Fall 2021 FAQ for first-year BCL/JD students

FAQ for our incoming cohort / pour notre nouvelle cohorte.

This FAQ document was prepared and edited following the 1L Town Hall held in June 2021.

IMPORTANT: On 6 August 2021, Quebec's Minister of Education announced her Return to in-person classes plan for higher education institutions, so the information below will be amended to reflect the new guidelines. In the meantime, students should consult McGill's Return to Campus website for the latest directives.

A. Return to in-person teaching / Health & safety

  1. What should we expect in the Fall?
  2. Must we wear masks even if vaccinated?
  3. What happens if a student must self-isolate for 2 weeks?
  4. What happens if I'm not comfortable with in-person classes or have health issues?

1. What should 1Ls expect in the Fall, which classes are likely to be in person, and will it mandatory for students to be in Montreal?

12 August update: We are trying to make the 1L experience as similar as possible to what it has been pre-COVID, while recognizing that it cannot be identical.

Your courses will be taught in person, with the possible exception of some Orientation / Integration Week lectures and some Integration Workshop plenaries. The occasional lecture in a course (such as a guest lecturer or the three 1L sections are gathered for a plenary) may be online. As a result, you must be in Montreal for the Fall term.

Following the Quebec Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s announcement on 6 August regarding the Fall 2021 term, the Faculty is adjusting the class schedule to account for the fact that physical distancing will not be required in classrooms.

See McGill's article on the Changes in Course Schedules.

The struck-out text below is no longer relevant, following the announcements from provincial government.

We are trying to make the 1L experience as similar as possible to what it has been pre-COVID, while recognizing that it cannot be identical. We have scheduled first-year classes in classrooms that can accommodate 1-metre distancing, if it is required in September.

Most of your courses will be taught in person, with the possible exception of some Orientation / Integration Week lectures and some Integration Workshop plenaries. The occasional lecture in a course (such as a guest lecturer or the three sections are gathered for a plenary) may be online. As a result, you must be in Montreal for the Fall term.

To ensure first-year courses are taught in person even with 1-metre distancing, many sections of first-year classes will take place elsewhere on campus. First-year course sections are made up of 60–65 students, and the Faculty of Law does not have large enough classrooms to accommodate all of them if distancing is required.

So, for the Fall, first-year students will get some exercise and discover other parts of the lovely McGill campus! We will be back in Chancellor Day Hall classrooms in the Winter.

2. Must I wear a mask if I am vaccinated?

12 August update: Yes. Currently, all individuals on McGill campus are required to wear a procedural mask when entering or circulating in indoor shared spaces. There are a few exceptions allowing for the safe removal of masks while indoors on campus - learn more and see where you can get a procedural masks on campus.

Also, see McGill's article on Changes to physical distancing protocols and McGill's Student Health Guidelines, both dated 9 August 2021.

We do not know what the mask requirements will be. We will follow provincial government guidelines and these remain unknown at the moment. However, the guidelines will be the same whether you are vaccinated or not – there is no requirement to disclose your vaccination status.

At the beginning of term, when we are all easing back into teaching in person, professors may request that you wear masks in class, even if this is not government mandated. We hope that everyone will participate in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation.

3. What happens if a student is required to isolate for two weeks due to COVID-19 and must miss two weeks of classes?

12 August update: If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or think you have contracted COVID-19, please complete the form for McGill's COVID-19 Reporting Process. This questionnaire will guide you through the process for reporting your symptoms or diagnosis of COVID-19. Medical documentation will not be required.

Our Faculty is accustomed to accommodating students who need to miss classes in the short-term for health reasons. We also work closely with the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD).

Short-term accommodations for COVID-19-related issues will be handled on a case-by-case basis. McGill has put in place a process whereby any student requiring short-term academic considerations will have to submit a self-declaration form;

However, any student in this situation should contact the Student Affairs Office (sao.law [at] mcgill.ca) immediately. We will work with student and instructors to establish appropriate considerations.

4. If I have health issues or if I am not comfortable going to back in person in the fall, how will this be addressed?

This is a different – and much more fraught – situation.

McGill University has made it clear that students are expected to be present for in-person teaching in the Fall term. While some course materials may be available online, not everything will be. Instructors will not be expected to prepare different versions of their courses (e.g., a remote version and an in-person version) as an academic consideration.

This is not a question of “comfort”. Students can (and should) continue to wear masks even when not warranted, and maintain social distancing. Otherwise, students must comply with the usual in-person university programming.

A complete inability to come to campus for medical reasons must be raised immediately with the SAO (sao.law [at] mcgill.ca) as the student may need to adjust their registration status. 12 August update: Students are not to disclose their specific health condition to the SAO, as this will be handled by the Office for Students with Disabilities.

B. Registration

  1. How do I register and to which classes?
  2. When will we know to which group / professor we will be assigned?
  3. Minerva peut être lent quand beaucoup de personnes s'y connectent. Avez-vous des conseils?

1. How do I register and for which classes? Can 1L courses be taken either semester? Are the required 1Ls courses the only ones that can be taken in the first year? Can I take electives? 

  • An email regarding registration was sent out the week of July 5 preceding 1L registration, which opened on Minerva July 13 at 9:00.
  • See the Instructions on using Minerva, which include step-by-step instructions and a video.
  • The BCL/JD program requirements are located on the SAO web site https://www.mcgill.ca/law-studies/bcljd-studies/structure
  • The following mandatory 33 credits must be taken in your first year:
    • LAWG 103 Indigenous Legal Traditions - 3 Credits (fall)
    • PUB3 116 Foundations - 3 Credits (winter)
    • LAWG 100 Contractual Obligations - 6 Credits (fall & winter)
    • LAWG 101 Ex-Contractual Obligations/Torts - 6 Credits (fall & winter)
    • LAWG 102 Criminal Justice - 6 Credits (fall & winter)
    • PUB2 101 Constitutional Law - 6 Credits (fall & winter)
    • LAWG 110 Integration Workshop - 3 Credits
  • Tous les cours de première année sont obligatoires et s'étendent sur toute l'année, à l'exception du cours sur les traditions juridiques autochtones (Indigenous Legal Traditions), offert au semestre d'automne et le cours Fondements du droit (Foundations), offert au semestre d'hiver. Les personnes en première année doivent toutes prendre les cours obligatoires de première année.
  • For year-long courses (shown as D1 (fall)/D2(winter)), please register for the Fall assigned section, the corresponding Winter sections will be added automatically. You need to register for LAWG 103 Indigenous Legal Traditions in the Fall term and PUB3 116 Foundations in the Winter term.
  • For the LAWG 110 D1/D2 Integration Workshop course, please register for section 001, and later in the summer, you will be assigned to a Small Group Teaching section.
  • Additional details were provided in the email. There are no electives in year 1.

2. When will we know to which group / professor we will be assigned for registration?

  • All 1L students will be assigned to a specific Group. This Group will indicate the sections that have been pre-assigned to you, and to which you must register in the fall and winter. These are the only courses for which you may register.
  • You have been assigned to a specific English section for each first-year course, typically section 001 or 002.
    To take the course in English, you must register for your assigned section (you do not have a choice between English language sections). However, you can take any of your first-year courses in French by registering for the French section, typically section 003.
    N.B. Foundations and Indigenous Legal Traditions have four sections this year.
  • English language sections tend to fill up quickly, so register early if language of instruction is important to you. If you are unable to register for the language section of your choice, please register for the other language section that has been assigned to you. There is enough space in courses for all incoming 1Ls; however, if the English section assigned to you is full, you must register for the French section. You may not register for a section to which you are not assigned.

3. On nous a dit que lors de l'ouverture des inscriptions sur Minerva, il y a des délais et des retards en raison du grand nombre de connections simultanées. Notre cohorte doit-elle s'y préparer et, dans l'affirmative, avez-vous des conseils?

Les inscriptions sur Minerva ont ouvert le 13 juillet à 9h. Comme la cohorte de première année s'enregistre en même temps, il peut y avoir un certain retard sur le système. Connectez-vous sur Minerva avant 9h et ayez les informations de votre inscription et vos cours CRN en main. Si vous rencontrez des difficultés d'inscription, veuillez envoyer un courriel à SAO.law [at] mcgill.ca et indiquer votre identifiant McGill dans le courriel.

C. French language requirements

  1. Will I be in a French section? Do we have guaranteed access?
  2. I'd like to ease into French courses; which one should I take?
  3. How can I improve my French while at McGill?

1. Is it possible that 1L students will have to take a required course in a language section that they have not requested? Since all 1Ls must take the same courses in first year, will we have guaranteed access to all of the required courses on registration day?

All first-year students will be registered in all first-year courses (just not necessarily the sections of those courses they prefer). Note that you cannot choose your English section – you will be assigned to one of the professors teaching the course in English.

En raison des contraintes d’espace, il n’est pas toujours possible d’accommoder les préférences linguistiques en matière de cours. Il est donc possible que vous aurez un cours ou deux en français.

2. I’d like to ease into French by taking one French language course each semester. Which 1L course best lends itself to learning in French? What is it like for an anglophone taking a French course?

We cannot tell you which course would be best to take in your second language. It is a personal choice. While students can be anxious about trying a course in French, after they have taken one, they realize that it was not that difficult or stressful, and look back on the experience positively.

Il est important de savoir que la langue d’instruction n’affecte pas la langue des lectures (ni le fond du cours). Vous aurez à faire des lectures en anglais dans un cours en français et des lectures en français dans un cours en anglais.

If you want to take a course in French in which there will be more readings in English, we suggest that you take one of the public law courses, such as Constitutional Law. Those courses have more Supreme Court judgments in the materials, and all Supreme Court judgments are published bilingually. On the other hand, some students prefer to take a private law course in French where there are more French-language primary sources because the language of instruction and the source materials are in the same language.

Notre politique de bilinguisme passif vous permet d’intervenir en classe, de soumettre vos travaux écrits, de rédiger vos examens et de donner vos présentations orales dans la langue officielle de votre choix, quelle que soit la langue dans laquelle le cours est dispensé.

3. How can I improve my French while at McGill (courses, other opportunities)? Are there courses that focus on French in a legal context specifically?

There are a number of ways to improve your French while at McGill, such as through the French Language Centre. The Centre offers both student activities and courses.

After the first year, students may additionally take courses through the French Language Centre and earn credits that will count toward the 105 creditsneeded for the BCL/JD. Law students can take up to 6 non-law credits, and this can include a French language course.

Ceux et celles qui souhaitent étudier le français à McGill doivent d'abord passer un test de d’évaluation pour déterminer leur niveau.

All required Law courses have one section in French. The Faculty also offers a number of upper-year courses in French each year.

Lastly, students planning on writing l’École du Barreau du Québec exam should take advantage of our French course offerings.

D. Orientation and Frosh

  1. When (and what) is orientation, and when do classes start?
  2. What format will Frosh take?

1. When will orientation be and when will classes start? Are there introductory first-year activities planned for late August/early September?

The programming for the week of Monday, August 30 to Friday, September 2 will be a mix of Orientation and Integration Week activities. It is meant to be an introduction to the Faculty and to your legal studies. It is a mandatory week and the Integration Week is part of the Integration Workshop course. Regular first-year classes begin Tuesday, 7 September 2021.

We have organized this week by dividing the entering class into two groups of 90 students and repeating the programing twice for the two different groups. Some programming will be on-line.

2. Will Frosh be in person or online or mixed? Is it mandatory?

We are currently planning for Frosh. As the public health situation continues to improve, it is very likely that Frosh will mostly be in person. We are willing to have a mix of both in-person as well as online activities if there is an interest for it.

Whereas Orientation is mandatory for all 1L students, attending Frosh is not – just highly encouraged. Not only is it a loads of fun, but you’ll meet your peers and build long-lasting friendships.

Students always look back on Frosh as one of their most memorable moments of their law school journey, so we hope many of you will join in.

E. Preparing for law school

  1. What materials should I purchase?
  2. How do I prepare this summer for my first year?

1. What materials should 1L students buy before the start of the school year?

None really – course materials will be posted on the MyCourses website, which can be checked as we get closer to the start of classes. However, there is no need to get to any of these materials in advance.

We do not recommend incoming students getting an early start on reading legal texts for courses. Your professors have carefully thought about how best to introduce the materials in their courses. Learning about law is a gradual process and is best done under the guidance of your instructors. Instead, enjoy your summer.

2. How should I prepare this summer for my first year of Law school?

Incoming candidates do not need to do anything specific to prepare for their first year of law school, other than to have a good summer! Some recommendations include developing and setting good eating, sleeping and self-care habits.

That being said, if there are areas you are passionate about that connect to what you expect to study, by all means, stoke those passions.

If you do not have a general background in Canadian history and government, it might be helpful for you to read up on that over the summer.

F. Degree planning

  1. What kinds of extra-curriculars can I take?
  2. What are the Majors, Minors and Honours programs?
  3. What are the joint programs?
  4. Can I take an elective in second year?
  5. Are "Focus Week Workshops" and/or graduate courses mandatory to the program?
  6. Can I complete the BCL/JD program in three years?
  7. How can enrich my BCL/JD program?
  8. Can I change my grade to S/U?

1. What extra-curricular opportunities are available to first years?

Student are encouraged to get involved in the community and beyond. There are a number of possibilities, such as:

2. What are the major/minor/honour programs?

BCL/JD students can apply for either of our two Majors, which add 18 credits to the program. These are Commercial Negotiation & Dispute Resolution; and International Human Rights & Development.

All BCL/JD students can take a Minor offered by McGill's Faculties of Arts, Science or Management, which add 18 to 24 credits to the program.

Students must be accepted into the Major and Minor programs and must have a minimum GPA of 2.7 to be considered.

The Honours option provides a space in which advanced legal research of the highest quality can be pursued within the BCL/JD. Adding 15 credits to the program, it also represents a bridge to the pursuit of graduate studies in law.

All three options entail additional credits, thus extending the program to four years.

See more information on Majors, Minors and Honours.

3. What are the joint degrees that can be combined with the BCL/JD (MBA or MSW)?

McGill's Faculty of Law offers two joint programs in collaboration with the Desautels Faculty of Management and the School of Social Work: the MBA with integrated BCL/JD and the MSW with integrated BCL/JD. Candidates interested in pursuing either joint degree program must apply to, and be admitted by, both faculties. 

See more information on joint programs.

4. What options are there in the BCL/JD program?

Aside from the Minor, major or the honours programs and the BCL/JD with MBA & BCL/JD with MSW joint programs mentioned above,

Students may also elect to go on exchange through our Student Exchange Program, or take part in clinical legal education activities, such as in a legal clinic, student clerkship, Human Rights Internship and competitive mooting. Most of these are only available after your second year. However, the summer Human Rights Internships are available to 1L students after the first year. The SAO will cover these as part of its Academic Success Series workshops.

5. Must we finish our 2L and complementary courses requirements before taking electives?

No. In their second year, students may take Law complementary courses and Law electives in addition to their required courses.

6. To complete the BCL/JD, do we need to sign up for "Focus Week Workshops" and/or graduate courses?

No. These are elective credits, designed to expand your knowledge in certain specific areas; they are not required courses.

7. Can I complete the BCL/JD program in three years? What's the most advisable way to do so? When can I start planning my "parcours" of three years? Who can help me plan for this?

The BCL/JD program can be completed over 3, 3.5 or 4 years. At a normal pace of 15 credits per term, most students complete it in 7 terms, or 3.5 years. The 105-credit BCL/JD program’s requirements are available on the SAO web site

If you wish to complete the program in 3 years, you should start planning at the end of first year. You will likely want to take some summer courses and perhaps write an independent term essay in the summer. There will be semesters where you will have to take on a heavier credit load.

You will need to ensure that you not only complete 105 credits, but also that you complete your mandatory courses, your writing requirement, and your basket courses. You can speak with an SAO advisor to discuss your plans in detail.

8. I heard that some students had the option to change some final course grades to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U); will this be available for incoming 1Ls? How does S/U grading affect course averages?

  • The ordinary Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) Option policy is applicable to law and non-law electives and law complementary courses within the BCL/JD program.
  • Students who decide to have a course graded as S/U must opt for that at registration.
  • The S/U Option is not available for required courses.
  • The S/U Option is limited to a single course in the entire program, for a maximum of 4 credits.
  • Grades "A" through "C" are converted to “Satisfactory” (S), and "D", "F" and "J" grades are converted to “Unsatisfactory” (U).
  • Courses taken under the S/U option are excluded from the grade point average (GPA) calculations, but are included in the attempted credits total. Credits for courses with a final grade of S will be included in the number of credits earned.

The option of changing a final grade to an S/U result after receiving the grade was an exceptional measure offered at the start the pandemic. To the best of our knowledge, it will no longer apply.

G. Official transcripts and required documents

  1. My university only mails official documents by post. How can I be sure my documents will be received on time?
  2. My previous is not printing nor sending official documentation.
  3. Est-ce que les cégépien.ne.s doivent envoyer d'autres relevés aux admissions?

1. My university only mails official documents by post. Since the Law Admissions Office is closed due to the pandemic, how can I ensure my documents will be received by the due date (Aug 1)?

Because we have not yet returned to our offices, receipt of mailed documents could be delayed, but we will be checking the mail throughout the summer (usually every 2 weeks) so they will be processed as soon as possible. As long as they are received before the beginning of classes, there is no need to worry.

2. My previous university is not printing nor sending official documentation. They are only emailing unofficial transcripts. This is explained on the unofficial transcript; is providing an electronic unofficial transcript sufficient?

Digital official transcripts are preferred since COVID-19 has changed our access to offices and paper mail. If your institution offers the option of sending official e-transcripts to McGill, they can be emailed to us at admissions.law [at] mcgill.ca.

Official transcripts can also be emailed to officialschooldocs [at] mcgill.ca. This email address is for official transcripts and/or proof of graduation only. Files must be sent to us directly from the institution or from a third-party service provider (e.g. Parchment, NSC, Digitary).

3. Pour les citoyens québécois qui obtiennent (ou ont obtenu) un diplôme de cégep, y a-t-il des documents ou des relevés de notes qui doivent être soumis avant le jour de l'inscription?

Non, les relevés de notes des cégeps (et de McGill) sont mis à jour par le bureau des admissions. Tout autre relevé de notes officiel requis sera ajouté à votre liste de contrôle Minerva.

H. Financing your degree

  1. How much is my tuition?
  2. Are financial aid and bursaries available?
  3. How do entrance scholarships work?

1. What will my tuition be this coming year?

Please consult McGill’s Student Accounts. They have a Fee Calculator for Undergraduate Tuition and Fees

2. What financial aid and funding opportunities are available for newly admitted students? What are the deadlines, eligibility requirements, etc?

Applicants undertaking University studies for the first time are eligible to apply for McGill University Entrance Scholarships. For more information, see McGill Scholarships on the Scholarships & Student Aid website.

McGill also offers a needs-based Entrance Financial Aid program. This program is offered to students admitted to McGill who are entering the first year of full time undergraduate studies in the Fall term. This program offers financial aid to students from modest income families who require assistance to enable them to attend McGill. Since financial need is the primary criterion, that applicants of this program should also apply to the government student aid programs for which they may be eligible. Please consult the Entrance scholarships for future undergraduates section on McGill’s Scholarships & Student Aid website.

Faculty scholarships are awarded to applicants who have previously undertaken university studies, and are therefore ineligible for McGill University entrance scholarships. All admitted University, Mature, and Transfer students are automatically considered for Faculty scholarships; there is no need to apply for these.

Admitted CEGEP and French Baccalaureate candidates are strongly encouraged to apply for McGill University Entrance Scholarships if they meet the academic and other relevant criteria.

3. Must we apply for entrance scholarships (other than the need-based bursary?), or are all 1Ls automatically considered? If so, how does we apply ?

All admitted University, Mature, and Transfer students are automatically considered for Faculty of Law scholarships; there is no need to apply for these.

To help us more effectively allocate these scholarships and address systemic barriers, we invite you to answer the questions in this survey. This survey is voluntary and any information you share will be used in a manner consistent with the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and only for the purposes of scholarship allocation.

I. Career Development Office (CDO)

  1. What is the best way to take advantage of the CDO’s services?
  2. When should 1Ls begin thinking about law-related employment?
  3. I plan to practice outside of Quebec / Ontario

1. What is the best way to take advantage of the CDO’s services as a 1L?

You should begin exploring your career options. This can be done through Career Days, speaking to upper-year students, reading the CDO’s newsletter and guides, and booking an appointment with a career advisor.

When planning your degree, you should also consider your career goals. This may influence the courses you take and the length of your degree.

2. When should 1Ls begin thinking about law-related employment?

It is not too early to begin thinking about it now, but do not feel pressured to find a law-related job in your first year of law school. Very few 1Ls secure law-related summer jobs. Those who do may pursue a human rights internship, research assistantship or an internship in-house or at a small firm.

While we encourage you to apply for such positions, your main goal should be to gain transferable skills and explore your options/interests.

3. What should we be taking into consideration if we plan to practice outside of Quebec/Ontario?

You should review the licensing requirements in the jurisdiction(s) where you wish to practice law after graduation.

The McGill BCL/JD law degree qualifies you to practice across Canada and in certain US states, such as New York, Massachusetts and California, among other places.

J. Local Wellness Advisors (LWAs)

1. What is the best way to take advantage of the LWAs’ services as a 1L?

You can sign up for the workshops on mental health and wellness that the Local Wellness Advisors offer over the university year. They also offer one-on-one consultations; you can make an appointment with us online.

You can also get in touch by email if you have questions.

To make an appointment for a one-on-one consultation, you do not need to be in distress or have specific concerns. You can also make an appointment if you would just like to talk, know more about resources on and off campus, or have a question connected to wellness and health.

2. Are LWAs available to 1Ls before we start in the Fall?

Newly registered students are eligible for LWA and student wellness hub services as of 15 August 2021.

K. Supporting Black and Indigenous students

1. What is the Assistant Dean’s role in relation to a 1L student?

The role of the Assistant Dean (Inclusion - Black and Indigenous Flourishing) is to support, encourage and provide a listening ear. Her mandate encompasses ensuring that the needs of Black and Indigenous law students are heard, and assisting in understanding policies and school processes. You can consider Assistant Dean Kimberly Lee-Louis as a resource guide and a helping hand throughout your journey at McGill Law as well as a facilitator

Students can also see Assistant Dean Lee-Louis by scheduling an appointment: kimberly.lee-louis [at] mcgill.ca

As she says, “I am always available for you; feel free to reach out anytime.”

L. General questions

1. How do I get my McGill ID Card?

Once registered for at least one fall 2021 course, students must make an appointment with Service Point to get their cards. If you are registered to your courses, and are in Montreal now, we advise you get your card as soon as possible to avoid the August-September rush.

To make an appointment, visit mcgill.ca/servicepoint/contact-us

2. I'd like more information about how McGill is planning its return to campus

As Quebec reopens and all students and staff return to McGill, we expect the situation on campus to evolve quickly. McGIll University has prepared an extensive website to address your questions and concerns. Here’s what to expect and how you can prepare.

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