I’m going to be brutally honest — I don’t like tax law. Although my professor is charismatic and engaging, I don’t think I would like tax even if Brad Pitt was teaching it to me. In the upper years of law school, there are no mandatory courses, so why enrol in tax law? The answer is pragmatic: I want to be prepared for the Ontario bar exams.
Most 1L and 2L students don’t focus too much on the impending bar exams. I can understand why — just reading about them makes me feel intimidated and a little woozy. It was only recently that the prospect of writing the exams began to affect the way I approached my legal education. As upper-year students have free range to take any courses they choose, there are some courses that appeal to small niche interests, such as the colloquiums on environmental or labour law, and other courses that have more widespread applicability, such as administrative law. Additionally, there are those courses such as tax, business associations, and family that will undoubtedly prove helpful when studying for the bar. This semester, when selecting my courses, I made sure to have at least one core area covered (thus my biweekly tax terrors).
Before selecting my courses, as usual, I consulted many of my third-year friends. I found that there are different schools of thought on course selection. Some advised me that it would be wise to take courses that are directly applicable to the bar exams. Due to the breadth of the exams, any information that you can acquire in advance can only be advantageous. Others said that I was better to take courses that interest me and were tailored to my future career path in law. The Law Society of Upper Canada provides students with study materials prior to the exams and therefore, as long as you have a good study technique, there is no need to take specific courses ahead of time. I resolved this issue by taking the middle road between these two divergent opinions.
Personally, I have a social science background and am interested in labour and employment law. Assessing my strengths and weaknesses, I asked myself what I would be able to self-teach and what areas I might struggle with. I concluded that it would be beneficial to take tax and business associations. Learning from some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the country ought to give me a head start on studying. My other courses, discrimination in the law and labour arbitration, were selected purely on interest and I’m loving every minute.
The Ontario bar exam consists of two self-study, open-book examinations: the solicitor exam and the barrister exam. They share the same premise, being that they test entry-level capabilities for practising law effectively and ethically. Each exam is seven hours in length, divided equally into two 3.5-hour sessions. The exams are formatted into 240 multiple-choice questions assessing candidates on a broad range of subjects. The questions are intended to test one’s knowledge and comprehension of the law generally, ability to apply the law to specific fact situations, and ability to think critically. I’m sure it will come as a great relief to all law students that there are no “none of the above” or “all of the above” answers. Each question will have one definite best answer (phew!).
Not having written the bar exams yet, the best advice I can give is to check out the exam contents on the law society’s web site [http://www.lsuc.on.ca/LicensingExaminations/]. There are many sample questions provided; I attempted a few and nearly had a heart attack so be sure to approach them with caution and maybe an aspirin nearby!