Common Law Section

Common Law Section Programs
Contact Information
Fauteux Hall
57 Louis Pasteur St
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 6N5

General Information:
(613) 562-5794
(613) 562-5124


(613) 562-5800 ext.3270
(613) 562-5124



The objective of the Common Law Section is to provide a full service legal education, complemented by areas of specialization that reflect our faculty strengths and our location in the national capital. As a professional program, the Section prepares students for entrance to the practice of law or other careers in the public and private sectors where a legal education is required or beneficial. As an academic program, the Section is committed to providing students with intellectual development consistent with their strong academic background. These professional and intellectual objectives are achieved in a manner which is mindful of the privilege and power often accorded to lawyers in our society. Our students are future leaders. Our programs concentrate on more than just the letter of the law. We address the spirit of the law and the ideal of justice. In our view, it is the duty of the program to respect and promote the full range of diversity reflecting the multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-racial characteristics of the women and men in our programs and in Canadian society.

Programs Leading to the JD

There are three main avenues leading to the common law JD degree:

  1. English Common Law, which accepts each year approximately 200 entering students;

  2. French Common Law, which accepts each year approximately 50-60 entering students; and

  3. National Program, which admits each year approximately 60 Canadian civil law graduates for a one year common law program.

Each program is offered over three distinct and compulsory terms: the fall term from September to December, the January term over the first three weeks of January, and the winter term from February to April.

The curriculum and academic requirements in the French and English common law programs are essentially the same. The French common law program is one of only two programs of this type in the world. It is designed to respond to the needs of Franco-Ontarians for both French legal education and legal services, and also to train Francophones from other provinces. French program students must take all their compulsory courses and at least 75% of their upper year courses in French, French being the language of instruction and evaluation.

Students enrolling in the French or English program may take courses in the other language. The opportunity to study law in English and in French is one of the distinct advantages offered at the University of Ottawa. Students may also enroll in courses offered by our sister Civil Law Section. National Program students are fully bilingual and take some courses in English and others in French. Students able to practice law in both Canadian official languages, who are familiar with both common law and civil law, have a distinct advantage in Canada's national market and in the international global economy.

First Year

Small Group Courses

All first year students take one of their substantive law courses in a small group format. The small group course includes legal writing and legal research training, including training in computer assisted research. The small group format ensures that all students have the opportunity to get to know their colleagues well, to participate in meaningful classroom discussion and to enjoy continuous feedback from the professor. Small writing assignments and regular critique and assessment by the professor are part of the small group experience. Each small group is invited to meet with the Dean of the Common Law Section and a judge or senior lawyer for an informal exchange of impressions and experiences during the first year program. Students in the English program may receive their small group instruction in one of the French courses. This option is available to students who wish to maintain or improve their French language skills and to develop the capacity to practice law in both official languages.

Conflict Resolution Studies in the First Year Curriculum

The Common Law Section has adopted a three week intensive teaching term, known as the January term, during which each student is required to take one course only.

In first year, the intensive January course is Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility. This 2 credit course draws on substantive law taught in first year Contracts, Torts, Property, and Public Law and Legislation to introduce approaches to dispute resolution. Through exercises and simulations, students learn interviewing skills, the advantages and limitations of different dispute resolution processes, negotiation preparation and techniques for resolving disputes and building new agreements, client representation in a mediation and the basics of arbitration. Ethical practice issues are also explored.

Six hours of classes and exercises in the fall term introduce the foundation framework for dispute resolution: surfacing the interests that underlie a client’s position. Web based assignments and exercises and a teaching assistant chat line provide continued practice and learning between classes. The January term is then devoted to immersing students in dispute resolution studies. There are no other first year classes or assignments during this three week time period. This is a very exciting time at the law school, as we typically have over 50 practitioners from Ottawa and the surrounding areas as guest lecturers, demonstrators, and simulation coaches for the more advanced student simulations.

First Year Academic Support

The Education Equity team plans an academic support program to help first year students in their transition to law school. Tutorial sessions are conducted in all first year courses by second and third year students who have a strong academic record, but also the required skills and empathy to respond to students' academic needs. Students who require a more structured environment to develop the useful legal skills benefit most from tutorial sessions. Skills‑based sessions are also offered to provide practice in analytical thinking and exam writing. The Section also encourages and supports study groups in second and third year, and ensures the proper infrastructure for continued peer support and collegiality among students.

Second and Third Year Courses

Two upper year courses are mandatory: Civil Procedure and Constitutional Law II. Moreover each student is required to prepare a major paper and to choose one advocacy course among various options.In addition, registration in one optional course is mandatory during the intensive January term of both second and third year. The remaining credits are to be chosen from an extensive list of optional courses offered during the fall and winter terms.

Mandatory Courses

Of the 60 credits required in upper years, only Civil Procedure and the second Constitutional Law course, focusing on the division of powers, are mandatory. This provides students with the necessary flexibility to decide their program based on their needs and interests, while gaining a solid common law training.

Major Paper Requirement

Research and writing skills acquired in first year are applied and advanced through the mandatory major paper requirement. Each student must prepare a critical piece of legal research and draft a major paper similar in quality to a law review article. This requirement may be fulfilled in a good number of upper year courses or an independent research supervised by a faculty member. The major paper requirement allows students to engage in critical research and writing in an area of particular interest.
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Last updated: 2009.12.15