Published March 16, 2017
So you’ve considered studying law in the U.S., but aren’t quite sure of the implications for legal practice in Canada. Though your American law degree will authorize you to sit for any state bar exam, you might be itching for a return to the land of hockey and poutine.
For your convenience, we’ve put together some useful tips for putting your law degree to good use in the Great White North.
The National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) is a standing committee of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. Once you graduate with an American law degree your credentials will need to be assessed by the NCA. The results of the assessment will determine what requirements you must fulfill to obtain a Certificate of Qualification, which makes you eligible for the process to become a licensed lawyer in most Canadian common-law societies. Exact requirements depend on academic and professional qualifications, and include a certain number of credits that you must complete. These are completed by writing challenge exams or enrolling and taking courses at a Canadian law school. Most students opt for the former, which I dive into later.
The NCA processes assessments on a first-come, first-served basis. All required documents and fees must be received before your file is put into the queue for assessment. Note: The name on your application must match the name on all required documents. Failure to use the same name could result in processing delays. You can expect your Assessment Result Report within eight weeks from the date your final document is received.
Your Assessment Result Report will outline exact requirements needed to obtain the Certificate of Qualification, a time line for completing the subjects indicated and a syllabus for each subject required. Start by obtaining the necessary study materials. A list of publishers will be attached to each subject syllabus. You may purchase texts directly from the publisher, at a law school bookstore or online. Just don’t purchase any texts without referring to the syllabus as textbook editions change frequently. Good news! NCA exams are open-book. Therefore, advanced preparation is key. Don’t wait—find a study buddy or a tutor if need be, but get your materials in order well in advance. The NCA offers four exam sessions per year. Most applicants attempt 2-4 exams per session. Your comfort level with each subject as well as the time you have to study should help determine how many exams to take per session. Whatever you decide—get focused and make time to prepare!
Bar admission requirements differ from province to province. In Ontario, for example, foreign-trained lawyers must complete the licensing process of the Law Society of Upper Canada, which includes writing the barrister licensing exam, the solicitor licensing exam, and attending a Skills and Professional Responsibility program. After these elements are complete, you’ll be required to article for a period of ten months, be granted an articling abridgement, or immediately become eligible to be called to the Bar in Ontario. Bar admission requirements for each province can be obtained from each law society.
As much as it may pain you to do so, we recommend foregoing the fun in the sun—or at least packing your books with the sunscreen—and using your final spring break to come up with a step-by-step plan for making the leap back to Canada. Create a time-line for submitting your documents to the NCA, gather the necessary documents and save your American pennies- your NCA application form will not be processed until payment ($450 CDN) is received.
We hope these tips help you on your path back to The True North Strong and Free!