A four-year, expensive program is a big endeavor, and having as much information as possible is invaluable. I’m entering into the third year of the four year program at Osgoode and Schulich (York University). As a good law student, I’ll start with a big disclaimer: these are my personal thoughts and opinions, and most figures I cite are usually rough approximations. What I’m seeking to offer prospective students are my tips, anecdotal experiences and some useful information that you won’t find in official publications. Contact the schools and the CRA to make sure the information I quote is accurate and up to date. There are obviously differences amongst the schools, in terms of the work experience exemption, a GMAT exemption, and the structure of the program in general. I can only comment on my experience at Osgoode, but most of the advice will be applicable to all schools.
To enter the program, you must write both the LSAT and the GMAT. At this point, most of you have probably written the LSAT, and know how incredibly fun it is. I found the grammar and writing components of the GMAT to be a cakewalk in comparison, while my math section was pretty weak. I dedicated a full week to studying exclusively for the math component. Unless you’re a math major (I’ve yet to meet a law student who was), focus on the math. The GMAT costs $250 and can be scheduled most days—it’s extremely flexible compared to the regimented process of the LSAT. You get your grade on the screen as soon as you’re finished. No sitting on pins and needles for weeks waiting for LSAT results. You’ll find this to be a recurring theme in your JD/MBA experience: in business, the sums of money involved are higher, exams are graded more quickly, and things are in general more flexible. In law, grades take months to come out, and everything is meticulously structured.
The work experience requirement is waived for JD/MBAs. Apart from this, you have to gain entry to both schools individually on your own merits. The official cutoff for the program is 85% on both the LSAT and the GMAT. I’ve found that this is simply a guideline—aim for this target, but if one of your exams is a bit below, they’ll probably let you in. The hardest part, in my opinion, is getting into Osgoode.
2) Tuition—estimates and financing
JD/MBA students pay Osgoode tuition, except during first year MBA. Since Osgoode’s tuition is about $8k lower, this is a significant advantage. Our JD/MBA program is much cheaper than alternatives at Western and U of T (even factoring in the $30k scholarship that U of T offers).
Here are my very rough estimates for those entering the program:
Year 1 – Osgoode tuition $25
Year 2 –Schulich tuition $35k (years 1 and 2 are interchangeable depending on which side you start
Year 3 & 4 – Osgoode tuition $28k (it rises a bit every year)
So you’re facing over $100,000 in tuition alone over four years. Rent in Osgoode Chambers ranges from $877 for a bachelor to $1032 for a 1-bedroom, and books range from $200-$500 per semester (the Osgoode Legal and Literary Society has a great service for buying and selling used books—http://legalandlit.ca/books/). Add living expenses, housing, and the like. Osgoode’s website offers a sample budget, but it’s quite generic. My suggestion is to create a budget and try to stick to it. You have two quantitative goals for the next 4 years: first, obtain the highest grades possible, and second, accumulate as little debt as possible. My budget for this upcoming year (Osgoode tuition, 3rd year) is $35k, much of which is covered by an Ontario Graduate Scholarship I received, Schulich bursaries, my summer job income, and some parental support. I’m also an Osgoode Chambers (OC) residence fellow which affords me a stipend. Financially, I did get lucky this upcoming year; the 2012/2013 year I had a lot less support. See section 3 for scholarship/bursary information.
Most banks offer ~$80k lines of credit to incoming law students. Osgoode has a partnership with a nearby RBC branch. I went to Scotiabank, and my LOC is prime+.5% (3.5% annually). Principal is not due for repayment until a year after you graduate. Scotia offers JD/MBA students $110k. Hopefully, you won’t need this much, but considering my budget it’s not too far off the mark.
If you’re struggling with finances, the key contacts are Anne Caulfield/Amanda Barnes at Schulich and Penny Spence at Osgoode. “Money Penny” Spence will greet you at orientation and preach the virtue of two practices: (1) keeping up to date with deadlines and (2) living frugally. Make sure you’re up to date with the plethora of emails they send out, and apply for as much as you can. Volunteer, get involved, and do well in your courses. As for living frugally, it will really stand you in good stead. If you’re living in the OC, we’re planning Zipcar trips to Superstore on Tuesday nights (students get 10% off). Save on groceries by shopping on sale, bringing competitor flyers to price match, and if you’re really keen, use coupons. There’s this cute app I just discovered called Checkout 51 that makes couponing easy. Okay, so I’m kind of cheap, but these little tricks will save you thousands over four years. Remember the golden rule of compound interest—it works against you on those student loans! Oh, and car insurance is killer expensive in Toronto—selling your car will also save you big time. Using the Zipcars on campus is easier and much cheaper. Besides, you’re going to have your nose in the books most of the time, not trekking around North York in your Volvo.
I would NOT recommend working during 1L—the workload is pure madness and you will burn out. Working during 1MBA might have been feasible, but although less intellectually rigorous, Schulich group projects and assignments do take a lot of time. The money I would have made (ie. working 8 hours every Saturday) would not be worth the added stress. On the other hand, some students do small jobs around the school: profs are always on the lookout for research assistants and Osgoode offers part-time jobs doing various things (ie. my residence fellow position, for example) in exchange for a stipend.
The magic of the joint degree is that in your last two years, you can apply to both schools for funding. This makes quite a difference! If you’re fresh out of undergrad and indebted, you’re lucky in a perverse kind of way. Osgoode is notorious for being stingy, and really does focus on “need,” which will benefit those who are indebted. They frisk you pretty well for supporting documentation on your financial situation. I worked for two years post-undergrad and had no debt as a result. I was awarded a mere $1,000 scholarship and zilch in bursaries. Fill out Osgoode’s financial assessment form and they’ll estimate how much you’ll be awarded. Schulich does give its own bursaries, which are much easier to get for people like me. The usual amount is $2k in bursaries per semester (except for your 1L year). Schulich does things differently—they simply ask “how much you’re willing to spend”—it’s a bit odd. You can see how this affects the amount of funding you receive. If my memory serves, you must apply for a line of credit and OSAP (even though OSAP never gives me anything) to be eligible for grants.
Both schools offer continuing as well as entrance scholarships (based mainly on grades, LSAT scores, volunteer involvement etc). Schulich has large entrance scholarships (I was awarded $10k my first year) which are again, easier to get. This is in part because Schulich seems to have more money, and in part because MBA students are obviously much older on average than law students, and have more substantial resources.
Here comes another curveball that you weren’t expecting: the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund (OSOTF) Guidelines. Many scholarships and bursaries at both schools require that students …this is from the Schulich website… “have lived for a minimum 12-month period prior to the start of their study period are eligible to apply for these awards. In addition, students must be either Canadian Citizens or Landed Immigrants.” This obviously has implications for those of you coming from out of province, but don’t be discouraged, I know a girl from Nova Scotia who got a ton of Osgoode bursaries. Look at the list of scholarships and bursaries for each school and see which ones you’re eligible for (I was an Ontario resident so I’m not super well-versed on how out-of-province students are treated—contact the schools for more details). Another tax side-note: you can claim your moving expenses if you’re coming from over 40 km away. This I know for sure: a large proportion of Schulich students are international (while almost all students at Oz are domestic)—and international students don’t qualify for most scholarships and bursaries!! All the more juicy MBA grants to go around for the rest of us.
4) Applying to the other school during 1L or 1MBA
If you want to test the waters before committing to the joint program, you can start in either law or business and apply to the program (by applying to the other school) during your first year. There’s a few disadvantages to doing this. First, I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s harder to get in this way. I question whether this is in fact true. Your first-year grades will likely be evaluated. If you’re at Osgoode, these grades are invariably lower than your undergrad grades, so keep this in mind. Second, you wouldn’t be considered a graduate student until you get admitted to the program. This means you lose out on a few perks like the printing credit and the chance to apply for OGS for the year.
5) On which side should I start? (4-year program)
Years 1 and 2 are interchangeable: when you’re accepted to the program, you’re given the option of which school you chose to attend first. This is quite a debatable topic. Most start at Osgoode; I was the exception. My decision was based on two factors: (1) Schulich offered me the scholarship, which I would have lost if I had attended Osgoode first (2) by beginning at Osgoode in year 2, you graduate with your 1L class; people with whom you tend to get pretty chummy with (Osgoode puts you in one of four “sections,” which you’re with for the year—Schulich does something similar, but its “cohorts” last only for the first semester). Most people, myself included, applied to the MBA as more of an afterthought, after applying to various law schools across the country. This is probably why most chose to start at Osgoode. However, all your friends from your 1L section and 1MBA cohort will graduate a year before you do. Of course, this might work to your advantage if you have friends who made it into the law firms/companies you’re gearing for. One little known advantage of starting at Osgoode is that Torys, a prominent law firm that consistently hires JD/MBAs, will only hire students that have started at Osgoode for 1L positions (they want a full first year law transcript). On the other hand, your chances of securing banking/consulting summer jobs are much higher if you commence with the MBA.
6) The three-year program and tax planning
If I regret anything, it would probably be that I was too late to apply to the three year program. For the three-year, you begin study in the summer semester at Schulich, then start law school in the fall, and then complete your second semester at Schulich the next summer. If you’re the type that likes to study in the hot weather, and wants to get the program over with, this is a great option. It makes OGS even more valuable, since you’re actually entitled to $15k if you take summer school. The option might appeal to more mature students who have adequate work experience. For those of us who live on campus, it’s much easier to keep the same apartment for two years, rather than move downtown (as I do) every summer. There’s no need to stress about securing a summer job (which can be hard to find in early years of the program—see part 6 below). Disadvantages include, well, studying in the summer for one, foregone potential valuable summer work experience, and the somewhat meager selection of Schulich summer offerings. Schulich tends to be a bit easier than Osgoode, and you’ll still have a few weeks of vacation in between terms to enjoy the summer a bit.
For those tax-savvy accounting folks, there’s obviously a tax advantage of earning money over the summer months as most income is covered by the federal and provincial base exemption amounts. If I were to make $20,000 this summer, for example, the basic exemptions plus the Canada employment credit (non-refundable tax credits) cover over half of this amount, plus appropriate deductions for things like metropasses, EI premiums, CPP contributions, and medical expenses. Throw in your massive pile of education credits (most of which you’ll carry forward, or transfer to a parent) and you’re paying no tax whatsoever. That $20,000 is free and in the clear, and you’re accruing RRSP contribution room at 18%, which you can contribute in any year (or simply let it accumulate) and deduct in later high-earning years. I’m not a tax professional, so double-check this with the CRA. It’s just some added food for thought in deciding between the 3 and 4 year options.
7) Finding summer jobs
For those who have work experience, it will probably be a bit easier to find summer jobs. On both the law and business sides, they can be hard to find. Companies actually lose money on interns; the cost of hiring, training, and paying us will be much higher than the productivity we generate. Keep this in mind—the purpose of these programs is to test and groom students for future full-time positions. This can throw a big wrench into prospects for those doing the four-year program, with so much school left to complete. I tried to gloss this fact over, but employers often see right through this. Why hire me instead of a straight MBA who would graduate 8 months later?
I had two years of work experience in wealth management administration and equities trading before coming into the program. I also have the CSC and CPH securities designations. This, combined with fairly high MBA grades secured me plenty of interviews for the capital markets jobs. I was really discouraged in that I wasn’t extended any offers my first summer. The frustrating bit is that a lot of these jobs will go to undergrads who specialize in finance, and have three years of modeling and DCF calculations under their belt. When I was interviewing, I had only had 2 weeks of finance, since it’s taught in second semester of the standard first year timetable. I regret not taking finance in my first semester and not waiving Economics (my advice is to do so if you took undergrad courses in micro and macro). Just because a course is at the MBA level does NOT mean that it’s harder than undergraduate courses—it may in fact be easier. MBA courses attempt to give you a broad-level understanding of business topics in order to train managers, rather than number-crunching junior analysts. MBA courses tend to be less quantitative than BBA courses.
Capital markets and consulting positions are the most prized summer gigs—and highly competitive. The banks/consulting firms receive massive quantities of resumes, and the selection process is highly subjective. My resume was chosen for some jobs in my first year, and not in my second year (despite more schooling, better marks, and more experience). Now, this could be because a recruiter remembered me and thought “oh, this guy was terrible” but lot of firms have different people doing the recruiting year over year, and I’m convinced there’s a high level of arbitrariness involved.
Applications are done on Schulich’s Careerquest. Polish up your resume over the Christmas holidays, but wait until your first semester grades are posted until you apply. On the Osgoode side, applications are done on LegalEase (OLE). Osgoode grades come out a lot later (and well after most other Ontario schools) and thus 1Ls have only a few days to apply. Have your cover letter and resume ready for when grades are released. Not to discourage people, but 1L jobs are terribly difficult to get. Law firms place a lot of emphasis on grades; the unofficial word on the street is that you should have 2 As (out of three courses: Contracts, Torts, and Criminal) to be considered. 2L recruitment, also known as On Campus Interviews (OCIs) is a much bigger process. It’s a very regimented affair, with representatives from the firms coming up for a sort-of speed dating session. I go through this process in the fall. 1L grades matter a great deal. Law resumes are two pages, business resumes are one. Cover letters shouldn’t be longer than a page.
There are two approaches for applying to jobs (this section applies more to business gigs): first is what I call the shotgun approach. Apply to everything that even remotely matches your interests and/or skill set, which a generic resume and cover letter. I somewhat tailor my cover letters to suit the business unit, but generally simply swap the words “TD Securities” for “RBC Capital Markets” and then to “CIBC World Markets” etc. The second specific approach is to apply only for the particular roles you think you’re best qualified for, showing the employer that you’re specifically dedicated to one aspect of the business. While the career advisors typically tend to favour the latter approach, I’m convinced that the shotgun is the way to go. Some undergrad was once astonished that I had interviewed with TD for both investment banking and sales & trading. “You’re not supposed to do that,” he said. “It shows them that you have no direction.”
I think this is bollocks, for two reasons. First, resumes are evaluated by different people in different lines of business. None of my TD interviewers had any idea that I interviewed with their colleagues. Banks are behemoths: the only individual I saw more than once over my two years of applications was the secretary at TD Securities reception. Second, when applying to my former employer (one of the big five banks) I tended to put a bit more effort into how I fit in so well with that bank’s vision and that I’d love to return in a new capacity, dropping names along the way. These letters were masterpieces, and got me nowhere. In fact, my former employer was the only big 5 bank NOT to interview me in capital markets, despite my contacts and glowing reference letters. Interviewing is a high-stakes game of musical chairs, where many are called and few are chosen.
Work experience matters a bit more in business than it does in law, but grades are still very important for the coveted positions. Application deadlines are in the early days of January and interviews begin soon after. Capital Markets interviews come first, then consulting, then other banking/marketing jobs. When your resume is selected, many firms with come to the Career Development Office and interview you for a first round, otherwise invite you to their offices downtown. Some will host a dinner or cocktail party in advance. The reasoning is that they want to observe you and get to know you in a less formal setting prior to interviewing you, but personally, I find it irritating having to schedule dinners and soirees downtown in addition to interviews and your regular coursework. Thankfully, the first two weeks of January (interview-mania time) are dedicated to Ethical Lawyering, Osgoode’s only non-substantive/fluffy class. I hardly went to the lectures, and put very little effort into the class. You have to pick your battles sometimes: I found a summer job to be more important than learning how to be ethical….
During interview-mania, students from out of town are at a real disadvantage—they can miss up to two weeks of classes. I used to be very reserved and professional during these “pre-interviews,” refusing anything alcoholic and keeping the conversation focused on the job. For first rounds, your interviewers are often junior/mid level people. Most firms try to send employees who’ve graduated from your same school. Read your interviewers. If they’re ordering beers, do the same. You want to seem professional, but also be able to create personal rapport with these people. They want to hire candidates that they get along with, and with whom they can go for a beer with after work. Obviously, don’t get drunk but do let loose a bit. Interviews are usually the next day, and that’s your chance to come off as professional as possible.
Capital markets (I-banking, S+T, Counterparty Credit) interviewers will grill you on market fundamentals, bond yield curves, debt/equity financing, valuation metrics, and the like. Study in advance. I prepared a highlighted cheatsheet with basic calculations and terms. Consulting “case” interviews are a strange kind of simulation experience, where you’re presented with a business problem, and you’ll have to ask pertinent questions of your interviewer and work towards a business strategy for a fictional company. I’ve heard of oddball questions being asked such as… “how many gumballs would fit into a Boeing 747?” What matters is your thought process in coming to your solution. A multitude of guides are available to prepare for case interviews. Schulich’s Career Development people are quite helpful—they’ll help with resume writing and mock interviews. Callbacks are fast. If you haven’t heard anything by a few days later, you’re probably out of luck. Some firms will send a “thanks for coming” email weeks later. Some will call. This year I got a “no” call an hour after I left the interview. Guess I really blew that one.
Once you’re past the first round, you’ll be interviewed in the second round by the “bigger guns:” higher-level managers and VPs. This may be a “speed dating” series of 30 minute interviews with four managers, or a two-on-one interview. Sometimes they’ll try to trip you up by throwing you oddball questions. Scotia once asked me: “what’s 99 times 99?” Whoa, right out of left field. A VP at TD asked me what makes a Bermudan option different from a North American/European option. I went blank, and pictured a hula dancer with coconut shells trading options for pineapples. I used this story at a subsequent TD interview, got a hearty laugh, and sailed through to the second round. A sense of humor differentiates you from the others. Try to know the firm well, and know what makes it different from its competitors. Know the name of the CEO, the key executives, recent acquisitions/events, and the company’s share price history. Try to persuade interviewers why you would fit well within the firm’s culture. This can be tricky: among the big five banks, for example, there’s not really a huge difference. If you’re participated in CIBC’s Run for the Cure, that would be a great talking point. It sounds a lot less cheesy than “I bank with TD and I love how you’re open on Sundays.” In my experience, I’ve never really worked for a company in which a distinct corporate culture permeates throughout the organization. The culture, in my opinion, really depends on the business unit and your particular co-workers. This is debatable, of course.
If you’ve made it to the second round, all candidates are assumed to be qualified on paper for the job. Don’t take it personally if you’re turned down. Sometimes, you’ll slip up on a question, despite your preparation. Sometimes other candidates will create better rapport with interviewers. It’s a tough knock to make it all the way to the end, and get turned down, but it will happen. Take your knocks, but also any feedback that is provided (you usually have to ask and sometimes you’ll get a rather flippant response), and move on to the next.
If nothing materializes, there’s no shame in working a serving job or something your first summer (that’s what I did), or going on exchange. Osgoode has short-term summer exchanges (for credit) to schools in Germany, Israel, and the ever-popular one to Prato, Italy. If you’re starting at Osgoode, I’ll be honest: the 1L summer job situation is bleak. Only the top students get in. I didn’t even apply. This is a big reason why the three-year program is so popular.
There aren’t really opportunities exclusive to JD/MBA students. There are a scant few that are targeted to us, like the McCarthy Tetreau-sponsored internships unveiled this year. My good JD/MBA friend got one; he’s working for RBC this summer. He enjoys it, but the internships pay a mere $10k stipend for a three month stint. That’s not terrible, but 1L and OCI law jobs pay much better, as do MBA jobs. It looks great on a resume, though, and gives you a month to enjoy your summer or go on one of Osgoode’s summer exchanges.
8) The learning experience and quality of the schools
I’m a bit of an odd duck: I prefer business and finance to law, but I MUCH preferred law school over business school. It sounds strange, but I prefer the structure and substance of legal studies and find I get much more out of them. Law school is an incredible challenge and your learning curve is exponential. As for the MBA, I found many of the introductory courses too basic. My advice is to try to waive as many of these as you can so that you’re able to focus on your area of interest.
All in all, the degree keeps the doors open in both business and law, and gives you an integrated perspective as to the interplay between the two disciplines. MBA school will be easier (many JD/MBAs get straight As at Schulich), more group-focused, but more “fluffy.” Since I have experience in business and killer business grades, I focused on MBA recruiting—this summer I’m working for one of the big banks. For me, it’s an ideal combo. I only wish my Osgoode grades were better and my intro Schulich courses more substantive.
Another important point: if you’re fresh out of undergrad, you’ll be taking classes with 20-30-something professionals, but don’t let this unnerve you—you’ll still in study mode while some of these people haven’t been in school for years and have completely forgotten how to sit exams and write papers (as for the latter, many never learned in the first place!). Your first year cohort will be comprised of Engineers, Science and IT people, some of whom are doing the MBA to move up the ranks within their profession, while others are seeking a full career switch. Many are ESL and bear the difficult task of adjusting to Canadian culture. If you have any experience/education in business, economics or even reading Globeinvestor, you’re likely already more familiar with the material than your colleagues. Schulich offers the “Flying Start” a week-long intensive program prior to the MBA. It costs quite a bit; and in my opinion is unnecessary. You’ll learn in your classes; that’s why you’re paying $30k per year. Enjoy the week of summer and apply yourself during the year. I find the whole “school before school” courses (I call it pre-school) to be a cash-grab. Of course, I didn’t take LSAT prep courses either.
9) Job prospects for JD/MBAs
Most JD/MBAs are aiming for Bay Street, in some capacity. I have experience in trading and wealth management, so the MBA was a natural fit. Don’t worry about having a clear vision—very few people do, even at my stage in the program. Your career path will develop over time, and the best you can do is make educated choices and try to enjoy the somewhat bumpy ride.
Employers are becoming more familiar with the program, especially on the law side. Most are impressed—it’s a pretty powerhouse degree. There’s also quite a tight-knit network among those in our program. On the other hand, some interviewers may question your dedication to their particular field of work. Loyalty is prized, especially among law firms. This seems rather narrow-minded to me: simply because one is more educated and has a quite variety of prospects, it seems rather short-sighted to turn them away. After all, a top-notch lawyer will also have other prospects among other firms. Thankfully, most employers realize this, and that as an MBA you’ll have greater insight into their business strategy, not only their legal concerns. All in all, I’d say we have a definite edge going up for Bay St jobs, but the program itself won’t make up for poor grades. When applying to business jobs, I market myself and tailor my resume toward business, and change the acronym to MBA/JD, as if to show that the law degree was kind-of tacked-on. It’s a bit silly, but there you have it.
A common trajectory for JD/MBAs is articling, working as a legal associate, then moving either in-house with a big corporation or moving into an executive, non-law position. Some will stay in law their entire careers. The degree really is a long-term play; despite your extra year (or extra two years versus a straight MBA) you’re likely not going to earn a higher salary than a straight-MBA or straight-JD coming right out of school. While a few will move straight into business (if offered a fancy capital markets, consulting gig, etc) almost all will sit the bar and become lawyers (otherwise why go to law school?). The great thing about the degree is its malleability: it opens many doors, rather than specific ones. That’s why I call it the most conservative of all degrees. I’m pretty sure the unemployment rate among our alumni is pretty much nil. If you’re an ambitious type, and most of us are, the degree will give you a diverse skill set and credibility to work your way quickly up the ranks.
10) Final thoughts
I hope this information has been useful. I’ll leave you with one thought that I’ve found consistently true, as highlighted by my experiences above. Your journey through Osgoode/Schulich will be mired in stress and uncertainty. Grades/hiring decisions that seem to make or break your career will take you by surprise, and will often be unexpected or unfair. Law exams themselves are a virtual case study on arbitrary grading; sometimes a difference between full letter grades is a mere sentence, term, or punctuation mark (remember the infamous Rogers case that hinged on the placing of a comma?) that you might not think is relevant. The whole process is far from “fair” and sometimes you’ll scratch your head when you learn which of your classmates got the best grades, scholarships and job offers. There is a high degree of arbitrariness and subjectivity in all this–since most of us at this level are vehement overachievers, we often try to seek an explanation as to where we went wrong, and how to improve. Sometimes, there’s simply no answer. Recall my OGS story: the same application, seen by a different pair of eyes, made a $10,000 difference. The best you can do is apply yourself, keep all doors open, and always look out for the next opportunity.
Final Thoughts on Law School
"People talk about all the scary things about law school, but the truth is....it's the most fun thing in the World. This is when students take on a whole new vocabulary. Literally Dozens of new analytic tools. This is when your brain gets strong."
~Elizabeth Warren, The Trials of Law School