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What’s It Like To Take The Ontario Bar Exams?

By April 4, 2024April 17th, 2024No Comments
Karen Wheaton and Tyler O'Brien from Brown Lawyers attend the Bar Ceremony in Toronto, March 2024

What’s It Like To Take The Ontario Bar Exams?

On March 1 2024, Tyler O’Brien from Brown Lawyers passed the bar at a ceremony held at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. I’m sure most of us have wondered what it’s like to go through the bar exams. So we thought it would be a great opportunity to sit down with a newly minted lawyer and ask him about the experience.

What’s it like to write the bar exam?

Tyler admitted to us that he didn’t know how well he did as he was leaving his first exam.

“There are two separate exams, the Barristers exam and the Solicitors exam. Both are 4.5 hours in duration.”

What’s the difference between a barrister and a solicitor? Basically, barristers go to court and appear before judges. They practice trial law, including criminal and civil litigation. Solicitors are the “people facing” part of legal work. They deal with transactions and documents, like real estate transactions, wills and estates, and corporate law.

Tyler: “I didn’t know what to expect. I go to this conference centre near Pearson Airport in Toronto. It was airport level security, parting us down, going through our wallets, and there was a police presence. I wasn’t expecting that. So that gets the anxiety level, which is already up there, up even more!

Then we go into the examination room and it’s the size of an Amazon warehouse. The time remaining is displayed everywhere you look, so when the exam starts you just go. It’s multiple choice, open book, and 160 questions. It’s really testing you on your ability to search for answers.

I felt confident but honestly I really didn’t know. It was a bit of a blur. In that setting, it felt like the Superbowl of exams. Then there’s two weeks between the two exams. There are approximately 600 people writing the exams at one time. The exams are only held three times a year across the province, and Toronto and Ottawa are the only two locations.”

How did you decide to become a lawyer?

“I had already started law school before I started working at Brown Lawyers. I attended the University of Birmingham in the UK. That was interrupted by the pandemic. I started three years ago last month. My time overseas was actually cut short because of the pandemic. 

When I returned to Canada I took a Masters of Law at York University. I began in Fall 2020 and finished while working at Brown.

The Articling process took place over the last year before writing the exams. I was called to the bar on March 1st.”

Why did you initially choose to study law in the UK?

“I wanted an adventure. And I had friends who had done the program. I met a lot of other Canadians in the program. Birmingham is a lot like Hamilton. People in England remember the tougher times there and Birmingham had gone through some challenging times over the past 50 years or so. They don’t realize the Phoenix that has arisen from the ashes, much like the city of Hamilton. It has become a cool city with a great food culture, and it’s got a beautiful downtown with an amazing canal system.

But honestly, if I had to do it again, I would do it in Canada. It would have offered better networking opportunities, and I did get homesick while studying overseas.”

Thank you Tyler, and congratulations from the Brown team!