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Undergrad qualifications for Law School in Canada


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Hi, I was wondering if anybody could tell me whether I might be a good candidate for a Canadian law school and maybe give me some advice on how to improve my chances of getting accepted. I was planning on doing a PhD in History after my MA and becoming a professor, but considering how difficult it is to both find and keep a job in that field, I'd like to become a lawyer or some kind of law academic.

My percentage GPA right now is about 81%, which I think roughly equals an A- or 3.7 but feel free to correct me. As for the LSAT, I haven't begun studying yet but I'm thinking about ten to twelve months worth of studying might be good enough, since I'd like to enter law school in Fall 2013 if accepted. My BA will be a Joint Honours in History and English this spring.

I can speak German, Latin, and some Italian, but I doubt that will have much effect on my application. I've also had a paper published in an undergraduate journal and won an award for another paper.

My GPA is all that concerns me, since I think most who are accepted to law school in Canada hold a 3.9 GPA or above. I have a 3.9 if only my history and rhetoric courses are counted, especially in the last two years of of my BA, but I've heard that most law schools just look at your cumulative GPA.

By the way, I know many people with BA's assume that law school is some kind of career "safety net", and that this is not necessarily the case, and that even if accepted law school itself is incredibly tough and competitive. I can handle the academic demands of law school since I do well in history and rhetoric, digesting large amounts of information and applying it in articulate and complex arguments in both written and spoken form. My point is that although there are plenty of unemployed law graduates, there are even more unemployed history graduates.

Anyways, I was thinking York or UofT might be good schools to start looking into.

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I've got a few pieces of advice re: places to start when considering law apps, and I've got some personal context to back it up. I'm going to do my best to be honest while still being encouraging. I think that the fact that you're leaving yourself ample time for the 2013 cycle is a good sign. Also, don't discount your "squishy" factors (multiple languages ect;), some schools (like Osgoode) are more holistic in their application process and appreciate well-rounded students. That being said, a few of the things that you wrote above are glaring red flags to me... but we'll get to that. For now, I'd ask that you honestly evaluate two things while you read the rest of my response: 1. your candidacy and 2. your intentions.

First, the "Law" section of this forum is not terribly active. You should go here: http://lawstudents.ca/forums/

Next, to determine your GPA as it applies to law school, you need to use the Ontario Law School Application System (OLSAS) grade conversion table, which considers not only your numerical/letter grade, but also which institution issued it.

Find it here: http://www.ouac.on.ca/docs/olsas/c_olsas_b.pdf

When discussing your law school candidacy with others, articulate your GPA according to the above 4-point scale.

Each institution is different re: what they look at concerning GPA: some look at cumulative, some look at "last two years", some look at "best two years", you need to look up each school specifically to determine what they're after. Some university websites will also include information re: minimum GPA standards and will make successful applicant stats publicly available, so you can see how you match up competitively. You can find the one for Osgoode in their brochure: http://www.osgoode.yorku.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/JD-Brochure.pdf

There is a brief U of T one on their Faculty of Law Fact Sheet, just click on "The J.D. Student Body": http://www.law.utoronto.ca/prosp_stdn_content.asp?itemPath=3/4/14/0/0&contentId=465&cType=webpages#Body

Next, it is very difficult to assess your candidacy without an LSAT mark. The LSAT, though not as prioritized in Canada as it is in the States, is still a big deal. I only know of one notable school that given markedly less consideration to the LSAT than GPA, and that's U of Ottawa. It's a stressful, competitive ordeal. Also, it's not a measure of your intelligence as much as it is a test of your discipline. You need to spend money on, at minimum, application fees (study materials/courses can quickly run up the investment) You need to study in a particular way and adopt a particular method of logical thinking, and you NEED to follow the obtuse instructions. Your mark only has meaning relative to everyone else's; so it's not about how objectively well YOU did, only how much better you did than everyone else. Think about how you have worked as an academic up until this point, how you have ascertained the value of your work, and think about what this shift REALLY means for how your worth and potential is measured... and think, honestly, about whether or not you are comfortable with that.

Finally, to achieve a reasonable mark, you'll likely have to take the LSAT twice.

Next, I want to give you some context:

I applied for law school in the 2010 cycle. I applied to both Osgoode and U of T. Here are my stats:

Undergrad cGPA: 86%

According to the OLSAS scale: 3.9

LSAT: 160 (80th percentile)

Master's cGPA: A+

Accroding to the OLSAS scale: 4.0

I didn't get in.

Again, I'm not saying that to be discouraging. But I want to utilize these stats (keep in mind, it hurts the 'ol ego to lay those details and rejections bare like that) to highlight a few of the things that you said that worry me.

- "My GPA is all that concerns me" - You've got quite a few other things to worry about. The LSAT for one. You should also know that the economic downturn is prompting many professionals to apply to law school to concretize their place in the market. This means that there are more applicants than ever, and many of these have compelling, varied life experiences and collateral (like kids), which means that they're not screwing around on these apps, they have a lot at stake.

- "I can handle the academic demands of law school since I do well in history and rhetoric". That's not enough. For my part, I specialized in policy in my undergrad and went on to do a Master's in law and policy development. My love of legal verbatim did not translate into an amicable relationship with the realties of law school. You may very well have other skills and resources that would contribute to success at law school, but you need to identify them, articulate them, and be honest with yourself about how and in what capacity they will help you. A love of rhetoric will not save you.

- "My point is that although there are plenty of unemployed law graduates, there are even more unemployed history graduates." This comment bums me out for several reasons. First, I know that you stated that law school isn't a career safety net, but, I guess you're saying that the odds are better than with other routes. Consider this: the job market for legal scholars is facing similar trends as other markets, that is, a move towards more temporary, insecure, part-time, contract work. That's not to say that grad school academics won't face similar issues and markets, but they won't be shouldering a law school debt. Think about it.

I admire your pragmatism, but I think that going the law school route because it superficially appears to be at the top of the "job prospects: pros/cons" list is a mistake. I cite my experience because, I honestly think, that law school was not a good fit for me, given my goals and the type of scholar that I wanted to be. Even though I had competitive stats, I think that I betrayed myself in my SoP, wherein it became clear that this route wasn't a good fit, and the spot should go to someone who IS.

It's not that I don't think that you're right for it. But YOU need to articulate your reasons for wanting it and what you're going to proactively achieve with it that you couldn't by going another route. You need to have a passion for this, and you need to articulate this true passion in a way that makes sense. You can't count on just finding a love for law at some point while you do the degree. If you don't have the dedication and do not FIT, you're unlikely to even get in, IF you get in you'll be less likely to finish, IF you finish you will have a tougher time using the degree, IF you manage to use the degree you are tremondously more likely to be UNHAPPY.

After scoping out the resources above, I'd recommend that you start talking to people. People that know you and care about you, Profs that are familiar with your capacity and (maybe most importantly) current law students and lawyers. I'd also recommend reading "One L" by Scott Turow.

Best of luck, really!

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Thanks for your advice and the links. I admit it's a very recent decision of mine since I wanted more than anything to be a Professor of History but had no idea about the dismal job market. Maybe I'll work for a year after my MA and save up some money, somewhere that will hopefully add a little strength to my application. That will give me more time to study for the LSAT, for which I'm planning to take a prep course. And you're definitely right about History and Rhetoric not being enough in themselves to survive in Law school, but I'll look into some other qualifications I might have, or be able to get, and see if it would really be worth it. I'm only 22, but now is the time to decide on the remainder of my education.

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