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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.