Despite the relatively small number of law schools that teach in the common law tradition, singling out the one institution to attend requires some thought. Applicants should consider carefully the particulars of each law school before making a decision. The quality of a law school is certainly a major consideration; however, estimations of quality can be very subjective, and differences in quality among schools can be exaggerated. Factors such as the campus atmosphere, the school’s devotion to teaching and scholarship, and the applicant’s enthusiasm for the school also are very important. Relying on general notions of prestige or reputation should not be enough. Schools selected on this basis may not be well suited to the specific needs of a particular student.
An excellent legal education can be obtained at all of Canada’s law schools. Some of the factors to be considered, based on an individual’s particular interests, include the
- quality, strengths, and scholarly interests of the faculty;
- quality, size, composition, and background of the student body;
- range of library holdings and facilities both in the law school and in the university;
- breadth and depth of the curriculum, particularly in the upper years;
- degree to which clinical experience is available and is integrated into the curriculum;
- nature of any special programs offered;
- number and types of student organizations; and
- location of the school.
Canada’s Two Legal Traditions
In choosing a law school, it is important to be aware of one restriction on a person’s entitlement to practice law. Canada has two legal traditions, the French civil law tradition dominant in Quebec and the English common law tradition dominant in the other provinces and territories.
In order to practice law in Quebec, it is usually necessary to obtain a civil law degree from a law school in Quebec or in the civil law program of the University of Ottawa. To practice law in common law jurisdictions, it is usually necessary to obtain a degree from one of the common-law law schools referred to on this website. Canada has a series of mobility agreements, as they are known, which have greatly facilitated the movement of lawyers, on either a temporary or permanent basis, between the various provincial jurisdictions. More detailed information about the protocols, and the requirements for practicing law, can be obtained from the law societies of the various provinces.