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Canada: University of Ottawa Faculty of Law - Common Law (ENGLISH)
By Matthew G. Scott, published August 2009, last updated by TLS April 2010
Note: Applying to Law Schools in Ontario requires applying through a central service known as the Ontario Law School Application Service (OLSAS). More information can be found here.
Note 2: The University of Ottawa Faculty of Law also has a “Programme de droit canadien” which is a primarily French based program whereby students can receive a LL.B and LLL in three years. This article does not cover this program, though it will be mentioned in the academics section. The article instead focuses on the English Common Law program, upon which at the end of three years a LL.B. is granted. If desired, this program can be extended to a fourth year whereby a dual degree, the LL.B and LLL, are awarded.
The University of Ottawa Faculty of Law benefits from being at the heart of the oldest and largest bilingual university in Canada, founded in 1848. The Faculty of Law itself was established in 1953, and is one of the few law schools in Canada in which both common and civil law are taught. This also allows students who are completing a common law degree to enter the National Program and extend their studies by an extra year to receive training in civil law. Over the course of its existence, it has developed into one of the strongest civil law schools in the country and above average common law school as well.
With its location in the middle of Ottawa, the university is within a short distance of Parliament, the National Library, the National Archives, many government departments, the National Arts Centre, the National Gallery of Canada, and of course, the Supreme Court of Canada. This location helps the University of Ottawa receive more Supreme Court Clerkships than any other school except powerhouses McGill and Toronto. The University of Ottawa campus is also conveniently located next to the Rideau Canal, and its two campus bus stations are on the three major bus routes that cross the city.
For those unfamiliar with the City of Ottawa, it is of course the capital of Canada, and is on the southern banks of the Ottawa River, which forms the boundary between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The 2006 Census recorded the population at over 812,000, making it the fourth largest municipality in the country. Although there are a large number of government offices in Ottawa, the city also boasts a variety of cultural activities such as Winterlude each winter and the Tulip Festival each summer, and is colloquially known as the “most educated city in Canada.” This designation comes about from the fact that over half the population has graduated from College or University, and it features the largest per capita concentration of engineers, scientists and residents with Ph.D.s in Canada.
For those with an inclination towards sports, the city also boasts the Ottawa Senators who play in the National Hockey League, the Ottawa 67’s who play in the Ontario Hockey League, and annually hosts the Bell Capital Cup tournament; one of the largest minor hockey tournaments in the world. The two major universities, Carleton and Ottawa, also contribute nationally ranked teams in their respective sports, with the Carleton Ravens being one of the best in Canada for Basketball and the Ottawa Gee Gees being nationally ranked in football.
It is worth noting that Ottawa has what is referred to as a “humid continental climate”, with a record high of 100 °F (37.8 °C) being recorded on July 4th, 1913; and a record low of -38 °F (-38.9 °C) observed on December 29th, 1933. This is the fourth coldest temperature recorded in a capital city, trailing only Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Astana, Kazakhstan, and Moscow, Russia. Due to its location in the continental interior, the summers are actually relatively warm, which means by annual average Ottawa is then only the seventh coldest capital in the world. However, if you looked only at January temperatures, Ottawa would be third coldest, being colder than even Moscow which is much further north. Know to expect snow and ice, as well as freezing rain, which are common weather conditions in the city in the winter.
For all the adversity in the weather though, students who do choose to enroll at Ottawa will benefit from the Common Law Section which provides a broad academic and professional education in the practice of law, government, international service, legal scholarship and conflict resolution. Students will find that they develop strong analytical, research and practical skills, as well as a disciplined approach to the social and legal problems facing modern society. The Faculty also has a proactive commitment to equity in the hiring of staff, the admission process and even curriculum review. Finally, there is a strong commitment to offering the degree in both Official Languages, to developing common law vocabulary, teaching materials and legal scholarship in French, and promoting French legal services in Ontario.
For International (and U.S.) students:
Note, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law teaches Common Law and Civil Law. For most English students who do not wish to practice in the province of Québec, only the LL.B. element matters. As a result, this profile focuses on the common law side of things.
Admission to the University of Ottawa is a competitive process. Although there is no minimum LSAT score, the school reports a gpa median of 3.77 for its incoming class. Furthermore, the Faculty of Law remains committed to maintaining a diverse academic environment and in preparing competent and compassionate professionals. Therefore, the school considers many factors to help ensure that the study body represents the fullest possible range of social, economic, ethnic and cultural perspectives. Potential applicants should thus be advised that although academic performance, the personal statement and the LSAT are significant factors, consideration can be given to other factors as well. The school will particularly look to achievements in extracurricular activities, community work, or even outstanding achievement in previous careers. Due to the bilingual nature of the school, unique linguistic or cultural factors may also be considered.
Students who apply under the General Category are expected to apply via OLSAS and must be sure to have completed the LSAT, write a personal statement, have two recommendations sent in and have the official transcript of their post-secondary studies sent in. It’s important to note that applicants must be in at least their third year of undergraduate studies, meaning that you have to complete at least 3/4ths of your degree before enrolling. Despite this, the school strongly recommends that applicants finish their program of studies prior to entering the law school.
The University of Ottawa Faculty of Law is also heavily committed to educational equity. As a result, it may give special consideration to various groups, including Access, Special Circumstances, Mature and Aboriginal. These individuals may have additional requirements to submit along with their normal application package to be considered though. Furthermore, the Faculty of Law maintains an Education Equity Office which focuses on increasing the participation of persons from groups such as minorities, Aboriginal peoples, lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, persons with disabilities and economically disadvantaged persons. This Office advises the Admissions Committee, assists in developing recruitment and outreach strategies, and examines the curriculum to ensure it does not perpetuate discriminatory attitudes or approaches. These principles help ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate in the academic and social activities offered by the Faculty.
For International (or U.S.) students:
It is worth noting that the University of Ottawa places a very minimal importance on the LSAT admission test, probably due to the influence of the French Program which like all French Programs does not require the LSAT. The English program does require the LSAT, but there is no set minimum.
Attending law school is an expensive endeavor, and the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law is no different. Depending on the program you wish to enroll in, the tuition does vary, but for the English Common Law section domestic tuition is $12,170.56 for the 2009-2010 academic year. This places it roughly in the middle of the pack as far as tuition goes, it is much cheaper than schools like Toronto ($21,767 for 2009-2010) or Osgoode ($16,325 for 2009-2010) but is still more expensive than bargains like McGill ($7,158.22 for non-Québec residents) and Victoria ($8,177.56). Students should also expect to pay $1,100 in textbooks and casebooks, and as much as $10,000 to $13,000 more in room and board over the course of the academic year.
The story for International (and U.S. Students), is dramatically different however, perhaps due to the large number of embassies in Ottawa leading to an influx of international applicants. Whatever the cause, the fee for these students at the Faculty of Law is set at an astronomical $27,391.02. In other words, international students receive the privilege of paying a tuition that is a full 225% higher than domestic students. In fact, this tuition trails only Toronto’s rate of $31,081 for international students, which itself is only 143% of the domestic student tuition.
To be fair though, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law does not have the largest percentage increase for international students, McGill claims that dubious distinction, with international students paying 310% more than Canadians from provinces other than Québec. This statistic however is inflated by the fact that McGill’s domestic rate is the cheapest in Canada, and its international tuition is still cheaper than several other Canadian schools.
Financing Your Education:
For many students, the high cost of law school means relying on a combination of financial aid, government student loans and scholarships and bursaries to pay the cost. The University of Ottawa ordinarily has a healthy financial aid program, but many of its scholarships and bursaries are funded by interest earned on endowments. Due to the harsh economic conditions, investment income for the year has dropped off dramatically. As a result, Ottawa is advising potential students that it’s reasonable to expect that there will be reductions from the advertised numbers and amounts in addition to, the number and size of awards given this year. The school is committed to minimizing the cutbacks though. In other words, the $1,000,000 awarded in financial aid in 2006-2007 is not likely to be repeated in 2009-2010.
Aside from bursaries or scholarships, students are also advised to consider applying for financial aid from their local government. Each province in Canada has some form of student assistance available, with varying requirements in terms of residency and eligibility. In Ontario, students can apply for the Ontario Student Assistance Program, or OSAP. This program can provide students with funds to assist them during their studies. Additionally, students may be able to secure private student loans, with many banks and institutions willing to provide special rates to law students. It is advisable to shop around, going into various banks in your neighborhood and asking about the possibilities for student loans. Please note that you may be required to have a co-signer, and the amount of your loans will vary depending on your existing debt load.
For International (and U.S.) students:
Note that many financial aid programs, such as the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), are limited to Canadian citizens. However, U.S. citizens are still eligible for their federal Stafford Loan, or other private educational loan programs in the United States. Similar programs may exist in other countries as well.
Like many Canadian law schools, the program at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law can be perhaps most easily divided into first and upper year segments. There is a stark contrast between the program’s construction and rigidity in the first year and the dramatic flexibility offered in the upper years of the program.
Your first year at uOttawa will be a “challenging, rewarding and unique” experience. During Orientation Week, you will have an opportunity to become acquainted with faculty members, the city of Ottawa and with colleagues and peers who you will be studying with during your three years at the school. You will also be paired with an upper-year “Peer Advisor” to help facilitate your transition into the law school and to assist with your continued academic success throughout the year.
Beyond the standard orientation activities, you will be instructed in six core areas of law, and in alternative dispute resolution. These will include Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility, Constitutional Law I, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, First Year Thematic Course, Introduction to Public Law and Legislation, Property and Torts. To help you adjust to this transition, you will have one “small group” course of about 20 students where you will become well-versed in legal writing and research techniques.
One of the most innovative things about the first year curriculum is the three week immersion into Alternative Dispute Resolution training. This practical unit is designed to prepare you for mediation case analysis, effective client representation, and developing specialized strategies to creatively solve disputes. The program is undertaken through “actual case”-based mediation exercises and student interaction with local members of the bar.
You might wonder why this program is innovative or relevant, the answer is simple: mediation will likely soon be mandatory across Ontario. Currently, it is mandatory in the National Capital region, and on its way to the provincial requirement status alluded to previously. With the entire judicial process being bogged down by high costs, the program offers a lower cost solution that makes sense. The Faculty of Law firmly believes that employers will recognize graduates as being fully equipped for the demands of the legal profession.
For the most part, students in their upper years have tremendous flexibility in the courses they wish to take. There are a few requirements however, like most Canadian law schools. Students are expected to take Civil Procedure and Constitutional Law II, complete a major paper and participate in a moot court or an oral skills course. The latter two of these requirements are in keeping with the traditional LL.B. requirements which emphasize the importance of generating well rounded students, and are common requirements across the country in one form or another.
Areas of Strength:
Although students cannot formally specialize in an area of law, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law does benefit heavily from the influences of the city to which it owes its name. Ottawa is of course a unique legal environment, being Canada’s capital, a country open to the world and known for its contribution to human rights; while also being one of the major players in information technology in North America. Many head offices for corporations which are leaders in the field of IT, are located in Ottawa.
It is no surprise that the Faculty of Law has developed excellent advanced studies and research in fields of international law, human rights, law and technology, environmental and comparative law. In fact, one of Canada’s best Internet and E-Commerce experts, Michael Geist, is a professor at the University of Ottawa. A board member on the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (the managers of the “.ca” domain) and founder of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, as well as publisher of weekly columns on new technology and its legal ramifications; Michael Geist is a major attraction for students with an interest in this cutting edge legal field.
Dual Degree Programs:
The University of Ottawa features a wide array of dual degree programs for students who are wishing to combine their legal education with another degree. The standard option Bachelor of Laws / Masters of Business Administration (LL.B / MBA) is offered in conjunction with the Telfer School of Management, a strong business school in its own right with an internationally ranked MBA program, accredited by both the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and Association for MBAs (AMBA). The Faculty of Law also offers a chance to earn both the Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of Civil Laws (LLL) through the national program in four years (three if you can handle a predominantly French curriculum, like McGill’s). This program allows students to practice law in many countries around the world, while also allowing students to gain a critical understanding and sensitivity to Canada’s legal, linguistic and cultural diversity. There is also a Bachelor of Laws / Masters of Arts in International Affairs (LL.B / MA) with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.
For students who wish to practice law in the United States, there are also limited spots in two dual degree programs with U.S. Schools. Students may apply to be in the Bachelor of Law / Juris Doctor (LL.B. / J.D.) program with either American University Washington College of Law or Michigan State University College of Law. In either instance, the program involves two years at the University of Ottawa, and two years at the host school, with students receiving degrees from both. During the time the student attends the U.S. school, the tuition paid is that of University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. It is important to note for Canadian students that these two schools are not equal in the United States. American University is traditionally considered a bottom Tier 1 (Top 50) school, while Michigan State University (not to be confused with the University of Michigan) is typically regarded as a Tier 3 University (100-150, out of 190 or so). This can have a dramatic impact on your employment prospects should you choose to live in the United States, where school prestige and rankings matter far more than they do in Canada.
Quality of Life:
Students attending the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law have a fair quality of life. Located on the eastern edge of the downtown core, the Faculty of Law has most major cities nearby. Due to its urban location however, the campus boasts very little green space, though there are trees planted throughout campus. While there are a variety of attractions downtown, including things like the National Art Gallery, the Rideau Centre, Parliament Hill and the Market district, many other attractions like Scotiabank Place are fairly far outside of the downtown core. Fortunately, the city does have a reliable rapid bus transit system, which runs until 2:00am seven days a week on the hubs. The local service routes however, in the suburbs, will stop running at 11:00 pm most nights, so it is important to either live directly along a hub or keep this restriction in mind.
Students attending the University of Ottawa have a variety of student activities to keep them engaged. The student editorial board publishes the Ottawa Law Review under faculty supervision, the school competes in several moot court competitions and the University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic provides services to the public. Further, students have a choice of a variety of student clubs and associations, including the Business Law Students Association, the Information Technology Law Society, and the Criminal Law Students Association, among others. Students also have the opportunity to head over to either of the two sporting facilities on campus, the older Montpetit building which features a pool, diving platforms, multiple gymnasiums and a workout room. The Montpetit building is conveniently right next to the law building. Alternatively, you could head over to the Sports Complex, which features the school’s hockey rinks, football stadium, and a larger gym. The Sports Complex is relatively new, and even features a bar (Zampub) on the 2nd floor.
There are very few bars on campus, due to changing demographics and the drinking age in the province being 19. However, there is 1848 in the center of campus, and Father & Sons and La Maison just off campus, to name a couple popular stops for students. Father & Sons is directly across the street from the law school, making it a convenient choice. The University’s main cafeteria is also across the street from the law school, as is University Centre which features a student run convenience store. University Centre also adjoins the main campus library. It is possible to reach this library from the law school without going outside via a 2nd floor level overpass which also features a couple classrooms, a lounge, and some small offices. It is also worth noting that the Faculty of Law has its own library on the upper floors of the law building, and that there is a student lounge, mainly occupied by law students, on the 3rd floor of the law building.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the Faculty of Law is scheduled to renovate Fauteux Hall beginning in 2009. As information on this remains sparse, it is difficult to say how much or little these renovations will affect law students enrolled at the University of Ottawa. For more information, it is advisable to contact the University.
Employment prospects for University of Ottawa graduates are difficult to project, as information does not appear to be available on the uOttawa website to help illustrate where their graduates end up from year to year. This leaves a shortage of resources to meaningfully analyze the Faculty of Laws’ graduate performance. If an applicant only turns to Macleans, they would see that Ottawa was 14th in elite firms hiring, 9th in national reach and 11th in faculty hiring; none of which are very positive statistics.
However, there could quite possibly be a large sample bias at work here. With Ottawa being home to a variety of non-governmental organizations, corporations, government branches and quasi-judicial bodies, it’s entirely possible that many applicants self-select Ottawa due to its proximity to these things. Such a selection process would naturally lead to a lower rate of students at elite firms than say, at a school like Toronto, two blocks over from the heart of the Canadian legal market.
In fact, there could be an argument that Ottawa graduates are among the most qualified in the country, when you consider that it places 3rd in Supreme Court Clerkships among Canadian Law Schools. However, this statistic may be just as misleading as the previous ones, albeit more positively in uOttawa’s favour. It’s possible that top students at other schools are more attracted to elite firms in Toronto, Montreal, or their city of study; while top students at the Faculty of Law are willing to apply to the Supreme Court Clerkship positions since they are in the same city anyway. It is impossible to know for sure without more data, and thus, you should take these rankings with a grain of salt.
That said, there is a University of Ottawa Faculty of Law graduate currently sitting on the Supreme Court of Canada, so it’s clear that graduates from uOttawa do reach the highest levels of the Canadian judicial system. Furthermore, students at uOttawa benefit from the Career & Professional Development Office, which is staffed by four career counselors who assist students in choosing the direction that their professional lives will take after law school, as well as providing the tools necessary to achieve those goals. To this end, the Office provides tools, resources, events and counseling that all help you find your dream job; including on-campus interviews in October each year which brings a large number of employers from Toronto to Ottawa. From the day you enter the school until the day you leave, the door is always open and the staff are always willing to help. This service provides a tremendous boost to your potential employment prospects by helping you through the process of securing a job.
For International (and U.S.) students:
In order to be called to the bar in Ontario, you must first article for a 10 month period, as mandated by the Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario). The process is the first step in a relatively complicated accreditation process which is outside the scope of this profile, but in any case, either the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law or The Law Society of Upper Canada could better explain it to you if you require. While articling, you are paid, though it is often at a lower rate than an associate salary. That said, there is no maximum articling salary, sometimes foreign trained lawyers are brought into Canada, paid at associate salaries and just said to be articling for a year. For more information, you may visit http://rc.lsuc.on.ca/jsp/licensingprocesslawyer/articling.jsp.
The University of Ottawa Faculty of Law is one of the most competitive schools in Canada, with over 3,500 applications last year. Its distinguished history and location in the city of Ottawa allow its graduates excellent opportunities with a variety of governmental branches, non-governmental organizations, judicial branches and international organizations. If you wish to practice law in Canada, and particularly in the nation’s capital, it is a good choice for your legal education. The quality of life is good, the facilities are nice and the faculty features some brilliant minds. A degree from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law is a solid start to your legal career.
2009-2010 Domestic Tuition: $12,170.56
Applying to Ontario Law Schools
In the province of Ontario, there is a central service which handles all applications. You must apply online at www.ouac.on.ca/olsas.
Deadlines in Ontario for most programs in Ontario are set at November 1st of that year for first year applicants, or May 1st for upper year applicants.
Note that there are a few exceptions to this, notably the French Language Program at the University of Ottawa and the J.D/LLB Program at the University of Windsor.
OLSAS Contact Information:
Ontario Law School Application Service
Canadian Law School Rankings
Canada: University of Toronto Faculty of Law
Canada: University of Alberta Faculty of Law
Canada: Dalhousie Law School
Canada: McGill University Faculty of Law
Canada: University of Ottawa Faculty of Law
Canada: Osgoode Hall Law School (York University)
Canada: UBC Faculty of Law
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IE Law School- Master of Laws (LL.M.) in International Practice
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