Programs Leading to the Juris Doctor
There are three main avenues leading to the common law JD degree: 
  1. English Common Law Program:  accepting approximately 280 entering students each year, including those in our combined programs.
  2. French Common Law Program:  accepting approximately 80 entering students each year, including those in our combined programs.
  3. JD National Program:  Offered separately by both the Common Law and Civil Law Sections, the National Program allows students from one Section to receive training and accreditation in the other Section in a unique, 8-month program designed to provide a complete bilingual and bijuridical education in the nation’s common law and civil law legal traditions.  The National Program also accepts applicants with Canadian law degrees from other universities.
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.  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

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.
First Year of the Common Law English Program


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.

Students may select any of the small groups - CML 1203 (Criminal Law), CML1207 (Torts) or CML 1206 (Introduction to Public and Constitutional Law). A small group consists of 18-25 students. Conversely, a large group consists of 75-80 students. 

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. 

  • Criminal Law and Procedure

General principles of criminal law; burdens of proof; the physical and mental elements offences; select defences; basic elements of criminal procedure; the impact of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on both substantive and procedural issues.

  • Torts

Liability for interference with interests in personality, property, reputation, economic and domestic relationships; intentional interference and privileged conduct; negligence; products liability; automobile accident compensation; liability of occupiers of land; strict liability; nuisance; misrepresentation; vicarious liability.

  • Property

Introduction to concepts of property, ownership and possession, and the law relating to interests in real and personal property. Specific topics include: gifts; bailment; finders; doctrine of tenure; contingent interests; estates; future interest; natural resources; water rights; First Nations land law; co-ownership; easements; restrictive covenants; adverse possession; trusts and their impact on family property and commercial relationships. This course will also introduce the principles of equity.

  • Contracts

Study and analysis of the basic principles of contract law. Topics covered include: conceptual and historical introduction; formation of contracts; operation of contracts; discharge of contracts; remedies. Introduction to agency.

  • Introduction to Public Law and Constitutional Law

Introduction to the structure of the Canadian legal system, sources of law, the federal legislative process and statutory interpretation; the legal system's constitutional basis; the organization of courts and tribunals in Canada and appeal processes; and the role of the courts in overseeing legislative and administrative action. It also introduces students to basic principles of Canadian constitutional law: sources of the Canadian Constitution; constitutional supervision and the role of the courts; the advent of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the framework of the Charter; an introduction to the fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Charter; and an introduction to constitutional remedies.

  • Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility

This course teaches ethics, professional responsibility, legal problem-solving, transaction facilitation and dispute resolution through negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

  • Legal Foundations: Research, Strategy, Analysis

Introduction to the fundamentals of legal research including research techniques, bibliographical sources and the rules of legal citation.

  • First-Year Thematic Course

Course designed to allow first-year student to broaden their knowledge of a specific topic in law. Topics will be set on an annual basis to respond to emerging trends.

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 3 unit 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 Years of the JD program

For students of the English Common Law Program, four upper year courses are mandatory: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law II, Administrative Law and Business Organizations.

Each student is also required to prepare a major paper and to choose one advocacy course among various options.  Additionally, enrollment in one optional course is mandatory during the intensive January term of both second and third year.

The remaining units are to be chosen from an extensive list of optional courses offered during the fall and winter terms.Of the 60 units required in upper years, only Civil Procedure, Administrative Law, Business Organizations 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.

Optional Courses

Upper-year optional courses are offered in the following areas of concentration:

  • Business Law
  • Clinical Law and Litigation Practice
  • Constitutional and Human Rights Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Family Law
  • International Law and Trade
  • Labour and Employment Law
  • Legal Theory and Legal History
  • Property and Private Law
  • Technology Law

Basic introductory courses within these concentrations are lecture style. Advanced courses, specialized courses, and courses requiring more intensive personal instruction are offered in smaller groups, in the seminar or practical workshop format.

Intensive January Term Optional Courses

Each second- and third-year student will be required to take one optional course solely during the intensive three week term, known as the January term. Approximately 25 intensive optional courses will be available, varying in class size, subject matter, methods of instruction and of evaluation. Many courses will be taught by visiting professors from foreign and Canadian law schools, government departments, and law firms. Some courses will be drawn from the list of existing optional courses; others will be developed especially for the January term.

January Term

Beginning in January 2004, Common Law adopted a three week January term during which each student takes one course, and one course only, offered in an intensive format.  Many students prefer the intensive format which allows them to concentrate all their attention on one course.  The three week schedule permits us to engage professors who would be otherwise unavailable for a traditional semester.  Typically, our students describe the January term as intense and exhausting, but the student evaluations are highly positive.

Students in first year take an intensive course in Dispute Resolution.  This “hands on” course draws on the experience of more than 50 dispute resolution professionals from the community who volunteer their time and expertise.  Upper year students select an intensive course from a wide range of options that vary each year. 

Many of the courses are offered by an outstanding group of Ontario lawyers, judges, journalists and others. Some are offered by our own full time professors.  One interesting example is the joint course with students from the University of Puerto Rico and Ottawa. The students spend the first week in Ottawa and the rest of the term in San Juan.

One of the great things about January Term is the opportunity it provides to host visiting professors. So far, we have enjoyed visiting professors from law schools in Australia, France, Belgium, Iceland, England, Puerto Rico, Kenya, Mexico, India, Israel, and the United States.  We have also hosted visiting professors from other Canadian Universities.

Back to top