Is the Law Greener on the Other Side?

Compiled by Rachel Chan (2L) & Youssef Aziz (2L)

As students who have been at U of T Law since day one, we can get a little jaded about Canada’s top law school. We get used to the sponsored hallways, internalize the competition, and accept the fact that the TTC is here to ruin our day. Let’s also not forget that we tend to have a certain *~reputation~* for being cut-throat and self-righteous. Four 2L transfer students have provided us with some refreshing reminders of the things we take for granted and insights into how students at other law schools perceive us.

UV: Tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to transfer to U of T.

Youssef Aziz (YA): I grew up in Egypt and moved to Canada when I was sixteen with my family, settling in Oakville. My undergrad was in Business at Wilfrid Laurier and, afterwards, I took a year off to work and travel before deciding to go back to school at Windsor Law. I plan on practicing business law at a full-service firm. My end goal has always been to live and build a career in Toronto. Having the opportunity to be closer to my family and build roots early in the city where I want to settle was hard to turn down. It was not an easy decision—I gave up all the connections, friendships, and experience developed in 1L— but it made the most sense to transfer and I’m happy with my decision.

Sahil Kesar (SK): I grew up in both Vancouver and the Toronto area. I did my undergrad at York University’s Schulich School of Business, after which I started school at Windsor Law. I hope to practice in either business law or commercial litigation. I had some personal reasons for transferring, but I ultimately wanted to work in Toronto and I knew that being in the city would make that easier. I knew other schools could not compete with the plethora of business law courses that U of T offers.

Muhammad Ansab (MA): I’m from Toronto, and my undergrad was a BCom in Public Accounting and Economics from Rotman. I went to Windsor Law afterwards. I’m generally interested in Business Law, but haven’t narrowed it down to a specific area. I decided to transfer because my family is in Toronto and I wanted to be closer to them.

Joshua Foster (JF): I grew up in Mississauga and attended U of T in Mississauga to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biology for Health Sciences. Upon graduation, I attended Lakehead’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law with no specific practice area or career trajectory in mind. My decision to transfer was based on three things I wanted: to ensure that I was a competitive applicant to private and public sector employers; to have access to diverse course offerings and professors; and to be immersed in a student environment more conducive to a stimulating legal education.

UV: What were your initial impressions of U of T Law, and have they changed in the past few months?

YA: I did not have any specific expectations. I had heard about the new law building and how great it is, and some comments regarding the “competitive” environment. Fortunately, I have not experienced this competitive reputation, and everyone has been very welcoming. Definitely the fact that every single room in Jackman is named after a law firm stood out to me, coming from a law school with a big focus on social justice as opposed to Bay Street. Speaking of, there is definitely a big focus towards business law and Bay Street here, despite a breadth of other opportunities, resources, and clubs geared to fostering interest in other areas of law.

SK: Everyone hears the stories of uptight and competitive U of T Law students. I did not get that vibe when I was first here. Some of the students here don’t know how well they actually have it. The facilities and opportunities this school provides its students are incomparable. The amount of students in the library also amazes me, until I learned about all the SNAILS (Students Not Actually In Law School). But overall, I feel like I’m in a fairly welcoming place with a lot of bright people.

MA: Before I started at the law school, I heard terrible rumors about how the school was super competitive and how students would undermine each other (e.g. ripping pages out of books). I was very glad to find out that people were not like that and were generally very friendly. It’s also a lot easier to get involved in the school than I originally thought, and there are so many more opportunities here that I did not know about before.

JF: My initial impressions were positive. In the interest of brevity, I was surprised that the law building was not bigger and that it lacked a sense of warmth. My impressions have remained positive.

UV: What has been most surprising about your experience at U of T so far?

YA: I would say the connections and breadth of opportunities available to law students are unequalled. The location plays a huge part: being in the center of Toronto provides us with a big advantage over other law schools. Being able to walk to the financial district, or having easy access to guest speakers from different areas is a huge asset.

SK: The amount of resources available to students in all regards of law school. How equipped the CDO is. The amount of student involvement in administration of the school. The amount of clubs here at the school. It really is just amazing.

MA: I found it a little surprising that some of the professors’ titles were named, and I thought it was cool that we had lockers.

JF: I had two surprises. First, the quality of instruction is not any better than my former law school despite the institution’s zeal for hiring academic leaders. Second, the student body, despite being relatively large, remains very friendly and approachable.

UV: What is something that your previous law school does better than U of T? What is something that U of T does better than your previous law school?

YA: Something that I noticed was the tight-knit community environment at Windsor. However, U of T is definitely better for its connections. The quality of guest speakers and lecturers that are invited to the school is very impressive. Getting the chance to hear from Supreme Court justices, notable practitioners, and well-known authorities in the field is truly a privilege.

SK: I think Windsor fosters a closer environment because of its geography and most people not being from Windsor. I think people at U of T may not form as close bonds here because most people are still in close touch with non-law friends. At Windsor, you see each other all the time—at the school, mall,  gym,  bars, and even at brunch—because it is a smaller city. Windsor also does a better job at promoting non-academic interests through their student groups. I think U of T clubs are generally geared towards different practices of law. In contrast, I think U of T has better facilities, a vastly larger and diverse alumni pool to draw on, and a better practical legal education. While the academic professors are all of similar vintage , I think it is in the quality of practitioner-taught courses that U of T really thrives.

MA: Windsor is better at community building and support. Although the location of U of T gives the Faculty a tremendous advantage, being in the heart of Toronto makes it a commuter school. People don’t usually stick around in the school, so the student body doesn’t bond the same way as in Windsor. Because most of the students weren’t from the city, everybody stuck around the school and hung out together. The friendships were stronger. In addition, the Windsor SLS student notes database had a lot more contributors and was a lot more current than at U of T. Also, the financial aid at Windsor is more generous: at a certain level of undergrad debt, they provide enough aid so that you do not need to open a line of credit.

On the flip side, being in downtown Toronto means U of T offers a lot more opportunities for students, whether that’s networking, jobs, events, or getting guest speakers to visit. The career services and admin here are better, more synchronized, and more effective. The CDO prepares you a lot better for landing a position and has a lot more resources available for students. U of T also has a lot more going on with events, workshops, and networking opportunities. There’s actually so much stuff going on that it can be difficult at times trying to go to all of the events you’re interested in.

JF: The pedagogical strategies used at Lakehead are more conducive to student learning than those relied on in my current courses. With that said, my experience remains relatively uninformed given that it has only been a semester.  U of T provides far more resources to its students than available at Lakehead. These include access to mentorship and learning opportunities, career development and support, as well as outreach and extra-curricular opportunities.