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Chazz

Did U of C Law use to have a better reputation?

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Hey guys,

I'll preface this by saying that I of course think that the U of C has a fine law school. I did my undergrad at the U of C and am seriously considering the offer of admission I have received from the Faculty of Law, so I'm definitely don't mean to dunk on the school with this post.

However, I have a friend whose father is a lawyer that went to law school here at the U of C in the early '90s. My friend said that the reason his father attended the U of C is because it had one of the strongest law schools in the country at the time. Maybe not on par with the U of T, but still definitely up there. However, apparently in the years since the U of C's reputation has gone down relative to other Canadian law schools, which played a role in my friend's decision to go to law school at the U of T rather than follow in his father's footsteps at the U of C.

I've looked online, but I haven't really been able to find any more info on this. I get that this is a question about reputation and is therefore to a large degree subjective. However, I was still wondering if there are any older lawyers on this forum, perhaps U of C alumni or just those with knowledge about the industry, who can provide more detail. Is it true that U of C Law's reputation used to be much stronger back then relative to other Canadian law schools? If so, for what reason(s) did it slip?

One theory I have is that maybe the U of C didn't always have a holistic admissions process, and when it switched over the reputation slipped due to the impression that admissions standards got lower (à la Windsor). But that's pure speculation on my part. My friend also mentioned something about professor quality being not as strong, but I don't remember much detail.

Like I said, I don't mean to dunk on the school, and it definitely isn't going to affect my decision of whether to attend (and I encourage anyone reading this to not let it affect their decision either). I was just curious to see if there's anything to this story.

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2 minutes ago, Chazz said:

However, I have a friend whose father is a lawyer that went to law school here at the U of C in the early '90s. My friend said that the reason his father attended the U of C is because it had one of the strongest law schools in the country at the time. Maybe not on par with the U of T, but still definitely up there.

Dude, your friend is just bigging their dad up.

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2 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

Dude, your friend is just bigging their dad up.

I mean, I definitely don't discount that possibility. It's just that he's the smartest guy I know and his father's in the legal industry, so I value his opinion pretty highly is all.

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I'm weighing attending UofC as well, however I haven't put as much consideration regarding the reputation of the school, but rather that the school's focus isn't aligned to what I want to do. My impression has been that the school is Calgary big law/corporate focused, whereas I'm leaning more towards government & criminal.

Maybe this focus could have an impact? I don't know though, @CleanHands explanation seems highly probably haha.

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2 minutes ago, RUIQ said:

I'm weighing attending UofC as well, however I haven't put as much consideration regarding the reputation of the school, but rather that the school's focus isn't aligned to what I want to do. My impression has been that the school is Calgary big law/corporate focused, whereas I'm leaning more towards government & criminal.

Maybe this focus could have an impact? I don't know though, @CleanHands explanation seems highly probably haha.

Yeah, my interests are similar to yours and so far that's also been the big "minus" so far for U of C for me. The question about reputation is more just to satisfy my personal curiosity.

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I’ve worked for a prominent law society for almost 3 years and have heard the exact opposite about Calgary. Whenever the concept of law school reputation comes up, Calgary has always been cast in a positive and improving light. They are not your UBC or UofT’s, but they’re also not trying to be. I have yet to hear anything bad about them from those I have discussed it with. I cannot say the same for other laws schools, but won’t name names. But as far as I know, Calgary has never had a bad reputation in the Canadian legal community. 

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My sense is that Calgary's reputation, whatever it may be, has been improving over time (as would be expected with most relatively young schools).

I think the only schools that have maybe regressed a bit in people's minds are older schools such as Dal and McGill. They are both certainly still good schools but the world isn't what it used to be 100 or even 50 years ago when, I presume, there wasn't such a big disparity in funding levels and when their local economies were stronger.

Edited by msk2012
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14 minutes ago, msk2012 said:

I think the only schools that have maybe regressed a bit in people's minds are older schools such as Dal and McGill.

If one were to point to a Canadian law school that has suffered a decline in reputation over the years, it is definitely Ottawa.

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1 hour ago, CleanHands said:

If one were to point to a Canadian law school that has suffered a decline in reputation over the years, it is definitely Ottawa.

As a uOttawa law student, I partially agree with your point regarding our law school's reputation. I am just curious; what do you think of the reasons for the decline in the law school's reputation over the years? Corporate placement? 

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10 minutes ago, ArchivesandMuseums said:

As a uOttawa law student, I partially agree with your point regarding our law school's reputation. I am just curious; what do you think of the reasons for the decline in the law school's reputation over the years? Corporate placement? 

The big admissions screwup that ended up permanently increasing their class size (and lowering their admissions standards) is what I had in mind. At least as a non-uOttawa person that incident is sort of infamous and is pointed to as something that has sullied the school.

(BTW this isn't to knock uOttawa which is still a fine school as far as I'm concerned; I just think it's fair to say no other Canadian law school has taken a hit like that.)

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It is not subjective, Calgary had a weak reputation in the 90's as it was a relatively new school. If anything, Calgary's reputation has improved.

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Hello!

UCalgary Law Ambassador and 1L UCalgary Law student here! (Lauren Peebles - feel free to shoot me a message on LinkedIn!) Quick context: I am from the west coast, did get into UBC, UofT, and UCalgary, and chose UCalgary. I think this is very interesting topic to address because I can empathize that people would not want to attend a school that has a declining reputation. So, let's debunk some myths:

1. If you want to practice in Calgary, you should go to UCalgary. Firms in the city do hire more UCalgary students. in 2020, more uCalgary students were hired than the previous year (just based on number of students hired), despite there being less positions available. 

2. UCalgary gets you ready to practice law, not just theorize about it. We learn how to write factums, briefs, memos, and how to moot, all before learning substantive law. That was really important to me choosing UCalgary because I have learned how to interact with the legal community here and feel very capable that I have the skills to build substantive law around it. 

3. Let's talk about the "slip": think about what metrics people may be basing that off of. As we are all logical thinkers, anecdotal evidence is useful, but only one component of making an assessment. U of T is great if you want to practice in Toronto. UCalgary is great if you want to practice in Calgary. I think something to think about is what you are looking out of law school. If you want to have an academic career where you become a Justice on the Supreme Court, think about what schools and programs bread those sorts of academics. If you are looking for a job, Calgary is the largest legal market in western Canada (yes including Vancouver), and the 2nd largest in Canada (after Toronto). 

4. Lets talk about mental heath: I am happy at law school, thriving, and just got a 1L job. I trust everyone in my class and I know that everyone is here to help each other. If this is something that is important to you, I recommend really looking into each school and how students interact with each other: really talk to people and see if they are happy. 

5. Admission Standards: If this is an important factor to you about considering where you will go, then check out the UCalgary admission standards Here is a link: https://law.ucalgary.ca/future-students/how-to-apply/assessment-of-applications#:~:text=A typical first year class,interviews will not be given. The admission standards have pretty much stayed the same (but as most of us know a 160 is a lower percentile score now than it was 10 years ago). The one thing I would caution is that admission standards are based on other people, not you. Your education is what matters and you are going to get out of it exactly what you put into it. 1L is pretty much the same no matter where you go in Canada because we all need to learn the fundamental case law. 

 6. Making a good career: There are a lot of phenomenal UCalgary lawyers, and hundreds of them are at Tier 1 firms across the world. The same is true for every other law school in Canada. Before choosing a school, really ask yourself what is important to you. At the end of the day, you are making choices about your future, so figure out what you want and go from there! At the end of the day, a U of T degree is probably not going to be any more valuable, its just more expensive. 

Edited by UofCLawStudent
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28 minutes ago, UofCLawStudent said:

If you are looking for a job, Calgary [is] the 2nd largest [legal market] in Canada (after Toronto). 

Is there a citation for this? I can see Calgary being the second largest market for corporate lawyers in common law Canada but find it surprising that it would be the second largest market for all types of lawyers in all of Canada.

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1 hour ago, msk2012 said:

Is there a citation for this? I can see Calgary being the second largest market for corporate lawyers in common law Canada but find it surprising that it would be the second largest market for all types of lawyers in all of Canada.

https://law.ucalgary.ca/future-students/why-ucalgary-law

This is kind of self-serving as it a UCalgary reference, but it is well known that Calgary has the 2nd biggest in Canada. McLeans did a good piece on the Calgary legal market if you are interested! 

Good question about where that number comes from. Most law firms are split into corporate and litigation. Corporate lawyers (for the most part) across Canada bring in a lot of $ when times are good, but less dollars when there is a recession. Litigation is more steady for the most part. Calgary lawyers are that exception. Osler Calgary and Bennett Jones Calgary were on opposite sides of the $26 Billion Cernovus/Husky deal at one of the Canada's lowest points during Covid plus BLG Calgary pulled off the best ABQB litigation run for CIBC that has been seen in decades this past year. For litigation in Vancouver, Vancouver firms do a lot of class-action lawsuits, but there isn't really a lot of money in those types of litigation, even though they fulfill a social utility. Also, there aren't a lot of deals being done in Vancouver. 

You make a good point about the common law. There is not a lot of money in civil law because it is less precedent based and more statutory interpretation. You need less training and client development to operate in that sphere so you don't get paid as much. The number comes from dollars spent on legal services. Simply put, companies spend money on lawyers in Calgary. 

That is not to say that the legal market will remain that way forever, Calgary has had to pivot to keep client needs fulfilled and has been changing to embrace new technologies that are coming.

I hope that answers the question!

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5 minutes ago, UofCLawStudent said:

 For litigation in Vancouver, Vancouver firms do a lot of class-action lawsuits, but there isn't really a lot of money in those types of litigation, even though they fulfill a social utility.

This is incredibly off base which, along with the below, makes me wonder about the balance of the post. While not all class action lawyers are mega millionaires or anything for a long time there was, and probably still is, pretty strong representation of the highest paid lawyers in the country being involved in the class action sphere. For an extremely dated article of questionable utility for this discussion, see this 2012 Star article on a plaintiffs' lawyer pulling in $8 million in a year. Not that $100 million dollar fee approvals are commonplace, but here's a Vancouver firm getting a court approved settlement fee of $100.1 million. Not bad for a 15 lawyer firm with 5 partners.

 

5 minutes ago, UofCLawStudent said:

You make a good point about the common law. There is not a lot of money in civil law because it is less precedent based and more statutory interpretation. You need less training and client development to operate in that sphere so you don't get paid as much. The number comes from dollars spent on legal services.

I'll leave it to a civil lawyer to address this but it is also patently ridiculous.

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24 minutes ago, UofCLawStudent said:

https://law.ucalgary.ca/future-students/why-ucalgary-law

This is kind of self-serving as it a UCalgary reference, but it is well known that Calgary has the 2nd biggest in Canada. McLeans did a good piece on the Calgary legal market if you are interested! 

Good question about where that number comes from. Most law firms are split into corporate and litigation. Corporate lawyers (for the most part) across Canada bring in a lot of $ when times are good, but less dollars when there is a recession. Litigation is more steady for the most part. Calgary lawyers are that exception. Osler Calgary and Bennett Jones Calgary were on opposite sides of the $26 Billion Cernovus/Husky deal at one of the Canada's lowest points during Covid plus BLG Calgary pulled off the best ABQB litigation run for CIBC that has been seen in decades this past year. For litigation in Vancouver, Vancouver firms do a lot of class-action lawsuits, but there isn't really a lot of money in those types of litigation, even though they fulfill a social utility. Also, there aren't a lot of deals being done in Vancouver. 

You make a good point about the common law. There is not a lot of money in civil law because it is less precedent based and more statutory interpretation. You need less training and client development to operate in that sphere so you don't get paid as much. The number comes from dollars spent on legal services. Simply put, companies spend money on lawyers in Calgary. 

That is not to say that the legal market will remain that way forever, Calgary has had to pivot to keep client needs fulfilled and has been changing to embrace new technologies that are coming.

I hope that answers the question!

Respectfully, I think you're making a number of claims that you might not be in a position to substantiate. In particular, your take on legal practice in Quebec just seems ill informed.

Still, I continue to have a hard time accepting that Calgary is the second largest legal market in Canada. Maybe you can substantiate that by proving more money is spent on legal fees in Calgary than in other cities but the better metric is probably the number of people engaged in legal practice (seeing as you were talking about finding a job).

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50 minutes ago, UofCLawStudent said:

https://law.ucalgary.ca/future-students/why-ucalgary-law

This is kind of self-serving as it a UCalgary reference, but it is well known that Calgary has the 2nd biggest in Canada. McLeans did a good piece on the Calgary legal market if you are interested! 

Good question about where that number comes from. Most law firms are split into corporate and litigation. Corporate lawyers (for the most part) across Canada bring in a lot of $ when times are good, but less dollars when there is a recession. Litigation is more steady for the most part. Calgary lawyers are that exception. Osler Calgary and Bennett Jones Calgary were on opposite sides of the $26 Billion Cernovus/Husky deal at one of the Canada's lowest points during Covid plus BLG Calgary pulled off the best ABQB litigation run for CIBC that has been seen in decades this past year. For litigation in Vancouver, Vancouver firms do a lot of class-action lawsuits, but there isn't really a lot of money in those types of litigation, even though they fulfill a social utility. Also, there aren't a lot of deals being done in Vancouver. 

You make a good point about the common law. There is not a lot of money in civil law because it is less precedent based and more statutory interpretation. You need less training and client development to operate in that sphere so you don't get paid as much. The number comes from dollars spent on legal services. Simply put, companies spend money on lawyers in Calgary. 

That is not to say that the legal market will remain that way forever, Calgary has had to pivot to keep client needs fulfilled and has been changing to embrace new technologies that are coming.

I hope that answers the question!

Yikes, I liked your first post but there's a lot of misinformation here that you should not be putting forward especially in a stated capacity as a UCalgary Law Ambassador.

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5 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

Yikes, I liked your first post but there's a lot of misinformation here that you should not be putting forward especially in a stated capacity as a UCalgary Law Ambassador.

I completely agree that not everything there is perfect! I think those are some of the general trends the market is seeing right now. Again, a lot of information has a different lens depending on what context you are looking at it from. I do apologize if you did think I was talking about Quebec! I don't believe I mentioned that province, but of course I can see why civil law may be taken in that context. I really encourage everyone to do their own research into each legal market as it is important to make your own decisions! It is very important again, not just to take one person's word (just like mine) and make up your decision on it. 

I agree on that a different metric could be about finding a job and not just about how much money you spend on legal services. I was trying to share where that "2nd biggest legal market in Calgary" comes from, but I know that is not valuable information for everyone. 

I appreciate the commentary here because it helps everyone make a good choice for them where to go to law school! I would love to hear everyone else's law school experiences as well and share their experiences in different legal markets. I think a healthy discussion is so important so I do really appreciate your scepticism. 

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1 hour ago, UofCLawStudent said:

I do apologize if you did think I was talking about Quebec! I don't believe I mentioned that province, but of course I can see why civil law may be taken in that context.

Quebec is the only civil law jurisdiction in Canada. I don't know what else this could be taken to mean when discussing the size of legal markets in Canada.

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