Study Law in French | Étudiez le droit en français

If you’re bilingual and looking at continuing to work in both official languages in the future, consider studying Common Law in French!

In Canada, several universities including the University of Ottawa and McGill offer French Common Law degrees, while numerous other universities also offer French Civil Law Degrees.

For this article, we sat down with University of Ottawa French Common Law student Amélye Paquette to ask about her experience studying law in French!

1) Tell us about your school and program! 

I am a student at the University of Ottawa in the combined program of political science and Juris Doctor, I will be graduating in 2020. My program is fully taught and assessed in French, apart from five classes that I can take over the course of my degree that are allowed to be in English.

2) Why did you choose to study in French? 

A big part of why I chose to study in French is because I have always done my schooling in French, all the way from elementary school up until university. I chose the University of Ottawa specifically because of its unique combined French Common Law and Political Science program and because I believed that being in the National Capital as a fully bilingual political science and law student would be beneficial for my career goals.

3) What advantages have you experienced in being bilingual in the legal field? 

I can definitely say that my bilingualism has helped me gain employment as it is considered an asset – especially in Ottawa. I recently had the opportunity to work in a smaller law firm in a bilingual community (Orleans) and I noticed that the French community is still very present. I was able to help people who had a hard time understanding English legal terms by translating it to them in French. They then had a much better understanding of what their role as a client was, and what their lawyer’s role was in their matter so that they knew what to expect.

4) Do you see any shortcomings of your program? Do you think this program limits you in any way? 

I can’t see any shortcomings of my program, and I definitely don’t think my program limits me in any way. I think my program actually does a lot for me – it gives me two diplomas (my undergraduate degree and law degree in a condensed time period), focuses on the French language in the legal community, and not to mention the fact that I am in school for 6 years, as opposed to 7 or more.

5) Are you intending to do the Civil law program as well? If so/if not, why? 

For the longest time, I didn’t see the purpose in doing the Civil law program as I wouldn’t, and didn’t want to, be practicing in Quebec. However, my experience of working in a law firm has showed me that the extra year may be worth it. Being close to the boarder of Quebec and being French would definitely give me many opportunities in my career.

6) What is your daily routine as a law student? How much time do you dedicate to studying on average? 

As a law student, my daily routine is never really the same. However, after every class, I review my class notes and kind of clean them up and “study” them at the same time. Our exams are all open book, and they are all worth 100%…and all within 2 weeks (or so). By the end of the semester it’s safe to say that I have over 100 pages of class notes for every single class. Studying them and reviewing them ahead of time just makes it a lot more feasible once exam season comes around.

So, I would say that I dedicate, easily, around an hour after every class to review the material we went over in class by making sure I understand the theory and the cases we covered. If there is something unclear I usually make note of it, try to understand it by re-reading the cases, otherwise I email the prof – they are always super helpful!

7) How do you feel about working during law school? What has your experience been like maintaining a social life at the same time?

Working during law school is probably what works best for me. I have always worked during school and I believe that it has helped me keep me sane! I work in the restaurant industry and it’s the only time where I can fully get my mind off of homework, or anything school related for that matter. I also had the experience of working in an office while in school – I would say that it is a little more challenging just because of the hours however, it still allows you to escape from school work.

As for the social life, you become friends with the people you see on a day-to-day basis and you can always find time for friends outside of law school as well. Maintaining a social life, working and being in school is definitely a challenge, but I wouldn’t want it any other way – it is what works for me, but I also know many people who prefer to not work while in school as well, it is just a matter of preference.

The main thing you need to remember is to have balanced life and to keep doing what you love while also making sure to take care of yourself and your own mental health.

8) What advice do you have for students who want to study law? Specifically those wanting to study in French?

General Advice: As much as law school may be stressful, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and never be afraid to ask questions or get help – and to not get caught up in the competition aspect of law school, just stay concentrated on yourself and your own work. Also don’t forget that you can go to law school without necessarily becoming a lawyer. There are lots of other career opportunities that a law degree can help you achieve.

Advice to those wanting to study in French: I think studying in French is really beneficial for everyone who decides to do so, regardless of where you want to work. And I strongly encourage everyone considering it to study in French.

If you’re bilingual in French and English and hoping to purse a degree and career in law, then this may be the right program for you!

For full admission criteria and more information, please visit each individual law school’s webpage or contact their admissions department.