The Faculty of Law
is a constituent faculty of McGill University
, in Montreal
. Its graduates obtain both a Bachelor of Laws
(LL.B.) and Bachelor of Civil Law
(B.C.L.), concurrently, in three to four years, allowing them to practice in both the Canadian, U.S. and UK common law
system as well as Quebec's civil law
The Faculty of Law was officially created in 1848, making it the first to be established in Canada, as a response to a petition
from 23 young men who had been studying independently for the bar
. Before that, lawyers
in Quebec, like in the United States, did not need a law degree and typically pursued five-year apprenticeships
to be called to the bar. For most of its history, it offered degrees only based on Quebec law, which features the civil law
system in the sphere of private law.
National Programme, 1968-1999
With the incoming class of 1969 the Faculty added a stand-alone common law
degree, suitable to the practice of law in other Canadian provinces, which could be taken individually or jointly with the traditional civilian curriculum. The joint degree was then referred to as the National Programme, and taught common law and civil law in separate courses, but combined their study in a year-long introductory "Foundations" course and in some upper-year seminars.
Transsystemic Program, 1999-present
With the incoming class of 1999 the Faculty eliminated its civil, common, and National programs, and replaced them with a single program, featuring some mandatory first-year courses and some upper-year courses which integrate both common and civil law. This joint and bilingual degree, which all students must take, is now referred to as the Transsystemic program.
The Transsystemic program was designed under the direction of then-Dean Stephen Toope (currently President of the University of British Columbia). Every student graduates with degrees in both civil law and common law, two of the world's major legal systems. This means that, from the first year, courses now explore civil and common law concepts in close comparison. Students analyse and critically evaluate the two traditions, their histories, and their social, political, and cultural contexts. The Transsystemic program is unique in the world and is attracting international attention for its innovative and forward-looking character. In 2006 the Transsystemic program received the 'Award for Outstanding Program in International Education' of the Canadian Bureau for International Education.
McGill undergraduate students have exceptional opportunities for international study through McGill's many exchange programs, and through the International Courts and Tribunals Program, which in 2006 received a Scotiabank-AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization and which in 2008 received the Canadian Bureau for International Education's 'Award for Outstanding Program in International Education',
The Faculty of Law offers the degrees of D.C.L. (Doctor of Civil Law) and LL.M. (Master of Laws), as well as Graduate Certificates. Since 2004, the LL.M. exists in both with-thesis and non-thesis options.The Faculty's Institutes and Centres provide a focus for many students' research; they include the Institute for European Studies, the Institute of Comparative Law, the Centre for Human Rights & Legal Pluralism, the Quebec Research Centre of Private and Comparative Law, and the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy. The Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, although not formally affiliated with McGill University, is associated with the Faculty of Law and has its head office there.
The Institute of Air and Space Law is the world's best-known establishment for the graduate study of Air and Space Law, and is able to take advantage of the presence in Montreal of the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and a significant aerospace industry.
McGill's graduate programs have a very international character. As in the undergraduate programs, the teaching focus is transsystemic and international in character. The Faculty's reputation, and its bilingual and bi-juridical character, draw students from all over the world and from all legal traditions.
Admission to both undergraduate and graduate programs is competitive. At the undergraduate level, the Faculty receives nine times more applications
than the 170 available spaces in the first year class, an admission rate of 11-12%. The average GPA for first year admissions in 2006-2007 was 83% (A- average on a lettered GPA scale) and the average LSAT score was 160 (83rd percentile), although the LSAT is not required for admission. It is, however, difficult to compare these statistics to those of other law faculties, because of McGill's unique transsystemic curriculum and its bilingual environment (although bilingualism is measured by self-assessment, and students are not required to take courses in French or English). Applicants must be at least "passively" bilingual, and because the LSAT is offered only in English, applicants to McGill are not required to write it (although if they have written it, they must report their score).
Undergraduate candidates are selected on a holistic basis. This means that in addition to students' academic records, recommendations, work experience, graduate studies, experience abroad, community involvement and leadership skills are each given weight in admissions decisions. Canadian students of Aboriginal ancestry are actively recruited by the admissions office in an ongoing effort to increase enrollment from these groups across Canadian law faculties.
In Quebec, university tuition is capped at rates relatively low compared to most Canadian provinces. The Faculty of Law has therefore become known among Anglophone applicants, who are more likely to compare McGill to other English-language schools and less likely to compare it to other Quebec schools, for its low tuition rate and commitment to ensure access to legal education regardless of ability to pay. Approximate tuition and fees in 2007-8 were CAD$3,318 for Quebec students, CAD$6,691 for non-Quebec Canadians, and CAD$15,429 for international students.
These are somewhat higher than other Quebec law faculties, but lower than virtually every other comparable institution in Canada and the United States.
The combination of Quebec's low tuition rates, which are regulated, and the Quebec government's level of postsecondary funding, felt by many to be chronically low and even incompatible with the decision to limit tuition rates, has led to sustained efforts by the Faculty administration to rely on individual philanthropists and alumni to remain competitive with peer institutions. The high-tech Nahum Gelber Law Library
was almost entirely funded by alumni and friends of the Faculty. A multi-million dollar private endowment enabled the establishment in 2005 of the graduate O'Brien Fellowships in human rights scholarship. More recently, other generous donations have led to the fully endowed Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law; the fully endowed H. Heward Stikeman Chair in the of Taxation; and the founding of the Echenberg Family Conferences on Human Rights.
Leading law offices from Canada (particularly Montreal and Toronto, but also Vancouver and other cities), the U.S. (primarily New York and Boston), and Europe (particularly London and Paris), and Asia (particularly Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo) employ many McGill law graduates. In 2005, McGill was one of a handful of leading law faculties (including Michigan
, New York University
, Geneva and Strasbourg) to be invited by the International Court of Justice
to supply clerks to the Judges. Since most students are fluent in both English and French, and receive a transsystemic legal education, they are highly successful as candidates for clerkships at the bilingual and bijuridical Supreme Court of Canada
. Eight students were selected as Supreme Court of Canada Clerks in both 2005-6 and 2006-7, and six in 2007-8; there are only 27 such clerkships. McGill students also win clerkships at Courts of Appeal across Canada.
Renowned faculty members who are no longer teaching at the Faculty
- Hobbins, A.J. “Designating the Dean of Law: attempts to control the nature of legal education at McGill University by the Montreal corporate and professional elite, 1946-1950.” Dalhousie Law Journal. XXVII (2004), pp. 163-202.
- Pilarczyk, Ian C. " 'A Noble Roster': One Hundred and Fifty Years of Law at McGill" (McGill University, 1999).