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Canada: University of Alberta Faculty of Law
By Matthew G. Scott, published July 2009, last updated by TLS April 2010
Note: Applying to the University of Alberta Faculty of Law can be initiated through their website.
The University of Alberta Faculty of Law was established in 1912, and is the oldest Faculty of Law in Western Canada. It has consistently been recognized as an exceptional Canadian law school, which in 2003 was rated by Canadian Lawyer Magazine as the 2nd best in Canada; and more recently in 2007; Macleans ranked it as the #1 law school in Western Canada. Although its ranking has slipped slightly in recent years, the University of Alberta remains one of the strongest schools in the West.
The Faculty of Law is part of the Rutherford Campus of the University of Alberta, one of its five campuses, located on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, Alberta. This puts students in close proximity to world-class sporting events, plenty of recreational activities, and of course, the Rocky Mountains; an excellent venue for skiing, camping or hiking. The famed West Edmonton Mall, the largest in North America and fifth largest in the world, is less than 5km away from the Faculty of Law.
Of course, there has to be more than just fun and games, and the University of Alberta Faculty of Law delivers in these other departments as well. A U of A graduate can expect to benefit from the over 4,000 law graduates who are represented in every Canadian province and territory, and around the world, be it London, New York, Hong Kong or Tokyo. Furthermore, among the alumni of the school include the current Chief Justice of Canada, the Chief Justice of Alberta, the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, distinguished scholars and lawyers, and political and business leaders. The placement of alumni, throughout the world, speaks to just how highly valued a degree from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law can be.
For International (and U.S.) students:
Note, the University of Alberta Faculty of Law teaches Common Law, like virtually all Canadian Law Schools. Universities within the province of Québec generally teach Civil Law, because of the different legal system within that province. The only exceptions to this are the University of Ottawa (which teaches Common, Civil, and both) and McGill University (which teaches both).
Admission to the University of Alberta Faculty of Law is highly competitive, with over 1,200 applicants seeking a mere 170 spots. As a result, the Faculty of Law has one of the more selective LSAT and GPA requirements among Canadian law schools, with a median GPA of 3.7 and a median LSAT of 160 (a table, demonstrating the precise make up of the 2008-2009 class, is shown at the end of this document). Furthermore, regular potential candidates for the University of Alberta Faculty of Law are expected to have at least a bachelors degree from an institution recognized by the University of Alberta. Emphasis will be placed on students demonstrating an outstanding academic ability in senior level (2nd year or higher) courses, a competitive LSAT score, and skill in written and oral communication.
In special circumstances, the Committee will consider applications from applicants without a degree who have completed two years (60 credits), or the equivalent, of a full program of studies that would be accepted for credit towards any degree at the University of Alberta. Students expecting to receive admission on these grounds, must have a minimum grade point average of 3.7 or its equivalent, and, an LSAT score in the 90th percentile of those who have taken the LSAT.
In addition to regular applicants, the Faculty of Law considers applications from mature applicants as well. The requirements to be considered for a mature applicant, include that one be at least 35 years of age prior to the first day of September in the year admission is sought; provide evidence of a minimum of five years past achievements in non-academic areas indicative of an ability to succeed in law school; and, have a minimum of two years leading towards any degree or equivalent acceptable to the University of Alberta, completed prior to, or in the winter session, preceding the September for which admission is sought (i.e.: April 30th). Note that every applicant is, at first, considered as a regular applicant; and if you would not be admitted in the regular category, you will then be reconsidered as a mature applicant.
The University of Alberta Faculty of Law also will give special consideration to students who wish to be considered as aboriginal applicants. To be considered in this category, you must have a minimum of two years leading to a degree (although, in exceptional circumstances this may be reduced to one year) acceptable to a university in Alberta, and have taken the LSAT test within the past five years. It is important to note that in addition to the regular requirements placed on students, you will be expected to provide documentation to verify your status. Furthermore, you may be required to complete and pass the University of Saskatchewan program of Legal Studies for Native People.
Two other special categories are worth noting. First, please note that students wishing to be admitted through the combined MBA/LL.B program have their own, special requirements. The program is offered within a four year period, which is one year less than if you were to take each degree separately. Second, there are also provisions allowed for part-time study during the first year of law school. Please note that this is limited to a maximum of 5% of all places in the first year, and, still requires admission into the regular program.
Finally, a complete application to the University of Alberta varies depending on the type of admission sought, but generally includes two official transcripts, a resume, a personal statement (please see the Faculty of Law website), the “Law Supplemental Form” and two letters of reference. Please visit the appropriate area of the Faculty of Law website should you decide to submit an application to ensure all documentation is present.
Please Note: A “Law Supplemental Form” is required from each applicant, and can be received by February 1st of the year in which the candidate applies. It can be found here: http://www.law.ualberta.ca/LL.B-Program/Admission/Making-Your-Application/Faculty-of-Law-Supplemental-Form.php.
For International (or U.S.) students:
The Faculty of Law does recruit heavily from the United States and abroad. International applicants appear to be given the same consideration as domestic ones, with the exception that English proficiency may need to be demonstrated.
The exact financial cost of attending the University of Alberta Faculty of Law is difficult to assess, because it varies depending upon your course load and, a complex formula available on their website. That said, estimates available on the LSAC website in 2007 placed the domestic tuition cost at approximately $10,000, and the international student cost at approximately twice that, at $20,000. This tuition fee places the University of Alberta Faculty of Law slightly above the median in terms of Canadian Law School costs, but comparable to schools like Queens, Western Ontario, Ottawa and Calgary; while much less than Toronto and much more than McGill or Moncton.
It is important to note that this figure does not include the approximately $1,500 in other expenses for books and course materials, or the residency costs of living in Alberta.
Financing Your Education:
The University of Alberta Faculty of Law does offer some financial resources to students, in the form of bursaries, scholarships, awards and prizes; both from the Faculty of Law and other external sources. These include things like the Holocaust Remembrance Essay Award, general University of Alberta awards (of which the law school gets a piece of the $23.9 million awarded amongst its 36,000 students), faculty selected university scholarships and the students’ union access fund. The total funding for students is somewhere close to $1,000,000 according to the data provided to the LSAC for 2008-2009, which is over $5,000 per student on average.
Canadian students can also apply for provincial and federal financial aid. Depending on the province in question, you will have to seek out your appropriate provincial financial aid center. The Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS), provides some useful insight for permanent residents of Alberta. Additionally, students can visit the University of Alberta Student’s Union’s “Student Financial Aid Information Centre”, a detailed source for information on financial aid opportunities available in every Canadian province and territory. You can find that here: http://www.su.ualberta.ca/services_and_businesses/services/sfaic/map.
For International (or U.S.) students:
As there is no information available on the University of Alberta Faculty of Law website concerning your financial aid status, you would be advised to contact the school directly should you be seeking financial support.
The U of A Faculty of Law is housed in the Law Centre on the eastern edge of campus, with easy access to all the amenities offered to the study body at the University of Alberta. The modern concrete building was officially opened in 1972, featuring comfortable classrooms, a student lounge, locker rooms, a Student Services Centre, a Moot Courtroom, the Weir Library and five research institutes. The school also is a leader in technology in the classrooms, and takes full advantage of available technological resources. In fact, it was the first law school in Western Canada to provide the opportunity to students to write exams online, which now compromise 20% of all exams written.
The Weir Library is comprised of over 390,000 library volumes, and is open seven days a week. It has space for 496 students, and is serviced by three full-time, and two part-time, librarians. Students also have access to the standard gamut of law databases, including LexisNexis and Westlaw.
Beyond the facilities, like some other Canadian law schools, the academic program can perhaps best be divided into the “First Year” and “Upper Years” segments. The law school’s aim is to provide a foundation for understanding law, legal ethics and practice within a flexible structure.
First Year Curriculum:
First year students at the Faculty of Law can expect to be provided with an intellectually challenging and practical legal education. During this time span, they will complete seven core courses, providing a grounding in the major areas of law and professional ethics. These courses are: -Foundations to Law
-Legal Research and Writing
This core of courses is fairly similar to other common law schools in Canada. In addition to the core course load, the use of computers is emphasized in legal education and instruction. As a result, students are instructed in electronic research techniques as a mandatory component of the first-year LL.B curriculum.
Upper Year Curriculum:
The upper year curriculum at the Faculty of Law is very flexible. To that end, you are permitted to take up to four years to complete the remaining two years of the LL.B program. During this span, you are required to completed the following courses:
Beyond these formal requirements, students have tremendous flexibility in designing their own program in the upper years. Students may explore some of the seventy or more optional courses offered every year, or achieve credits by doing competitive moot courts, working on the Alberta Law Review, conducting applied research or registering for out-of-faculty courses. A collection of courses that have been offered in the past can be viewed on the school’s website, but it is important to note that not all of these courses are currently offered.
Dual Degree Programs:
The Faculty of Law offers a dual degree program with the Faculty of Business to provide an LL.B/MBA program. The school also offers a joint program with the University of Colorado Law School (at Boulder, Colorado) to offer an LL.B/J.D. program, over four years. Students in this program receive degrees from both schools, and spend their first two years at U of A before spending their last two in Boulder.
Quality of Life:
Students of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law benefit from the location, in the heart of the city of Edmonton, Alberta. This diverse, riverside city has a population of nearly a million people and home of the Albertan Provincial Legislature. Edmonton also has an active arts scene, good international cuisine, multiple professional sports teams, home of the impressive West Edmonton Mall and of course, close to the scenic Rocky Mountains. There are ample opportunities for students seeking to get away from the classroom to enjoy opportunities in, and around, the city of Edmonton. Of course, there are also an array of student organizations offered both by the University of Alberta, generally, and the Faculty of Law, for students to engage in. These associations cover a broad range of interests and tastes, ranging from staples like Law Review to more activity oriented groups like the Women’s Running Club. The Faculty of Law conveniently offers a set of web pages on the different clubs that the Faculty of Law offers, and links to University of Alberta clubs and athletics pages. Finally, for a more firsthand account, the school conveniently offers student testimonials on its “The Experience” section of its website. The students speak about Law School Anxiety, Student Life, The Faculty, The Articles Search and being Married With Children. Students who might have any of these concerns would benefit from perusing this section of the website.
Employment opportunities for graduates of the University of Alberta are far ranging, with alumni finding themselves all over the globe. According to the Faculty of Law’s website, its students have very good employment rates, with over 90% being employed within six months of graduation. A keen observer will note that this statistic does not state that the people are employed in the legal sector; which may reflect that the actual statistics are lower, or simply be an oversight. Should you wish specific information, you can always contact their Career Services Officer, available at Room 474, Law Centre University of Alberta, (780) 492-7305.
The ability to make these types of inquiries is just one of the benefits that having a Career Development Office (CDO) provides. The CDO provides resources for students seeking articling and summer positions, and acts as a liaison between the firms and students by gathering information on the firms and their employment positions, and providing information on both a secure website and in hard copy. Furthermore, for students wishing more hands on assistance, one-on-one sessions are available to assist with career-related questions, application packages and interview skills. The CDO also organizes seminars throughout the year on such topics as articling, clerking, application packages, interview skills, business etiquette and nontraditional career paths, to name a few. It also helps coordinate mock interviews with firm members to provide students with the opportunity to receive feedback on their application, and students have the unique opportunity to see what it’s like to be a lawyer in the organized job-shadowing program. Current students have expressed that this was the most helpful factor in making important career decisions.
For International (and U.S.) students:
Please note, that like other provinces, individuals wishing to practice in Alberta are expected to complete their Articles before becoming a fully fledged lawyer. It is recommended that you become familiar with the Law Society of Alberta website on what it requires to become a member of the legal profession within the province. Information, on specific requirements and processes, can be found here: http://www.lawsocietyalberta.com/membershipservices/studentinfo.cfm
The University of Alberta Faculty of Law is an exceptional school, and one of the best in Western Canada. Due to its solid reputation, career prospects in Alberta are very strong. If you wish to practice law in Canada, it is a good choice for your legal education. The quality of life is high, the facilities are excellent and the faculty is strong. A degree from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law is a good start to a long legal career.
Contact Information - General
Faculty of Law
Contact Information - Admissions
Estimated 2009-2010 Domestic Tuition: $10,000 (very rough estimate)
2008 Macleans Rankings:
Median LSAT: 160
Median GPA: 3.7 (Note: Based on a minimum of 60 credits, completed during applicant’s most recent years of study)
(Note: Sub 3.2 data not provided… note that this only shows students admitted and enrolled, it does not show how many students were rejected at each level.)
Application Fee: $115 for new applicants, $75 for readmission
Full Time Faculty: 34
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