When it comes to the great North American law schools, the American Ivy League schools leap to mind.
But future lawyers don’t need to limit themselves to Harvard or Yale to pursue their education, nor must they choose a school in the United States.
Canada has a long and proud tradition of providing outstanding legal education to students across the country.
The best Canadian law schools offer all of the resources you would expect. All of them offer pro bono clinics, in which students can gain hands-on experience practicing the law while also helping members of their community.
Many of them publish law journals and house research initiatives that cover everything from family law to international trade.
But these schools set themselves apart with approaches unique to Canada. In particular, many of these law schools reflect the bijural nature of the country, engaging with its French and English history.
Thanks to these unique programs and each school’s devotion to scholarly work and legal service, Canada offers a fine selection of law schools.
With so many options, it can be hard to choose. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the ten best schools in the country. Looking at their offerings, history, alumni, and more, we’ve compiled this list to help anyone looking to study law in the Great White North.
Here are 10 of the best law schools in Canada.
University of Laval Faculty of Law (Quebec City, QC)
Established in 1852, the Faculté de droit de l’Université Laval at the Université Laval is one of North America’s oldest law schools.
The more than 1000 students at Laval Law study the legal complexities surrounding issues such as economics, environmental law, and international trade.
With such a grand history, Laval Law has trained several important figures in the Canadian legal and political systems.
Many justices on the Supreme Court of Canada graduated from Laval Law, including Suzanne Côté, the first woman appointed directly from private practice.
Canadian prime ministers Louis St. Laurent, Brian Mulroney, and Jean Chrétien studied at Laval Law, as did Premiers of Quebec Jean Lesage and Lucien Bouchard.
Despite this vaunted history, Laval Law remains committed to engaging with the public. The school regularly hosts lectures and programs for the community to learn about the law.
Webinars and online conferences give students and community members access to some of the best legal minds in the country.
With all these resources in place, Laval Law continues the work it’s been doing for over 150 years: serving the legal needs of the people of Quebec, and Canada as a whole.
University of Victoria Faculty of Law (Victoria, BC)
The Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria earns its high rank thanks to its many centers and programs designed to give students specialized training.
For twenty-five years, the school’s Environmental Law Centre has supported environmental groups in Victoria and beyond with legal information and assistance.
Working alongside groups such as the West Coast Environmental Law and Probe International, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, and more, the Centre works to implement sustainability initiatives.
The Environmental Law Centre is part of the school’s focus on Canadian Indigenous law issues. Not only does Victoria Law feature an endowed Professorship in Aboriginal Justice and Governance, but it also works to recruit aboriginal students.
At the school’s annual Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Camp, students work on local reserves to engage with the concerns and needs of the indigenous community of Victoria.
Victoria Law’s co-op education program allows students to gain real-world experience while continuing their studies.
In addition to getting placement in private and public firms, students can also serve worldwide in programs in Mongolia, France, Thailand, and more.
Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law (Halifax, NS)
The oldest common law school housed at a Canadian university, the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University has existed since 1883.
Thanks to support such as a $20 million endowment from philanthropist Seymour Schulich, the school has become the largest law school in Atlantic Canada.
With an acceptance rate of only 13%, Schulich Law is one of the most selective schools in the nation.
Only those who have excellent grades and remarkable experience in employment and extracurriculars gain acceptance. Furthermore, the school takes measures to cultivate a diverse student body.
To that end, the Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative takes active steps to recruit students from underprivileged communities.
Furthermore, the program encourages scholarship regarding legal concerns of the Aboriginal and African Canadian populations.
Third-year students at the school can gain practical experience by working in the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service. Since 1970, the Service has aided those in the Halifax area. Working alongside established lawyers and community leaders, students develop their skills in the Service while improving the lives of the people in Halifax.
With all these initiatives, Schulich Law takes its commitment to the legal needs in Atlantic Canada seriously.
University of Montreal Faculty of Law (Montreal, QC)
More than any other Canadian province, Quebec consists of two cultures, primarily Francophone wrapped around English influences.
To address the needs of its community, the Faculty of Law at the University of Montreal explores both legal traditions, completely embracing its bijural and bilingual context.
Perhaps the most influential element of the Faculty is its law journal, the Revue Juridique Thémis de l’Université de Montréal. Thanks to the contributions of faculty, students, and practicing lawyers, the Revue has become one of the most influential journals in North America.
The Faculty supports the community with initiatives such as the Centre de recherche en droit public (the Public Law Research Centre).
Taking an interdisciplinary approach to the teaching and practice of law, the Centre allows students to gain hands-on experience while engaging with the concerns of the day.
The Centre’s research focuses on the intersection between law and information technologies, the communal effects of the connections between law and biotechnologies, and the law’s effect on new social relationships. The Centre publishes its findings in Lex Electronica, a bilingual electronic law review.
Thanks to these initiatives, Montreal Law serves the legal needs of both of its communities.
University of Alberta Faculty of Law (Edmonton, AB)
The third-oldest school on this list, the University of Alberta Faculty of Law made a name for itself thanks to its rigorous curriculum and the success of its alumni.
Not only does Alberta Law count among its faculty the Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, and the Honourable Madame Catherine Fraser, the Chief Justice of Alberta, but 95% of its graduates find positions within the field.
Alberta Law continues to improve its curriculum thanks to new initiatives such as the Launchpad into Law program.
Designed to help first-year Indigenous law students become familiar with Indigenous laws and their relationship to Canadian common law, the program has earned praise from students and observers. The program empowers students to bring their culture to the study and practice of Canadian law.
With this work in place, Alberta Law faculty and students have provided new ways of engaging with Canadian law.
In a 2021 issue of the Canadian Native Law Reporter, Assistant Professor Hadley Friedland and Ph.D. student Naiomi Metallic published the article “Judicial Tales Retold: Reimagining Indigenous Rights Jurisprudence.”
The article reimagines the relationship between Canadian common law and Indigenous law by rewriting Supreme Court decisions from the perspective of a fictional Indigenous Nations Court.
These initiatives build upon the work done by Alberta Law’s existing institutes and centres. The Alberta Law Reform Institute works to make Canadian law more just and equitable by providing policy briefs and examining assumptions built into current laws.
Queen’s University Faculty of Law (Kingston, ON)
Although the Faculty of Law was established only in 1957, the law has been a primary subject at Queen’s University since 1861. Its professors continue to shape Canadian legal life, as they regularly receive citations in decisions across the country.
But despite the school’s respected academic pedigree, Queen’s Law is known for its emphasis on practical experience. Students have the opportunity to apply their learning in one of any number of institutions and centres.
Low-income residents of Kingston and the surrounding areas benefit from Queen’s Legal Aid.
Working alongside experienced lawyers, student caseworkers take on problems experienced by citizens. Cases include everything from Small Claims Court disputes, Social Benefits Tribunal Hearings, arguments before the Landlord and Tenant Board, and more.
The Queen’s Elder Law Clinic offers free legal counseling and services to low-income seniors throughout southeastern Ontario. Students work at the clinic as part of a two-semester course in public service. Under the guidance of their faculty mentors, students receive hands-on training and the opportunity to serve their community.
With these and other clinics, students take their studies from the classroom to the real world, where they become real parts of everyday life.
York University Osgoode Hall Law School (Toronto, ON)
Home to the Law Commission of Ontario, the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University is one of the most respected law schools in the world.
That reputation partly stems from the work published by the Osgoode Hall Law Journal. Since 1958, the Osgoode Journal has been the site of some of the country’s most influential legal scholarship.
But Osgoode also earned esteem with its unique approach to the teaching and practice of Law.
That approach can be seen in initiatives such as the school’s Art in Law project.
Since 2011, Osgoode has worked to integrate artistic works into its buildings. Approaching art as a medium to explore the complexities of the law, the project approaches paintings, sculptures, and more as a means to humanize law.
Current initiatives include the Aboriginal Art Project. Osgoode commissioned a pair of works from Gitxsan First Nations woodcarver Ya’Ya (Charles) Heit to represent the ability of law to offer healing and recognition.
University of Toronto Faculty of Law (Toronto, ON)
In addition to coming in at number three on our list, the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto regularly receives top rankings as the best Common Law school in Canada, and one of the nation’s most selective.
In addition to training four out the nine Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, more than any other law school, Toronto Law has graduated a number of influential people in the country.
Fourteen total Supreme Court Justices studied at Toronto Law, as well as two Toronto Mayors, two Ontario Premiers, and former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Part of the reason that Toronto Law students have gone on to such success is that they study under esteemed faculty.
Professor Mohammad Fadel is a leader on Islamic law in Canada, has published in many major journals, and served at the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics. Professor Kent Roach focuses on criminal law and won a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellowship in 2013.
The school’s Distinguished Visitors program brings in experts worldwide, including Tsinghua University Dean Zhenmin Wang and Supreme Court of Israel President Aharon Barak.
McGill University Faculty of Law (Montreal, QC)
Considered by many to be the best university in Canada and one of the most impressive in the world, McGill University’s Faculty of Law is our pick for the number two law school in the country. Canada’s oldest law school and one of the most selective, McGill Law only sends offers of admission to 11% of the applicants.
The McGill Law Journal, published at the school since 1952, is the publication most cited by the Canadian Supreme Court.
Every four years, the Journal also publishes the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation. The Guide establishes guidelines for citation and resource use, accepted by all other law schools and institutions across the country.
McGill Law is renowned for the Nahum Gelber Law Library, which houses over 220,000 volumes of books, journals, and other legal materials. It’s one of the most impressive collections in the country, housing records of Canada’s legal history.
In addition to protecting the country’s legal history, McGill Law also influences Canada’s future. The school’s many research institutes engage with and study the effects of Canadian laws.
The Centre for Intellectual Property Policy blazes new trails in intellectual property. The Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism supports research and innovation in the issues of human rights and legal pluralism.
University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard Law School (Vancouver, BC)
The Peter A. Allard Law School is not only one of the top law schools in Canada, but throughout all of North America.
Those credentials include the publication of several law journals, such as the UBC International Law Journal and Masks: The Online Journal of Law and Theatre.
The school’s flagship journal, The University of British Columbia Law Review, is operated by J.D. students and is peer-reviewed by partner professors. The Canadian Journal of Family Law is an innovative academic journal that crosses disciplinary lines to engage with the changing nature of Canadian family law.
The school’s research and service centres focus on similarly pressing issues. At the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies, scholars come together for teaching and research devoted to legal issues affecting women across Canada.
With these dedicated initiatives and impressive reviews, it’s easy to see why BC Law outdoes Canada’s other remarkable law schools.