Osgoode Hall Law School’s New Admission Policy

It’s a bit past April 1, but OHLS has now announced its new admission policy. Alumni will have received (or will be receiving) the Osgoode Brief e-mail from OHLS announcing this.

Part of Osgoode’s new admission policies is what I read as the effective elimination of the window that allowed some people in without an undergraduate degree immediately after 2 years of undergraduate work. The notice of motion that lead to the adoption states “that ordinarily the minimum number of years of university study that an applicant must complete prior to admission be increased from two years (60 credits) to three years (90 credits)” so that implies a window. However, as I read the rest of the material, there’s not going to be an offer to anybody without an undergraduate or other university degree, who doesn’t have lots of relevant work-related or other life-related experience (the old mature student category) unless OHLS is short of qualifying applicants with other degrees. I couldn’t find what OHLS understands would take the situation out of the ordinary. A perfect score on the LSAT? 4.0 across the board in one’s undergraduate work? Volunteer work since grade 1 amongst the underprivileged in areas such as, say, Forest Hill, Westmount, or West Vancouver (just for example?)

Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that a snobbery / keep up with the Joneses factor (the U of T and some US law schools switch to the JD) didn’t play a part in this decision. 


As one of the “no undergraduate degree” group, I’m curious about the general attitude to this change. I can name (though I won’t) a handful of “2 year undergrads” who were not only at the top of their law school classes but are now at the top of the legal profession.

In passing, we’ve been talking about the problems in teaching law students to “think like lawyers”. I wonder if the common factor amongst most of the students having that problem is the existence of a undergraduate degree or prior degree. Perhaps the work required to obtain these prior degrees somehow reduces or compromises the capacity to “think like a lawyer”; or, at least instills bad habits. OHLS asserts that the rationale for the change is part of its pursuit of excellence.

I appreciate that my knowledge is anecdotal, only, but I don’t know of any “2 year undergrads” who had difficulty “thinking like a lawyer”. Given that stated rationale of pursing excellence, and the common factor I’ve identified, shouldn’t Osgoode have increased the number of openings for “2 year undergrads” and decreased the number for those with prior degrees?

I’m just applying the type of “legal” logic that one finds, too often, in graduates from law school. Some of you would call it the post hoc fallacy. 

I suppose if the intent was to insure that OHLS gets people who have shown the ability to continue on in school for graduate degrees, so as to ensure a steady stream of professors, rather than merely produce people fit to practise as lawyers … but wait, that’s not what most of the students seem to want, if we believe the surveys and reports.



  1. This being Friday, and also a 13th:

    An acquaintance, also from the “2 years and in set” from once-upon-a-time OHLS, asked if this new policy is retroactiive so that it means we’re no longer eligible to practice *AND* we get to go home early. I told him, essentially, I couldn’t answer the first but he’d have to ask his wife for permission, in any event.

    Oh … I implied he shouldn’t hold his breath.

  2. I have a couple of thoughts about the abolition of the “2 years and in” option. The first is that perhaps it has to do with the fact that Ontario students no longer attend OAC/Grade 13, so they are even younger than you were when admitted to law school. The second is that, insofar as the people I knew who were in law school in the 70s, the majority were accepted after 3rd and 4th year. Acceptance after 2nd year was for exceptional students, and I don’t recall that that many students who already had advanced degrees applied. I have been surprised lately at the number of students who join us who took a Master’s degree in advance of law school. Could it be that the competition is so tough these days that the law schools don’t want to encourage very young students to apply when their chance of success is probably very low — both from the point of view of the expectations of the students and to streamline the admissions process by cutting back on the number of prospective applicants?

  3. Laurel,

    If you want to call me exceptional in a good way, who am I to disagree? [g]

    There was, as I trust you saw, I certain amount of levity in my posting. There already has been and will be in this one, too.

    Not meaning to offend but the too young for law school notion is a crock. Consider Europe and the UK, Oxford for instance. The Oxford site indicates it’ll take students out of US high school. Is that not right? I’ll get back to that.

    I was 21 on admission. There were people younger than me – acceleration or skipping students through public school 1 through 6 was in vogue, then, in some schools in Toronto. I can’t speak for other jurisdictions. Admissions from Quebec could have been that young even with a 3rd year.

    If the “we’d like you to be more mature – can’t say “older” as a requirement – or have at least 3 years of university” preference is because the schools want to graduate the prospective practitioners when they’re older, on the assumption that they’ll do less harm to the public that way – well, that’s fair. Perhaps older people do make better practitioners when they’re starting off than the younger. I don’t know how you’d prove that without empirical study. If it exists, I haven’t heard of it.

    Too young to practice law, to be let out loose on the public, is another thing. But that shouldn’t be the law school’s concern. That’s the practitioners bodies’ concerns. Let them do their own dirty work.

    Putting the reason that way, though, suggests that the schools have caved in to the demand that they be trade schools first.

    I suggest (and I’ll first apologize to anybody offended by what I’m about to say) that there’s just a bit of intellectual dishonesty (or intentional smoke and mirrors: I’ll explain why I’ve said this, in a bit) in the suggestion that mere fact of 3 years of university rather than two is, of itself, necessarily relevant to the assessment of the applicant’s intellectual excellence. If the number of post-secondary education years is relevant, why not set the line at a 4 year undergraduate degree or, even better, at least at 5 years (all passed, of course, and not 1st year each time at different schools). Heck, why not set it at least a PHD? That way the school will be assured of getting only applicants who have acquired a PHD.

    Describing the standards in the way the school has to discourage 2nd year types from applying so as to save them disappointment if they’re not accepted? I don’t think so. Why shouldn’t they be accepted if they are, as you say, exceptional students. Isn’t that what the law school wants – exceptional students? Well … unless they’re being rejected because of the assumption that more than 2 years makes a better applicant and is more likely to produce somebody who will do well in law school. But that doesn’t wash with the exceptional student suggestion, does it? Or is the idea that the older applicant will fit in better with the school’s social structure, or be able to contribute more in non-scholarship sense. There might be merit to that in some cases. But that would be person specific. (I’m sure – actually, I know – that the Owls could have found another person to be one of the team’s 2 goalies. On the other hand, I was usually willing to fill in during the day if one of the intra-mural B league teams needed a goalie, and was a useful shuffleboard and pinball player.)    

    I have to assume that somebody in the process suggested that the post-high school education factor simply be described by some phrasing indicating that the school will take into account the number of post high-school years and what was taken, without suggesting some sort of necessary advantage in having more years. I am curious to know why that approach was rejected.

    I suppose I could assume that what the school was really after was OLDER qualified students but it concluded it couldn’t say that specifically. Am I right in suspecting that the school concluded it couldn’t arbitrarily set an age limit above 18 without risking problems under the Ontario Human Rights Code? It’s out of my area of knowledge but s. 1 which is

    1. Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability.

    seems to apply and a quick search through the Code didn’t produce an exception for law schools.

    Apart from all of that, schools such as Oxford seem to have no difficulty accepting high school equivalent students, even from North America. Are we to take it that OHLS has concluded that, on the whole, UK and European high school equivalent graduates, even US high school graduates, are smarter than their Canadian equivalents? Or OHLS concluded, with regret, that the smarter candidates will all go elsewhere, regardless of what it does, so it’ll do what it thinks it has to to get the cream of what’s left? That reminds me of the “best law school in the Commonwealth” comment that a certain ex-dean made early in the 1970s. You might recall that it quickly became, for some self-proclaimed wits, “the best law school in North York, maybe” or variations on that theme.

    Of course, law at Oxford is specifically described as an “undergraduate” course. Heaven forfend anybody in North America have that view of our “professional” faculties. I mean, why would anybody ever think to suggest that the schools who’ve changed the name of their first law degree to JD from LLB were doing it for “status” reasons. No doubt it never once crossed their administrations’ minds that medical students were “medical doctors” – MDs – on graduation; chiropractors call themselves doctors, too. But the poor, downtrodden legal types stuck with a self-described bachelor degree …

    Anyway, I’ve had enough fun with this. It comes down, as I see it, to what i’ve described as honesty. Or, rather, a lack of it. I concede I may have missed something. If so, I’m sure that somebody will let me know. Again, I apologize to those I’ve offended.