slots they have though)
  • There's a lot of threads about this, but prestige is not a significant factor with Canadian law schools (the only exception being if you want to work in biglaw in New York)

Thanks! Good to know MAG and DoJ do OCIs at Western!

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If your interests remain "administrative, environmental and criminal law" I'd bet you'd have a better upper year course selection and more on-topic extra-curriculars at U of T. (Not to say this is worth 50k :))

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I saw that you were accepted to Ottawa. Based on your interests, I think it would be the best school for you. Is there any particular reason why you’re choosing to forego Ottawa?

Edited by blackwidow
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1 hour ago, blackwidow said:

I saw that you were accepted to Ottawa. Based on your interests, I think it would be the best school for you. Is there any particular reason why you’re choosing to forego Ottawa?

I want to be closer to Toronto during law school and want to article and be a lawyer in Toronto.

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23 minutes ago, Policywonk said:

I want to be closer to Toronto during law school and want to article and be a lawyer in Toronto.

Not to derail your thread asking between Toronto and Western, but have you considered Queens? Not trying to push the agenda of my own school, and admittedly, I don’t know that much about the government opportunities Western has to offer, but Queen’s also offers internships with the DOJ in Ottawa for credit during 2L and 3L. In a regular year, this means going to Ottawa once a week to work for the DOJ, while in a pandemic year, all the work is remote. And if you don’t want to move as far out as Ottawa, Kingston is not as far and depending on where you’re located, maybe only a half hour longer drive than London. 

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The only way I’d pay the full $35k tuition at U of T was if I wanted to maximize my Bay St chances or if I wanted the U of T clout so I could stunt on my homies. Realistically speaking, I think those 2 factors are primarily why U of T Law is priced at a huge premium compared to other schools. 
Have you heard from U of T re scholarships? 

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Also wanted to add that since you have experience doing policy work, this may give you a leg up compared to others for the OCI/articling recruit, particularly for government positions. 

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3 hours ago, blackwidow said:

Not to derail your thread asking between Toronto and Western, but have you considered Queens? Not trying to push the agenda of my own school, and admittedly, I don’t know that much about the government opportunities Western has to offer, but Queen’s also offers internships with the DOJ in Ottawa for credit during 2L and 3L. In a regular year, this means going to Ottawa once a week to work for the DOJ, while in a pandemic year, all the work is remote. And if you don’t want to move as far out as Ottawa, Kingston is not as far and depending on where you’re located, maybe only a half hour longer drive than London. 

Id save over $20k going to Western instead of Queens. And Queens would be about a 1.5hour farther from my family and friends than Western. Trying to narrow down my choices between Western and UofT at this point. 

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12 hours ago, HopefulLawyer97 said:

The only way I’d pay the full $35k tuition at U of T was if I wanted to maximize my Bay St chances or if I wanted the U of T clout so I could stunt on my homies. Realistically speaking, I think those 2 factors are primarily why U of T Law is priced at a huge premium compared to other schools. 
Have you heard from U of T re scholarships? 

I didn't receive any scholarship offers from UofT and I don't think they really do scholarships. UofT did offer me a paid research assistant position for 1L summer though. Could I try to leverage my Western scholarship to get a UofT scholarship? 

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These threads are always interesting to me for the simple reason that I wonder at times what people's expectations are in the far future.

Take a person who has been practicing law for 25 years. Do you think if they apply for a job, the recruiter is likely to care where they went to school? I mean, it's possible, maybe they share an alma mater, but most of the time, it's not going to make much of a difference.

How about 10 years out? I mean, I guess if you went to a Canadian law school versus a foreign program, it could make a difference, but in most cases I think the recruiter is, once again, not likely to care.

How about 5 years out? Maybe it makes a difference in the private sector, because perhaps it's indicative of other background variables that someone has not had the time to develop a reputation independent of their education. Of course, many places are going to interview based on fit, and so while school could play a part of this, other factors would probably matter more. In the public sector, I would suggest that with specific objective criteria for hiring, that almost certainly don't include "school choice" (especially as between two very strong Canadian law schools), it's going to matter virtually not at all.

How about for your very first job? Arguably it can, and does, make a difference in terms of how likely it is you get in the door in the first place - you may have more willingness for organizations to give you a shot - but there's a lot of generalities here, and once again, this is generally assuming you're going to the private sector. I would suggest in the public sector that other things are going to be far more important.

In short, I think you're asking the wrong question. Where do you think is better for you personally and professionally to exceed and achieve the goals you want. I suspect you could make a compelling pitch for either option, depending on personal circumstances and what you think you want to do. That's a much better approach.

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10 hours ago, Policywonk said:

I didn't receive any scholarship offers from UofT and I don't think they really do scholarships. UofT did offer me a paid research assistant position for 1L summer though. Could I try to leverage my Western scholarship to get a UofT scholarship? 

I actually know people who have done this. Email U of T and tell them you want to attend but you received a scholarship elsewhere and see what they can offer you. It can’t hurt - it’s not like they can rescind your acceptance 

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2 hours ago, HopefulLawyer97 said:

I actually know people who have done this. Email U of T and tell them you want to attend but you received a scholarship elsewhere and see what they can offer you. It can’t hurt - it’s not like they can rescind your acceptance 

Unless something has changed, U of T does not offer merit scholarships.

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