First Year Academic Program

NOTE: beginning in the 2014-2015 Academic Year, the First Year Academic Program was substantially revised.

Incoming students should have a look at the following document that explains how the new First Year Academic Program will work:

As well, have a look at the explanatory video (YouTube) featuring Associate Dean, First Year Students, Prof. Ben Alarie explaining the new curriculum.

First Year Requirements

Academic Orientation:  Legal Methods

Required Courses

The first year curriculum consists of the following required courses:

  • Legal Methods (2-week long intensive course before first term)
  • Constitutional Law (first or second term)*
  • Contract Law (first or second term)*
  • Criminal Law (first or second term)*
  • Property Law (first or second term)*
  • Tort Law (first or second term)*
  • Legal Research and Writing (first term only)
  • Legal Process, Professionalism and Ethics ("LPPE") (second term only)
  • Legal Research and Writing (first term only)

*every student will have one core course that meets in the small group format.  The small group class will be a full year course.

There is no course selection in first year. First Year course descriptions (PDF).

Legal Research and Writing

Acquiring basic legal research and writing skills is a vital component of a well-rounded legal education.  First year students will successfully complete a 2-credit, 24 hour course on legal research and writing.  The Faculty believes that, in order to be effective, instruction on legal research and writing must be tied to a substantive area of law.  Therefore, further legal research and writing instruction is tied to our course offerings in the small groups.

The Law Library has also created an extensive online legal research and writing tutorial available to law students 24 hours per day via e.Legal, the Library's intranet. (Students will be given their username and password to e.Legal in early September, if not earlier)  Additional resources can be found at: http://wwww.law-lib.utoronto.ca.

Legal research and writing in upper years is provided through the Advanced Legal Research and Writing elective, involvement in moot competitions, working on law reviews or journals, working as a faculty research assistant and ongoing computer lab training.

Class Sizes and Formats

To increase pedagogical innovation, the sizes of the classes in which students take their courses vary across the first year program.  Each student will take:

  • Five of their courses in a section of approximately 60 to 90 students
  • One of their courses in a small group of approximately 18-20 students

Students will receive their class assignments in their orientation materials.

Each first-year student studies one of their courses in a small group, which allows for close, personal interaction with fellow students and a law professor. Small groups meet for 3 hours per week in both terms, which allows for more in-depth discussion. The intimate environment of the small group also provides students with a greater opportunity to complete and obtain feedback on written work, as well as gain exposure to the basics of legal research. There will also be a customized session on legal research and writing specifically geared to help you with your small group research assignment(s). 

Attendance

Attendance is particularly important in first year. Students are expected to attend class on a regular basis. Students who are absent for a lengthy period due to illness or personal circumstances should inform the Assistant Dean, J.D. Program.  Any student whose attendance at lectures or whose work is, in the opinion of the Faculty, deemed unsatisfactory, may, at any time, have his or her registration cancelled and be refused admission to lectures and examinations.

Overview of Evaluation in the First Year Program

Large Sections

Faculty Rules mandate that evaluation in the large sections include:

  • a final exam worth at least 60% of the grade (and up to 100% of the grade)

Students may write a one-hour December test in their small group sections.  The tests will count for 20% of the student's final examination mark only if it is to the student's advantage to do so.  In effect, this means that a failure on the December test will not affect the student's final mark in the class.  The purpose of these tests is to provide interim feedback to students.  It is expected that instructors will grade December tests and return them by the end of the first teaching week in the second term. In this way, any problems which a student is experiencing can be identified, and hopefully resolved, before the second term is under way.

Legal Process, Professionalism and Ethics ("LPPE")

Instructors have considerable latitude in terms of the method of evaluation on LPPE. 

Small Groups

Faculty Rules mandate that evaluation in the small groups:

  • be "substantially comprised of written work"
  • include a "substantial research component" (e.g. a research memo)
  • be of roughly equivalent weight across small groups.

Evaluation will vary from small group to small group, but Faculty rules mandate that student workload be roughly equivalent across the small groups.  Instructors may require a December test and/or April examination, but are not required to do so.  Aside from graded assignments, instructors may ask students to complete optional ungraded assignments