2022-05-11T13:59:31-04:00May 16th, 2022|

The best Canadian universities for law and legal studies

As an international student, getting a Canadian degree in law or legal studies can unlock exciting career opportunities. Whether you plan to practice law in Canada, enter the world of legal writing or academia, or gain exposure to international law, the world-class programs offered by Canadian universities can bring you closer to your dream.

If you’re in the process of identifying universities you hope to attend, this resource showcases some of the best Canadian universities for law and legal studies programs. This article also provides an overview of undergraduate and graduate programs offered in these fields, tuition fees for international students, and general admission requirements for these programs.

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Eligibility criteria for admission into law and legal studies programs

Undergraduate programs in law and legal studies

In Canada, you cannot apply for an undergraduate program in law or legal studies right out of high school. In most cases, you will require a four-year undergraduate degree prior to applying for an undergraduate law program. There are four possible undergraduate law degrees you may be interested in: Juris Doctor (JD), Bachelor of Law (LL.B.), Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), or Licentiate in Law (LL.L.). 

JD and LL.B. programs are based on the British Common Law, which is recognized in most parts of Canada. On the other hand, BCL and LL.L. degree programs are based on French Civil Law and are recognized in Quebec. To qualify for most JD and LL.B. programs, you must first complete a four-year bachelor’s degree program (or foreign equivalent) in any discipline, with a strong academic track record.

LL.L. and BCL programs, which are primarily offered by universities based in Quebec and Ottawa, often accept students who’ve completed the first year of a four-year undergraduate program. However, if you opt for a combined JD/LL.L. or JD/BCL program, you’ll require a prior four-year bachelor’s degree.

Requirements in order to apply

You need a good Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) to qualify for most undergraduate law or legal studies programs in Canada. In addition, you need to submit personal essays to make a case for why the program is a good fit for you and showcase your non-academic achievements. Most universities also require you to submit language test scores to prove your proficiency in the course delivery language (English or French).

Merely completing an undergraduate program in law is not enough to practice law in Canada. After you graduate, you must pass the bar exam in your province or territory and spend some time (usually under a year) “articling” under the supervision of a licensed lawyer before you receive your license to practice law in Canada.

Graduate programs in law and legal studies

Important: If you have an international LL.B. or JD degree and are licensed to practise law in another country, completing a Canadian LL.M. program will not qualify you to practise law in Canada. You must get your foreign law degree assessed by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) and submit your NCA Certificate of Qualification to enter the bar admission process in a Canadian province or territory.

There are two types of master’s programs in law and legal studies in Canada— Master of Law (LL.M.) and Master of Studies in Law (MSL). The key difference between these degrees is that the LL.M. program is for lawyers or individuals seeking to practise law while the MSL program is for academics and researchers with a keen interest in law.

For admission into an LL.M. program, you must have an undergraduate degree in law, usually a JD or LL.B. (or its international equivalent). However, you must also have completed at least four years of post-secondary education to qualify, which means that international students from countries where the LL.B. or JD program is only three years long must also complete one year of a relevant master’s program. In such cases, your grades for other degrees will also be reviewed, but your academic record from your LL.B. or JD program will carry the most weight. You have a better chance of qualifying for a Canadian law school if you scored at least a B or B+ average grade in your undergraduate law program.

Students applying to MSL programs must have at least a graduate (master’s) degree, although many universities only accept candidates with doctoral degrees. While a prior degree in law isn’t necessary, your past academic work must be related to law. To apply to a doctoral program in law or legal studies, you must already have completed an undergraduate (LL.B. or JD) and graduate degree (LL.M.) in law.

International students also need to demonstrate proficiency in English or French to qualify for admission to graduate programs in law and legal studies. For English, TOEFL and IELTS scores are commonly accepted.

While admission requirements vary by university and type of graduate program you’re applying to, you usually need to submit a statement of interest or research proposal, letters of recommendation, your curriculum vitae, and a personal statement, in addition to your academic transcripts.

Top Canadian Universities for law and legal studies

Note: The fees listed in this section are for students applying in the admission year 2021-22. Please check your university’s website for the latest fee estimates. As an international student, you also need to budget for non-tuition fees, taxes, and living expenses. You can use Arrive’s calculator to estimate the cost of studying in Canada as an international student.

Canada is home to several of the world’s best law schools and legal programs. Here are some of the Canadian universities that appear in the top 200 of the QS World Rankings 2022 list for law and legal studies:

Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Ontario

Undergraduate program

A three-year Juris Doctor (JD) program.

Graduate programs: 

A one-year Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree, where you can choose between a thesis-intensive or coursework-only format, a 12-month Global Professional Master of Laws (GPLLM) which focuses on business law (evening and weekend classes only), and an eight-month Master of Studies in Law (MSL). UofT also offers a three-year thesis-based Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degree.

Combined programs: 

The University of Toronto also offers several combined degree programs where first-year JD students can enrol in a master’s or doctoral program with another department at UofT, provided they meet the admission requirements. Some combined degree programs offered at the University of Toronto include JD/MBA, JD/MA (Criminology), JD/MA (Economics), JD/Master of Global Affairs, JD/MPP (Public Policy), JD/MSW (Social Work), and more.

Tuition fees for international students:

  • The international student tuition fee for the JD program is around $57,040 CAD per year.
  • For the LL.M. and MSL programs, the international student tuition fee for the entire program is $44,470 CAD and $30,080 CAD, respectively. The GPLLM program costs $68,100 CAD for the entire program. 
  • Tuition for the SJD program costs around $6,210 CAD per year (or $18,630 CAD for the three-year program).
  • The tuition fee for the combined programs varies depending on the duration of the joint program, as well as the total credits required for program completion.

Faculty of Law, McGill University, Quebec

Note: Proficiency in French may be required for admission to some study programs at McGill University.

Undergraduate program:

A three to four-year BCL/JD program, which awards you with two degrees: a Juris Doctor (JD), and a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL). Students in this program can also choose to pursue a major in Commercial Negotiation and Dispute Resolution or International Human Rights and Development.

Graduate programs: 

A year-long LL.M. in one of four disciplines: General Law, Air and Space Law, Environment, or Bioethics. While non-thesis LL.M. programs can be completed in a year, thesis-based programs typically take between 16 to 24 months to complete. McGill University also offers a three-year Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) program with a specialization in Law, Comparative Law, or Air and Space Law.

Combined programs: 

A four-year Master of Business Administration (MBA) with integrated BCL/JD and Master of Social Work (MSW) with integrated BCL/JD. Students applying for combined programs must qualify for both programs separately.

Tuition fees for international students:

  • The international student tuition fee for the BCL/JD program is around $49,171.90 CAD per year.
  • For thesis-based LL.M. programs, the annual tuition fee is $9,330 CAD, while the tuition cost for non-thesis programs is $12,862 CAD.
  • International students enrolled in the three-year DCL program must pay a tuition fee of $8,375,25 CAD per year.
  • The tuition fee for the combined programs varies depending on the duration of the joint program, as well as the total credits required for program completion.

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Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia, B.C.

Undergraduate program:

A three-year JD program. Students also have the option to choose between four specializations or concentrations, including Aboriginal Law, Business Law, Law and Social Justice, and Environmental and Natural Resource Law.

Graduate programs: 

The University of British Columbia offers a one-year Master of Laws (LL.M.) program that allows students to choose a focused area of study. Specialized LL.M. programs in Taxation (LLM-T) and Common Law are also available. The university also offers a six-year Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Law degree for students who already have an LL.M. degree.

Tuition fees for international students:

  • The total international student fee for the three-year JD program is $116,173.92 CAD.
  • The LL.M. program has a total tuition fee of $9,313.92 CAD for the entire program. The tuition fee for the one-year LL.M. (Common Law) and LLM-Taxation programs is $37,422.60 CAD and $42,534 CAD, respectively.
  • The Ph.D. in Law degree has an international student fee of $9,313.92 CAD per year.

Faculté de droit, Université de Montréal, Quebec

Note:
Proficiency in French is required for admission to most study programs at the Université de Montréal.

Undergraduate programs:

A three-year Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.). Students who maintain a GPA of at least 3.3 or 3.7 can also opt for honours or international paths in their final year.

Graduate programs:

Université de Montréal offers several one-year Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs, including a general LL.M., as well as LL.M. degrees in Comparative Private Law, Notarial Law, Comparative Common Law (in English), and Business Law in a Global Context (in English). ​​​​The Doctor (Ph.D.) in Law degree includes two options, a general option, which provides training in legal research, and an Innovation, Science, Technology, and Law option. The Ph.D. program has a minimum duration of six years.

Tuition fees for international students:

  • The international student tuition fee for the LL.B. program is  $24,607.80 CAD per year (30 credits).
  • The tuition fee for masters’ programs ranges between $8,407.73 CAD and $9,330.90 CAD per trimester for international students. 
  • International students pursuing a Ph.D. in Law at the Université de Montréal pay an annual tuition fee of around $8,407.73 CAD per trimester.

University of Ottawa, Ontario

The Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa has two distinct sections that offer their own range of study programs: Common Law (offers JD programs) and Civil Law (offers LL.L. programs). Civil law programs are recognized by the Quebec Bar and the Quebec Chamber of Notaries, while common law programs are accepted in most parts of Canada and the U.S.

Undergraduate programs:

A three-year JD Common Law program offered separately in English and French. The three-year Licentiate in Law (LL.L.) in Civil Law is only offered in French. You can also opt for a combined three-year JD and LL.L., which is an accelerated program that allows you to pursue degrees in common law and civil law concurrently or consecutively. 

Other combined undergraduate programs include a four-year Bachelor of Laws and the Bachelor of International Development and Globalization (LL.L. / DVM) (offered in French only) and a four-year Canadian/American Dual JD.

Combined graduate programs:

Four-year integrated programs including dual degrees in JD/MBA, JD/MA (International Affairs), and LL.L./MBA (offered primarily in French).

Tuition fees for international students:

  • The international student tuition fee for the Bachelor of Laws (LL.L.) program and combined LL.L. programs is $61,881.24 CAD per year. In comparison, the tuition fee for the JD and joint JD (JD/MBA, JD/MA) programs is higher at $96,509.82 CAD per year.

Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Ontario

Undergraduate programs:

A three-year JD program.

Graduate programs:

Osgoode offers two kinds of one-year LL.M. degrees, a funded research-based degree and a course-based professional LL.M. The University also has a Ph.D. in Law program which takes around six years to complete.

Combined programs:

Joint four-year degree options include a JD/MBA, a JD/Master of Environmental Studies (MES), and a JD/MA (Philosophy) program.

Tuition fees for international students:

  • The international student tuition fee for the JD program is $36,560.62 per year. 
  • The LL.M. and Ph.D. programs have an annual fee of $19,652.64 CAD and $18,827.64 CAD per year, respectively. Students can receive full or partial funding for thesis-based LL.M. and Ph.D. programs. 
  • The fees for the combined programs vary depending on how the curriculum is divided between faculties. For instance, for the four-year JD/MBA program, students typically spend five terms at Osgoode and three terms at Schulich Business School, so the total fee is calculated accordingly.

Queen’s Law, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

Undergraduate programs:

A three-year JD program. The University also offers a six-year combined Bachelor of Commerce (BCom)/JD degree for undergraduate students who enrol in the Smith School of Business.

Graduate programs:

A nine to 12-month Master of Laws (LL.M.) program with a thesis, mini-thesis, or course-paper option. The university also offers a four-year Ph.D. program in law.

Combined programs:

A four-year JD/MBA, three and a half year JD/Master of Public Administration (MPA), three and a half year JD/Master of Industrial Relations (MIR), and a three-year MA (Economics)/JD program.

Tuition fees for international students:

  • The international student tuition fee for the JD program is $33,898.68 CAD per term ($101,696 CAD per year).
  • Graduate programs at Queen’s Law, including LLM and Ph.D. programs, have an annual international student tuition fee of $12,927.45 CAD.
  • The fee for combined programs varies based on program length and how the curriculum is divided between faculties.

Faculty of Law, Western University, Ontario

Undergraduate programs:

A three-year JD program. Western University also allows students who enrol in the undergraduate Honours Business Administration or Bachelor of Engineering Science programs to apply for a joint HBA/JD or BESc/JD degree after they complete their third year of undergraduate study.

Graduate programs:

A year-long thesis or project-based Master of Laws (LL.M.), Master of Studies in Law (MSL), and a four-year Ph.D. in Law.

Combined programs:

A 38-month JD/MBA (Ivey Business School), JD/MSc (Geology or Geophysics), and JD/MA (History). For admission into a combined program, students must apply to both programs separately.

Tuition fees for international students:

  • LL.M. and MSL degree programs have an international student tuition fee of $26,749 CAD for the entire program.
  • The annual international student tuition fee for the Ph.D. program is $6,360 CAD.
  • The fee for combined programs varies based on program length and how the curriculum is divided between faculties.

As a leading study destination, Canada is recognized globally for its world-renowned programs in law and legal studies, as well as for the quality of education offered by Canadian universities. Whether you’re exploring undergraduate or graduate programs, a degree from a Canadian university will help you prepare for your future career and position you firmly on the path to success.

Want to learn about the scope of the legal profession in Canada? Download our job market guide for newcomers for information on in-demand occupations and licensing requirements in your field.