How to Apply to Canadian Law Schools
Are you interested in studying law in Canada? Check out what you'll need for a successful application!
So, you’ve decided that law school is the next step for you. That must mean that you have strong communication, compassion, analytical, and research skills. If this sounds like you, then you’re well on your way to becoming a lawyer!
But first, you have to apply and get accepted to law school! Discover how you can apply to law schools in Canada and what your application will need.
Law schools in Canada
The first step to applying to law schools in Canada is knowing your options and selecting the schools and programs that resonate with you. So, what are your options?
JD vs. LLB degrees
In your search for law schools, you may come across two common types of degrees: a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and a Juris Doctor (JD). But what’s the difference between these degrees, and which one should you choose?
Surprise — there’s no difference between a LLB and JD degree in Canada. The curriculum is the same, but Bachelor of Laws degrees were more common in Canada and other Commonwealth countries, whereas JD degrees were more common in the United States. However, LLB degrees in other Commonwealth countries allow students to apply to the degree directly out of high school, whereas in Canada, most students need an undergraduate degree before applying. So, to avoid misunderstandings about a law student’s qualifications in the international market, many Canadian schools are changing their degrees from LLB to JD. Being a doctor definitely sounds better than a bachelor of something.
So, does it matter whether you choose an LLB or JD degree? Only if you’re looking to practice law outside of Canada. Many international recruiters prefer applicants to have a JD degree as it requires further education, and Canadian LLB degrees — although not technically an undergraduate program — can be mistakenly seen as a program for students fresh out of high school. But if you’re planning on practicing law in Canada, you can choose either degree.
Canadian law schools
So, now that you’ve chosen your degree option, you can decide which school to apply to! There are approximately 24 law schools across Canada. You’ll have your pick of schools from Western Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Eastern Canada, and even Nunavut.
What does it take to apply to law school? Discover the prerequisites you’ll need:
After graduating high school, you’ll need an undergraduate degree to be eligible to apply to law school. It usually doesn’t matter what you take as your undergraduate degree — so, find something you’re interested in and enjoy studying.
Most law schools will allow you to apply even if you haven’t completed the full four years of your undergraduate degree. The minimum requirement for law schools varies depending on the school, but some will allow you to apply after completing two full years (60 credits), such as McGill University and the University of Saskatchewan, or three full years (90 credits), such as the University of Toronto and other Ontario-based law schools. But, keep in mind that law school is extremely competitive, and while most schools will consider you as an applicant with the two or three years of an undergraduate degree, a fully completed undergraduate degree will increase your eligibility over other applicants.
GPA requirements vary across all law schools. You’ll often see requirements that review your overall academic GPA, or your GPA from the final two years of your studies. Some schools may not even require a specific GPA — so, make sure you check with the schools you’re interested in for their GPA requirements before applying.
But what should you aim for in terms of your GPA? On average, most law schools want you to have an A- (80%) average or above. But the higher, the better! Remember — you want to be at the top of the applicant pool.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test that you need to apply to law school.
What is the LSAT?
The LSAT tests you on the skills necessary to succeed in your first year of law school: reading comprehension, reasoning, and writing. The LSAT is made up of two parts:
- Four 35-minute sections — all multiple-choice questions — that test you on your reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning
- Written essay where you’ll have 35 minutes to demonstrate your persuasive skills. The written essay portion is not scored but is used for law schools to get a better idea of your thought process and skills
How to study for the LSAT
There are many ways to prepare for taking the LSAT. You can take LSAT prep courses for a more comprehensive study with tips to succeed, lessons, practice tests, and more. You can also study with an LSAT prep book on your own time. But, one of the best ways to study for the LSAT is by taking more full practice tests. This way you’ll get a feel for how the test will look, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and discover the types of questions that will be asked. You may be wondering, “how long should you study for the LSAT?” Well, many LSAT experts recommend you spend three months studying full-time. This breaks down to approximately 20 hours per week.
Your LSAT score can range from 120-180. Most schools don’t require that you earn a minimum LSAT score, but some may tell you the average score of their successful applicants. For example, the University of Ottawa states that most of their successful applicants earned at least a score of 158. To get the highest score possible, make sure you study in advance! LSAT tests take place throughout the year, but make sure you check with the schools you’re applying to on when their deadline is for applicants to take the LSAT. They may not accept LSAT scores after a certain date.
Can you retake the LSAT?
If your score isn’t what you wanted, you can take the test again. But keep in mind that you can only take the LSAT three times in one testing year, five times in the current and past five testing years, and no more than seven times in your life. All scores within the current and past five testing years will be reported to law schools and, depending on the school, they may take your highest score. However, some schools may not take your highest score, so study hard the first time so that you nail it, and check the LSAT requirements for the schools you want to apply to.
Okay, so now you’ve decided on where you want to apply, and you’ve figured out when you’ll take the LSAT, but how do you apply to law school? Most schools will require you submit your application directly through the school’s application portal, except for schools in Ontario. Ontario law school applications are submitted through the OLSAS application portal.
What else do you need to do for your application? Each school will have their own additional requirements, but these are the most common:
You’ll likely need to submit approximately two reference letters as part of your application. It’s recommended that at least one of the reference letters comes from an academic source. So be sure to make connections with your professors throughout your undergraduate degree so that they can write a glowing recommendation for you.
Schools want to get to know who you are, so this is the time to show them! Each school will provide a guideline for what you should write about — whether that’s where your passion for law came from, why you want to study law, or your life experiences — but this is your chance to shine. Make sure you read each school’s personal statement request to see what they are looking for and cater your statement to them!
Proof of English proficiency
If you’re applying as an international student, you’ll be required to submit proof of your English proficiency. This could be through tests like TOEFL or IELTS. Check your school’s requirements for more information.
Not many schools will require interviews, but some — like Toronto Metropolitan University — do. This is just another way the school wants to get to know you. Don’t worry — the schools will contact you about the interview in advance to tell you what to expect and how to prepare.
There you have it! Keep these things in mind as you consider applying to law school and you’ll be prepared for when the time comes. Good luck!
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