Going to law school is a big decision. Many people decide to go to law school because they aren’t sure what they can do if they don’t have a professional degree. While a law degree can give you financial security and a range of potential career options, it is more competitive than ever before, requires a lot of hard work and, like many other professional degree programs, is subject to ever-increasing tuition costs. Therefore, it is important to explore your reasons for going to law school, do your research and prepare yourself for what you can expect when you get into law school and after you graduate.
Law school may be right for you if:
Law school may not be right for you if:
Read more on when law school may not be for you, reasons to work before pursuing further education and questions to ask yourself before registering for school.
In order to increase your chances of admission, it is very important when applying to law school that you complete the application process on time and in accordance with each school’s instructions. Deadlines and application requirements vary from school to school, so you will need to carefully research the specific requirements for each law school.
The following timeline outlines the steps involved in applying to a law program and the typical timeframes that are associated with each step. This is meant as a rough guideline as the specific requirements and deadlines of each program will vary. Please be sure to take careful note of the deadlines associated with the law schools to which you are interested in applying.
The Law School Admission Counsel (LSAC) website contains lots of helpful information about the law school application process, including details about LSAT preparation and test dates, how to research law schools, how law schools select applicants and details on how to apply.
The Ontario Law School Application Service (OLSAS) website also provides details about the application process for Ontario law schools including important deadlines and LSAT information; the website also has links to all the Ontario law schools. Applications to Ontario law schools are centralized through this website. Learn more about applying to Western University’s Faculty of Law.
Another helpful resource to assist you with the decision and application process is CareerCruising. This site allows you to research law schools, the application process, sample academic and career paths and links you directly to Canadian law school websites.
What can you expect once you have made it into law school?
Most law programs are 3 years in length. First year courses are fairly standard across law schools, providing students with a foundation in Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Contract Law, Property Law and Legal Research & Writing. Many students supplement their academic training in first year by volunteering with their school’s legal clinic or other non-profit organizations in the community. Students interested in honing their trial advocacy skills can also participate in “mooting” (mock trial) competitions.
Some students get law jobs in the summer following first year. The few law firm jobs available to first year students are highly competitive, but opportunities to get paid, hands-on legal experience may also be available at the law school’s legal clinic; students may also gain research experience by working with a faculty member. Most students take non-legal jobs after first year but may do volunteer legal work to gain practical experience.
In second year, there is generally much more latitude to choose courses based on your areas of interest, although many students may select courses based on the areas tested in the Licensing Examinations that all law graduates are required to take to become licensed to practice law in their chosen jurisdiction (province, territory or state) following completion of law school. Learn more about the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Licensing Examinations.
In the summer following second year, many law students take jobs at law firms, government legal departments or legal clinics. During this time, students also apply for articling positions for the year following graduation. Click Learn more about articling in Ontario.
Third year is a time when students can focus on rounding out their education with an exchange, get more involved in clubs or journals and take more specialized courses to explore their interests.
In most jurisdictions, including Ontario, a law degree is necessary but not sufficient to qualify you to practice law. In addition to your law degree, you will also need to:
After you successfully complete your articles and the Licensing Examinations, you are eligible to be “called to the bar” – that is, admitted to practice as a lawyer in Ontario. There may be additional requirements if you obtained your law degree outside Ontario.
Learn More about the licensing process in Ontario.
Lawyers can work in a range of employment settings, including the non-profit/public interest sector (including legal aid clinics and public interest groups), private practice (working at a law firm or in the legal department of a private corporation) and government settings (including working as a Crown Attorney or for a ministry such as the Ministry of the Environment).
Law can be a very rewarding career, but law school (and the practice of law) can also be very challenging; finding a healthy balance can be tough. Some law school graduates and practicing lawyers make the decision not to practice law at all. A law degree – particularly when coupled with the on-the-job training provided during the articling year and beyond – can open up a number of doors in related fields.
Learn more in this very helpful article summarizing the benefits of a legal education, including a list of transferable skills that you will acquire through your legal training and a list of alternative careers that are available to individuals with a law degree.