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Is there any US school that makes sense if I plan to practice in Canada


FriendlyMemeGuy493
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FriendlyMemeGuy493
  • Applicant

Bit of context here I'm planning on applying this September my current stats I'd say would be pretty competitive in the US 175+, >3.9 CGPA (on a Canadian scale, think it'd be >4.0 on the US 4.33 scale). Ultimately I plan on practicing in Canada so my question was is there any US school that would be worth it if that was my plan? I plan to apply to the T6 but even if I get in would a Harvard law degree for example give you a leg up in Canada or would it be basically equal or even below something like UofT law? 

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TobyFlenderson
  • Law Student

If you want to practice in Canada, why spend the extra money on an American degree only to return to a lower paying market? Why not just go get a Canadian law degree in the first place? Sounds like you've got the stats to go to UofT or wherever else you might want to go on this side of the border.

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QueensDenning
  • Law Student

If you can get into a Harvard why not make twice the money for a few years? (in NY/Cali) 

Edited by QueensDenning
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29 minutes ago, FriendlyMemeGuy493 said:

Bit of context here I'm planning on applying this September my current stats I'd say would be pretty competitive in the US 175+, >3.9 CGPA (on a Canadian scale, think it'd be >4.0 on the US 4.33 scale). Ultimately I plan on practicing in Canada so my question was is there any US school that would be worth it if that was my plan? I plan to apply to the T6 but even if I get in would a Harvard law degree for example give you a leg up in Canada or would it be basically equal or even below something like UofT law? 

T6 is the way to go. Some might say t-14 but unless you get a good scholarship I don't know if I'd agree. 

Another factor to consider is that which is prestigious in the US isn't always so in Canada. For example good schools like Vanderbilt, USC, BC and Northwestern that all do good in the States might not help here as they lack the "brand power" of more notable  names. 

Overall I don't think there's any harm in applying to some solid US schools in addition to the top Canadian ones and making a decision after you've gotten acceptances and scholarship offers. 

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Darth Vader
  • Lawyer

Depends on the cost difference and if you are paying sticker for a T6. There is no doubt that the brand name of a top US school will impressive almost anyone, but your career prospects in Canada will be virtually the same as those graduating from Canadian law schools.

U of T law is not the best school in Canada for all fields. I have seen and encouraged people to turn U of T down for other Canadian law schools based on their career goals. No one is going to put U of T on a pedestal above a T6, as U of T's main strengths are in its Biglaw placement rates and legal research and academia, which are also big strengths at the T6. 

I have noticed that Canadians that attend top US law schools end up in two distinctive categories: 

a) They go work in US Biglaw full-time or do US Biglaw for a brief time and then switch into a business field like MBB consulting, investment banking, or something in the start-up and technology space. 

b) They go work in US Biglaw for a few years and then return to Canada to practice in small/mid-sized firms and litigation boutiques, primarily in the areas of criminal and constitutional, commercial litigation, indigenous, and civil litigation. I have not seen anyone go from US Biglaw to Canadian Biglaw as the pay difference is too huge and you can find better exit options.

If you fall in the first category and are open to practicing law in the US in the long-term or moving into a competitive business field like MBB consulting, then it may be worth it to attend a T6. Even then, I would probably aim for an M7 MBA or technical master's program over a law degree.

If you fall in the second category, then besides bragging rights, and unless you are getting a lot of funding to offset the costs, it does not make sense to pay a premium to attend a T6 only to work in Canada. 

This is just my opinion, but if you are going to attend a T6, then you should consider following a career path like Amal Clooney and pursuing those international opportunities that are difficult to obtain from a Canadian law school, including U of T. US Biglaw firms can still get you into those careers as Ms. Clooney started at one firm in the Criminal Defence and Investigations Group, but it is not the most practical route to take. If you just wanted to work in Biglaw/corporate, you can do this from any school in Canada, not just U of T, as even the regional-focused schools have high Biglaw placement rates in their respective regions. There has also been a lot of lateral movement lately with Canadian Biglaw lawyers moving to the US Biglaw market. 

In conclusion, if there are significant cost differences and your intention is to practice in Canada, then going to a T6 law school is probably not worth it simply because the Canadian legal market would not match the salaries in the US to justify those costs, and you would be paying off your debt for years to come. There are T6 graduates working in my field, and I did not go to U of T or a T6 myself. Going to McGill, UBC, Osgoode, and U of T would leave all the same doors open, and if you want government, Ottawa would also leave more doors open than even a T6 in Canada.

PM me if you would like to discuss any of these points in further detail.

Edited by Darth Vader
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FriendlyMemeGuy493
  • Applicant
23 hours ago, TobyFlenderson said:

If you want to practice in Canada, why spend the extra money on an American degree only to return to a lower paying market? Why not just go get a Canadian law degree in the first place? Sounds like you've got the stats to go to UofT or wherever else you might want to go on this side of the border.

Yes this was essentially what I was thinking as well and probably my most likely path

20 hours ago, Darth Vader said:

Depends on the cost difference and if you are paying sticker for a T6.

U of T law is not the best school in Canada for all fields. I have seen and encouraged people to turn U of T down for other Canadian law schools based on their career goals. No one is going to put U of T on a pedestal above a T6, as U of T's main strengths are in its Biglaw placement rates and legal research and academia, which are also big strengths at the T6. 

 

PM me if you would like to discuss any of these points in further detail.

These are all very insightful and helpful points thank you, Ill definitely pm you

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QMT20
  • Articling Student
On 6/22/2021 at 1:06 AM, FriendlyMemeGuy493 said:

Bit of context here I'm planning on applying this September my current stats I'd say would be pretty competitive in the US 175+, >3.9 CGPA (on a Canadian scale, think it'd be >4.0 on the US 4.33 scale). Ultimately I plan on practicing in Canada so my question was is there any US school that would be worth it if that was my plan? I plan to apply to the T6 but even if I get in would a Harvard law degree for example give you a leg up in Canada or would it be basically equal or even below something like UofT law? 

If you go to a US T6 school, and especially if you go to Yale or Harvard, that's of course going to help you stand out if you apply to Bay Street firms for summer and articling positions. There are multiple lawyers at my firm who attended Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and UChicago. Some of them worked as an associate in the US for a few years and then lateralled and others came back right after law school. It's not equivalent to applying to Bay Street from any other Canadian school. The only question, as some people raised above, is whether it's worth it for you to do this. Bay Street firms pay students $1700/week on the low end to $2250/week if you're at Davies, and your starting pay as an associate ranges from $110,000/year at most firms to $130,000/year at Davies. The NY big law firms are going to be paying you more like $3800 USD/week as a summer associate and $200,000 USD/year starting salary as a first year associate. Considering you'll be paying over $60,000 USD/year tuition if you're paying full price, the problem with coming back to Canada won't be a matter of whether you can do it but whether it's worth it for you to to do it. 

If you're not interested in working at a big law firm, then it's going to be an even less economically feasible decision to go to law school in the US as opposed to Canada, unless of course, you get a significant scholarship from the US school, which you'd also likely be getting from most Canadian law schools.

The students and lawyers I know who went to school at Yale or Harvard and then came back after law school tend share a few traits. Money either wasn't an issue because their family could afford to fund their education or because they received a full scholarship. They also work in litigation and they came back to Canada after law school to clerk at an appellate court before entering practice. 

It's a big world and if you attend Yale or Harvard, or perhaps another T6, you'll have access to different opportunities than Canadian law school graduates. However, you'll also have access to some great opportunities in Canada if you decide to come back. Ultimately, you'll have to decide what you want to do. Many don't come back but some do as well. 

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bigtruss
  • Law School Admit

I'm going to a T14 in the US on a ~3/4 tuition scholarship this year and got offered the Butler Fellowship (half tuition) at Columbia in a tough cycle.

Your stats are a little bit better than mine were so with a good application everything is on the table in terms of where you might get in and what money you might get offered next year (even in what will likely be another tough cycle). 

The reasons why the US made sense to me were:

  1. The school I'm attending places ~75% of students in biglaw/federal clerkships the last few years;
  2. With my scholarship and some savings I've stashed away I can work as little as 1 year of US biglaw, pay off any student debt, and save at least 100k CAD to have enough money in the bank to come home and do work I'm more passionate about from then on if I hate my US job (which I suspect I will); 
  3. I am very confident that I will have a place to article at one of a few small firms back in Canada once I complete one of the LLMs from U of T, UBC, or Osgoode that satisfies the NCA requirement, or pass the NCA exams, because of pre-existing connections I've made here through work and family; 
  4. I didn't want to be competing with smart Canadian students to be in the top 30-50% of the class (depending on which school) that gets 110k CAD/yr biglaw at like 1800-1900 billable hours per year to get financially stable when I could be competing with smart US students to be in the top 75% of the class that gets 190k USD/yr biglaw at ~2000 billable hours per year for about the same tuition price (a bit more expensive than UBC and McGill but a lot less expensive than U of T);
  5. The downside risk of striking out with US biglaw is low for me because of the scholarship I was offered and I can just come back home with near-zero debt if things don't work out down there; 
  6.  I'm in my early-mid twenties and want to start a firm (either law or consulting) in my early 30s, which makes getting to a financially stable position as fast as possible a priority to me and makes even a short stint in US biglaw a valuable time-saver for my goal trajectory; and
  7. I have studied abroad for my Master's before and value getting a new experience out of law school, even if the US and Canada are similar to live in and a huge proportion of my time abroad is going to be in a library.

I'm going into this much detail about my own situation because you might have some overlap with different parts of this depending on what your goals are and because this is a big decision if you decide to ultimately apply and go abroad. I think it's important to understand why you're doing what you're doing and what the best and worst case scenarios are to avoid regret later on.

Hope this is helpful!

 

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alanc675
  • Lawyer

Answering as a US biglaw associate. I think @bigtrussis right on the money so I'll piggyback on some of his points.

1. With your current stats, you are likely to receive a very significant scholarship at a T-6 (and definitely a full ride at some T-13's). This should be considered as, given your stats, you will definitely not be paying even close to full tuition at your chosen school. Most Canadians fail to take into account how prevalent scholarships are at US schools. 

2. Working big law, spending about 2,500 a month on rent and let's say another 2,000 on food/anything else, you're saving 7,000 USD after tax a month as a first year. I'm sure you could live a lot more frugally than this but I wanted to use an extreme example. 

3. By working as a lawyer, while admitted, for 10 months in a foreign jurisdiction (like a US state) you can skip articling by getting an exemption. Then all you need to do to work in Canada as a lawyer is a) write the NCA exams which are extremely easy - this does not require getting an LLM, you just buy the books and study for like a month and then 2) write the bar. This may vary by province but my understanding is they're all quite similar. I know less about this stuff than the other topics. 

4. Coming from experience and probably against what most would initially presume, the better the employment outcomes of your law school the more fun law school is. Simply put, there's a lot less pressure/competition among your classmates when you know virtually everyone is going to get a big law job if they want it. Any pressure/competition which remains is done after your first year because everyone has secured a summer associate position by the beginning of 2L. Once you have a summer associate offer your grades do not matter also. 

Another point re: grades - in the T13, practically the worst grade given in an entire class will be a B- or a B and this will be awarded to probably the worst 3% of grades on a given test. This means that once you have your summer offer, you can really take it easy and coast with B+'s doing minimal work (probably close to 70% of the class gets a B+). 

6. I promise I'm not being ridiculous here, but if you graduate law school at 25 and assuming a light debt load it is entirely reasonable that you will be worth north of $1,000,000 CAD by the time you are 30-32. Please really think about this. Of course, this prediction is assuming you invest the money in an index fund and don't just pile it up in your closet, but you get the point. 

I'm not trying to come off as an ambassador of top US law schools but I just wanted to really lay out what an opportunity this can be (if going to the US is something you decide to do). 

Happy to answer any PM's! 

 

 

 

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Avatar Aang
  • Lawyer

OP, do you want to work in US Biglaw? How sure are you that you want to return to Canada? This transition makes sense if you want to work in the US/Biglaw as evidenced by the two posters above, but not so much if you want to practice criminal law or something else not corporate-related. Don't think you can just work in Biglaw for a few years and then jump ship into Crown Prosecutor jobs. We need more information to advise you better. 

The other posters are right in that you can make a lot of money in US Biglaw (you are also putting in a lot of hours), but I rarely see anyone stay more than a few years and the exit options are similar to what you'd see in Canada. Biglaw jobs are also very easy to secure in the US if you attend a top school. It's much harder to get the DOJ Honours Program, Public Defender, Legal Aid Staff Attorney and other public sector/government jobs there. So, figure out what your goals are and go from there. 

This comes down to whether you want US Biglaw or not and how much funding you will get and for which schools, and whether these schools still have a great name in Canada if your intention is to come back here. 

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FriendlyMemeGuy493
  • Applicant
3 hours ago, Avatar Aang said:

 

This comes down to whether you want US Biglaw or not and how much funding you will get and for which schools, and whether these schools still have a great name in Canada if your intention is to come back here. 

Yes I think this is really what it comes down to, I'll have to evaluate whether I wanted to do big law or something public sector, and then look at any scholarship opportunities from US schools. I appreciate all the information and experience everyone has conveyed 

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Avatar Aang
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, FriendlyMemeGuy493 said:

Yes I think this is really what it comes down to, I'll have to evaluate whether I wanted to do big law or something public sector, and then look at any scholarship opportunities from US schools. I appreciate all the information and experience everyone has conveyed 

The only person I have seen from Canada that went to the US and did not pursue Biglaw was this guy - https://ca.linkedin.com/in/arashghiassi. You may want to shoot him a message. 

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  • 1 month later...
sng
  • Lawyer

As someone who went to a US school with an eye to returning to Canada, I feel like I could easily walk into a Bay Street firm from my current job. And this would still be the case if I had finished bottom of my class (since people in the bottom of my class still got jobs like the one I currently got). So it's nice in an insurance "even if I shit the bed, I can get a job on Bay St" way ---- especially if you factor in getting 200k your "articling" year as described above. 

 

That said, I wanted to live in the States for awhile and was planning to work in NY. If I was sure I wanted to head back to Canada ASAP, I wouldn't have gone to the States unless I was taking a Hamilton at Columbia or something. Which, with your stats, you very well might receive. But the analysis on that is so different than an analysis of sticker at NYU, for example, that I think you should apply, see what you're looking at, and then assess.

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Pendragon
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, sng said:

As someone who went to a US school with an eye to returning to Canada, I feel like I could easily walk into a Bay Street firm from my current job. And this would still be the case if I had finished bottom of my class (since people in the bottom of my class still got jobs like the one I currently got). So it's nice in an insurance "even if I shit the bed, I can get a job on Bay St" way ---- especially if you factor in getting 200k your "articling" year as described above. 

 

That said, I wanted to live in the States for awhile and was planning to work in NY. If I was sure I wanted to head back to Canada ASAP, I wouldn't have gone to the States unless I was taking a Hamilton at Columbia or something. Which, with your stats, you very well might receive. But the analysis on that is so different than an analysis of sticker at NYU, for example, that I think you should apply, see what you're looking at, and then assess.

It isn't that difficult landing a Big law job in Canada. Regional law schools have high Big law placement rates in their respective regions. In Ontario, U of T, Osgoode, Queen's, and Western all place very well, and there is also a lot of lateral movement with people starting out in small/mid-sized firms moving to Bay Street/Big law after gaining some experience. There has also been a lot of lateral movement this year from Canadian Big law to international Big law, and more international firms are participating in the Canadian OCI recruitment process. 

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sng
  • Lawyer

Yeah. Also US biglaw now (but not always, but now at least) is super in need of bodies so would think anyone at a fairly large school in canada who was so inclined could net a position at a market paying firm in NYC. That's a lot less tuition to pay than heading south for the same job.

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  • 2 weeks later...
LawyerBoy11
  • Lawyer
On 6/21/2021 at 10:06 PM, FriendlyMemeGuy493 said:

Bit of context here I'm planning on applying this September my current stats I'd say would be pretty competitive in the US 175+, >3.9 CGPA (on a Canadian scale, think it'd be >4.0 on the US 4.33 scale). Ultimately I plan on practicing in Canada so my question was is there any US school that would be worth it if that was my plan? I plan to apply to the T6 but even if I get in would a Harvard law degree for example give you a leg up in Canada or would it be basically equal or even below something like UofT law? 

Yes. Harvard will be seen by many employers and clients as an asset. Would be viewed by most as sitting above any Canadian law school. 

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I am sure this matters to greater or lesser degrees depending on the area of law you go in to, but do keep in mind that law is jurisdictional. Why learn the law of another country if you plan to practise here?

If it’s just to satisfy a need to check “prestigious school” off your life list you might want to reconsider - especially if the price tag is high. 
 

That said, Harvard is internationally recognized and no doubt will keep many door open throughout your career. It’s a nice dilemma to have. 

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer
9 hours ago, LawyerBoy11 said:

Yes. Harvard will be seen by many employers and clients as an asset. Would be viewed by most as sitting above any Canadian law school. 

Strong disagree.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Ish
  • Lawyer
On 8/13/2021 at 6:35 PM, Rashabon said:

Strong disagree.

I kind of agree, but I'm curious. Why do you feel that way?

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  • 1 month later...
LawyerBoy11
  • Lawyer

You do not really learn the law in law school. You learn about the law. You then learn the law in practice. Whether right or wrong most Canadian law firms would like a Harvard JD lawyer as indicates you are smart, have the tenacity to go abroad to a top university, and they can brag to clients  about your “Harvard” degree. Probably a moot point though - If you go to Harvard you’ll probably stay in the US and earn more cash. 

On 8/13/2021 at 7:35 PM, Rashabon said:

Strong disagree.

On what basis?

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer
16 minutes ago, LawyerBoy11 said:

You do not really learn the law in law school. You learn about the law. You then learn the law in practice. Whether right or wrong most Canadian law firms would like a Harvard JD lawyer as indicates you are smart, have the tenacity to go abroad to a top university, and they can brag to clients  about your “Harvard” degree. Probably a moot point though - If you go to Harvard you’ll probably stay in the US and earn more cash. 

On what basis?

On the basis that it's wrong? Canadian law firms generally don't give a shit if you went to school in the US and aren't "wowed" by a JD from Harvard. There's almost no chance that the top end firms in Canada would prefer a Harvard grad over a U of T grad, all things being equal. It's just not how reality works.

They also, absolutely, do not brag to fucking clients about where their lawyers went to school lmao.

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Yogurt Baron
49 minutes ago, LawyerBoy11 said:

You do not really learn the law in law school. You learn about the law. You then learn the law in practice. Whether right or wrong most Canadian law firms would like a Harvard JD lawyer as indicates you are smart, have the tenacity to go abroad to a top university, and they can brag to clients  about your “Harvard” degree. Probably a moot point though - If you go to Harvard you’ll probably stay in the US and earn more cash. 

The best part of this is the quotation marks. You've inspired me. I may never get a Harvard degree, but I can certainly get a "Harvard" "degree".

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