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 Trinidad Local - November 2000


Getting Into Law School - North America

© Copyright 2000, John Richardson, B.A., LL.B., J.D. All Rights Reserved.

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to a web site dedicated to helping people access law school opportunities in North America. As a person who has both American and Canadian law degrees and is a member of the bars in the U.S. (Massachusetts and New York) and Canada (Ontario) I am uniquely qualified to write about both countries. Additional information may be found on my two websites:

and in my monthly "Law School Bound" email newsletter. Feel free to subscribe (it is free) by emailing me at: learn@prep.com

I am also the author of the following three books designed to assist law school applicants:

Mastering The LSAT - How To Prepare Effectively And Successfully
ISBN: 0-9696290-3-6 - John Richardson, B.A., LL.B., J.D.;

Mastering The Personal Statement - The Complete Marketing Manual For Law-MBA-Med & GRAD Schools
ISBN: 0-9696290-4-4 - John Richardson, B.A., LL.B., J.D.;

Law School Bound - How To Get Into Law School And Become A Lawyer In Canada And The U.S.
John Richardson, B.A., LL.B., J.D.

(Information about these books may be found at: www.prep.com/bokstore.html)

In order to assist you, I will divide this article into the following 5 parts.

Part 1 - North America - A Common Law Tradition (Mostly)

Part 2 - Law School In Canada

Part 3 - Law School In the U.S.

Part 4 - Applying To Law School In Canada And The U.S.

Part 5 - Bar Admission In Canada

Part 6 - Bar Admission In The U.S.

Those who just want to see a chart showing how to become a lawyer should just click here.

Part 1 - North America - A Common Law Tradition

As you are probably aware the United States is composed of fifty states. Canada is composed of ten provinces and three territories. With the exception of the province of Quebec in Canada and the state of Louisiana in the U.S., the North American legal system is historically based on the system of common law that originated in England. This means that in many respects, law school curriculum in Canada and the U.S. is similar to law school curriculum in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. In Canada and the U.S. students normally enter law school after earning a bachelors degree. This is not so in the U.K.

Part 2 - Law School In Canada - The Common Law Provinces

Links to all of Canada's law schools may be found at my lawschoolbound.com site or the Law Services site at www.lsac.org.

Law school in Canada normally takes three years of full-time study. I say normally, because, it is possible to attend law school on a part-time basis. Part-time students would earn their law degree in five to six years.

During the first year of law school students take a prescribed set of courses. There are slight variations among the individual law schools, but in most cases the courses include most of the following: contracts, property, torts, criminal, public/administrative/constitutional law and civil procedure. In second and third year students have tremendous flexibility in choosing courses. Virtually all schools have a requirement of a "moot court" and a "research paper."

Upon completion of the three year law school program (at the common law schools), students are awarded the degree of LL.B. (Bachelor Of Laws)

(The University of Toronto has recently begun to offer its graduating students the option of receiving a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree instead of the traditional LL.B. degree.

Part 3 - Law School In The U.S.

Links to all U.S. ABA (American Bar Association) approved law schools may be found on my lawschoolbound.com site or the Law Services site at www.lsac.org.

Pay Close Attention!! It is important that you graduate from an "ABA approved" school. Only graduates of ABA approved law schools have the right to sit the bar exam in ANY U.S. state!

As is the case in Canada, law school in the U.S. is a three year academic program which is undertaken after the completion of a bachelors degree. There are many law schools in the U.S. and it is possible to attend law school part-time and in the evenings.

As is the case in Canada some courses are required and some are optional. The curriculum in first year law school is almost identical to the first year curriculum in Canadian law schools.

The law degree you will earn from a U.S. law school is called a J.D. degree (which stands for Juris Doctor).

Part 4 - Applying To Law School In The U.S. And Canada

In general you must apply individually to North American law schools. The exception is the Canadian province of Ontario which uses a common application form for all six of its schools.

Sources of information about law schools - lawschoolbound.com

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. What law schools exist in North America?
A. All law schools have web sites. A great collection of links to all the North American law schools may be found at the Law Services site at www.LSAC.org (or of course lawschoolbound.com).

Q. How much does law school cost?
A. It varies tremendously. Furthermore, some schools have different tuition fees for out of state/province students.

Q. What are the deadlines for applying?
A. Different schools have different deadlines. But, I advise you to try to have your "application file" complete no later than the November 1 prior to the September you wish to begin law school.

Q. You mention an "application file." What is it and what does it consist of?
A. The application file consists of the:
- application form
- transcript of grades
- LSAT score
- LSAT writing sample
- Letters of reference
- Personal Statement

Q. That sounds like a lot of information. How much work is required to complete the file?
A. Lots of work. I recommend that you start as early as possible. You will want to construct different personal statements for different schools in order to tailor your application to the requirements of different schools.

Q. What is this "LSAT" thing?
A. "LSAT" stands for Law School Admission Test. It is required by almost all North American law schools. It is a standardized test - meaning that all applicants answer the same questions. There is no passing or failing score. Each school is free to decide what score will satisfy its admission requirements.

Q. How can I sign up for the LSAT?
A. The easiest way is to visit the Law Services site at www.LSAC.org. The site also provides lots of good information and has a free sample lsat for you to download. I suggest you visit it.

Q. When should I take the LSAT?
A. My recommendation is that you take the LSAT the first June that you are free. In any case, you should take the LSAT no later than the June prior to your application deadline. Taking the LSAT in June will ensure that you:
- take the LSAT at a time that you are free from other academic commitments; and
- have the opportunity to retake the LSAT (should that be necessary).
FYI: Many law schools will average multiple test scores.

Q. How should I prepare?
A. That is one of the things that we do. For information about our books and courses, visit www.prep.com

Q. I can't take a course. What books should I use?
A. In addition to our "Mastering The LSAT" book, it is essential that you have access to as many actual LSAT exams as possible. Actual LSAT exams may be ordered from the Law Services site at: www.LSAC.org

Q. How do I get guidance on reference letters and personal statements?
A. Our Mastering The Personal Statement book (see above) will is a complete guide to constructing all components of the application file.

Part 5 - Bar Admission In Canadian Provinces

So, you want to be a lawyer! Unfortunately, graduating from law school is only the first step. After graduating from a Canadian law school (be careful it is hard to become a lawyer in Canada without graduating from a Canadian school) you must complete the Bar Admission Course in the province you wish to practice. You may graduate from any Canadian law school and become a lawyer in any Canadian province. You need not graduate from law school in the province you wish to practice.

The Bar Admission Course consists of a combination of "articling" and a "classroom component." It takes from twelve to eighteen months to complete (depending on the province).

Further information on the requirements for each province may be found at: www.flsc.ca

Part 6 - Bar Admission In U.S. States

After you law school you must pass the bar exam in the state you wish to practice. There is no articling or bar admission course. Hence, it takes less time to become a lawyer in the U.S. than it does in Canada. The bar exam is a two or three day exam (depending on the state) and is administered twice a year - in February and in July.

Further information about the requirements for each state may be found at: www.ncbex.org

I also recommend the site of the American Bar Association at: www.abanet.org

Summary of Useful Links

Note: In addition to these links I highly recommend that you subscribe to my monthly Law School Bound email newsletter. Subscribe by sending an email to: learn@prep.com (it is free)

www.prep.com - Richardson Prep Centre - Preparation For LSAT and a wealth of information about the test.

lawschoolbound.com - Richardson Law School Bound - A web site designed to help you through every stage of the law admissions process and links to all North American law schools.

www.lsac.org - Law Services web site - LSAT test dates, how to register for the LSAT, order actual past exams etc.

www.flsc.ca - Federation Of Law Societies in Canada - Good information on how to be admitted to the bar in every Canadian province.

www.abanet.org - American Bar Association Site - Great information on the legal profession and U.S. law schools

www.ncbex.org - Will help you determine the requirements to be admitted to the bar in any U.S. state

hg.org - For a much more global perspective on law school and becoming a lawyer

Summary of The Process of Becoming a Lawyer In Canada And The U.S.

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