Monday, September 27, 2010

How Do Ontario’s Six Law Schools Compare?

Ontario’s six law schools are:
1. Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
2. University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
3. University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law
4. University of Windsor, Faculty of Law
5. University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Law
6. Queen’s University, Faculty of Law
Let’s briefly consider what each school offers in terms of programming.

Osgoode Hall Law School

The breadth of Osgoode Hall Law School's upper-year J.D. courses is undeniable: it offers more than 125 seminars and courses annually. It also has strong clinical programs.

Further, it has a number of joint programs, including a new joint J.D./LL.M. program with New York University.

For the J.D. program, the curriculum streams offered are: taxation law; international law; and dispute resolution law.

Osgoode now also offers a professional LL.M. program for the busy practitioner. In addition to the J.D. and LL.M., Osgoode also offers the Ph.D. in law for those seeking an academic career.

For more information, visit Osgoode’s website

University of Toronto, Faculty of Law

The University of Toronto also offers a rich and diverse legal education. It has a wide-ranging curriculum, though its upper-year course offerings are probably slightly less than Osgoode’s in any given year.

It does not offer formal curriculum streams though a student can take a disproportionate number of courses in certain areas of interest.

That said, it offers more joint programs than Osgoode, including a J.D./Ph.d. (political science) program.

Also of note, the school offers many – perhaps the most – community legal clinics and clinical education programs to its J.D. students, an enticing feature for those looking for a practical legal education.

Like Osgoode, the University of Toronto offers graduate programs in law, though they are smaller programs than Osgoode’s.

University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Ottawa’s J.D. program offers four different concentrations: social justice law; environmental law; international law; law and technology.

In terms of clinical programs, among other programs, the law school now offers the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic for those interested in the study and practice of environmental law. Of the all the Ontario schools, Ottawa is the only one which offers such a program.

Further, Ottawa offers a national program in which a student may graduate with both common law and civil law degrees. This is definitively a very attractive program for those considering careers in the civil service or for those Ontario students who are seriously contemplating practicing law in Quebec at some point in their career.

Ottawa also has graduate programs, the LL.M. and LL.D. programs, though their graduate department is smaller than either Osgoode's or the University of Toronto's, meaning, among other things, it does not have nearly the same breadth of graduate courses.

For more information, visit: The University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law’s website

University of Windsor, Faculty of Law

Windsor’s flagship program is the Canadian & American Dual J.D. program it has with University of Detroit Mercy Law School.

Its J.D. course offerings, while more than adequate, are not nearly as extensive as some of the other schools, such as Osgoode Hall. That said its social justice programming is second to none.

At present, the University of Windsor does not have any graduate programs in law though this is scheduled to change in September 2011 when the school launches its first LL.M. program.

For more information, visit: The University of Windsor, Faculty of Law’s website

University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Law

Western’s business law offerings are very impressive. The school offers concentrations in business law, criminal law, intellectual property, and taxation. It also has very strong advocacy programs.

Besides Queen’s University, Western is the only other school that offers a concentration in criminal law.

In terms of graduate programs, Western has an LL.M. program but no Ph.d.

For more information, visit: The University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law website

Queen’s University, Faculty of Law

The school offers combined J.D. programs, as well as a business law clinic. LikeOttawa, Queen’s has a combined civil law/common law degree program.

Queen’s law school is perhaps best known for its criminal law course offerings. It is the only school in Canada that offers a "correctional law project", a program that, among other things, deals with inmate appeals against conviction.

While Queen’s LL.M. program is well-established, it’s doctorate in law is a fairly new program.

For more information, visit: Queen’s University, Faculty of Law’s website

Concluding remarks:

Depending on the law applicant’s personal preferences and ultimate career aspirations, obviously each of the above schools may have varying levels of appeal. Nonetheless, regardless of which school you get into, you can be assured that you will be receiving a top-notch legal education.

The fact that you do not obtain an LL.B. or J.D. in a certain concentration (e.g., business law) from a particular law school is not a bar to practicing law in that area.

For more information on the Ontario Law Schools generally, see the Ontario Law School Application Service’s 2011 Instruction Booklet.

- Robert Tanha, Toronto

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