The 2010 Maclean’s Law School Rankings

How do faculty measure up? How do grads fare? Maclean’s fourth annual survey reveals all


Are a law school’s professors significant contributors to the intellectual life of their discipline? Do a law school’s graduates land the most sought-after jobs in government, the private sector and academia? These are the two questions Maclean’s annual law survey seeks to answer.

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 Canada across all 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, this indicator is worth 10 per cent. 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.

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.

Next page: Which school is on top?

The methodology behind the Maclean’s law school rankings 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 Carson Jerema and Susan Mohammad.

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 McDougall Scientific Ltd. statistical consultants.

The law rankings are comprised of two separate rankings: one for common law schools—the law of Anglo tradition and most provinces; and one for civil law schools—a law tradition practised in Quebec. Civil and common law schools were evaluated according to the same criteria.

Two universities appear in both the common and civil law school rankings: Ottawa and McGill. The University of Ottawa’s faculty of law offers two distinct streams, civil and common. Two different sets of numbers were used for the calculations of the two rankings. McGill’s faculty of law occupies a unique position in that it offers a fully integrated common and civil law program. As such, the same set of data was used in calculating the common and civil law rankings.

*Indicates a tie


The 2010 Maclean’s Law School Rankings

  1. let the comments and disagreements begin!

  2. It’s sad that Osgoode is 10th for Elite firm hiring

  3. The Elite Firm hiring stat is a very poor measure. The Elite firms in NB hire NB grads. Osgoode has 300 students and there are only so many ‘elite’ firms in Toronto. One, not all students want to go to Bay St. and not all could even if they did. Two, the rest of Osgoode students go to non-elite firms or government. Macleans really needs to change this measure.

    Possibly by looking at the elite firms country wide and counting students from each school.

  4. The Supreme Court Clerkship measure will always distort the rankings in favour of eastern Canadian schools, where the numbers of bilingual law students are much higher.

    On the other hand, Dean Cotter at the University of Saskatchewan should be asking his colleagues why the faculty journal citation rate is so low.

  5. I’ve said this many times about other rankings, but I firmly believe that a metric that tracks the rate of secured articles amongst graduates would temper the distortions of “elite” firm hiring.

  6. Wow the elite firm rankings is pretty messed up…It is divided by the amount of students you have (so although Osgoode has more students in Elite Firms, it is ranked lower). Being in Osgoode, it is clear the culture is not towards Bay, as I am sure, compared to UofT. None the less, being ranked number 2 in the country is amazing

  7. What’s off about the Elite Firm Hiring ranking is the definition of “elite firm”. Is a firm that pays articling students a salary of $40k in New Brunswick really as “elite” as a firm that pays $70k in Toronto and that works on big deals and big litigation? The majority of Canada’s “elite firms” are in Toronto, and the rest are split among Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal. 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!) just doesn’t make sense.

    Additionally, it probably makes more sense to look at the number of summer and/or articling students at the elite firms, not the associates. Everyone in the legal profession knows that schools can get you an in as a student, but after that it’s all about experience and reputation. Also, many lawyers have articled at big-name firms and then made the personal decision to leave either immediately or after a couple of years as an associate.

  8. What does this really tell us?

    How about ranking based on cost? Shouldn’t a faculty’s score be ranked according to value/$ as well?

    Only 5 law firms make the cut as “elite” in New York? In my experience the classmates I had who ended up at firms in New York were outstanding (top of the class) and would have easily ended up at any one of the “elite” 7 sisters firms on Bay Street, but they don’t work for one of the supposed 5 “elite” firms in New York. Vault is hardly the best ranking list to look at. Ever heard of AmLaw? The idea that 5 firms in New York are the extent of “elite” firms is laughable. The legal market in New York is so much more robust than Toronto, there are at least 25 if not 35 firms that should qualify as “elite”.

    The bottom line is that every law school (including Moncton) is very good. An education from any one of them will get a graduate to the highest levels of academia, business or government if they are smart and work hard. I would venture a guess that the top student at Moncton is as capable and accomplished as the top student at U of T.

    Come on Maclean’s. You’re misleading law students, employers and prospective students.

  9. The components may be interesting individually, but they certainly should not be combined into an overall “ranking”. They contradict each other anyway: those interested in getting hired by an elite firm don’t care about clerking or research; those who don’t care about elite firms could care less if their classmate was hired in a New York firm, etc.

    If you must have an overall rank, it should be based on how many grads are working in jobs they want, and perceived reputation by the full spectrum of employers (firms, government, NGOs, business).

  10. Macleans finally added mcgill in the civil law section. I wonder if Macleans is going to recognize that Montreal and Sherbrooke have common law programs as well and add them in. They will probably not rank very high mind you.

  11. Ranking schools by the percentage of students entering “elite” law firms is appalling.

  12. As a prospective law student with an interest in constitutional law and civil liberties, I’m very disappointed by the narrowness of Maclean’s ranking system.
    I’d be interested to know which school graduated students into the jobs THEY want, as opposed to jobs deemed “elite” by the magazine.
    When I saw that 50% (?!) of the mark came from that category, I basically stopped reading. I’m interested in going to the school that will give me the best education, not the one that will get me into the clubhouse.
    MacLean’s: please reconsider your ranking system! Or better yet: Is there another organization out there who can rank schools for those of us more interested in legal aid reform and constitutional challenges than contract law?

  13. This ranking really does not make sense.
    -how can N-B be 2nd in elite firm hiring while osgoode and ottawa are at 10 and 13
    -how can mcgill be number 1 civil law school when their graduates study french law in english and are unable to plead civil cases.
    -how obvious that ottawa will have so many supreme court clerks, its bilingual and the only law school in city,
    -funny how both schools offering common law in french are ranked low, ottawa and moncton.

    Fact is each law school has their strenghts and weaknesses depending on subject. Better to rate a school on respect of their grads, community reputation and if their grads ended up being where they wanted to be.

  14. @canadian law student: Please note that “Civil Law” in this context does not refer to civil litigation but rather to the fact that Quebec still uses the Civil Code, which is a legal tradition distinct from the Common Law and hence the subject of its own course in training. This is why the rankings have a separate category for it.

    I refrain from comment otherwise, but some things need to be corrected.

  15. Funny how University of Montreal was at top of the Civil Law schools for the longest but as soon as Mcgill offers a similar program it jups. Ahead to the top. WOW!!!

  16. Frankly I think Alberta should be higher on the list as 10th in Canada doesn’t quite match its reputation in “the rest of Canada” (Western Canada).

  17. McGill has offered a combined (and bilingual) LLB/BCL program for a long time as far as I know. 5+ years at minimum.

  18. Windsor gets screwed on this ranking every year, and its because of the “elite firm hiring” category.

    Here’s why: At Windsor plenty of grads go to big firms. Basically, if you want to go to bay street and you work hard, there is no reason Windsor won’t get you there. The current Minister of Justice is a Windsor grad, so are lots of top partners… etc etc.

    But: Windsor has a mandate to train lawyers dedicated to promoting social justice. And its admission policy reflects this.

    So: When a whole bunch of grads become lawyers for Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Doctors Without Boarders or Advocates for Disabled Students…..


    Those people might has well have failed out of school.

    The ‘elite firm hiring’ category actually means: Schools where all the graduates do the exact same thing, and nothing more.
    A good deal of us are not even remotely interested in going to bay street, even though the category would suggest we are all desperate to get there.

    If anyone is actually still reading, I might as well crack on about Supreme Court Clerkships. The people who actually get to do this are brilliant, there is no question, but it likely says more about their intelligence and drive than the school they went to. Furthermore, focusing on ‘stars’ though its always more fun, doesn’t say anything at all about the school experience for average students: America wins the most gold medals every year at the olympics…. it also has the most obese population in the world… get my drift?

    And now for faculty citations: a whopping 50%?! Look, there isn’t necessarily a rule to this. But in my experience some of the WORST professors I’ve ever had have been the most famous. If you are flying all over the place for conferences, or trying to pound out the latest book, you also often have very little time for that timid first year student or any student who just needs some help with a concept.

    Mcleans always, overwhelmingly focuses on the Lawyer-as-Celebrity side of things.
    Unless you are doing mergers and acquisitions, never seeing your family and driving a porsche, you aren’t a good lawyer in their eyes or at least they don’t have a percentage for that yet.

    Don Pyper

  19. Actually, McGill has always been a civil law school. The addition of the common law is rather recent. Of course, McGill runs one of three sections in French for all of its first-year courses, and then a mix of French and English among optional courses.

    The Elite Firms is obviously silly, but eminently countable, which I guess is why it is used — bad data chases good. Perhaps the dumbest element, actually, is the reliance on counting HeinOnline citations. Again, easy to do, so that’s nice, but it is almost completely irrelevant to the civilian world. In fact, never mind the civilian world outside Quebec — it doesn’t even have the Revue du Barreau, never mind the leading French and other European civil law journals.

    While it would require doing something more than transplanting Leiter’s convenient American methodology to Canada, here’s an idea. Develop a way to track who’s cited by the courts. I know, it’s original research, but look at it this way. Perhaps, if you make nice with CanLII, they can do it for you.

  20. I’m an Osgoode graduate and a mid-level associate at a Vault 6-10 NY firm. The notion that I don’t work at an “elite” firm, or that obtaining employment at my firm is somehow less difficult than getting a job at Nova Scotia’s best firm, is quite frankly laughable.

  21. Elite firm hiring is only worth 10%, so not much. Just thought I would point out that I found Oz Grad’s comment to be exceedingly pompous. Not unlike most Oz students.

    I think the faculty citation ranking is a bit ridiculous and the fact that it’s worth 50% is a little crazy. There should be some ranking for how hard it is to get into these schools.

  22. If you are going to use a category for elite hiring then it should be elite, i.e. top in the nation if not the world. There are great lawyers doing great work all over Canada, but if no lawyers outside the province have heard of provincial firm X, how can it be elite? There is only one Atlantic Canadian firm with any reputation outside of Atlantic Canada: Stewart McKelvey. But even now I had to google it because I couldn’t remember the exact name. It might be in the top 20-25 large-ish firms in Canada. There are no others. The ranking should go deeper into the US lists (at least top 10, maybe more), use UK magic circle, and for Canada rely on nationwide lawyer surveys on law firm reputation (which do exist) to pick national elite firms. These surveys are useful because they will pick up for example small but very prestigious boutiques that exist only in one city.

    To the poster above who said those interested in elite business law firms aren’t interested in clerkships: this is false. These things always go together in a law school, and often go together in a law student too.

  23. I forgot to add that the “national reach” criterion is pointing in the wrong direction. A school that attracts students from all over the country/world is probably better than those that attract only students from their own provinces. But measuring the breadth of where students go afterward ignores the reality that the best legal jobs are concentrated in major cities. It’s as if Maclean’s figures Boise Idaho is just as good a place to work as New York, so why send all your grads to a small number of large firms in New York; better to split them between white shoe in NY and the best Boise firms. If you really believe that any legal job is just as “elite” as the others, then that means that you are fundamentally anti-elitist, which I can respect, but then why do a ranking at all?

  24. I didn’t really know that Windsor puts itself out there as a school that focuses on social justice. From my understanding, that’s more the case with Osgoode and Ottawa in Ontario.

    If you want to know your chances of going to Bay Street from a particular school, look at the November 2009 survey found here:

  25. Wow. These criteria are messed up. There’s no mention of whether graduates go on to be successful in the criminal, public interest, or human rights sectors. McGill prides itself on its strong reputation in human rights law, and the fact that it produces lawyers who think outside the box and don’t necessarily want the big firm job. Moreover, its graduates go on to the most prestigious international clerkships in criminal and human rights law (ICTR, ICTY, SCSL, ECHR, IACHR, etc…), none of which are mentioned here. Had Maclean’s actually bothered to think about law as a field that encompasses more than the Seven Sisters and academia, McGill would surely be on top.

  26. Law school is about more then all those categories. All schools offer great programs. It is sad to see this article and how limited it is. Dispute resolution, negotiation and moot programs are all very important. U of S is ranked 1st this year and always has a strong program in them. Some schools have amazing programs in other areas. This test should be much more inclusive. Work where you like and makes you happy, elite firm is what you as a person decide it is for your life goals. Don’t sell others short just because they have different life goals and dont wish to fit into a bracket of so called elite law firms.

  27. Folks, get real. Its a ranking. Its never going to please everyone.

    Take it for what it is, and if you don’t like it, find another way to rank law schools and offer that to Canadians.

    Talk about bitter law students. You literally fulfill the stereotypes folks have of us as pompous, insecure and just plain annoying.

  28. I agree with others that, given the criteria used, the rankings tell us very little about which law schools provide students the best, most well-rounded legal education. Interesting that one of the criterion is number of grads working at top 5 New York firms. I don’t know one person from my law school who had any interest in working in NYC. I can’t see how that disinterest is a reflection on the quality of the legal education at the school.

    I think the criteria should be revised to take into account students’ satisfaction with the school’s courses, professors, and also to view success differently. I spent considerable time at a big Bay Street firm. Most of my fellow associates (from junior to senior) were miserable. How is misery an indicator of success?!

  29. Yes, law schools are all about elite firms and practice on Bay street… I am happy with my rankings:

    2.U of T
    3. McGill
    5. UBC/Queens

  30. The problem with the elite firm ranking is that schools like Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick are so removed from the larger markets it’s hard to compete for jobs in those markets. They have also historically not had great reputations so the elite firms are predisposed not to hire there. Why have a measure that’s automatically weighted to perpetuate failure?

  31. I’m a Queen’s Law Grad, obviously, from over two decades ago. My son is currently applying to law schools. He would not consider applying to Osgoode Hall because of the poisonous political atmosphere at York. He is not alone in this – many top Jewish students are boycotting the school for that reason.

  32. The suggestion in the above post by queensgrad is absurd. And coming from a supposed graduate of an Ontario law school, it’s all the more unbelievable.

    First, all prospective law students should know that Osgoode is very removed from the rest of York, perhaps moreso than law schools at other universities. Most Osgoode students live in a bubble and don’t really concern themselves with the affairs of the rest of campus. Regardless, to make the sweeping statement that there’s a poisonous political atmosphere at York is just shameful fear-mongering. Don’t believe all of the fallout of rhetoric from groups opposed to a certain speaker who recently visited York.

    I’m proud that the political views shared by my fellow students are both diverse and sophisticated; no view is put forth without challenge from another, and this encourages intellectual stimulation and growth. If you’re so hypersensitive that you can’t handle hearing a different viewpoint than your own, no law school will be a hospitable environment for you.

  33. “Oz student” can be appalled, or proud, or can disagree…whatever. That does not change the reality that I made a statement of fact, not a suggestion. It is a fact that some students are reluctant to attend YorkOsgoode because of the political climate there. It is a fact that the administration is aware of this problem and has addressed it in promotional material. It is not “absurd” to make a decision based on whether or not a student will feel welcome in a particular university or faculty. There is a difference between an intellectually stimulating environment and a threatening one. Many feel that this university may have crossed the line.

  34. As a student at Osgoode, the initial post by queensgrad is honestly the first I’ve heard of such a supposed climate. I’ll continue to find it difficult to believe until I hear more than just vague assertions about promotional material and the feeling of “many” that the environment is threatening. I hope that all prospective students actually try contacting current law students to get those perspectives instead of believing what they hear from others who are not situated in the environment they claim to have knowledge of. This applies to any school. The Jewish Law Students’ Association at Osgoode Hall can be reached by e-mail at, and I think that could serve as a good starting point.

  35. I would really like to see more discussion about student services – access to career counselling, support, accommodation, and the general tone of administration. The quality of the administration really makes a huge impact on student success in the work force as well as within the law school.

    For anyone that may be considering applying to the University of Victoria, I wanted to note that while consistently ranked fairly well, the quality of the school has fallen dramatically in recent years. Even though I do not agree completely with how the survey is done, Uvic’s drop in the rankings really does reflect the quality of education here. The administration is completely horrible and unresponsive to student concerns. If ever a problem arises, it’s nearly impossible to deal with the Dean of Students. Students are treated with complete disrespect. Available courses are limited, despite how it might seem on the school website. If you do not want to study first nations or environmental law, there will be virtually nothing for you to do here.

    Many people in my graduating year feel similarly. I just wanted to post this to any students who may be considering UVic as an option. My comments are not reflected in the rankings really, but valuable to know about.

  36. In this era of interdisciplinary scholarship, many faculty do not necessarily publish in traditional “law” journals — in other words, some of these journals would not show up in a search of Hein.

  37. I can confirm what “queensgrad” has said about Jewish law students avoiding Osgoode Hall in large numbers.

    My father actually graduated from Osgoode. What has happened at York is shocking and its a real shame.

  38. Pingback: Ranking Law Schools 2010 | More More Pics

  39. I think these criteria are pretty flimsy. I can only speak to UNB (and yes, that makes me biased), but what about student to professor ratios and other criteria that actually have to do with the quality of the education you receive instead of the caliber of the professors that are supposed to educate? Also, places like UNB can never do well in categories like “National Reach” because they need to have regional quotas that restrict how diverse the student body can be (at UNB it’s 25% New Brunswickers, 25% Newfoundlanders since they don’t have a law school, and a percentage of Prince Edward Islanders I can’t name offhand).

    I’m all for MacLean’s writing up the advantages and disadvantages of each law school and maybe making a reccomendation or two but ranking them like this threatens to turn our more or less egalitarian post-secondary education system into an unofficially tiered one like there is in the States (Ivy league, private, state etc.).

  40. Anyone who is able to get in to Osgoode but avoids applying entirely is definitely doing themselves a disservice. A couple of years ago when the conflict between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine undergrads at York was at its peak, it still didn’t spill over into Osgoode. Why? Again, because Osgoode students just don’t care about what’s going on in the rest of York, and are not as immature as the undergrads who cause such problems.

    Don’t trust unsubstantiated claims from anonymous posters online, especially if they’re from another school and the topic is rankings. People at Osgoode have diverse views, and there are many non-Jewish students who are strongly pro-Israel. Contact actual students with an e-mail address and find out for yourself the kind of collegial atmosphere that exists here.