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legallybrunette3

What's the deal with school rankings?

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I'm an applicant and while researching schools I've read that since there aren't that many Canadian schools that there isn't really a ranking system. That you'll get a good education no matter where you go, and there aren't any tiers. What does this actually mean, because I've also heard in comparison threads that people would be nuts to choose certain schools over other schools, or they are no brainer decision. This gives me the impression that there are indeed tiers, and some schools are better than others, if that weren't the case there would be no "no brainers". So is there an unspoken ranking? 

Would it be fair to say that there are sort of 3 tiers? For example schools like U of T and McGill would be at the top. Calgary/Alberta/Western would be middle. Ryerson/TRU the bottom? 

I know that top schools would likely have things like more funding, more connections etc. So then what is meant when folks say you'll get a good education at all? Will you get a better one at the top? How much better could it be? I assume there are excellent profs at all. I've also heard that people in the lower tiers might have to work harder to compete, why is this case? 

Sorry if this has been discussed previously, i'm just trying to gauge what is worth certain sacrifices (high tuition, moving across country), and what isn't. 

Edited by legallybrunette3
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I don't have a lot of insight into these things but I think there are certain "no brainer decisions" but have more to do with location and sometimes area of practice.

For instance, if you want to practice in Alberta, it doesn't matter if you go to U of C or U Alberta. If you want to practice in BC, UBC and UVic are probably no different, and arguably, TRU will be comparable. If you live in BC and want to work in Ontario, UBC will likely give you a better opportunity than TRU, mainly having to do with the alumni network, but to some degree, reputation will help. 

Honestly, from what I can tell from friends and random anecdotes, it matters more what your grades are in law school than what school you go to. In say Ontario, a student in the top 10% of their class will be more successful in finding a job in Vancouver than a student in the bottom 20% at UBC or UVic. In the end, it is how you do in law school that matters more than the name of the university on the degree

There does seem to be some form of ranking, but it is subjective and depends on your location and what you value. Some schools have better clinics, and others have specialized programs or focus areas. There will always be the U of T student who looks down on the Ryerson student, or the UBC student who looks down on the TRU student because their school is more competitive in terms of admission, but that is more about ego than education. (Not trying to offend U  of T or UBC students. Don't come at me).

I wouldn't get bogged down in what other people think about the name of the school you end up at. Think about the location you want to practice, the cost of tuition and whether there is some other factor that is a must for you (e.g., certain course selection). Other than that just focus on doing well once you get there.

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Yeah, Canada's not ranking-crazy like the US is. I think Macleans tried to regularly publish law school rankings but they stopped after like, three years. You'll get a solid legal education no matter where you go, so try your best to focus on where's the best place for you to thrive as an individual! 

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All the law schools in Canada ARE good, but I would agree with your tier assessment.

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2 minutes ago, kaptb said:

All the law schools in Canada ARE good, but I would agree with your tier assessment.

Looking back I don't know if I agree with my own tier assessment anymore. I think it's a good assessment for getting into the schools, but I'm still unclear what you'd be missing out on in terms of experience if you come out of the lower tiers, except it'll be easier for you to practice where you go and most people probably want to work in the big city. I guess my concern is the actual quality of the experience, which seems to be subjective, and so maybe there really aren't tiers. idk man. 

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On 2/20/2021 at 11:28 PM, KJR said:

There will always be the U of T student who looks down on the Ryerson student, or the UBC student who looks down on the TRU student because their school is more competitive in terms of admission, but that is more about ego than education. (Not trying to offend U  of T or UBC students. Don't come at me).

This is so true. Honestly a law degree is a law degree. If you work hard you'll do great things, regardless of where you go. 

 

 

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Just now, PlayALawyerOnTV said:

But how will we determine our sense of self worth if we can't look down on those who went to a worse school than we did? 

that's what chiropractors are for 

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Different people will rank things differently.  International recognition, business law, criminal clinics, research opportunities... each of these will produce a different list. 

If you want to run a general firm in the Calgary suburbs, if you want to get into government policy work, if you want to make partner at Blakes in the next fifteen years... these goals will have different rankings. 

There is a proud old tradition on this forum of applicants assuming new = less. Never heard any of the lawyers echo that. Rankings might make you feel better but in my respectful view, they’re ultimately useless. 

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Yeah. Most of you guys really have no idea of what kind of law you want to do. How could you? It’s not like you get a lot of exposure to it unless you have some one in the family already involved. 

Very few people end up attending more than one school and no one attends all 16 or whatever we are at now - so there’s no way anyone can have a definitive view of “best school culture” or whatever.

So it’s largely a crapshoot in terms of figuring out The Best School For Me Personally because you won’t know what you wanted until you are much further down the road - like three years into your career or so.

For the most part trying to rank your schools as applicants is often just piling vague goals on top of very little knowledge. How does that calculation come out with anything helpful?

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My best advice continues to be to keep your debt low and try to attend in the province where you want to live:

1. In very short order debt will factor into every major decision you make. Keeping it low keeps options open, career wise and beyond (property? kids? etc).

2.The laws and procedural rules can vary province to province. May as well learn the ones you’re most likely going to end up using. 

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41 minutes ago, Hegdis said:

My best advice continues to be to keep your debt low and try to attend in the province where you want to live:

1. In very short order debt will factor into every major decision you make. Keeping it low keeps options open, career wise and beyond (property? kids? etc).

2.The laws and procedural rules can vary province to province. May as well learn the ones you’re most likely going to end up using. 

I agree with this advice, but I would add that, in addition to limiting debt and attending school where you want to practice, it is likely wise to keep your options as open as possible by weighing potential opportunities post-graduation.

Queens law costs ~$1500/year more than Windsor, but Queens students seem more likely to secure appellate clerkships, seem more likely to secure positions in the 2L recruit, and (at least when I checked) were less likely to secure articles immediately upon graduation. Unless you want to practice in Windsor or can live rent-free there, I think it's likely worth the 5k in additional debt to attend a school that maximizes your options post-grad. 

I only say that because I know that I would be upset if I attended a school which limited my potential outcomes, and as you noted it's difficult to know what options you'll be interested in before you get to law school.

For the applicants in this thread, don't be afraid to reach out to the schools and ask about student outcomes, particularly once you've been accepted. It's totally acceptable to ask about the school's articling rate, how many students are clerking and where, etc., and the schools do have this information. If you're interested in a particular program offered by the school, such as the program at Queens where you study at the castle, it's also appropriate to ask how many placements are available. All of the schools I was interested in provided it readily when asked, and I would be surprised if any outright refuse.

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Ontario: 

UofT

Osgoode

Queens/Western

Ottawa - go here if you want government

Windsor

Ryerson

Lakehead

 

This is mostly from the business law perspective/placement rates btw. UofT, McGill, UBC, and Osgoode are the 4 best schools, in that order, and will get you the farthest across the country; though you should go to school where you want to practice. 

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13 minutes ago, Prospero said:

Ontario: 

UofT

Osgoode

Queens/Western

Ottawa - go here if you want government

Windsor

Ryerson

Lakehead

 

This is mostly from the business law perspective/placement rates btw. UofT, McGill, UBC, and Osgoode are the 4 best schools, in that order, and will get you the farthest across the country; though you should go to school where you want to practice. 

More Lakehead graduates are working on Bay Street than Ryerson graduates.

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1 minute ago, chaboywb said:

More Lakehead graduates are working on Bay Street than Ryerson graduates.

For now

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OP, this here is exactly why you should take @Hegdis words to heart.

The reason the ranking debate seems to go in circles is because it is .

I think what you're reading in those posts is the result of our attempt to square our very human desire to rank ourselves (and best our peers) with the objective knowledge that differences in quality of education across Canadian law schools are negligible.

So, we begin (and imo wrongly) attributing things like hiring rates or clerkship numbers to the school instead of the students. Maybe the school explains some of it, but you'll be hard pressed to find objective data on by how much.

Look, if more academically minded high achievers attend UofT than say Windsor, what does that say about your own individual prospects for landing a Bay Street job or a judicial clerkship? Not a lot if you're being honest.

@Hegdis 's point I think is that school rankings, official or not, are likely to have a negligible impact on your overall prospects but a much larger impact on your ego. And sometimes that's enough. 

Edited by TheAEGIS
Edited for clarity
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I know that Ontario schools are still cheaper than American ones, but the lack of a tuition freeze and artifical rise in tuition of Ontario schools reminds me of a quote by the former teacher and mildly liberal US president Lyndon Johnson (Yes, the one who drummed up support for the Vietnam War):

I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor. And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.

 

Edited by toastedguac
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On 2/20/2021 at 11:28 PM, KJR said:

In the end, it is how you do in law school that matters more than the name of the university on the degree

This is very interesting to me because it makes me ask: “where will I be able to do my best?” Environment can mean a lot to a student. As someone with a family, I think the city we’re in and our quality of life could have an impact on my grades. 

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37 minutes ago, TheAEGIS said:

I think is that school rankings, official or not, are likely to have a negligible impact on your overall prospects

Can you elaborate on this point? Assuming that you are interested in corporate law and want to work for a full-service firm, the school you attend does have an impact on your prospects (http://ultravires.ca/2019/12/toronto-summer-2020-2l-recruit-numbers/). I am not saying that UofT is the overall number 1 ranked school with the best education and employment prospects in every field, but it definitely has an impact. 

I think the point here is that when deciding which law school you choose, prestige alone should not be a deciding factor. Factors such as tuition costs, area of practice/employment opportunities, and location are much more important. I think these personal considerations are more practical than trying to come up with a school ranking system that is hard to determine.

Edit:

The question you should ask isn't which law school is perceived as a tier 1. You should ask questions such as:

1. Which province do I want to practice in?

2. What practice areas am I interested in?  (hard to determine without experience obviously)

3.  What will be the total cost for attending X School (include scholarships, cost of living, tuition, etc)?

Edited by Re7o
example

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