Experiential Learning at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law

Co-op Program


1988 Co-op Placements Lead to '89 Program

UVic had the fist, and for a long time the only, law co-op program in Canada, and it has been a defining feature of the UVic Faculty of Law. The program began after 1988 when five senior UVic Law students travelled to Ottawa to work for the federal government over the summer term and three other students’ secured positions to work in Victoria that summer. These successful student job placements led the UVic Law Faculty to begin pushing for the establishment of a more formal cooperative education program. In November 1989, UVic became the first Canadian Law School to establish a co-op program after adopting a report prepared by Professor Gary Ferguson. In 1990, the program had received formal approval and 14 students were placed in jobs that summer.

Law Co-op 1990

When the program began some employers were initially hesitant in hiring students, but often ended up calling to request a student for the following term within the first a few weeks of working with a student.

The program was initially structured to provide students with a work term in a public law placement, a private law placement, and an adjudicative or offshore placement, with the option of an additional fourth co-op term with a non-profit organization. Students would alternate the two academic terms of their third and fourth year with four-month work terms. This format extended the time required to complete a law degree by four or eight months and required students to attend one semester of summer courses. The program was instantly popular, with far more people applying than the 14 that were initially accepted.

By 1997, the program had expanded to include 30 students, who were selected in a lottery from over 100 applicants. Over the years there have been thousands of co-op placements and overwhelming enthusiasm for the program by current students, alumni, and employers.

The public sector, especially policy divisions of the federal and provincial governments, have been some of the biggest hirers of law co-op students. Students have also been placed in private law firms and non-profit organizations across Canada and the rest of the world.

The Co-op Experience

The program has many clear benefits to students and employers. Students gain practical experience in the legal profession before articling and explore different jobs in the legal profession. Students gain skills and experience in searching for jobs, working in an office, researching, writing, and many other areas, all while gaining an understanding of the complexities of working with the law outside a classroom by applying concepts learned in class. Work experience results in resume building and networking opportunities to establish professional connections, and in some cases future employment.

UVic Law Co-op Around the World

UVic Law students have had the opportunity to work at jobs around the world. In the 1996 External Review Background report, it was noted that two large international law firms only accepted co-op students from Harvard and UVic because of the student’s maturity and hardworking natures.

Students have been placed in positions in law firms in New Zealand, South Africa, and throughout Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. Students have also worked with organizations in places such as Ethiopia and Fiji.

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