Accreditation path offered to Foreign-trained accountants should be offered to Foreign-Trained lawyers

Foreign lawyers wanting to become lawyers in Canada:

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In a world of Global Mobility:

Question:

Answer:

Graduates of non-Canadian law schools can certainly relate to the following scenario described in an article that recently appeared in the Globe and Mail:

Accountant Tomy Devasia arrived from India with his family in 2015 but lacked the Canadian credentials required to pursue his professional career here.

Settling in Calgary, he worked briefly as a machine operator. But through the Centre for Newcomers, a Calgary-based non-profit that provides career and other support to about 10,000 immigrants and refugees a year, he discovered a pathway to resume work as an accountant.

It appears that there is solution for non-Canadian trained accountants that is not currently available to non-Canadian trained lawyers. The article goes on to describe:

As part of a 34-week full-time career skills training program offered by the centre, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology offers a 12-week certificate on the fundamentals of Canadian accounting. The certificate consists of two intermediate-level courses in accounting and one in Canadian taxation recognized by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

Working with the centre, SAIT introduced the certificate in 2011 for foreign-trained accountants who had left established careers at home to settle in Canada. Over the past six years, 86 students have graduated from the program, with 16 currently enrolled, according to SAIT.

Requiring already-educated professionals to redo their accounting studies here makes no sense, says Janet Segato, SAIT associate dean of business.

“We have a lot of accountants who have degrees and master-level education in accounting from another country and have a high level of knowledge,” she says.

What trained newcomers need, she adds, is an introduction to the Canadian workplace, language skills and, in the case of accountants, Canada-specific knowledge about taxation and other financial rules. Mr. Devasia, for example, has a bachelor of commerce and an MBA from universities in India and had worked for 12 years in his home country as an assistant manager in accounts payable and receivable.

Through the education provided by the centre and SAIT, Ms. Segato says foreign-trained newcomers “can start making a contribution to the community much quicker if we can help kick-start their career path in Calgary.”

If the accounting profession (which arguably requires more Canada specific skills) has found a way to accommodate “foreign trained accountants”, then the law societies should be able to find a better way to accommodate “foreign trained lawyers”.

In any case (and this is just my personal opinion) “non-Canadian law school graduates” should (in addition to seeking bar admission in Canada) consider how to make better use of their non-Canadian law school and legal experience. There are many people who are making good livings as paralegals in Canada. In addition, certain LL.M. programs offer opportunities.

In the interim, the starting point for “Foreign lawyers becoming lawyers in Canada” is here.

John Richardson

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