McGill University Faculty of Law

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McGill University Faculty of Law
Faculté de droit de l'université McGill  (French)
McGill University
Established 1848
Type Public
Dean Daniel Jutras
Academic staff
Students 652[1]
Location Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Campus Urban
Languages English, French
McGill Wordmark.svg

The Faculty of Law is a constituent faculty of McGill University, in Montreal, Quebec. 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 practise in both the Canadian, U.S. and UK common law system as well as Quebec's civil law system.


University rankings
Global rankings
Canadian rankings
Maclean's Civil Law[2] 1
Maclean's Common Law[2] 3

The Faculty of Law was officially created in 1848, making it the first civil law school 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, as 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, McGill offered degrees only based on Quebec law, which features the civil law system in the sphere of private law.


Civil Law Programme, 1848-1968[edit]

For most of the period from 1848 until 1968, the Faculty provided only the Bachelor of Civil Law degree, making McGill's the only law faculty in Canada to teach civil law in English. However, between 1920 and 1924, the Faculty did add a common law degree program, making three-year civil or common law degrees and a four-year joint degree program available. This early incarnation of the National Programme proved controversial, however, and was abandoned in 1924.

National Programme, 1968-1999[edit]

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.[3]

Transsystemic Program, 1999-present[edit]

With the incoming class of 1999 the Faculty eliminated its civil, common, and National programs, and replaced them with a single program, which includes 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.[4]

The Transsystemic program was created under the direction of former Dean Stephen Toope, whereby every student graduates with degrees in both civil law and common law. 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.[5] Undergraduate students may participate in international exchange programs, and in the International Courts and Tribunals Program, which in 2006 received a Scotiabank-AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization[6] as well as the Canadian Bureau for International Education's Award for Outstanding Program in International Education in 2006 and 2008.

Graduate Programs[edit]

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 (CISDL), 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 bijuridical character, draws 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[7] than the 170 available spaces in the first year class, a matriculation rate of 11-12%. The average GPA for first year admissions in 2010 was 83% (A- average on a lettered GPA scale) and the average LSAT score was 163 (87th percentile),[8] 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 take it (although if they have taken 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.

National and International Reputation[edit]

As per the QS World University Rankings, McGill's faculty of law is ranked No. 2 in Canada and No. 20 internationally. The rankings are obtained from three measures: academic opinion, employer opinion and citations by academics. It ranks 4th in the Maclean's Law School Rankings for Common Law Schools and 1st for Civil Law Schools. The Maclean's rankings are based on: elite firm hiring, national reach, Supreme Court clerkships, faculty hiring, and faculty journal citations.

Student life[edit]


Legal Ease is a monthly, student-run radio program broadcast on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal, operated by McGill Faculty of Law students. It has been providing legal information and programming to the Montreal community for over 20 years.

The program was founded in 1989 through the McGill Legal Information Clinic. Soon thereafter, the LegalEase became independent. On its 20th year anniversary, it launched an online blog to complement its radio program.[3] LegalEase is a tool to further public legal education initiatives in Quebec and Canada. The program covers topics of general legal interest as well as issues particular to the common law and the civil law. Notable guests on the program include Janet Afary, Jim Stanford, Dean Spade, Barbara Jackman, Jill Hennessy from Law & Order and Fernando Vegas Torrealba of the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

Academic Journals[edit]

The Faculty of Law is home to five student-run academic journals: Inter Gentes: The McGill Journal of International Law and Legal Pluralism,[9]The McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution,[10]the McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy,[11] the McGill Journal of Law and Health,[12] and the McGill Law Journal, established in 1952.



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 compulsory fees in 2012-13 were CAD$4,184.58 for Quebec students, CAD$7,918.08 for non-Quebec Canadians, and CAD$30,838.68 for international students.[13] 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 Law 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 Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing,) employ many McGill law graduates. {citation required}

Beginning in 2005, McGill was one of a handful of leading law faculties (including Columbia, Geneva, Harvard, Michigan, New York University, Strasbourg, University of Toronto and Yale) to be invited by the International Court of Justice to supply clerks to the Judges. {citation required}

Since most students are fluent in both English and French, and receive a uniquely transsystemic legal education, they are highly successful as candidates for clerkships at the bilingual and bijuridical Supreme Court of Canada. Seven students were selected to serve as Supreme Court of Canada Clerks in 2001-2, three in 2002-3, six in 2003-4, five in 2004-5, eight in both 2005-6 and 2006-7, six in 2007-8, five in 2008-2009, six in 2009-2010, five in 2010-2011, seven in 2011-2012, six in 2012-2013, five in 2013-2014, and six in 2014-2015; there are only 27 such clerkships offered each year. McGill students also gain clerkships at Courts of Appeal across Canada and in foreign courts, for example the Supreme Court of Israel.

Notable previous faculty members[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ LSAC - JD: Canadian Law School Profiles. 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  2. ^ a b "2013 Common Law University Ranking". Maclean's. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  3. ^ R. Macdonald, "The National Law Programme at McGill: Origins, Establishment, Prospects" Dalhousie Law Journal, 1990: 13: 211-363.
  4. ^ <name="Morissette">Morissette, Yves-Marie, "McGill's Integrated Civil and Common Law Program" J. Legal Educ., 2002: 52: 12-28.
  5. ^ <name="Strauss">Strauss, Peter, "Transsystemia—Are We Approaching a New Langdellian Moment? Is McGill Leading the Way?" J. Legal Educ., 2006: 56: 161-171.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ "Frequently asked questions". Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Home". Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution". Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "McGill Journal of Law and Health". Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  13. ^ "Undergraduate Tuition and Student Fees". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  14. ^ "Bidding farewell to Roderick A. Macdonald (1948-2014)". Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  15. ^ Federal Court of Canada