Ranking Canada’s law schools - Macleans.ca

Ranking Canada’s law schools

They’re all hard to get into. Which one will you get the most out of?


In its third annual ranking of Canadian law schools, Maclean’s assessed each institution against recognized measures of faculty quality and of how well graduates do in the workplace. In all, we sought to answer two questions. Are a law school’s professors significant contributors to the intellectual life of their discipline? And do a law school’s graduates land the most sought-after jobs in government, the private sector and academia?

For the third year in a row, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law takes the top spot. McGill Faculty of Law also maintains its second-place position for the third year running, but this year it shares that spot with Osgoode Hall Law School, which last year ranked third.

All of the data used in the Maclean’s law rankings are publicly available. All focus on law school outputs. Fifty per cent of the overall ranking is determined by faculty quality, and 50 per cent by graduate quality. The four measures of graduate quality look at the success each law school has had producing graduates able to land the most competitive jobs. The indicators are:

Elite Firm Hiring: Maclean’s calculated how many of each school’s graduates are serving as associates at law firms on Lexpert’s list of the largest firms in nine Canadian regions, or at one of the five leading New York firms, according to the employment website Vault. This was done by examining the online biographies of thousands of lawyers at dozens of law firms. To scale this measure to each school, the tally was divided by first-year class size, averaged over the past three years. This measure is worth 20 per cent.

National Reach: This indicator, based on the Elite Firm Hiring measure, is worth 10 per cent. It measures the proportion of each law school’s grads at leading firms who are working at firms other than the three that hired the most grads from this school. It’s a measure of the extent to which leading firms outside a school’s region hire its graduates.

Supreme Court Clerkships: A measure of how many of a school’s graduates have served as clerks at the Supreme Court of Canada. There are 27 clerks each year; it is one of the most competitive positions open to graduates. Maclean’s looked at the last six years’ worth of clerks. As with the other measures of graduate quality, the tally was divided by each school’s average first-year enrolment.

Next page: Which law school is on top?

Faculty Hiring: Worth 10 per cent, this indicator looks at how many of a school’s graduates are professors at Canadian law schools, with extra weight given to grads hired by faculties other than their alma mater.

Faculty Journal Citations: In this measure of faculty quality, worth 50 per cent, Maclean’s employed the HeinOnline database of legal periodicals. The search included citations in international publications as well as Canadian journals in order to reflect the reality of a globalized academy. The number of citations recorded by each faculty member was measured; the tally for each school was then divided by the size of its faculty.

There are 16 common law schools and five civil law schools in Canada. Common and civil law schools are ranked separately, but evaluated according to the same criteria.


The methodology behind the Maclean’s law school ranking was created in co-operation with professor Brian Leiter, the John P. Wilson Professor of Law and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago. The data were compiled by researchers Sally Brown and Emily Heppner. Ranking on each indicator and overall rank was determined using the statistical percentile method that Maclean’s has long employed in our annual university rankings. Our statistician was Hong Chen, of MacDougall Scientific Ltd. Statistical Consultants.


Ranking Canada’s law schools

  1. This ranking apparently answers the question, which law school will I get the most out of?

    I’m not sure this rank is an accurate reflection of reality.

    First of all, there are only so many law schools which offer an LLM, which most faculty have. So is the “faculty hiring” category a reflection of where professors completed their LLM? If it is, that limits that category to schools which offer an LLM.

    The ranking also only looks at associates, which, in a way, is a snapshot of the past because it ignores where grads have been hired in the last couple of years.

    There are also some hard to understand results. For example, the University of New Brunswick ranks third for elite firm hiring. I’m not aware of “elite” firms in NB. So if there are no “elite” firms in NB, students at that university must go outside the “region” to get hired by elite firms. National reach purports to be “a measure of the extent to which leading firms outside a school’s region hire its graduates.” If NB ranks third for elite or “leading” firm hires, it follows that the university of NB would also rank highly in the national reach category. Yet they rank last… strange result.
    That’s just one example. There are many more that can be realized upon careful inspection.

    If you want to get hired on Bay Street, where elite firms are really elite, go to an Ontario law school. Bay Street is how most people will judge prestige.

    If you want to do something more “for the people”, go to any of the law schools. They are all good.

    This rank means nothing.

  2. That must have been a Windsor student who posted that comment!

  3. You have to admit that despite its flaws these rankings are very comparable to the general reputation of these law schools among lawyers, law students and potential applicants. And I’d say that this was the case five years ago as well, even before a ranking of Canadian law schools was ever published.

  4. What do you call someone who graduates from the worst law school in Canada?

    A lawyer.

  5. Over half of Canada’s “elite firms” are in Toronto, as they pay the most, and the rest are split among Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa. The method of using so many regions, giving equal weight to each region, and then only looking at a few firms in each region (and only five in NY!) doesn’t make sense.

    Maybe Maclean’s should take into account the following research:

  6. Why do the Maclean’s rankings still refuse to consider where McGill ranks among the civil law schools? All McGill law graduates earn a common law degree and a civil law degree, yet you only rank them in the common law category. Many McGill grads go on to practice only civil law in Quebec. The courses at McGill are offered in English and French. McGill law is certainly the most reputable civil law school in Canada, yet you leave them off the list. What’s the deal??

  7. Perhaps the University of Saskatchewan would rank higher and their students would receive a better chance at elite firm hiring/Supreme Court clerkships, etc. if they abandoned the nasty curve they have in place. Its not the U of S law students aren’t as smart as the rest, they are judged much more harshly.

  8. Further To Amr,s post about common law and civil law at McGill.

    The survey also states that at uOttawa you can get either a civil law or common law degree. It does not recognize that you can get a degree in both concurrently at uOttawa, as you do at McGill.

    This is a big flaw when evaluating law schools. McGill and Ottawa are actually in a unique category because of the opportunity to graduate with a dual law degree. Also they are the only schools where you can study for a law degree in either english or french or both. Unique indeed!

  9. Good study on the whole … but may I suggest considering admission standards? The number one indicator of graduate quality is the quality of students admitted. Smart students in, smart lawyers out. As someone who has hired articling students, I was always interested in what grads did before law school.

    The ranking may not change (Toronto has long been tops for LSAT/GPA), but it’s a powerful indicator. Smarter students mean faster-paced classes, and profs develop high expectations. It creates healthy competition and a culture of excellence.

    My advice to students considering law is to aim high — shoot for Toronto/McGill/Osgoode, but keep in mind that not one Canadian school is terrible. Fine lawyers have come from all. Our profession is very fortunate this way!

  10. There seems to be heavy skewing towards th East Coast. Literally, east coast. For some reason there are 5 maritime law firms used for elite firm hiring, but only 2 calgary firms. In Calgary, the market has 3 jauggernauts. Leaving any one of them out is like leaving one of the 7 sisters out of the rankings. And the most prestigious calgary law firm isn’t even listed as an elite firm for the rankings. Similarly, it seems the same for Vancouver. Toronto is fully represented with the 7 sisters. But I definitely think the maritime schools are getting a much bigger boost than they deserve.

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