Currently, law schools can be very selective about whom they admit into their programs. Demand for legal education in Canada has continued to be high in recent years. Unlike in the United States, there has not been a dramatic reduction in the number of applicants. Law school applicants can expect that the admission process will be quite competitive. Most law schools are deluged with applications from highly qualified candidates, almost all of whom would be perfectly capable of completing a law school education. In the last few years, between 5,000 and 7,000 applicants have competed for approximately 2,350 first-year places in Canada’s common-law law schools. Admission committees are faced with denying admission to many well-qualified applicants due to limited space and resources.
All law schools consider a variety of factors in admitting their students, and no single qualification, by itself, will guarantee acceptance or rejection. In order to be fair, schools rely heavily on selection criteria including the LSAT and academic achievements that relate to expected performance in law school and can be applied to all candidates.
Many, perhaps most, law schools do not wait to accept or reject applicants on a specified date. Instead, the schools operate what is known as a rolling admission process. In this model, a school evaluates applications and informs candidates of the school’s admission decision on a continuous basis over several months, usually beginning in early winter and extending to midsummer for wait-listed admissions.
Once an application and its supporting documents have arrived, many law schools will make a preliminary judgment about what the applicant’s admission status will be. At this preliminary stage, many schools use an admission index to evaluate candidates. The index ordinarily is a combination of an applicant’s academic record and LSAT score. These index formulas are unique to each school and are followed more rigidly at some schools than at others.
Undergraduate performance generally is an important indicator of how someone is likely to perform in law school. Hence, many law schools look closely at university grades when considering individual applications. Course selection also can make a difference in admission evaluations. Applicants who have taken difficult or advanced courses in their undergraduate study often are evaluated in a more favorable light than students who have concentrated on less difficult or less advanced subjects.
Some law schools attempt to consider undergraduate-performance trends along with a student’s grade-point average. Thus, they may discount a slow start in a student’s undergraduate career if he or she performs exceptionally well in the later school years. Similarly, admission committees may see an undergraduate’s strong start followed by a mediocre finish as an indication of less potential to do well in law school. Candidates are advised to comment on irregular grade trends in the personal statement section of their applications.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
Nearly all Canadian common-law law schools require the LSAT for admission. The LSAT helps schools to make sound admission decisions by providing a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants.
Most law schools make a genuine effort to evaluate all of a candidate’s credentials. Still, low LSAT scores will hamper your chances for admission, particularly at the most competitive schools. If your test scores are lower than you would like, try to make a realistic determination of the law schools to which you are most likely to gain admission. The school profiles contained on this website may help you make this determination. You should make your final decisions only after reading the informational materials available directly from the law schools.
Letters of Recommendation
The most effective letters of recommendation are those from professors and work supervisors who have known you well enough to write with candor, detail, and objectivity about your academic or personal achievements and potential. Letters that compare you to your academic peers are often considered the most useful. Most schools do not consider general, unreservedly praiseworthy letters helpful. Some schools do not consider letters at all.
Law schools want diverse, interesting classes, representative of a variety of backgrounds. Candidates who apply to law school several years after completing their undergraduate education, and who have demonstrated an ability to succeed in nonacademic environments, often are more motivated than those who continue their education without a break.
Few Canadian law schools today use interviews in the admission process. In the rare instances where interviews are used, the school will contact you to make the necessary arrangements.
Aboriginal and Minority Applicants
Most law schools have active programs to foster greater minority representation in the legal profession. Many schools have academic support programs for minority and other applicants. Refer to the law school description on this website or to each school’s calendar for additional information.
People of aboriginal ancestry may also be eligible to apply for participation in the Program of Legal Studies for Native People. This program enables Canadian aboriginals to engage in a preliminary study of legal materials by attending a full-time summer course offered at the University of Saskatchewan. The program helps to prepare aboriginal students for law school; successful completion of the program will strengthen their applications to Canadian law schools and may be, in some cases, required for admission.