The Myths About UK Law Schools: Lower Grading & Passing Requirements

The Myths About UK Law Schools: Lower Grading & Passing Requirements

In my last post, I set out to tackle some of the myths in the Canadian legal community that foreign legal education is substandard compared to its Canadian counterpart; I started with the idea that it is easier to get into a UK Law School than a Canadian one. Today I’d like to address the second most common, and perhaps most damaging, myth that passing law school in the UK is much easier than it is in Canada.

Before I dive in, it’s fair to note that I have never attended a Canadian Law school so my point of comparison is based on second-hand information I’ve gathered from close friends, colleagues, and legal recruiters. I did, however, receive my LL.B from an English Law School and have a full working knowledge of how difficult it is to achieve and maintain high marks in the UK system. While I graduated in the top 12% of my class while simultaneously working and volunteering, it was certainly one of the hardest (but most fulfilling) two-years of my academic career so far. To help explain why, I’ll start by putting UK grades into context before analyzing the differences in assessment methods.


Putting Context Around Grading in the UK

As mentioned in my last post, LL.B programs are generally considered undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom. This means, grades are step-marked and categorized as follows:

 -          First Class: 70% and above

-          Upper Second Class:  60% - 69%

-          Lower Second Class: 50% - 59% 

-          Third Class: 40% - 49%

Even with the equivalencies provided above, these grades mean very little without their surrounding UK education system context. During my first term at City, University of London, I quickly learned that if I wanted to achieve a first class mark in the UK, I’d have to put in the same effort it took to get an 80% - 85% during my graduate studies in Canada; after polling my network, this effort-correlation seemed to align with what my Canadian law school counterparts experienced as well.

With this in mind, the “low” passing mark of 40% in the UK seems less drastic given that it equates to the effort of around a 50% - 55% in Canada. Additionally, the FLSC requires that students receive at least a Lower-Second Class mark in order for a UK course to be counted during one’s NCA assessment—equating to achieving a 60% - 65% in a Canadian Law school.

So, if we re-write the UK Grading chart in a Canadian Context, it would look like the below:

-          First Class = A in Canada  (80/85% and above)

-          Upper Second Class = B+ in Canada (70/75% - 80/85%)

-          Lower Second Class = B- in Canada (60/65% - 70/75%)

-          Third Class = C in Canada (50/55% - 60/65%)

Notably, the letter-marks assigned above are representative of the official marks-equivalency chart that City provided on my official transcript and is accepted by those Canadian legal recruiters who are familiar with the UK’s grading system.

Consistency & Fairness

Finally, it’s also worth noting that grade allotment is highly controlled in the UK. All examinations are blind-marked in an effort to guard against biases and inconsistencies. Additionally, universities employ internal and external grade moderation systems where non-teaching faculty and external markers review sample exams and class averages to ensure grade consistency and fairness. Finally, second markers have the authority to adjust as necessary to correct any inconsistencies. This also means that any grade posted on a UK graduate’s transcript is representative of his/her performance as comparable to his/her peers.


Differences in Assessment Method

To put my grade-versus-effort-required calculation into context, we should also look at the differences in assessment methods between the UK and Canada. In the UK, closed-book hand-written examinations are often the only assessment method in upper years where the standards for upper second (B+) and first class (A) grades are set very high.

These exams are notoriously hard not only because they are closed book, but also because the level of detail and information volume expected is closer to that of an open-book exam. During examinations, students are expected to provide detailed responses that include direct quotes from judges and academics and in-depth case knowledge under challenging time constraints.

This is nearly the polar opposite of Canadian Law Schools’ open-book, generally typed, examination method. Of course, both methods have their own challenges and are perfectly legitimate examination methods. But understanding this stark contrast in evaluation helps further put Canada and the UK’s differing passing thresholds into context.


Grades Matter -- No Matter Where You Studied

Law students everywhere are quite aware that grades matter to prospect employers. Whether a prospective summer or articling student went to school in the UK or in Canada, firms request transcripts and consider GPAs as a key part of their evaluation process.

For students returning (or coming) to Canada with foreign degrees, take some time to ensure your transcript includes a grades equivalency chart to help prospective employers put your education and performance into perspective.



Tackling Myths about UK Legal Education

The Myths About UK Law Schools: Lower Admission Standards

There has long been a myth in the Canadian legal community that foreign legal education is substandard compared to its Canadian counterpart. Particularly, poorly researched articles that lack logic such as this one have posited that it is dangerously “too easy” to transfer a UK law degree back to Canada, arguing that admitting foreign law graduates into Canadian practice puts the integrity of the Canadian legal market at risk.

Anyone who has received a UK law degree and completed the NCA examination process certainly knows that qualifying in Canada is not “easy”. It is a time-consuming, expensive process that takes dedication and determination. Yet, having overcome this hurdle, internationally trained law graduates (ITLGs) face the difficult job of finding an articling position in a legal market where some recruiters believe that they are not as smart, capable, or qualified as their Canadian competition.

But why does this myth perpetuate? I would argue that a lack of understanding about the UK’s legal education system has given the idea that Canadian law schools are superior a much stronger footing than is factually reasonable. Unfortunately, many have tried to look at UK law schools under a Canadian lens rather than a comparative one that weighs the pros and cons. We need to correct this in order to fully appreciate the strengths and qualities that ITLGs bring to the Canadian market.

Over the next few weeks I will address three common myths about UK Law schools and ITLGs:

1) UK admission standards are far lower than Canadian admission standards

2) Passing law school in the UK is much easier than it is in Canada

3) The NCA exams are too easy

To get us started, I will tackle myth number one here…


Are admission standards in the UK too low, or just different?

The aforementioned article points to the UK’s lack of an LSAT examination and the “lower” required entrance marks of 70-75% for high school courses as proof that getting into a UK law school is easier and therefore less valuable than gaining admission to a Canadian one. However, there are a few key differences between UK and Canadian Law schools that should be weighed before making such qualitative judgement.

Firstly, an LL.B in the UK is an undergraduate degree meaning that students can gain entry on high school marks alone (or the UK equivalent A-levels). Looking at the averaged high school minimum entry marks for a Canadian undergraduate program, the UK’s 70-75% is comparable to the entrance requirements for many Canadian undergraduate degree programs (see Macleans university rankings). Additionally, Canadian students with existing undergraduate degrees often opt for compressed or graduate-entry versions of the LL.B which are done in two years instead of three and often have higher admissions standards. For instance, at The City Law School, where I completed the 2-year LL.B, a 3.0 GPA is required which on the global GPA scale equates to 85% and is quite comparable to Canadian Law school entrance requirements.

Secondly, while there are no LSAT-type entrance tests, once admitted, the effort required to continue in an LL.B course is notoriously high. The most recent UK statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) indicate that the first-year drop-out rate in UK law schools sits at around 5.7%. Comparatively, the University of Toronto—often considered the hardest Canadian law school to gain admission to— appears to enjoy a nearly 100% graduation rate if one compares the university’s published class profiles against its published career statistics.

Arguably, these differences in graduation rates point to a different approach in weeding-out students. While Canadian Law schools disqualify students at the entrance stage with a standardized test that does not assess legal knowledge, but rather attempts to evaluate cognitive capability, the UK chooses to conduct selectiveness through examinations of the LL.B materials themselves.

I’ll not comment on which of these two approaches is better as the flaws of the LSAT and the UK’s ever-increasing university drop-out rates are both hotly-debated topics with pros and cons on both sides. Nor should one read that Canadian students can coast once admitted into law school; both ITLGs and Canadian students are acutely aware of the impact that poor grades can have on employability—a topic I will touch on in detail next time.

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Strategically Studying & Writing the NCA Exams

As you probably already know, the NCA exams are open-book, pass/fail exams where 50% is regarded as a pass. You will only be informed of whether you passed or failed, not why or by how much.

Candidates are eligible to bring any materials they like to the exam and have them highlighted and marked up as they please.

Studying for open-book exams is pretty different than traditional exams where students are not eligible to bring in any materials.

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You can either make your own notes or purchase summaries from a reliable source (such as NCA Tutor). If you opt to purchase notes, know that these are just summaries, they are not a substitute to the required readings of the course syllabi.

I focused more on understanding the content and applying it by doing practice exams as provided by the NCA. Since the NCA only provides one practice exam for each course, I also tested myself by going through some exams from Canadian law schools which are available to the public such as the Peter A. Allard School of Law Exams. If you decide to test yourself too, I would suggest writing comprehensive answers and bringing those with you to the exam as you may be asked a similar question.

The notes served as a great tool for me during the exam while the textbook readings assisted in my own understanding of the content. I also did my own independent research to understand some concepts.


I would encourage candidates to understand the material and to know how to navigate through their study notes. You don’t want to be rummaging through materials looking for answers and end up learning something new during the exam…

Going to the exam a bit early may help you ease your nerves. That way you can also get registration out of the way and get yourself comfortable in the setting.

While writing the exams be mindful that you are on a time-crunch (3 hours). A good way to use your time efficiently during the exam is to give each question the amount of time that it is weighted. So, if a question is worth 33% of the marks on the exam, give it 60 minutes of your time.

During the exam try to identify issues and concepts as you’re reading the question. This saves you time as you’ve already premeditated what the question will likely be, you’ve also already ascertained the issues and concepts that are likely to be relevant to the prospective question.

Mapping out your answers briefly, even in bullet points may serve to be a useful strategy during exams. Since you have a limited amount of time, you don’t want to lose your train of thought so having that map to refer to while you’re mid-exam can be a great tool.

Everyone has their own approach to studying and writing exams, these are some tips that I found useful throughout the NCA process which I hope may serve to be useful to you too. All in all, prepare and practice as much as you can in the time that you have. Know how to navigate through your materials and be strategic about how to use your time during the exam. Lastly, remember that you’ve already finished law school, you can get through this process too!  


List of NCA Tutor™ Blog Posts

Tips & Tricks - Bracing for the NCA

The Application Process

Apply to the NCA process as early as possible! It can take about 8-12 weeks for the NCA to get back to you about your assessment. The NCA’s turnaround rate depends on how many applications they get, so sometimes the NCA might be a lot faster in getting back to you, but when it’s peak season (and I’m guessing I applied then) it can take a bit longer. Regardless, the sooner you apply the better.

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If you are currently studying law abroad and intend to practice in Canada, it is possible to begin your application process within your last semester of law school. As soon as you get your final transcript you just need to send that additional document to the NCA.

Exam Registration Tips

Be mindful that the NCA has a specific time-range for when you can apply for exams. For example,  say you get your NCA application results in September, the next exam session is in October, but the window to apply for October exams was back in August, so you will have to wait till the next application window opens for the January session, which is likely about a week or so in November.

Note, if you fail an NCA exam you will have to wait a session before registering for that exam again. For example, say you wrote Professional Responsibility (PR) in January but you failed (hopefully this doesn’t happen), you’ll find out you failed around March/April (likely when the window to register for the April/May exams has closed). Therefore, you will have to wait to register to write the PR exam in the August session.


The cost of the NCA varies depending on how many exams or courses you have to take or if you opt for the LL.M option.

Currently the 2018/2019 costs are as follows:

Application Fee: $450 + applicable taxes. Note - your application will not be processed until the stipulated application fee has been paid and all required supporting documents have been provided

Exam costs: Each exam costs = $340 + applicable taxes

 An LL.M program is about 10K in tuition for Canadian students and 38K for international students. Some universities have created a “Common Law” LL.M which costs about 25K just in tuition fees for Canadians, and about 38K for international students.

In the event that a student is obligated to take courses as opposed to exams, then one course can range from 2-10K if they decide to take the courses at Osgoode Hall. This price would also range depending on how many credits the course is worth and whether the candidate is a domestic or an international student.

Where to buy textbooks?

You can always purchase new copies of the required textbooks online from Amazon or Thomson Reuters or other reliable online sources. At the end of each NCA syllabi there is a list of publishers who you can contact to inquire about how to purchase their materials. Some of them have online stores. Alternatively, there are some great Facebook groups for NCA candidates where students can sell and purchase textbooks. Such as the “NCA Tutor” or “National Committee on Accreditation – FLSC” Facebook groups, where students also discuss NCA related matters.  


Is it possible to opt-out of an exam? Appeals

Some applicants have written to the NCA to be exempt from writing an exam.


You cannot opt out of any of the 5 core NCA subjects (Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Professional Responsibility and Foundations of Canadian Law). The only way to be exempt from writing these exams with the NCA is to take these courses as credit courses in a Canadian law school.

However, you may be exempt from writing some of the optional courses if you’ve already successfully demonstrated competency in those subjects. For example, business organizations used to be a required subject until a recent change in an assessment policy. Many students automatically received business organizations on their assessment, but they took a similar course in their law degrees abroad. Say you took corporate law or company law. In such an instance you would have to write to the NCA and submit an explanation of how you have demonstrated the required NCA competence for said subject. This would normally involve submitting your course syllabus from your law school and explaining how the course covers topics similar to the NCA module. If your request is successful, you may be exempt from writing the subject.

This does not necessarily mean that you will be exempt from writing the stipulated number of exams that the NCA has assessed you to write. So, if you are assessed to write 7 exams and have shown the competence to successfully appeal writing business organizations, you may or may not still have to write 7 exams. The total number of exams may be based on a number of assessment factors. If the reason business organizations was added to your assessment criteria was because it was an obligatory subject and not because of any other deficiencies in your application, you may be able to reduce the number of exams from 7 to 6.

 Assessed to write an Optional Exam – Which one to choose?

When I was faced with an optional exam, initially I did not know how to decide which exam I should write. Some people told me to write the “easiest” exam, though what is “easy” is quite subjective. Some might recommend you should do what interests you the most. Maybe none of them really interest you or perhaps all of them interest you, so it’s a tough call! My own approach was to do what I thought was the most beneficial for myself in the long haul.  Thus, as I mentioned in my previous post, I based which exam I chose to write upon what I thought would assist me the most with the bar exam. I would encourage students to do the same as well, unless of course you have a particular interest in a subject matter, then take this opportunity to learn more about it!


The Final Count-Down: Surviving NCA Week

It’s really easy to get caught-up in the flurry of exam week—reading during every spare minute, pulling all-nighters, and dreaming about exam answers during the few fleeting moments of REM you do decide to take.

This used to be me. I’d get to the end of an examination period in Law School feeling like I’d been hit head-on by a London Omnibus. When I did finally slow down, I’d immediately get sick.

So, when I started the NCA process I further revised my exam period routine. No matter how good your study work ethics are and no matter how prepared you may feel for an exam, it’s very easy to slip back into old stress habits during exam week.

In preparation for the week ahead, here are my top tips for staying cool as a cucumber and acing the NCAs drama-free. Self-Care is Key. Your brain (and your notes) are holding all the key information you need to pass these exams; and, surprise, your body holds your brain. So, why would you sabotage your most valuable assets by not sleeping or feeding yourself properly during exam week? While you may think working overtime into the wee-hours of the morning frantically reading case law or scribbling notes is all “part of the hustle”, the damage you do to your brain’s ability to function and be alert the next day and during the actual exam makes this an incredibly inefficient way to spend time during exam week. Additionally, your ability to actually learn and retain information when you are exhausted is quite depleted. Get sleep. Your brain will thank you with improved retention and logical reasoning capacity where it matters most -- in the exam hall.

Also, be sure to eat—well and often. A balanced diet and proteins help your brain function better. I always wake-up on the morning of an exam early enough to make a hearty breakfast. Usually, this includes egg and avocado toast with sides of bacon, maple syrup (I’m Canadian eh’), and fruit. Of course, coffee is key too! Finally, enjoy the hardest work being over and be sure to rest between exams. While light revision the evening before an exam is fine, don’t spend every minute between exams cramming. These are open book exams, remember. So as long as your binders are organized you’ll be fine! Enjoy a nap or some Netflix after a day of exam writing. The recharge will do you good.

Control Your Environment (and who’s in it). During exam week your focus should be on staying calm and healthy so you can perform at your best. Try to remove distractions and sources of stress from your routine for the week. This can include people, technology, and environmental stresses (i.e. a messy house for me).

For instance, perhaps your study group, which was super helpful while preparing for the NCAs, has since become more like an anxiety-swapping party than a productive group of students. It may be best to take a break from each other now and re-group after exams for a celebration.

On the technology front, I personally keep my phone on night mode for the whole week and only check it when I feel like it rather than when a notification pops up. Very likely, you have friends with lives outside the NCAs who don’t realize that their “hot goss” (to quote B99’s Raymond Holt) isn’t at the top of your priorities right now.

Whatever you decide to do, be nice and don’t unnecessarily ghost. Where appropriate, inform people close to you ahead of time that you will be taking a break from your life to write the NCAs -- you’ll be back in a week ready to rumble. They should understand.

Pack Your Bag the Night Before. In the morning or early afternoon before an exam, you may be battling nerves and potentially in a bit of a rush (real or not). Taking the simple step of putting your notes, text book, ID, and a whole bunch of pens into your bag out of your morning routine ensures you won’t have a nagging “did I forget something?” feeling on your way to the exam. A little organization can go a long way.

Be Early, But Not Too Early. The only thing worse than spending an inordinate amount of time outside an exam hall waiting for your exam to start, is rushing across the city in a panic that you are going to miss said exam because you overslept or transit did what transit does best.

So, avoid both. Leave your home early enough to ensure you aren’t rushing and arrive in the examination hall vicinity with plenty of time to spare. Find a quiet place near the exam hall location where you can do a little light review, listen to some happy tunes, or completely distract yourself with social media (whatever works for you).

Whatever you do, don’t spend three hours outside the exam room generating a ball of anxiety within yourself and in collaboration with the other exam takers doing the same thing around you. While I’m quite a social person generally, there were very few people I would engage in a conversation with just before an exam during law school. Most of the time, I kept my earbuds in and did my own thing.

I’m sending you lots of luck and good vibes for the week ahead. You’ve got this. Go forth and crush the NCAs!


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Planning for the NCAs: Everything to Get You Started

If you are close to graduation, spring is the perfect time to start preparing for your NCA assessment and planning-out your exam schedule so you can sit your first exam(s) in October. NCA assessment can take up to 8 weeks—though in my personal experience, it is usually closer to 5 weeks. Regardless, in order to ensure there is no delay to your ability to write exams in October, you should apply for assessment sooner rather than later. Remember, you cannot begin articling until you have completed and passed all the NCA exams assigned to you.

What are the NCA Exams?

The National Committee on Accreditation Exams are your first step to qualifying in Canada. These are open-book, pass-fail exams (50% is pass) that grant you the right to article and write the Bar exam in your province. You are permitted to bring any non-electronic reference materials into the exam with you so highlight and tab-away your notes for quick and easy reference in the exam room!

Most 3-year LL.B UK students will be assigned the five core exams but 2-year LL.Bs will do seven exams--the five core subjects that everyone has to do plus two electives of your choice. Law graduates from other countries may be assigned more exams depending on their degree.

Requesting an NCA Assessment

Before you can register for any NCA exams, you will need to apply for an assessment to determine how many exams you need to write. To do this, you will need to register online, pay the $450 fee, and have official copies of all your college and university transcripts sent to the NCA (Undergraduate, Masters, & LL.B as applicable). To ensure your process is as speedy as possible, ask your current law school if they can automatically send a copy of your transcript to the NCA once they are released. You can register as early as you like but your assessment will not be started until all your required transcripts have been received by the NCA.

Planning your Exam Schedule

While you are waiting for your assessment, you should take some time to plan your exam schedule. Every NCA candidate will need to write the 5 core exams: Foundations of Canadian Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Administrative Law, and Professional Responsibility. Knowing this, you can start to study for these over the summer so you are ready to go in October. Personally, I suggest that Foundations, Constitution, and Admin are done in one sitting as they are closely related; their overlapping content will make studying easier and more efficient. If you aren’t Canadian and/or didn’t do secondary education in Canada, I certainly recommend doing Foundations first, as it outlines the basics of the Canadian legal system and constitution quite nicely. (Please note that NCA Tutor™ recommends doing Foundations after Constitutional Law and Administrative Law)

If you have electives assigned to you as well, the subjects will be at your choosing. However if you did any NCA accredited courses during your LL.B then these electives will not be available to you. For instance, The City Law School’s Evidence and Canadian Corporate courses preclude NCA candidates from taking the Evidence, Business Organizations, and Commercial Law NCA exams.

While exam sittings are offered in January, May, August, and October of each year, not all elective subjects are offered in every NCA sitting. If you are set on doing a specific elective subject, be sure you plan your exam schedule accordingly using the NCA Schedules posted online.

Exam Locations

The NCA offers a variety of exam locations across Canada. However, if you are still living abroad, you can also request an accommodation to write your exam at an international NCA partner institutions (e.g. UCL in London). To find out about examination locations available in your country, email well before the exam registration deadline. The international partner institution may charge a small fee to sit the exam at their location in addition to the NCA exam fee.

The Federation of Law Societies publishes more information on NCA assessments, as well as resources like course syllabi and practice exams to help you study! Of course, NCA Tutor™ runs exam prep courses and publishes super helpful notes for studying and reference in the exam. I personally used the NCA Tutor™ notes for my core exams with great success.

Happy Studying & Good Luck!


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Understanding the Canadian Accreditation Process for Internationally Trained Law Students & Lawyers - A Birds Eye View

Foreign law graduates and lawyers who decide to come to Canada to practice law must complete an accreditation process prior to commencing the lawyer licensing process. This is known as the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) process. Yes, that means you and I, as foreign trained law students and lawyers are required to go through not one, but two processes in order to be licensed lawyers in Canada.

The objective of the accreditation process is to ensure that internationally trained law students and lawyers have the legal knowledge and skills to commence the lawyer licensing process in Canada. Whether the NCA process actually does do that is a whole different discussion on its own.


I completed a two-year LL.B program from England and was assessed to write six mandatory courses and one optional exam. An “optional” exam in this context meant I had to decide which exam I would like to write from a range of four. It wasn’t “optional” in the sense that I had an option to write it or not (I wish!).  Thus, I was obligated to write a total of seven exams. Some candidates can be assessed to write five, ten, or even fourteen exams! It can vary and everyone is assessed on an individual basis.

The NCA does not explain why your assessment is what it is, at least when I was assessed I was not given such feedback.  

Both education and professional experiences are taken into consideration to determine what avenue a candidate must take to complete the accreditation process.


Once an assessment has been made, candidates are either required to complete a number of exams or courses from a Canadian based law school within a stipulated time frame.

There are some LL.M programs that serve as an alternative route to meet the NCA requirements. The Canadian Common Law LL.M program offered at Osgoode Law School is an example of such an alternative route.

The six mandatory exams I was required to write were as follows:

1.      Canadian Professional Responsibility (commonly referred to as “PR”)

2.      Canadian Constitutional Law

3.      Canadian Administrative Law

4.      Foundations of Canadian Law

5.      Canadian Criminal Law

6.      Business Organizations (formally known as “Corporate Law”)

My seventh, “optional” (still can’t get over how deceiving that sounds) was family law. I had the opportunity to choose which exam I would like to write out of a choice of the following four subjects:

1.      Evidence

2.      Family Law

3.      Remedies

4.      Taxation

I chose to write family law, because from my research I learned that there is an entire family law section on the barrister exam (one of the two exams required for what is commonly known as “the bar exam”). I was trying to prepare myself as best as possible for the next challenge…


I worked two jobs to even be able to afford to write the exams, so I spread them out throughout the year. Not being accredited but being a law graduate put me limbo. I was not eligible to work in the legal industry as a summer student (or legal assistant) because I was “overqualified” (I really don’t know why employers use this sentiment, it’s like saying they’re afraid I’ll do the job too well?)  and I was underqualified to be taken on as an articling student. Some who find themselves in a similar situation might be able to work in a role that is adjacent or similar to law (if you’re lucky or if you’re not “overqualified”).

I was fortunate in the sense that I even got two jobs, one of which was very flexible and engaging, and both my bosses were very understanding and supportive of my situation. I wrote my last three exams in October even though I didn’t really feel prepared for all three, I was so fed up, I just wanted to be done. I did the best that I could in the time that I had, and I just went for it. I passed all three and received my NCA certificate in January 2019.

The isolating element and lack of guidance and transparency of the NCA process is what makes it challenging. The NCA won’t even tell you when exam results come out, you get a range of time (10-12 weeks) and sometimes it can exceed that stipulated time range. I was once writing exams having not received my exam results for the previous session. Talk about no pressure eh?


Having a support group is crucial. I don’t just mean having family and friends rooting for you, I mean having friends or joining an online group of people that are going through the same process. Most importantly you really have to motivate yourself and be committed.  

You have to get yourself in the mindset that you can get through this process. Some might say it’s a joke and super easy (some exams were in hindsight) but when you’re actually going through the process it can be very challenging, especially the exams which are all self-taught.


In hindsight, I think the NCA process taught me more about self-discipline, determination and being my own teacher than just Canadian law. These are invaluable skills both personally and professionally. The process is tough, not the actual material necessarily. In fact, a lot of Canadian law is influenced my British and American precedent so if you are trained in those jurisdictions you will see many similitudes (and probably get pretty annoyed about having to read the same theories and dicta again).

There is room for change in the system but that is not the objective of this piece. The objective of this piece is to give candidates an overarching view of what the NCA process entails, so they aren’t as shook as I was when I went through this process. Overall, conquering the NCA has a lot to do with patience…


As well as being self-disciplined, focused, goal oriented and well, courageous enough to just do it!  

  • Hirra G


The Year Ahead: Advice for Graduating International Law Students Returning to Canada

Calling all Law graduates and soon-to-be-graduates! First-off, congratulations on being done (or nearly done) your law degree. You've worked hard to get here and should pat yourself on the back, maybe even take a short vacation!

...okay celebration over. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the hard work isn't over yet. You knew that already though, didn't you?

If you are studying law in the UK (or anywhere else outside Canada, really), chances are you may be slightly disconnected from the recruitment flurry happening back home in Canada. Unlike Canadian law students, who have the help of their school's careers centre to navigate articling deadlines and other qualification requirements, international law students often have to figure things out for themselves. And there's quite a bit to figure out! I personally missed articling application deadlines by just a few days last summer which was very disappointing.

But, never fear! Nearly one year on from graduation, I've put together a very comprehensive calendar of deadlines that you need to be aware of and preparing for the moment after your final exam. Actually, scratch that. Take a week on a Spanish beach if you can, then hit the ground running when you come back. Balance is important.

Acronyms, terms, and more acronyms. There's a lot of terms and acronyms that you are going to hear thrown around as you embark on Canadian Qualification—both in the world-at-large and on this blog. Here's a quick overview to get you started. You’ll find more in-depth articles on many of these in the weeks to come, so stay tuned to this blog!

  1. NCA Exams: The National Committee on Accreditation Exams are your first step to qualifying in Canada. These are open-book, pass-fail exams (50% is pass) that grant you the right to article and write the Bar exam in your province. Most 3-year LL.B UK students will be assigned the five core exams but 2-year LL.Bs will do seven exams --the five core subjects that everyone has to do plus two electives of your choice. Law graduates from other countries may be assigned more exams depending on their degree. You can apply for articling before you complete these exams but cannot commence your articling position until all seven exams are done and passed so you'll want to get these out of the way quickly.

  2. Summer Associate: Similar to Vacation Schemes in the UK, summer associate positions are mini- articling jobs that Canadian students can apply for in their second year (2L). It's a bit of a hard-sell applying for these after graduation as the host firms generally expects you to return to school after the summer work experience ends; but if you plan to do an LL.M a year after graduation then you could make a case for yourself. In my opinion, it doesn't hurt to try as many firms hire articling students out of their summer associate pools.

  3. Articling Student/Position: The Canadian equivalent of a UK Training Contract that is generally 10 months in length (depending on the jurisdiction). Landing one of these is a requirement to becoming a fully qualified lawyer. You can do this either before or after you write the provincial Bar exam but will not be officially "called to the bar" until you complete it.

  4. Court Clerkships: An opportunity to be an assistant to a judge at any one of the many Canadian courts. In Ontario, a clerkship fulfils the articling requirement; in other provinces they are only a partial fulfillment. Check with your provincial law society to confirm.

  5. ViLaw Portal: This is the central database for finding and applying to Summer Associate, Articling and Clerkship Positions. Most opportunities are posted here and most firms require application through the portal. However, smaller firms and some courts have direct applications and/or do not post on ViLaw. So, this is a good place to start but not necessarily a one-stop-shop if you want to explore boutique firms and clerkships.

  6. LSO / Licensing Process: Law Society of Ontario previously known as the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC). Most of my blog posts focus on the LSO's timeframes and licensing requirements, but if you are aiming to qualify in a different province, you should seek advice from your relevant provincial law society. Law societies also set recruitment timelines for firms to follow to ensure fairness in the law student recruitment process; however, many big firms recruit on the LSO's timeline regardless of which province they are in. Law societies are also responsible for regulating lawyers and granting admission to the provincial bar; you will need to register with your provincial society to write the bar and submit proof of articling completion.

Hopefully this helps you get started on the next step in your legal career. In addition to a calendar of deadlines and key task list, you will also find a list of helpful online resources in my calendar. There's a lot to keep track of over the next few months, but remember, you've come this far and you can do this! Just be organized and focused.

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May 2019 NCA Tutor™ Class Schedule

This May we are offering both our intensive classes and exam workshops online only. These classes are live and candidates can participate in live disucssions. The 5 core subjects will be taught by Barrister & Solicitor, Liran Kandinov. Over the last 7 years, Liran has taught over 1500 candidates from 51 different countries.

May 2019 NCA Intensive Class Schedule

May 2019 NCA Intensive Class Schedule

May 2019 NCA Exam Workshop Schedule

May 2019 NCA Exam Workshop Schedule

May 2019 Ontario Family Law Intensive Classes and Exam Workshop with Inna Tsinman

May 2019 Ontario Family Law Intensive Classes and Exam Workshop with Inna Tsinman