In this article, we will talk about the law profession and help you understand how to validate your education and experience to work as a lawyer in Canada. It is important to mention that anyone who is not a permanent resident or Canadian citizen, must have a work permit to be able to work in the country legally.
Canada is one of the top immigration destinations in the world and every year welcomes thousands of skilled professionals. One example of these professionals are lawyers, which can practice under a number of titles in the country. A lawyer working in Canada has an average salary of CAD$ 100 000/year, with some experienced professionals earning even more.
In Canada, occupations can fall into two types: non-regulated and regulated. For non-regulated occupations, a license or certification is not required, like, for example, in most IT occupations. For regulated occupations, a license or certification is required to work, and in this case, the license or certification will be issued by the provincial or territorial regulatory authority responsible for the occupation. Most healthcare and engineering occupations are regulated, among many others.
Since Law is a regulated occupation in Canada, all lawyers are required to be a member of a law society in order to work. The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) is the national coordinating body of the 14 provincial and territorial law societies which regulate law professionals. It ensures that the standards of law education and professional practice are met. However, each provincial or territorial law society has autonomy to choose its own processes and requirements for licensing professionals.
Internationally educated lawyers are required to apply to the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) before applying for a law society (except Quebec, which has its own process). The NCA will assess the legal education and experience acquired outside Canada and assign requirements to be completed in order to issue a Certificate of Qualification. The certificate qualifies the professional to apply for a provincial or territorial law society. An application with NCA can be done from outside Canada, making it easier for the applicants to acquire all the required documents from their home country.
Provincial and Territorial Law Societies
● Law Society of British Columbia
● Law Society of Alberta
● Law Society of Saskatchewan
● Law Society of Manitoba
● Law Society of Ontario
● Barreau du Québec
● Chambre des notaires du Québec
● Law Society of New Brunswick
● Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society
● Law Society of Prince Edward Island
● Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador
● Law Society of Yukon
● Law Society of the Northwest Territories
● Law Society of Nunavut
The NCA assessment includes the following steps:
Step 1. Submitting the application, form with all documents and payment (CDN $350 - Nov/2020). The required documents are:
● Official transcripts for the legal education, sent directly to NCA by the law educational institution
● A resume of the education and work experience
● An official letter or certificate of good standing, sent directly to NCA from the home country association where the professional is registered
All documents that are not in English or French, must be translated by a certified translator.
Step 2. Assessment of the legal education and experience
Step 3. Completion of assignments, given by the NCA to qualify for law society admission (write NCA exams and/or take courses at a Canadian law school)
Step 4. The NCA certifies that all requirements were met by giving a Certificate of Qualification.
Once NCA have finished the assessment, they will offer one of three paths for meeting the assignments:
NCA exams are fact-based and take three hours to write. Past exams are available at some Canadian law school libraries for reference. The NCA offers study materials, practice exams for each subject and a guide on how to answer fact-based law exam questions. The NCA offers offers four exam sessions per year: January, May, August and October. The fee is CDN $300 per exam (plus taxes).
Applicants must research Canadian law schools on their own and choose the one they wish to attend to meet the requirements. Some schools reserve spaces for NCA, applicants but others do not. Generally, the NCA assigns these five core law subject areas to all applicants:
Once all the assignments are completed, the NCA will issue the Certificate of Qualification. With that in hand, professionals are allowed to apply for the law society in the province or territory they intend to work.
All applicants are required to have a good proficiency in at least one of Canada’s official languages: English or French. If academic qualification was in English or French, applicants will not need to provide any official test in language proficiency. Otherwise, applicants will have to complete an IELTS test for English (minimum overall score of 7.0) and the TESTCan test for French (minimum overall score of 4.5).
Law Society Admission
Each provincial or territorial law society has its own admission process, yet there are common requirements for a lawyer to be called to the bar (being licensed to practice). Most law societies require training in the legal environment. Professionals are required to complete 10 to 12 months, of articling, where they will gain experience working supervised by a licensed lawyer, and 8 to 10 months of practice program, where they will gain practical legal knowledge and competencies in lawyer skills.
The practice program required in some law societies is the PREP (Practice Readiness Education Program – PREP) offered by the Canadian Centre for Professionals Legal Education (CPLED). In others, the program is offered by Canadian universities (e.g.: Ryerson University’s Law Practice Program in Toronto). The complete training processes can cost around CDN $4000.
Once all the requirements by the provincial or territorial law society admission process are met, including paying the fees, submitting all the forms and having no good character issues, professionals are eligible to be licensed to practise law and to attend a call to the bar ceremony..
Following are some websites with more information for internationally educated lawyers:
● University of Alberta’s Internationally Trained Lawyer Pathway
● York University – Osgoode Law School
● How to Become a Lawyer in Ontario
● How to Become a Lawyer in British Columbia
● Internationally Trained Applicants in Manitoba
● Internationally Trained Lawyers in Alberta
● Becoming A Lawyer in Saskatchewan
● Canadian Bar Association
Note: Due to COVID-19 some changes were made in the assessment process. Access the websites and law societies’ official websites for more updated information.
By Janayna Sercheli
If you wish to immigrate to Canada, contact Klaps Immigration Consulting for more information on immigration processes.