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.

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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.

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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…

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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?

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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.

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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…

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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.

  • T
 

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

October Class Schedule - Registration opens August 27th.

Lex Professional Development Group inc. NCA Tutor™ is offering Intensive Classes and Exam Workshops taught by Ontario Barrister & Solicitor and NY Attorney at Law, Liran Kandinov.  For more than 6 years, Liran has worked with over 1350 NCA and Bar candidates.

The intensive classes will cover the fundamental substantive areas of law found on the NCA syllabi.  In the exam workshops, Liran will walk students through sample exam questions and will demonstrate how to properly structure answers for the exams.

These classes are offered In-Person (Toronto) and Online.

Please e-mail info@nca-tutor.com for registration and pricing details.

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August NCA Intensive Classes and Exam Workshops ROUND 2

Thank you to all the students who registered for our August classes. Nearly every course was sold out. We are now hosting a new round of classes for students who missed the first series. There will be early bird pricing for the first 5 students to register in each course. After that the costs go up by $40 per course.

For more information e-mail info@nca-tutor.com

Round 2: August Intensive Classes

Round 2: August Intensive Classes

Round 2: August Exam Workshops

Round 2: August Exam Workshops

Source: AugRound2