I’m a foreign lawyer and want to practice in Canada. Where do I begin?

The law industry in Canada is a rapidly growing one and multiple law graduates are being produced from within the country as well as foreigners wanting to grow their career in this industry so if you are a foreign law practitioner, here is how you start Canadian Law practices.

Licensing Process

The Canadian Law and the profession is governed by provincial law societies in Canada. To gain admittance into the bar council one can contact the said societies. The country has 10 provinces and each province has its own separate legislation that allows the formation of different law societies whose main operation is to regulate the entry and law practice.

Certificate of Qualification

The Federation of Law Society of Canada (FLSC) is the all-embracing body and the individual Canadian Law societies that were mentioned above have transferred power to the FLSC to formulate national standards for legal education. The National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) is the standing committee for FLSC whose responsibility is to assess an individual’s foreign qualification and to issue a subsequent certificate called the “Certificate of Qualification”. This certificate allows an individual to get started with the licensing process in whichever province they wish to migrate (except for the province of Quebec for which he/she needs to apply directly to the Bureau de Quebec for certification). The purpose that the certificate serves that is displays that an individual has the knowledge of the Canadian Law which is similar to a graduate from any Canadian Law school.

The process to obtain the Certificate of Qualification

First and foremost the application needs to be submitted to the NCA for assessment of the application. There are fees that must be paid (as of now, $350 + applicable taxes). After this, assignments that need to be completed to obtain a certificate of qualification will be advised by the NCA.

At the least NCA can require an individual to undertake 5 assignments which can be categorized as:

  • Canadian Criminal Law
  • Canadian Constitution Law
  • Foundations of Canadian Law
  • Canadian Administrative Law
  • Professional Responsibility

The exams are taken 4 times a year and they are self-study and open book exams (books and notes are allowed). In order to clear the exams, 50% or above grade is the requirement. An individual can either have the choice to take all the exams at once or split up his/her assignment work over multiple sittings, the choice belongs to the individual, from the date that the individual receives the assignments, 5 years are granted to complete them. In circumstances beyond the person’s control, he/she can ask for an extension. The exams can be completed from either a Canadian Law School through a single course enrollment or through an LLM program, approval from NCA prior to the selection is a necessity.

As soon as the exams are attempted and cleared the individual receives his/her certificate of qualification. After receiving the certificate the individual achieves the level of a fresh graduate from any law school of Canada and only has to apply to the provincial bar of choice to initiate the licensing process. The process at minimum takes about a year to complete. There is a division among the provinces where some require experiential training while others may require the person to take a combination of online and in-person courses, some provinces can also allow a person to waive their experiential training if they possess any prior experience.

This information is useful for all the beginning practitioners of law studies in Canada.