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McGill alumnus and lawyer AMA


PzabbytheLawyer

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PzabbytheLawyer
  • Lawyer

Hi everyone,

I've been meaning to start one of these for a while. I've been finding my bearings at work.

I graduated from McGill a few years ago, articled in Ontario, and am now a practising litigator. I've had a non traditional career path in a lot of ways, and McGill played a role in that. I've done a lot of research into different career paths possible from McGill (and still am), so I thought I would start this thread for those curious. I'm also happy to answer questions on professors, exams, bilingualism, journals, extra curriculars, etc. 

I promise to try to be frequent on this thread but things can get busy. If there's something time pressing, feel free to send me a private message and put in the subject line "urgent" so I know.

Fire away 🙂

 

 

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ccq35
  • Law Student

Thanks so much for doing this, Pzabby.

Curious to hear your thoughts on the general process of studying for more substantive classes: working transsystemically, doing readings/using summaries, exam prep strategies, etc.

Also wondering preemptively on behalf of recently admitted 1Ls: what did your strategy for first year classes look like?

Edited by ccq35
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WiseGhost
  • Law Student

 I have two main questions.

1. Are there many students aiming for academia in typical cohorts, and are there opportunities that are well-suited for students interested in this path?

I am considering academia, and I am curious about whether or not this is a viable career option coming out of McGill. Of course, I would probably need to get great grades first, and it's too early to tell! 

2. Any pieces of advice that you wish you had at the start of your studies?

Thanks for doing this!

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fairyinlaw
  • Applicant

I have 2 main questions as well!

1 — How many (realistic!) opportunities are there for students who want to pursue a field of law centred around human rights/public interest? I heard that in comparison to other top law schools, McGill is somewhat better suited for this less traditional (in comparison to corporate/family/criminal kind of traditional) career path. Were there students in your cohort who went on to pursue this kind of legal career? 

2 — On a similar note, were there opportunities for advocacy-focused careers *not* involving legal work or litigation (say, policy)? Is it common for law students (at McGill or otherwise) to pursue their law degree with the goal of pursuing a career that is not in law? 

Thank you so much!

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PzabbytheLawyer
  • Lawyer
4 hours ago, ccq35 said:

Thanks so much for doing this, Pzabby.

Curious to hear your thoughts on the general process of studying for more substantive classes: working transsystemically, doing readings/using summaries, exam prep strategies, etc.

Also wondering preemptively on behalf of recently admitted 1Ls: what did your strategy for first year classes look like?

Everyone, I will aim to do one at a time and time allowing, more than that. I will get to your questions!

Ccq35:

I would say it's not much different from other faculties, with maybe the exception of foundations, depending on how they structure the final assignment.

I would first read your cases and papers and work on creating case summaries. That itself is an art that will help you learn and improve your legal reasoning and application to some extent. I would compare to upper year summaries to see how you're doing, and possibly confer with the professor to see if you are on the right track. Once it becomes a bit more second nature, I would do the following.

I would get some summaries from upper years that you can rely on to some extent. Then I would try to read almost everything once. Not necessarily in very close detail, since you have the summary. But try to read it or skin it. Then add or subtract from the summary.

If I did that for all my course, I'd have likely been closer to being a top 5 percent student. I didn't, and wasn't. For courses I cared more about and found more interesting, I did the above and usually ended up in the top 10 percent.

Adjust that strategy as you go to see what works best for you. It's not a one size fits all approach. And there are a lot of great approaches on this forum from all schools that would be also useful at McGill.

Re transystemia: I found if you let yourself truly take part in the unique pedagogy, it helps improve your legal analysis and reasoning skills. A lot of students did it. They are all still fine and I'm sure excellent lawyers. 

But those who really grappled with it ended up doing very well, going to prestigious LLMs, internships, global law firms, etc. Transystemia is useful for global law firms because you deal with as many different jurisdictions as you do at those firms.

 

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PzabbytheLawyer
  • Lawyer
On 2/15/2022 at 9:58 PM, villiuski said:

 I have two main questions.

1. Are there many students aiming for academia in typical cohorts, and are there opportunities that are well-suited for students interested in this path?

I am considering academia, and I am curious about whether or not this is a viable career option coming out of McGill. Of course, I would probably need to get great grades first, and it's too early to tell! 

2. Any pieces of advice that you wish you had at the start of your studies?

Thanks for doing this!

1a) not many. I'd say probably 10-15 percent pursue some form of academia, but then maybe 5-10 percent only to actually become professors. That's my hunch but I don't have numbers on this.

1b) yes, plenty. McGill provides you a lot of writing outlets that can lead to publications, RA ships, etc that can all facilitate an LLM and eventual SJD or Dphil, etc. 

1c) yes you'd need strong grades, but I don't think you need to be a deans Lister in your first year to have a good shot at say, a T6 LLM or Oxbridge, etc. You should definitely focus on pulling your GPA up regardless in upper years, through papers and the like, and focusing on publishing those. Journal experience helps too. I'd aim for the main McGill law journal for academia, but others would be helpful too, especially if you know what you want to specialize in and if there's a journal focused on it.

2. I would have written term papers in 2L like everyone else, and I wouldn't have been so strongly opposed to corporate law firms as a start to my career. I have a great CV now, but I've hit a tricky spot for reasons I won't get into. Corporate law firms give you a lot of stability in your early career and a lot of mentorship, which is very important.

 

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Darth Vader
  • Lawyer

This probably varies year to year but what is the breakdown of McGill grads in terms of where most people end up working out of law school?

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WiseGhost
  • Law Student

@PzabbytheLawyer

I'm glad to know that going into academia (if I choose to pursue that route) would not necessarily require being a Deans lister in 1L. I'll definitely aim for being a part of the McGill Law Journal. 

I'll keep your answer to my second question in mind too, because while I am currently averse to the idea of doing anything corporate, I am also a fan of stability. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. 

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Darth Vader
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, villiuski said:

@PzabbytheLawyer

I'm glad to know that going into academia (if I choose to pursue that route) would not necessarily require being a Deans lister in 1L. I'll definitely aim for being a part of the McGill Law Journal. 

I'll keep your answer to my second question in mind too, because while I am currently averse to the idea of doing anything corporate, I am also a fan of stability. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. 

I think what he means by stability is that there are lots of business law opportunities in the field, and it leaves the doors to Big law open if you want to pursue it. But pursuing the corporate path won't help you if your long-term goals involve non-corporate work. Whatever path you choose, just make sure it aligns with your goals and the work that you want to do. A number of people pursue Big law because it is the path of least resistance, but many of them also change careers along the way and they have to reset the clock and re-learn a different area of law. 

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Ben
  • Law Student
6 hours ago, PzabbytheLawyer said:

I don't think you need to be a deans Lister in your first year to have a good shot at say, a T6 LLM or Oxbridge, etc

“Need” is a strong word, but I think the spirit of this post is misleading. I don’t know anyone doing graduate legal work at schools like those who didn’t medal or come very close. 

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CleanHands
  • Lawyer
12 minutes ago, Ben said:

“Need” is a strong word, but I think the spirit of this post is misleading. I don’t know anyone doing graduate legal work at schools like those who didn’t medal or come very close. 

I didn't want to shit up a McGill AMA (having never attended McGill and all), but claiming that 5-10% of the class of any Canadian JD program become professors is also a pretty wild assertion.

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IronLady
  • Applicant
5 hours ago, CleanHands said:

I didn't want to shit up a McGill AMA (having never attended McGill and all), but claiming that 5-10% of the class of any Canadian JD program become professors is also a pretty wild assertion.

CleanHands - give him a break, the guy is just saying that it's his hunch and that MAYBE is 5-10%... he is not making a bold statement and he is just sharing his experience. 

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ccq35
  • Law Student
6 hours ago, Ben said:

“Need” is a strong word, but I think the spirit of this post is misleading. I don’t know anyone doing graduate legal work at schools like those who didn’t medal or come very close. 

Well, I do, so it’s definitely not a requirement. It’s possible that it’s a requirement in most/many cases, but it’s not all cases. 

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PzabbytheLawyer
  • Lawyer
7 hours ago, Ben said:

“Need” is a strong word, but I think the spirit of this post is misleading. I don’t know anyone doing graduate legal work at schools like those who didn’t medal or come very close. 

I'm just going off of what the CDO told me should be aimed for ideally. They've mentioned a lesser GPA can work depending on the rest of your application too.

Again, I don't have numbers so it's word of mouth unfortunately.

7 hours ago, CleanHands said:

I didn't want to shit up a McGill AMA (having never attended McGill and all), but claiming that 5-10% of the class of any Canadian JD program become professors is also a pretty wild assertion.

Over an entire career? Certainly possible. Plenty of lawyers eventually go into academia after a few years. They don't end up being "professors" until later.

But sure, 10 percent does seem high. I'll move it to say 3-5 percent. But again, I don't have numbers for this.

Where I don't have numbers, I'll say so, as I did.

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artsydork
  • Lawyer

I know of a handful of people from my year that got their LLMs, and only a couple with their SJDs. I know of one teaching at a Canadian law Fac with another 2 wrapping up their SJDs. Not sure if they have posts lined up but both would likely find something.

I also know of a few other McGilligans from other years doing/did LLMs and SJDs, and a few others doing/did MA/PhDs. They ended up in higher education admin, policy leadership recruit or still in regular practice. Again, from my linkedin/contacts, I only know of a couple who are teaching as their primary line of work.

5% of a class of 180 is 9 people - perhaps that many people teach a class as an adjunct, but I don't believe that many people are teaching full time.

You can certainly end up in academia from McGill. You'll need high grades to end up the tenure track route though (aka, getting your LLM from UT, Oxbridge, NYU/Columbia/Harvard/Yale etc). 

 

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  • 1 year later...
TalkingTom
  • Applicant

Is it inappropriate to reach out to the admissions office and inquire about the status of your application? Will they just ignore my e-mail or phone call or consider it disrespectful? 

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kollykibbler
  • Applicant
On 3/13/2023 at 10:01 AM, TalkingTom said:

Is it inappropriate to reach out to the admissions office and inquire about the status of your application? Will they just ignore my e-mail or phone call or consider it disrespectful? 

I would ask this on the Discord and see if anyone's done it before. You're much more likely to get a response for this sort of thing there.

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GreyDude
  • Law Student
On 3/13/2023 at 12:01 PM, TalkingTom said:

Is it inappropriate to reach out to the admissions office and inquire about the status of your application? Will they just ignore my e-mail or phone call or consider it disrespectful? 

If you decide to do this, I suggest a polite email rather than a phone call. I'm assuming that 'status of your application' means where they're at in the decision process.

I have nothing but good things to report about the McGill Law admissions office, having contacted them several times and for various reasons over the last couple of years. They have always been very cordial (even friendly) and efficient. I expect that they would only find your email disrespectful if you were to write it in a disrespectful or arrogant tone. And yet, even if you do write it that way, they will no doubt still treat it as they treat all the others, which is to say professionally. The subject should have no effect on them or on your application—I'm sure they get this kind of email all the time.

However, I am also quite sure about the kind of reply you'll get to the kind of question I think you mean to ask. It will no doubt be some sort of boilerplate about how these things take time and the admissions committee will certainly give your application serious consideration and get back to you as soon as they are able to do so, considering the large number of excellent candidates they must consider, and so on, and thank you for your interest in McGill Law.

In other words, if your only question is really just about how it is already the Ides of March and you haven't heard from them yet, then I really don't think it's worth your time (or theirs, frankly) to ask it. If you have something more substantial in mind, then by all means go for it, and I'm sure your experience with them will be as positive as mine has always been.

Edited by GreyDude
clarity and (bah) grammar
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TalkingTom
  • Applicant
On 3/15/2023 at 11:07 AM, GreyDude said:

If you decide to do this, I suggest a polite email rather than a phone call. I'm assuming that 'status of your application' means where they're at in the decision process.

I have nothing but good things to report about the McGill Law admissions office, having contacted them several times and for various reasons over the last couple of years. They have always been very cordial (even friendly) and efficient. I expect that they would only find your email disrespectful if you were to write it in a disrespectful or arrogant tone. And yet, even if you do write it that way, they will no doubt still treat it as they treat all the others, which is to say professionally. The subject should have no effect on them or on your application—I'm sure they get this kind of email all the time.

However, I am also quite sure about the kind of reply you'll get to the kind of question I think you mean to ask. It will no doubt be some sort of boilerplate about how these things take time and the admissions committee will certainly give your application serious consideration and get back to you as soon as they are able to do so, considering the large number of excellent candidates they must consider, and so on, and thank you for your interest in McGill Law.

In other words, if your only question is really just about how it is already the Ides of March and you haven't heard from them yet, then I really don't think it's worth your time (or theirs, frankly) to ask it. If you have something more substantial in mind, then by all means go for it, and I'm sure your experience with them will be as positive as mine has always been.

That was my first thought. I'm just one of many eager applicants. Thanks for the response I appreciate you taking the time.

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  • 1 month later...
ltmaverick25
  • Law Student

How does the English / French dynamic work? I’ve heard people say they were able to take all their classes in English, though the admissions person I spoke to assisted that wasn’t the case. (I’m fully bilingual, just asking out of curiosity).

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PzabbytheLawyer
  • Lawyer

Hi all. Sorry, I disappeared from this thread. I've been working on building a career in a unique space, and it's taken a lot out of me.

On 3/13/2023 at 12:01 PM, TalkingTom said:

Is it inappropriate to reach out to the admissions office and inquire about the status of your application? Will they just ignore my e-mail or phone call or consider it disrespectful? 

To be honest I don't know. I would say being patient is good, unless there is a deadline you need to consider, and you prefer McGill. It would make sense to politely inquire then, mentioning the circumstances.

 

On 4/23/2023 at 9:05 PM, ltmaverick25 said:

How does the English / French dynamic work? I’ve heard people say they were able to take all their classes in English, though the admissions person I spoke to assisted that wasn’t the case. (I’m fully bilingual, just asking out of curiosity).

In 1L, unless it has changed, there are two English sections for each class, and one french. It has been a while now, but I believe you can only pick English or French - you don't get to pick which English section. I may be wrong, and this may have changed.

Regardless, you will have to read text in both languages, in many of your 1L classes. Students are encouraged to ask questions in any language; the profs are supposedly mandated to respond in kind. It is a wonderful learning opportunity, and I miss it dearly.

In upper years, you can certainly try to take all classes in English. I don't recommend it. I took some french courses, and my french is better for it.

Some people certainly make it through the program being nearly entirely anglophone, and never trying to learn or improve on their french. To each their own, but it diminishes your educational experience, and what makes McGill unique around the world.

 

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jdapplicant2699

Hi, I just wanted to ask about transferring and French language requirements. If I was to transfer from 1L at Western to McGill, do you think that there is a high probability of me being accepted? Do you know of any upper years who transfer and what their CV looks like usually? 

Another question, do you think doing the Self b2 is a good way to fulfill the French language requirement? Or is there another exam you would recommend?

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ccq35
  • Law Student

I know of at least two current transfer students; one from Osgoode and one from U of O. Not sure what their CVs or grades were like. 

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PzabbytheLawyer
  • Lawyer

I think I recall one in my year. You would have to take all of the 1L courses aside from criminal and constitutional I believe, since you would have missed the civil training.

I would imagine you would complete your degree in 4 rather than 3.5 years with the missed classes.

Ask the admissions process.

Regardless, I wouldn't bank on it. I can imagine it would be very competitive.

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