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Qualifying in Canada - a journey for approval

Are you already called to the Bar of England and Wales or qualified as a lawyer in another common-law jurisdiction?

Helpful hints

1. Preparing your application for assessment

Points to note:

  • Canada has a Federation of Law Societies and a National Committee on Accreditation (NCA): their website is most useful.

  • Research and understand what the NCA are looking for.

  • Clearly express how your education and experience demonstrate the qualifications that you are to be assessed upon.

  • Students studying in Canada generally complete an undergraduate degree before completing a law degree. If you have not done so, your NCA assessment will probably request that you sit a minimum of seven exams.

  • If you have not "attended" university for your law qualifications at all (i.e. you completed an on-line law degree) you may have to attend a university in Canada before the NCA will assess you.

  • As soon as your application for the assessment is submitted, contact your previous Universities and request they send your transcripts directly to the NCA.

2. NCA assessment and the examinations

Points to note:

  • Upon receipt of your NCA assessment, you will have a five years to complete the NCA examinations.

  • I completed eight examinations over 12 months. You. can complete them all in one sitting.

  • My exams sittings were every three months, and my results were published within three months of each sitting.

  • I found the material is extensive. Although, the exams are open book, it is all in the perspiration and planning! Otherwise, it is unlikely you will have time to find a topic during the exam.

  • I found it useful to create tables for the relevant legal tests.

  • In the exam, I used IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion). However, I did not have to state the law, I simply applied it.

  • During the exams, I used ear plugs, and took a small desk clock into the exam room. The rooms are not always quiet, and you cannot always see the clock. This helped me deal with my stress by being prepared for any potential problems.

3. In conclusion

Points to note:

  • I chose to embrace the process and challenge myself to learn the differences in the application of the law between England and Wales, and Canada. I am certain the NCA exams were necessary and fairly chosen for me by the NCA (Though it may not feel like it at the time, keep at it and the time will soon pass).

  • If you intend on articling in a city like Vancouver check out the articling portal for the location. Some firms require students to apply a year in advance.

  • Make contact with the law society within your province. The Law Society of BC is extremely helpful and holds open days for NCA students, which I found very useful.

  • Some Universities like University of British Columbia have a one year LLM (full time course) which you can take in place of the exams. Make sure you co-ordinate any such application with the help of the NCA. Some of the courses are not accepted by the NCA. In addition, be aware that some universities will not allow you to participate in such a course if you have already begun the examination process.

  • The Canadian Bar Association also have a great student membership program, which I highly recommend.

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