The social media world is abuzz with all sorts of opinion on law schools, law students, articling, the profession and everything in between. One of the purposes of this blog is to inject facts into the discussion, in keeping with a fading tradition that views facts as the necessary superstructure of opinion.
I am not, of course, omniscient. I am not the keeper of all facts. But I am privy to some, all of which are public but rarely digested. And so, today I shall communicate facts at my command through the parable of Jane Average’s Law School Days. It’s not quite Tom Brown’s School Days, but it’s the best I can do.
Sadly, the tale perpetuates what seems to have become a tradition for this blog: a bit of a paternalistic sermon that may require me to rename this blog series “blaternalist law”. But nevertheless I see virtue in raising a voice of dissent in a sea of blarney on Twitter and Facebook.
The law school that is the setting for this story is my own, uOttawa (in the English JD program), but it really could be any common law school in the country.
Chapter 1: Jane Applies
Once upon a time…
Jane Average went to law school. Being a member of the Average family, Jane constitutes an average law student. In fact, that is exactly why she is Jane Average and not Joe Average. Demographically speaking, it’s Joe Below Average – only 38% of Jane’s incoming class is male.
It’s not like this gender imbalance was planned. It's been going on for years. Why this is true is a bit of a mystery, but it has become a practically universal phenomenon in higher education. The guys are increasingly out of the game. (Theories for this abound: style of instruction in elementary and secondary education; the elimination of gym class; the lack of educational role models; skilled trades in Alberta. But I haven’t the foggiest really what’s going on.)
If she is a member of the class of 2015, Jane Average was one of 3,647 applicants for approximately 310 first year seats in the various programs of the uOttawa JD English-language program. She is accepted because her academic average from her four year undergraduate degree (typically, but far from always, from an Ontario program in the Arts or Social Sciences) is 83%. Because she is Jane Average, her’s is the exact average for the first year class (or was for the class of 2012 – I am waiting for current data). She also has a decent LSAT, although this is not formally computed as part of her overall GPA.
If she in fact had a GPA average several points lower (in the upper 70s), her application might not have made the cutoff for consideration by the Faculty Admissions Committee, absent special reasons (like a particularly bad year where, for good reason, her academic performance suffered).
But because her average is above that cutoff, Admissions Office and two different Faculty members (acting independently) review the file. These professors assess Jane’s file according to a series of criteria that include academic qualities, writing quality and overall qualifications. Here, Jane’s academic transcripts, LSAT, extracurricular record and her personal statement are scrutinized. Because Jane is academically average, how she differentiates herself through her extracurricular involvement and personal statements may matter quite a lot. That said, with a GPA that puts her solidly in what will be the middle of the incoming class, she has a good chance, unless she really messes up her personal statement.
A large number of Janes and Joes Below Average don’t get into uOttawa. After all, there is only 1 first year seat for every 12 or so applications. Some may go elsewhere. An increasing number now go overseas to law schools in the UK, US and Australia, where they pay huge amounts of money to obtain foreign law degrees. They then return via the National Committee on Accreditation process, writing challenge exams in an effort to obtain a certificate to article and write the bar. According to the LSUC articling final report (para 77), twenty percent of applicants to the bar in Ontario are now foreign trained. Prior LSUC statistics seem to suggest that law school enrollments have increased 15% over the last decade (slower than the rate of increase in articling placements) while NCA applicants have increased 374% (at p. 33).
The reason for this surge seems rather straightforward: while the population has grown, the number of spots of law schools has not kept pace. For more on this, see here.
So relative to the world at large, the fact that Jane Average is admitted at all makes her way, way above average. She is only average relative to her 300 first year peers.
Chapter 2: Jane Studies
Jane Average then goes through law school. She’s smart when she comes in. She’s smart when she graduates. And we try not to do too much damage in between.
Being Jane Average, she is average in every class. That means that in each year in law school, her GPA is between 6.0-6.9 (B). She is likely to graduate with a GPA of 6.5. How this translates into percentile terms is not an exact science, but it is probably about 73%. That means Jane’s GPA drops 10% in law school.
She is shocked and dismayed by this perceived decline, of course, but everyone is in the same boat because of the application of the Faculty grading guidelines. These set B as the target average. This B average is standard also for her average peers at those other Canadian law schools that publish these data. (For a discussion of grading guidelines raising questions above comparative grade distributions for Jane Below Average and Jane Above Average, see here).
Chapter 3: Jane Frets
Being Jane Average and therefore like most students, Jane becomes intimately aware of the articling “crisis” by about September 6 of her first year in law school. She becomes quite anxious about her career prospects, and at some level this impairs her enjoyment of law school. For some reason, some of her peers look to their left and look to their right, and decide that if the law school admitted fewer students they would be the ones left standing, and that they would have improved career opportunities.
Whether this is true, or whether they would be among the even larger number of declined applications produced by a smaller class, is impossible to say, really. What is clear is that more people would be rejected and chances are that in a tighter and even more competitive application pool, Jane Average would be Jane Below Average. And even more people would go overseas, assuming they were rich or debt tolerant.
Chapter 4: Jane Does Just Fine
At the right moment in her law school career, Jane opts to apply for an articling position. She may not be sure if she will end up practicing law, but she does want to write the bar. If she graduated in 2010, LSUC reports that 16 of her graduating classmates from the English and French JD programs did not secure articles by Fall 2010 (appendix 6). There were 240 graduating students in the French and English JD programs – I counted them in the graduation ceremonies program. So in 2010 – the year that sparked all the concern about an articling “crisis” – Jane would have had a 93.33% chance of securing articles. (Or at least, that is the chance of not being among the 16 without articles -- a number of the 240 graduates might have other plans, including existing jobs, grad studies, foreign placements, etc. Some may have given up looking for articles and pursued something else.)
So a lot of nuance could be added to these statistics, but whatever that nuance, there are a lot of people who would roll dice with those kinds of odds.
Of course, what those numbers will be for Jane herself when she graduates is impossible to say. But it is safe to conclude that generally speaking, the future is bright for those with a law degree. This month, the Globe and Mail calculated the unemployment rate for a 26-35 year old women with a law degree as being 4.4%. That person also has an average income that is 15.6% higher than the average of other (university educated) fields. And that is at the beginning of one’s career. (To be fair, it looks like these numbers are derived from data that are now a few years out of date. It is also worth noting that Joe Average’s unemployment rate is 3.5% and his income is 26% above the average income of all fields. As this disparity suggests, gender and the profession is a notorious, unresolved issue. And resolving it should be in the cross-hairs of us all.)
Jane will likely have debt. In 2008, the average Ontario law school debt was $45,000. It may be closer to $60,000 now. Of course, this Ontario average also includes debt incurred at instiutions that charge much, much more than uOttawa does for tuition. Nevertheless, this is a real number, and it comes at the wrong time in Jane’s income-making cycle. It may make it more difficult to carry a mortgage, for instance.
Of course, context is important here as well. Jane’s law degree gives her a credential that produces a significantly higher income than the average of other fields, year after year. In comparison, Jane’s sensible Prius costs her around $11,000 per year, all costs and depreciation priced in. Put another way, Jane’s law school debt (which opens the door to vast increased lifetime earnings) is equal to about 5.5 years of car ownership.
It is worth also noting that in direct cost terms, the tuition she pays at uOttawa is $4,000 or so per year more than the annual cost of her Prius. The Prius lasts maybe 10 years – and the $11,000 expense drips away year after year to keep that car and its replacement running. The law degree, once paid down, stays paid down – and it pays back, big time.
So the law degree is the good bet. Cars are irrational.
Now, even Jane Average will have rocky and difficult moments. Life is not a box of chocolates. There is no guarantee issued when one seeks a law degree, just like there is no guarantee when one makes any of life’s big choices (including buying a Prius).
Instead, the moral of this story is that Jane Average turns out not to be very average at all. In fact, she is exceptional as measured against almost every other Canadian. She gets into law school, she does well, she gets a job, she pays down debt with a superior income, and she then persists in earning that superior income for a career. She is, in other words, the average law graduate.
As that average law graduate, she enjoys the fruits of the one of the most privileged countries in the world during one of the more privileged eras of human history. (And if she doesn’t believe that because of what she reads in online and sees on TV, she needs to read more history and travel more.)
Now, I sat as a law student in law school in the early 1990s, the last time there was a recession and a placement crisis and a sky that was falling. I am not sure how I would have reacted to a parable like this, from a law school professor sitting comfortably in tenured splendor. I think I might have found it reassuring, relative to all the insane gossip among my fellow law students. But it is entirely possible that I might have found it patronizing.
And it really is patronizing. But not in the sense of apparent kindness masking smug superiority. I am not superior. I am merely older than most law students and have accumulated a few more credentials. And so this blog is meant to be patronizing in the sense of lending support, providing context and hopefully de-escalating stress. I know that stress is there. I have met with enough law students over the years to see it, and have voiced variations of things I have said here. And so let me end with what I also say to those students:
The three years of a law degree are a horrible thing to waste on angst over what is, objectively, a bright future. So please, enjoy those years. Make them good years. And make us better through the energy, vision and clear-eyed thinking you bring to the law school and to the community.
That is the lesson of Jane Average’s Law School Days.
University program information is subject to change. For the most up-to-date details, view the online application.
Last updated: August 24, 2017
About the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law
The Common Law Section at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law offers you an unparalleled learning environment. While we have rich course offerings in all areas of the law, few law schools can match our strength in e-commerce, intellectual property and other areas of technology law.
- leading programs in international law and environmental law
- a strong focus on legal issues related to social justice
- dispute resolution
- professional responsibility
- legal ethics
Our location in the national capital, within walking distance of Parliament, the Supreme Court and various government departments and tribunals, enhances our capacity to deliver a wide range of specialized courses in areas of public law, including constitutional, administrative, environmental and Aboriginal/Indigenous law.
Programs & Degrees
The Civil Law section of our faculty provides the opportunity for comparative studies and the possibility of receiving a combined Juris Doctor/Licentiate of Laws (JD/LLL) degree.
The Common Law section’s agreements with American University’s Washington College of Law and Michigan State University College of Law allow University of Ottawa students to obtain both a Canadian JD and an American JD in a 4‑year combined program. The Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration (JD/MBA) program offers students the possibility to obtain a law degree and an MBA degree concurrently from uOttawa. Along with Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, the Common Law Section offers a combined four-year program leading to a Master of Arts (MA) (International Affairs) and a JD degree.
Each year, our programs are revised to reflect the interests and needs of Canada’s diverse communities.
- The University of Ottawa’s law school hosts the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, which directs various student volunteer projects in the human rights field and sponsors distinguished visitors. These visitors include the Centre for Law, Technology and Society; the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics; the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability; the Secretariat of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law; and the CGA Tax Research Centre, all of which are engaged in cutting-edge research in their respective fields.
- A variety of legal clinics operate in close conjunction with the law school, allowing students to earn course units or undertake internships while working on real legal cases.
- For those who wish to gain hands-on experience, we offer a variety of learning opportunities at on-campus centres and clinics including: University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic, which is one of the largest legal aid clinics in Ottawa; uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic; Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, which opened its doors in 2003 and is the only one of its kind in Canada; uOttawa Business Law Clinic; Human Rights Research and Education Centre; and Secretariat of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.
- As a University of Ottawa law student, you will have access to our newly opened, fully functional courtroom and adjoining classroom, where sitting judges hear regular cases, including motions, appeals, judicial reviews and applications. The Ian. G. Scott Courtroom, opened in 2013, links the practicing bar and judiciary to classes at our Faculty of Law by way of a special classroom that allows students to observe actual legal hearings from behind a 1-way glass.
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We offer 2 distinct programs: 1 in English and 1 in French. The choice is up to you.
Both programs are 3 years in length and lead to a JD degree.
We provide a liberal and professional education for those intending to enter the practice of law, government service or any career in which knowledge of legal principles and legal process is necessary or desirable. The French Common Law Program is open to francophone and bilingual applicants.
Students registered in the English Common Law Program are welcome to select courses offered in French, if desired.
Canadian and American Dual JD Program
The University of Ottawa offers a unique 4-year combined program that allows you to obtain both the Canadian and the American law degrees. This program is offered jointly by the University of Ottawa and our partner schools in the United States.
Participants spend 2 years at Ottawa and 2 years at 1 of 2 US law schools:
- Michigan State University College of Law in East Lansing, Michigan, or
- American University (Washington College of Law) in Washington, DC.
Upon completion, you obtain a law degree from each law school, which opens the door to the full practice of law in Canada and the United States.
The International Affairs Combined Degrees (JD/MA Program)
The Common Law section of the University of Ottawa and the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) at Carleton University offer a combined 4-year program leading to a Master of Arts (International Affairs) and a JD degree.
The program is designed for students with a strong interest in international law and relations, and provides an excellent basis for a career in government or the private sector, as well as advanced studies in international affairs and international law.
By pursuing the 2 degrees jointly, you have the opportunity to combine research interests in law and international relations, and are able to tap into the extensive work on international affairs and law conducted at the 2 institutions located in the National Capital region.
You also reduce your net credit load by 3 University of Ottawa credits and 2 Carleton half courses, relative to the credit demands applied to studying for the 2 degrees outside of the combined program.
The 4-year combined program of study represents a more compressed period than the typical 3 years required to complete the JD degree and the typical 1.5 years required to complete the MA degree.
If you are interested in this combined program, you must apply separately and in the same year to the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa and the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.
The deadline for the MA program is January 31, 2018.
Contact them directly:
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs
Colonel By Drive
Ottawa ON K1S 5B6
The JD/MBA Program
The Common Law section and the Telfer School of Management of the University of Ottawa offer a combined JD/MBA program. The JD/MBA program is designed to be completed within 4 years.
Admission to the JD/MBA program is decided jointly by the Faculty of Law and the School of Management. You are first admitted to the JD portion of the program and then apply to the School of Management in the first year of your legal studies.
You must hold a baccalaureate degree with at least an “A-” cumulative grade point average, and satisfy the admission requirements of both programs.
Consult the MBA calendar and the appropriate section of the Faculty of Law calendar for additional information.
Note: The 3-year professional experience requirement of the MBA program may be waived for exceptional students provided they complete at least 1 year in the Law program and rank in the top 50% of their class prior to starting the MBA requirement of the joint program.
Admission to the combined program is competitive and the number of applicants admitted annually is limited. Two students enrolled in the JD/MBA program will be eligible for a scholarship to help finance their studies. The funds will be received only at the beginning of the combined degree component of the program, outside the Common Law section.
Studying Both Common Law and Civil Law – Jointly or Consecutively
- Common law: Practiced in the US, the UK and most Commonwealth countries.
- Civil law: Practiced in Quebec, most of Europe, Latin America and much of Asia.
Knowledge of both legal systems helps to ensure access to national and international markets in an era of globalization.
The Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa is the only Canadian institution outside of Quebec that offers 2 complete programs in law, 1 leading to the JD and the other to the LLL. This unique bi-jural structure provides an ideal environment to receive training in both of these great legal traditions.
If you have dual legal training, you are able to practice law anywhere in Canada, and are well-suited for the public service and extremely well-equipped to work in any field of international law.
If you wish to obtain both law degrees, you have 2 options to choose from:
- The Joint Stream: Programme de droit canadien (PDC)
In this 3-year, combined program you will learn both common and civil law jointly.
Note: This combined program is offered mainly in French. You must be fluent enough to understand lectures, complete readings as well as write examinations and papers in French. There are only 20 positions available in this stream, which includes several courses designed specifically for PDC students.
- The Consecutive Stream: National Program (JD)
The Common Law section of the Faculty of Law offers civil law graduates from Canadian universities the opportunity to complete the JD degree in a 1-year program.
Note: You can apply to the program after completing a civil law degree or during the 3rd year of your civil law studies.
Admission to the program is based on your overall strength, including the following:
- community involvement,
- letters of recommendation, and
- available space.
An application is assessed only once all the required documents are provided:
- a transcript of civil law studies,
- a personal statement,
- curriculum vitae and
- 2 letters of reference from civil law professors.
The LSAT is not required for admission into the National Program.
Note: The admission requirements for the National Program were modified in 2015. If you completed your LLL at the University of Ottawa’s Droit Civil Faculty, you may apply via the university’s internal application process.
Access the internal application form.
The Civil Law section at the Faculty of Law offers a parallel program for common law graduates leading to the LLL degree.
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The law school is interested in creating a vibrant and diverse academic environment, and in preparing competent and compassionate professionals. To ensure that the student body represents the fullest possible range of social, economic, ethnic and cultural perspectives in our society, we consider many factors:
- significant achievements in extracurricular activities while at university or in community involvement;
- outstanding qualities or achievements in previous careers;
- linguistic, cultural or other factors that add to an applicant’s overall academic achievement; and
- personal success in overcoming challenges such as a disability or financial hardship.
Any information provided will be considered in a manner consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
There are 4 applicant categories:
Each category has specific criteria and a process for applying or special circumstances relevant to an application.
Admission is highly competitive, with more than 2,500 applications for 310 first-year places. With the exception of mature students, you must have completed the equivalent of 3 years of full-time undergraduate studies (equal to 90 credits or 30 half courses) from an accredited university prior to beginning law school.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a personal statement and 2 reference forms are also required. The Admissions Committee is composed of professors, the Manager of the Equity and Academic Success Program and a limited number of third-year students.
The personal statement that you must prepare is a critical part of the application, and should be thought of as an interview with the Admissions Committee. In reviewing personal statements, committee members assess you according to the following considerations:
- Capacity for critical, creative and original thinking
- Communication skills, including writing skills
- Evidence of capacity to manage work load and time
- Ability to make a meaningful contribution to the overall law school environment and to the profession and the public it serves as demonstrated by, among other things:
- A record of extracurricular activities and community involvement
- Career experiences and achievements
- Personal success in dealing with challenges
- Diverse social, economic, ethnic, or cultural experiences and perspectives
- Awareness of and interest in specializations and other strengths of the Faculty’s program of legal education
- Specific career aspirations
- Commitment to upholding ethical standards and to treating all university members with respect.
The information contained in personal statements will be considered in a manner consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Please do not use the personal statement as a resumé. Instead, explain why you are interested in studying and practicing law at the University of Ottawa, with regard to the 5 criteria.
You must also send an up to-date resumé or curriculum vitae to OLSAS in addition to your personal statement if you are applying in the Mature or Aboriginal/Indigenous category.
Please do not use your personal statement to describe why you are applying in the Special Circumstances or Access categories. Dedicated forms are provided for this purpose in the application.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The LSAT is required if you are applying to first year, without exception.
The school does not set a minimum LSAT score requirement. The weight given to the LSAT will vary according to the other elements in your file.
If you decide to write the LSAT on a date other than the 1 indicated on your application, please inform OLSAS and the University of Ottawa in writing prior to writing the test.
If English is not your 1st language, the LSAT, while relevant, may carry less weight in the Admission Committee’s evaluation of the application. The LSAT is not required for upper-year applicants or for students applying to the French Common Law Program.
It is strongly recommended that you write the LSAT by December 2017; it must be written in February 2018 at the latest. The results of the February LSAT will not be available until late March. An application is incomplete and not evaluated until all documents, including the LSAT results, are received. Writing the LSAT in February may therefore prejudice your chance of admission.
The Admissions Committee will not wait for the February LSAT score to review your file, if there is a previous score available.
Results from an LSAT taken prior to June 2013 are not accepted.
Files are not assessed until they are complete and you have provided all required documents. The application deadline for fall 2018 entry is November 1, 2017. Applications that remain incomplete after May 1, 2018, will be cancelled without further notice.
Assessment of Foreign Transcripts
If you have undertaken undergraduate studies outside Canada and the United States, World Education Services or an equivalent service must assess your transcript. All documentation must then be submitted through OLSAS for consideration.
The Education Equity Office focuses on increasing the participation of persons from traditionally underrepresented groups:
- visible, linguistic and ethnic minorities;
- Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples;
- persons with disabilities;
- persons with economic disadvantages; and
- individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
The office advises the Admissions Committee, develops recruitment and outreach strategies, and examines the content and structure of the curriculum to ensure it does not perpetuate racism, sexism or other discriminatory attitudes or approaches. This office seeks to ensure that students have every opportunity to participate in the academic and social activities offered at the Faculty of Law.
An academic support program was developed to assist those students whose life experiences and lack of recent university studies may make the transition to law school more difficult.
We encourage you to suggest changes both inside and outside the classroom to ensure that your experiences in the Common Law section are intellectually and personally stimulating. You are also invited to initiate activities that will bring your ideas and concerns to the attention of the legal community.
If you are unable to study full-time, you can apply to complete your studies on a half-time basis. To qualify you must have received an offer of admission to the full-time program.
You will be required to demonstrate special circumstances that could be accommodated by studying on a half-time basis. These circumstances might include the following:
- primary responsibility for the care of young children or other dependants,
- personal or family health difficulties, or
- accommodations required to promote education equity (e.g., considerations affecting persons who have a physical or learning disability).
If you are studying on a half-time basis, you must complete your program within 6 years of admission.
Use the General category when you apply to the first year of the JD program (or 1 of the combined programs) unless you feel you qualify to apply in one of the Specific categories.
Undergraduate academic performance is the most significant factor in the evaluation process. Most successful applicants have at least an “A-” average overall.
The LSAT is mandatory. The University of Ottawa does not set a minimum required score for the LSAT. However, your LSAT results and writing sample are elements that will be considered by the Admissions Committee. The weight given to the LSAT will vary according to the other elements of your application.
The personal statement is an important part of your application and should be written with care. You must also submit 2 letters of reference. While at least one reference must be from an academic source, it is preferable to have 2 academic references.
Please ensure that OLSAS receives the most recent transcripts for all of your postsecondary studies.
General Category – Special Circumstances
If you feel that a significant one-time event that occurred during your undergraduate studies has affected your academic performance during a specific academic term or year, please inform the Admissions Committee.
Provide information that relates to these special circumstances in the online application. Be sure to indicate which academic term(s) were affected. Please provide supporting documents where possible.
You may be considered a mature applicant if you have 5 or more years of work or other non-academic experience since completing high school studies. The period of non-academic experience may include part-time, but not full-time, postsecondary studies.
As with all applicants, the main selection criteria are demonstrated capacity for academic success, and contribution to the law school, the legal profession and the broader community.
Consideration will be given to the following factors:
- any previous academic performance;
- the LSAT; and
- relevant outstanding qualities, as evidenced by previous career and/or life experiences.
The academic program in law school is very demanding. It is recommended you demonstrate a capacity for academic success, including completing at least 1 university course. You must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to apply in this category.
As a mature applicant, you must submit an up-to-date resumé or curriculum vitae along with your personal statement. Please do not use the personal statement as a resumé. You must also submit 2 letters of reference, at least 1 of which should come from an academic source. If you are unable to obtain a letter of reference from an academic source, please choose references who are able to speak to your abilities as they relate to law school, namely the ability to analyze, write, conduct research, work in groups and organize your time.
Please ensure that OLSAS receives all of your postsecondary transcripts.
Persons of Aboriginal/Indigenous ancestry, First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples may apply as either General or Specific category applicants. As Specific category applicants, persons of Aboriginal/Indigenous ancestry who meet the Mature category requirements may apply under both the Mature and Aboriginal/Indigenous categories.
The personal statement should discuss work, personal and community experiences, and other factors relevant to the application.
In your statement it is important that you explain the degree to which you identify with your Aboriginal/Indigenous community. There should be some indication given, if appropriate, of the extent to which you were involved in your Aboriginal/Indigenous community.
Aboriginal/Indigenous ancestry and membership may be indicative of identity and can act as good proxies for culture and colonial experience, but there must be some evidence of a connection to Aboriginal/Indigenous culture and/or family impact of colonization in your personal statement. Proof of Aboriginal/Indigenous ancestry and membership is required but can take a number of forms, such as evidence of a connection to, and membership in, an Aboriginal/Indigenous community.
You must submit these items:
- an up-to-date resumé or curriculum vitae along with your personal statement in the Aboriginal/Indigenous category;
- 2 letters of reference, at least 1 of which should be from an academic source and the other a non-academic letter supporting your connection to the Aboriginal/Indigenous community; and
- proof of Aboriginal/Indigenous ancestry or membership. Please ensure that OLSAS receives all of your postsecondary transcripts.
The Admissions Committee may admit you in the Aboriginal/Indigenous category unconditionally or subject to successfully completing the Program of Legal Studies for Native People. It is therefore crucial that you submit a complete file as quickly as possible so the Admissions Committee can make its decision in time for you to begin the Program of Legal Studies for Native People in Saskatchewan in May.
Access Category – All JD Programs
The University of Ottawa welcomes students who have experienced inequality of a systemic, ongoing nature or who are from groups that have experienced identifiable social or economic barriers to education. These students may apply in either the General or Access category.
The factors that would support your candidacy in this category are based on the Ontario Human Rights Code, which states:
“Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, same sex partnership status, family status or disability” (R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s.1; 1999, c.6, s.28 ; 2001, c.32, s.27 ).
In addition, the Admissions Committee considers severe economic hardship to be a barrier, with appropriate documentation.
For the Access category, you must provide all information required of General category applicants, namely a completed application form, official transcripts of all postsecondary studies and 2 letters of reference. At least 1 of the letters must come from an academic source, but it is preferable to have 2 academic letters of reference.
If you wish to be considered in the Access category, you are required to explain the reasons for applying in this category. This explanation should be provided in the online application screen identified for this purpose. You may also wish to refer to the reasons for applying in this category in your personal statement, as appropriate.
The entire application will be reviewed in light of the information provided. If, in the Access category, you wish to have your academic profile or LSAT performance assessed in relation to the reasons for applying in this category, you are encouraged to provide supporting documentation.
If you apply in the Access category on account of inequality or barriers related to disability, please provide more specific information from a health care professional about capacities and potential accommodation. You may also be contacted after your application is received to provide more specific information.
Note to Upper-Year Applicants
Upper-year applicants are not required to select a category.
The application deadline is May 1 for all upper-year applicants. Files are not assessed until they are complete and all required documents are provided. As the number of spaces available is limited, any delay in completing an application can prejudice admission. Files that are incomplete as of August 1 will be closed without further notice.
Transfer applications into the second year of the JD program will be accepted only from students who successfully completed the first year of the JD program in a Canadian common law school. If you have undertaken or completed your legal studies outside of Canada, you cannot apply in this category.
If applying as a transfer applicant, please explain why you want to study at the University of Ottawa. Your personal statement should be used to describe personal, academic and/or professional reasons why you wish to continue law studies in Ottawa. If you have compelling circumstances that make it difficult to be away from Ottawa, you will be given priority.
You must also submit your official law school transcripts, 2 letters of reference, including at least 1 from a law professor, as well as a letter from the Dean of your current law school attesting that you are in good standing and have not been the subject of any disciplinary actions.
LSAT results are not required for transfer applicants.
Letter of Permission
You can apply in this category if you wish to complete 1 semester or 1 full year of your law studies at the University of Ottawa as a visiting student, with the permission of your law school. The personal statement should be used to describe personal, academic and professional reasons why you wish to study at the University of Ottawa. If you have compelling circumstances that make it difficult to be away from Ottawa, you will be given priority.
Please submit your official law school transcripts, 2 letters of reference, including at least 1 from a law professor, as well as a letter from the Dean of your current law school attesting that you are in good standing and have not been the subject of any disciplinary actions.
LSAT results are not required for Letter of Permission applicants.
National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) Applicants
If you wish to be admitted to the practice of law in a Canadian common law jurisdiction and have completed a law degree from Quebec or from a foreign jurisdiction, you can apply for an assessment of the equivalency of your legal studies to the NCA (established by the Committee of Canadian Law Deans and the Canadian Federation of Law Societies).
For further information please write directly to National Committee on Accreditation:
Federation of Law Societies of Canada
World Exchange Plaza
1810-45 O’Connor Street
Ottawa ON K1P 1A4
If you have received advanced standing from the NCA, you may submit an application to the faculty in this category. If the NCA has not granted you advanced standing, you must apply as a first-year student and complete the 3-year JD program in order to practice law in Canada.
If you are applying to do course work required by the NCA, please use the personal statement to explain why you wish to complete your courses at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. A copy of the NCA assessment must be sent directly from the NCA, and 2 letters of reference, 1 of which should come from an academic source. The LSAT is not required for applicants in this category. If an official NCA assessment is provided, you are not required to send original transcripts from outside Ontario.
Note: The file of NCA applicants whose assessment from the NCA or whose final grades from their last year of law studies are not available by August 1, will be cancelled.
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Scholarships and Financial Aid
The Common Law section of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa offers a number of scholarships and bursaries for first-year students. While some require an application, others are offered automatically.
Financial aid for law students is available from a variety of sources.
For complete information about financial aid and applications, contact Financial Aid and Awards Service:
University of Ottawa
55 Laurier Avenue East, Room 3156
Ottawa ON K1N 6N5
Requests to submit late applications must be made in writing to the Admissions Committee. Please include the reason for the request. Extensions of application deadlines are rarely granted.
Application Fee Waivers
You may request a waiver for the $100 fee if you are in financial difficulty. The basic criterion for granting a waiver is the inability to pay.
Requests will be assessed by a fee waiver application form obtained directly from the law school. No other fees will be waived. No waivers will be granted retroactively.
To obtain a waiver form contact the Admissions Office:
Faculty of Law
Common Law Section
University of Ottawa
57 Louis Pasteur, Room 221
Ottawa ON K1N 6N5
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Telephone: 613-562-5800, ext. 3270
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