The prospect of attending law school outside of Canada may be appealing, for any number of reasons. And there are many excellent law schools outside of Canada. But it’s important for you to understand the process you will face when you return home after earning a non-Canadian law school degree and want to become a lawyer here. Read on for an overview of that process.
Students who pursue law school in Canada
A student who earns a common law degree (a “JD,” or Juris Doctor) from a Canadian law school is immediately eligible to article under the mandatory articling program administered by The Law Society of B.C. “Articling” in B.C. is typically a twelve-month process, in which an articled student works under the supervision of a qualified lawyer. After successfully completing the various elements of The Law Society’s program, the student may become a lawyer, which is referred to as being “called to the Bar.”
So, in a nutshell, if you earn a JD from a Canadian law school and want to become a lawyer in B.C., you will need to:
1. find an articling position with a lawyer prepared to supervise you as an articled student
2. successfully complete the Law Society’s articling program.
Students who pursue law school abroad
If you earn a law degree from a non-Canadian law school and want to become a lawyer in B.C., you’ll face an additional (and significant) step: before you can article, you will need a Certificate of Qualification from the National Committee on Accreditation (usually referred to as the “NCA”).
The NCA is a committee of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, and its stated mandate is to “help Canada’s law societies protect the public interest by assessing the legal education and professional experience of individuals who obtained their credentials outside of Canada…”. In other words, the NCA serves an important “gatekeeper” role to individually assess the credentials of students with non-Canadian law degrees, and to set the requirements (exams or successful completion of additional courses at a law school in Canada) that must be satisfied before those students will be eligible to article and become lawyers. When a student satisfies those requirements, the NCA issues the student a “Certificate of Qualification,” and the student is then able to seek articles with a supervising lawyer.
The NCA’s very informative website includes a particularly helpful section for Canadians considering studying abroad. Earning a Certificate of Qualification from the NCA takes considerable time and effort. The NCA almost always requires applicants to pass exams (or successfully complete courses at a Canadian law school) in at least five core subject areas of Canadian law. Additional subjects may be required, depending upon a student’s specific circumstances. It can take years for some applicants to earn a Certificate of Qualification and become eligible to article.
Moreover, there is a financial cost. The NCA’s current minimum cost is $1,850, assuming that a student is required to complete only five exams. The cost will be significantly more if the student satisfies the NCA’s requirements by completing courses at a Canadian law school.
We’ll discuss the NCA process (and many other law school-related topics) at our upcoming Law School 101 seminar on July 8 (from 6-8 pm). If you’re interested in registering, please get in touch with us at 604-922-8456 or email@example.com.