Is it hard to get into law school in Canada?

So you want to go to law school in Canada? While Canada has a rich legal tradition, going to law school in the country can be challenging. The average person who might easily be accepted into a law school in other countries may find that being accepted in Canada offers unique challenges.

Why is it hard to get into law school in Canada? The simple reason is the number of schools. Unlike other areas of the world, the number of law schools is much lower in this country. This means that gaining acceptance into a school usually means having at least a 157 LSAT and sometimes even higher. To get an idea of the competition, approximately 5,000-7,000 applications are submitted each year for only 2,350 first-year places in Canada.

While finding out about the competitive nature of law school can be frustrating for potential applicants, schools don’t simply rely on LSAT scores. Some schools look specifically for candidates who have the right fit or interest. Although having a good academic record plays an important role in gaining acceptance, less than perfect applicants may be able to market themselves competitively. These are just a few ways that applicants can increase their chances of being accepted.

Special Considerations for Underrepresented Applicants

Law schools in Canada actively pursue a more diverse representation. While programs vary from school to school, applicants who are from aboriginal/indigenous heritage or are underrepresented in the legal profession currently may have an easier time gaining acceptance.

For example, people of Aboriginal ancestry may be to participate in the Program of Legal Studies for Native People. This Canadian program is a full-time summer course that’s offered at the University of Saskatchewan. It provides a preliminary study of legal materials, making it a great stepping stone for attending law school. Applicants who meet the criteria and attend the program will strengthen their application so it’s well worth taking a summer to complete the program.

Apply As Early As Possible

This is a piece of advice that many people ignore. After all, as long as you get your application in by the deadline, does it really matter? Surprisingly yes. The Ontario Law School Application Service (OLAS) is available online and at your convenience. Ideally, you should start preparing your application several months before it’s due. Most people find that their initial application is rusty but improves over time.

Develop a Personal Narrative

Although it’s easy to think that an application is simply a list of your accomplishments, it’s the best way of setting yourself apart rather than an in-person interview. This means that your application should be as personalized as possible. You should include any life experiences that demonstrate characteristics important to the school. Most schools state their desired characteristics including communication skills, social responsibility, and many others.

One way to do this is to review successful applications and how they’re structured. As you read through them, you’ll notice that even though you’ve never met this person, you understand their story. You have a clear idea of that person’s motivation for going to law school. You understand not only the accomplishments but also what drives them to succeed. Law school is one of the most challenging careers to pursue. Law schools don’t want to admit anyone who they don’t feel will finish the program.

Choose the Right References

The right reference can make or break your reference. Unfortunately, this is an area that’s often overlooked. People may choose family friends, professors, employers, and the like. The person that you choose as your reference should clearly support you. A reference who doesn’t like your work ethic or may not be a strong supporter isn’t a great option. Make sure you feel that this person has a positive approach before adding them as a reference.

Just as importantly though, you want a reference who will back up your narrative. As you develop your application, you’ve spent hours creating a vision of yourself and personalizing yourself to the school. If you create a narrative which outlines your passion for civil law, but your references don’t back up what you’ve said, then you’re hurting your chances of being accepted.

How exactly do you make sure that your references understand you and can represent you well? There isn’t one correct way to do this but consider a few different options:

  • Meet with your references- take references out to coffee or a meal. Discuss your story with them close to the application time. When the school contacts your references, they’ll be able to speak to you as a candidate.
  • Give them a copy of your resume and personal statement. One great way to make sure that your references can back up your application is if they have it. You probably don’t want to send them your entire application, but a copy of your personal statement and resume gives a quick reference point.
  • Use different references. Depending on the programs where you apply, you may not want to use the same references for every application. Consider using ones that will fit the profile of the school best.
  • Pick well-spoken references. The references that you choose should be articulate and communicate well. If you pick a reference who supports you but can’t communicate that well, you’re better off choosing someone else.

Research Your Interviewer

Although interviewing for law school isn’t required, many schools have in-person interviews for their top candidates. Getting an interview is a good sign by itself. This means that you’ve piqued the interest of the school and they want to learn more about you.

Chances are, you’ll get the name of the person or people providing the interviews. Many schools use current law professors to interview potential candidates. This is a great way to show yourself as a future law student. One good way to be more appealing is to research the person who’s doing your interview. What type of law does this person practice? Read some articles that the interviewer has published, if available. When you go for the interview, casually mention ideas from these articles if you can.

Additionally, practice your interview. If you’re currently in school, most career centers offer mock interviews. Ask them to perform one that focuses on law school prep. They may have experience providing this type of interview as it will be slightly different than other interviews. However, most interviews follow a similar format. You can even do several mock interviews and take feedback from a variety of people. Their guided help will allow you to hone your interview skills and also improve your comfort level.

Take an LSAT Practice Course

Surprisingly, the score that you receive on the LSAT does not correlate well with how students perform in law school. However, you’re still going to be judged on your score. This area can be frustrating for potential students, especially ones who are not great at taking tests. Keep in mind that standarized testing isn’t going away anytime soon.

Facing a bad or suboptimal LSAT score doesn’t mean you’re out of the running. Schools do consider other factors for applicants. It’s fairly easy to raise your score though, especially if you’re not far off from your target. An LSAT practice course gives students the skills they need to improve their score. After all, test-taking is a skill and can be learned. There are many courses available which teach simple but effective ways to read and answer questions. These courses are available virtually or in-person and are well worth the time.

Remember that a good GPA can compensate for a slightly poor LSAT score and vice-versa. You probably won’t be able to get accepted with both being suboptimal. If you simply can’t seem to get your LSAT score as high as you need, then focus more on having a stellar academic record.

Look for Schools in Your Area

Although this tip won’t make or break your application, schools often give priority to local students. Some may have a certain number of spots that they prefer to give to students in their area. Looking out for the education of local students is a fairly common tradition. This doesn’t mean that you won’t also need to be a strong candidate though. It’s well worth your time to apply to a local law school if you like their program, even if it’s not the perfect fit.

Gaining Acceptance to Law School

Now that you have essential law school tips, you’re ready to get started. Making yourself into a strong candidate doesn’t happen overnight though. Give yourself adequate time to prepare and work on your application, references, and other materials to submit. With a focus on these areas, even an average student has a good chance of being accepted. In addition to taking these steps, talk to your law schools and former students to gain a better idea of what they want in a candidate. With a focus on your acceptance, you’ll have a good chance of achieving your dream of becoming a lawyer.

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