Something that can be a bit daunting about studying abroad is understanding the process of coming back home. Although I am by no means an expert, I thought I would share with you my understanding of the process of coming back to practice law in Canada.
First thing you need to become familiar with is the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA)’s website. Here you will find all the most up to date information on the accreditation process which will allow you to practice in Canada. Here is the website: http://flsc.ca/national-committee-on-accreditation-nca/
After you complete your law degree, the NCA will assess your file and decide how many accreditation exams you need to complete in order to continue to the next step which is to complete your province’s Bar Admission Course and articling. Typically, a student will be assigned the five mandatory subjects which are:
Foundations of Canadian Law,
Canadian Constitutional Law,
Canadian Administrative Law,
Canadian Criminal Law, and
Canadian Professional Responsibility.
Unless you get an unsatisfactory grade in some of the core subjects during your program, then these are the only subjects that are normally required. These courses are:
Business Organisation or Corporate Law.
However, if, like me, you are in a 2 year accelerated program such as the JD Pathway LLB – then you will be required to complete additional subjects. Normally, for 2 year programs we will be asked to write the accreditation exams for additional 8 subjects. These are:
Tax Law, and
Here is a very helpful document that lists out the NCA’s policies and guidelines – keep in mind this was written in 2015: http://flsc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2015NCAPolicyJan2015.pdf
Now, there are three ways by which you can challenge the NCA exams.
The first method is to self-study. This method allows you to register to challenge the exams whenever you feel ready. You must pay the examination fee (which as of today 340CAD per exam). The NCA offers four exam sessions per year – generally in January, May, August and October. The NCA has published the syllabus for each subject which you can find on their website. http://flsc.ca/national-committee-on-accreditation-nca/exam-rules-and-schedules/. As it is self-study, applicants must obtain the material themselves. There does exist resources for applicants who are attempting the exams on their own through Canadian law school or private tutoring services. For examples, the Osgoode Hall Law School offers an online NCA prep program which you can read more about here: http://www.osgoodepd.ca/graduate-programs-and-courses/internationally-trained-lawyers/online-nca-exam-prep/courses/. A quick google search will show you many other resources for self-studiers. This is by far the cheapest and potentially quickest method to getting to the next step.
The second method is to complete a Masters of Laws in Canadian Common Law (LLM). This method requires you to apply and get accepted into a masters program in a Canadian university that concentrates on the common law. Universities that offer such programs are:
The University of British Columbia – Masters of Common Law: https://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/graduate-degree-programs/llm-master-of-laws-common-law or http://www.allard.ubc.ca/master-laws-llm-common-law-program
The Osgoode Hall Law School – Masters in Canadian Common Law: http://www.osgoodepd.ca/graduate-programs-and-courses/specializations/canadian-common-law/
A disadvantage to this path is that you do not have much choice in choosing which subjects you want to take within your Masters. I believe it does satisfy your five mandatory subjects, but may not fulfill your core or additional subjects. Although it can be very competitive to get into such a program and that it can be an expensive path, you will have the benefit of being within a classroom and you will graduate with another paper.
The third method is to apply to an accreditation program within a Canadian university. This method offers you an alternative route to the NCA accreditation process as you write the University’s exam which will count as your challenge exam. You will have the benefit of being taught by a professor and getting the University’s material rather than finding it on your own. I do not know of all the Universities that offer such programs, however here are a few:
The University of Alberta: Internationally Trained Lawyer Pathway – NCA Accreditation: https://www.ualberta.ca/law/admissions/nca/practicing-law-in-canada
The University of Ottawa: Lawyers Trained Outside Canada and NCA Applicants: https://commonlaw.uottawa.ca/en/students/admissions/admissions-criteria/upper-year-applicants/lawyers-trained-outside-canada-and-national-committee-accreditation-nca-applicants
This can be very interesting as you get to choose the subjects you need to challenge, however it is quite expensive and you do not graduate with a paper. Again there may exist other programs such as this one so have a look around.
Of course let’s not forget that you could always choose to continue your studies in the UK and become either a solicitor or a barrister. That will be a blog for another day…
I realize that this was a lot of information for I hope it was helpful in at least pointing you towards the right resources and reassure you that resources are available for us foreign trained lawyers to be. Please keep in mind that this is the information I have as of today and could be subject to change.