Canadian Students: Domestic Versus International Law School Amanda Seymour-Skinner

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Canadian Students: Domestic Versus International Law School

Amanda Seymour-Skinner

MacEwan University


Canadian students have several choices when applying to law school. This academic paper focuses on the differences in applying to a holistic admission, domestic, Canadian law school in comparison to a holistic admission, international law school. The following paper discusses the University of Calgary and Bond University as core law school examples. Student applications will be reviewed by five primary considerations for law school, which includes undergraduate GPA requirements, LSAT score, letters of recommendation, work experience, and community involvement. Bond University can be deemed an “easier acceptance,” but not a perfect fit for every student. If a student can be admitted into a Canadian school, it is a less complicated transition onto the articling process. This paper concludes in determining if the school is best suited for a student’s needs in a law school and legal education.

Keywords: Law School, Student, Application, Holistic Admission, Post-Secondary Education, Canadian, International Student, GPA, LSAT, Juris Doctor, University of Calgary, Bond University, NCA, Lawyer

Over twenty thousand students applied to Canadian law schools in 2014. (2015, Oxford Seminars) This number has been rising over the past twenty years. Similar, the number of Canadian Students applying for their Juris Doctor degrees abroad, has risen drastically. The following academic paper will explore why Canadian students are studying their Juris Doctor degree abroad. This academic paper will focus on two holistic admission law schools: a domestic Canadian school, University of Calgary (U of C) and an international school located in Australia, Bond University (Bond).

Many of the main countries for Canadian students to obtain a law degree at an international school, include Australia and England, because they are part of the Common Wealth. A student’s reasoning for international study varies from GPA requirements, LSAT scores, accelerated degrees, and tuition costs. This paper will have a strong focus on the universities’ admission criteria including GPA requirements, LSAT score requirements and an overall holistic approach towards a student’s application. These factors will help to determine the likely acceptance rate of prospective law students. Additionally, this paper will be reviewing admission statistics for Canadian and International schools over the past five years, focusing on the University of Calgary and Bond University statistics.

A legal education is an incredibly challenging education to achieve. The program is more competitive than ever and only allow a select few into admission. The objective of this paper is to explore which law school accepts the most students and further, to examine their admissions criteria critically. The analysis of law schools, will help to support prospective law students chose whether to study law in Canada or internationally. The following paper will determine if a Canadian student has a higher chance of admission to the University of Calgary or Bond University.

Literature Review
This paper will draw on the scholarship of several academic references. The resources used for the paper will be separated from Canadian students applying to law school, Canadian students applying to a Canadian law school and Canadian students applying to a foreign law school. The literature review will examine the academic articles by exploring the admissions process for Canadian students wishing to pursue a law degree at a domestic and international law schools.

To ensure a competitive application, prospective law school students have many aspects of an application to consider. Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) states, there are twenty areas of “consideration by Law School Admission Committees: undergraduate grade-point average, LSAT score, undergraduate course of study, graduate work, college attended, improvement in grades and grade distribution, college curricular and extracurricular activities, ethnic/racial background, individual character and personality, letters of recommendation/evaluations, writing skills, personal statement or essay, work experience or other post undergraduate experiences, community activities, motivation to study and reasons for deciding to study law, state of residency, obstacles that have been overcome, past accomplishments and leadership, anything else that stands out in an application, and conditional admission programs.” (2015, LSAC) Although LSAC states a wide variety of considerations, for the purposes of this paper five primary factors have been chosen for examination. These factors include: undergraduate GPA, LSAT score, letters of reference, previous work experience, and community involvement.

GPA requirements for Canadian law schools compared to international law schools may vary significantly. For Canadian schools, competition is intense due to Canada only having 15 law schools and tens of thousands of applicants per year. The University of Calgary had “1339 applications” and only admitted “115 students in 2014.” (2015, Oxford) GPA requirements have very little flexibility. Students admitted into U of C in 2014 had a GPA range of 3.0 – over 3.75. This is very normal for Canadian Law schools, as most won’t review applicants who have under a 3.0 GPA.

International schools have a huge differentiation in GPA requirements for prospective law students. Depending on the school’s reputation, their ranking on national and global levels, and the number of students admitted each year can impact the GPA requirements for applicants. Bond University states, “We generally expect Canadian applicants to have at least 70% (or GPA equivalent) undergraduate averages as a minimum requirement.” (2015, Bond University) This GPA requirement is very flexible for law school and is regarded as a very broad range for students.

Moreover, the LSAT exam is described as, “A half-day standardized exam designed primarily to test the logical reasoning skills of potential law school students.” (2006, p. 125) This examination is a requirement for all Canadian law school applicants. As such, the test is explained as “a univariate test designed to measure reasoning ability. Test-taking speed is assumed to be an ancillary variable with a negligible effect on candidate scores.” (2004, p. 975) This examination has a “six decade existence” and is widely used in many countries including the United States. (2004, p. 984)

Many law schools view the LSAT exam as a primary or contesting factor into a student’s application. Henderson states, “the LSAT is usually a dominant variable in admission criteria.” (2004, p. 986) This examination is held prestigiously over an applicant’s review, as the test is viewed as an example of how a student could perform in their first year of law school. Henderson re-asserts, “LSAT validity studies are based on the test’s ability to predict law school performance, particularly during the first year.” (2004, p. 980)

The LSAT has three main components, “logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, and reading comprehension.” (2015, LSAC) The exam features two sections of logical reasoning and each section of all three topics has 23-27 questions. The exam has a total of 100 questions for test taker’s score, but 125 questions overall. The LSAT exam has a fifth section, the “trial” section that is not scored and is used for LSAC research. Although the test is widely used, many people in the legal industry state, “the LSAT is essentially designed to be a power test.” (2004, p. 980)

Many law schools, and especially holistic admission schools consider other factors in a student’s application. Three main factors include letters of reference, previous work experience, and community involvements. Many holistic admission school look for students who offer diversity to the school, in terms of their educational background, previous work experiences, and volunteer experiences.

Canadian students applying to a foreign law school such as Bond University must consider all regular factors, except the LSAT exam. Additionally, students must consider tuition expenses, moving/living expenses, as well as scholarship opportunities. Students, who choose to study law internationally, should review the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) requirements for gaining admission to practice law when returning to Canada. Typically, students studying in another Common Wealth country have an easier transition into Canadian practice than other international students. Most students studying in Australia at schools such as Bond University have to sit five challenge exams upon return to Canada after graduation. These exams include Canadian Administrative Law, Canadian Constitutional Law, Canadian Criminal Law, Foundations of Canadian Law, and Canadian Professional Responsibility. (2015, NCA) Schools such as “Bond University provide courses targeted to Canadians such as “Foundations of Canadian Law and Canadian Criminal Law and Procedure…” to help with sitting the NCA examinations and practicing law in Canada. (2013, p. 229)

Canadian and international law schools have many similarities in how they critique a student’s application and their selection for students accepted into admissions. Law schools look for driven, motivated, and bright students to become part of their law school programs. Davies and Hammack state, “Canadian universities are boosting their entrance standards and tuition fees, gaining repute not only by admitting top students but also by rejecting large numbers of qualified students.” (2005, p. 90) Law schools have specifics needs for their students, their faculty and the learning resources available, as described by Woolley. She states, “Schools competed on at least three fronts: for the best students, for the best faculty and, as agents for their students, for the best post-law school job opportunities.” (2014, p. 790)

As most university programs, competition has increased drastically over the past few years. Students are competing for near impossible admission spots in schools to obtain an education in their preferred field of study. Davies and Hammack define this experience as, “the competition has intensified among students for advantageous spots in North American higher education. As more youth enter the postsecondary system, the competition for desired spots within the system has grown more intense. (2005, p. 90)

Canadian Law School

Canadian law schools are more competitive than ever. One major difference of Canadian and International law schools is the LSAT exam. This exam is used to help aid law school admission in selecting the brightest and smartest students for their law program. Champagne describes the LSAT for its intentions, “to ensure law schools do not admit students that the law school doesn’t have a reasonable basis to believe [could] be successful in law school and be admitted to the practice of law.” (2011, The Daily Record)

The LSAT exam is a time consuming exam. Many students study for months on end, some while still in their undergraduate studies to prepare for this examination. For Canadian schools, this exam can literally make or break your application. Law school admission committees view the LSAT as an exam that can demonstrate a student’s testing abilities. The exam features “the issue of speed, it is important because the LSAT is designed to provide a standard measure of a candidate’s reasoning skills.” (2004, p. 979) Law school exams are getting more and more difficult in their timing and testing measurements. Davies and Hammack state, “The current emphasis on time-pressured law school exams increases the relative importance of the LSAT as an admission criterion.” (2004, p. 976) Students in competition for a spot in Canadian law school have undoubtedly understood and reflected “competition between law schools has become an LSAT arms race.” (2004, p. 978)

Law students have unbearable challenging examinations throughout their studies. Henderson describes, “It is widely acknowledged that the typical law school exam is given under significant time pressures.” (2004, p. 980) The examinations are timed, long, and exhausting mentally and physically for students. Law school is competitive, even after being accepted. The Dean of Law at the University of Calgary, Ian Holloway describes, Law schools’ traditional “combination of lecture and Socratic dialogue that focuses on doctrinal analysis” does not reflect the diversity of students in law school classrooms nor achieve the pedagogical goals that a law school ought to have.” (2014, p. 804)

Canadian law schools are viewed on par with one another for their education and learning outcomes. Davies and Hammack argue, “Most Canadian universities have large Student Competition in Higher Education 95 commuter populations, including the most prestigious such as the Universities of Toronto and British Columbia. Few employers regard the name brand of a single Canadian university as being more valuable than others are, unlike in the U.S…) (2005, p. 96) Job completion for law school graduates to ensure an articling position can be difficult, especially for top legal firm in metropolitan cities.

Tuition and debt can be leading factors to determine where a student studies law. Many students who study in a specific province will have the intentions of articling and practicing law in that province. Student aid is easier to manage when a student is still in the province of distribution. Additionally, the connections and networks gained during law school are mainly based in that province of study, especially due to provincial law societies. Tuition prices in Canada for domestic student’s varies from as law as $2,168.00 (Quebec student’s only) to $25, 389.00 at the University of Toronto per year.

Table 1.0. Figure – Canadian Law School Tuition 2014


Tuition Canadian Students

Tuition International
















New Brunswick



























Thompson Rivers









Australian Law School
Canadian students may chose to study law internationally for many reasons including admission criteria, the LSAT exam, travel opportunities, educational institutions, tuition costs, and scholarship opportunities. Thousands of students study internationally each year. For Bond University, Salyzync “reports that 150 Canadian law students are currently enrolled in its law programs.” (2013, p. 229) Bond’s admission process is more flexible, holistic and diverse than even the most holistic Canadian law schools. Bond University’s admissions criteria allow students of different educational backgrounds, work experience, and values a greater chance of admission.

Bond University follows traditional Australian education practices in all of their teachings. Penden states, “The traditional Australian university calendar follows the English pattern of three terms, each comprising of approximately ten weeks of classes, followed by an examination period of approximately four weeks.” (1972, p. 508) This allows for the same number of teaching hours as American and Canadian schools, but the three semesters a year schedule allows students to complete their studies at a faster pace. For Bond University’s Juris Doctor students, this means they finish their JD degree in two years. This is often referred to as an accelerated program, as it is a faster program compared to its completion.

One other major difference for Australian university education includes their teaching as an applied learning technique. Australian instructors lecture similar to other instructors, but each week they hold mandatory “tutorial periods” to help students have time to interact with their instructors and classmates. Holloway states the advantages of this teaching style for law students by, “The Australians and New Zealanders, for example, have modified the Oxbridge system of tutorials to sit alongside the more North American approach to lectures. As a result, the typical Antipodean law graduate, while generally younger, will have had more experience at solving legal problems than his or her North American counterpart.”(2014, p. 793) A last consideration is tuition prices for international students. At Bond, international students pay the same tuition as domestic students because Bond is a private university. At Bond, each course costs $4,405.00AUD and a total of 24 classes are needed to complete the J.D. program. An estimated total for the full two-year program is $105, 000.00 AUD.


The debate as to if Canadian students are more likely to gain admission into domestic or international schools is ongoing. The basis for international study over domestic study is high, as the admission criteria is immensely more flexible in select international schools. Students chose a law school based on their interests, this can include admission criteria, school location, educational and learning resources, faculty members, a school’s reputation, scholarship opportunities, mooting teams, and workplace connections and networking.

The common Canadian student with a 2.7 – 3.0 GPA (B grades), minimal professional work experience, and some community involvement would stand a higher chance of acceptance at Bond University compared to the University of Calgary. This is due to holistic admission criteria, the number of students admitted, and Bond’s intake dates. If a student has above a 3.4 GPA (B+ grades), minimal professional work experience, and some community involvement does stand a likely chance for admission in a Canadian school. The LSAT can be unpredictable for students, as studying for a standardized exam during other studies or full-time work is a daunting task. Many students re-write the LSAT multiple times to obtain a high enough score to compete for admission.

Canadian schools have advantages for after degree completion, as students can enter directly into the articling process. Where as students who study abroad can spend anywhere between 12 weeks or up to one year completing NCA examinations in order to begin the articling process. The benefits of completing the degree abroad earlier, is by the time a student has completed their studies and the NCA examinations, they can still complete both requirements before Canadian law students would complete their law degree. This allows for more advantages in job competition, as international students can apply for jobs and gain employment sooner. In an article published in Maclean’s magazine in 2011, Lunau states, “A growing number of Canadians who can't find a spot at a law school here are pursuing one abroad, then returning in the hopes of practising. Australia's Bond University, which teaches courses in Canadian law, has seen a 33 per cent increase in the number of Canadian students enrolled in their juris doctor (J.D.) program from 2007 to 2011.” (2011, p. 8)

The growth of students studying law internationally has seen a massive increase in the past fifteen years. Law schools including Bond University are advertising their law programs to appeal towards target audiences, specifically Canadian students. Canadian students have a vast selection of programs, schools, majors/concentrations, and locations for legal study. Options are endless for students wishing to pursue a law degree. Although many students feel comfort studying in their home country, especially for a program like law, they should still keep an open mind.

Researching options is an important process for any major life choice. This includes post-secondary education and graduate studies. Law school is an expensive endeavour and investment. Students are urged to spend time researching, reviewing, and considering their options for law school. This is a situational based choice, as not every school is right for every student. Students must reflect on their own studying habits, personality traits, and values to discover what they want to achieve out of law school. Law school is a once in a lifetime opportunity and students need to be realistic, reflective and ambitious to become accepted and to excel in law school.

Bond University. (2015). Future Students: Law. Information for Students from Canada. Web. Retrived from:
Champagne, Denise M. (2011). LSAT Under Review by American Bar Association. The Daily Record. Retrieved from:
Davies S., and Hammack, Floyd M. (2005). The Channelling of Student Competition in Higher Education: Comparing Canada and the U.S. The Journal of Higher Education. Vol. 76. Issue 1. Retrieved from:
Feldthusen, Bruce. (2012). Legal Profession in Turmoil: Let’s Blame Law Schools. Canadian Lawyer. Retrieved from:
Hancock, Nancy S. (2006). Logic for the LSAT. Teaching Philosophy. Vol. 29, Issue 2. Retrieved from:
Henderson, William D. (2004). The LSAT School Exams, and Meritocracy: The Surprising and Undertheorized Role of Test-Taking Speed. Texas Law Review. Vol 82. Issue 4. Retrieved from:
Holloway, Ian. (2014). A Canadian Law School Curriculum for this Age. Alberta Law Review. Vol. 51. Issue 4. Retrieved from:
Law School Admission Council. (2015). Applying to Law School: How Law Schools Determine Whom to Admit. Web. Retrieved from:
Lunau, Kate. (2011). Bye-bye Bay Street. Maclean’s. Magazine. Vol. 124. Issue. 36. Pages 8-13. Retrieved from:
Oxford Seminars. (2015). Canadian Law School Profiles. Retrieved from:
Penden, John R. (1972). The Role of Practical Training in Legal Education: American and Australian Experience. Journal of Legal Education. Vol. 24, No. 5. Retrieved from:
Salyzyn, Amy. (2013). Canada: Foreclosures, Freemen Law Schools and the Continuing Search for Meaningful Access to Justice. Legal Ethics. Vol. 16 Issue 1. Retrieved from:
Woolley, Alice. (2014). Legal Education Reform and the Good Lawyer. Alberta Law Review. Vol 51. Issue 4. Retrieved from:

Table 1.0. Figure
Lunau, Kate. (2011). Bye-bye Bay Street. Maclean’s. Magazine. Vol. 124. Issue. 36. Pages 8-13. Retrieved from:

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