U.S. and U.K. (3 Year) law school graduates – bar admission in Ontario

How Graduates of Law Schools Located Outside of Canada in the U.S. and U.K. Can Become Lawyers In Ontario – May 2010

“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder.


John F. Kennedy

Canada and the United States share the 49th parallel which is the world’s longest uncontested border. The United States and Canada also share a very common legal system. This commonality has made it possible to attend law school in the United States, enter the lawyer licensing process in Ontario and eventually become a lawyer in Canada.

Foreign Law School Graduates – U.S. and U.K. – Bar Admission In Ontario

It has historically been difficult for graduates of law schools located outside of Canada to become lawyers in Ontario. This short essay is for the purpose of  providing clarification (at a specific point in time – remember that this information is changing) on the following questions:

  1. What are the requirements to become a lawyer in Ontario?
  2. How are these requirements limited by the provisions of the Canadian  Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario’s “Fair Access To Regulated Professions Act”?
  3. How are the requirements to become a lawyer applied to graduates of both law schools located in Canada and law schools located outside of Canada?
  4. What is the National Committee on Accreditation? What role does it play in evaluating graduates of foreign law schools?
  5. What, are the NCA requirements for graduates of three year U.S. and U.K. law live classroom (this does not apply to the University of London external program) programs?
  6. What are the ways in which these “required competencies” can be demonstrated?

Caveat emptor! Although this information is believed to be accurate (or at least not inaccurate), it is important that you confirm these requirements. This means that you must do your own research and make sure that these requirements are current.

  1. What are the requirements to become a lawyer in Ontario?

In general, the requirements to become a lawyer in Ontario are here.

The requirements to become a lawyer in Ontario are found in the Law Society Act. S. 27(2) of the Law Society Act requires “good character” in order to be issued a license to practice law.  S. 62 of the Act authorizes the Law Society to make by-laws:

“governing the licensing of persons to practise law in Ontario as barristers and solicitors and the licensing of persons to provide legal services in Ontario, including prescribing the qualifications and other requirements for the various classes of licence and governing applications for a licence”

According to the Law Society:

“The focus of the Licensing Process is to ensure that candidates have demonstrated that they possess the required competencies at an entry level in order to provide legal services effectively and in the public interest.”

Notice the focus on “required competencies”.

Therefore, the focus should be to ensure that all those who enter the lawyer licensing process have these “required competencies”.

S. 9 of Law Society By-Law 4, makes it clear that in order to enter the “Lawyer Licensing Process” one must have either of the following two academic qualifications:

i. An LL.B. or J.D. from an accredited law school in Canada; or

ii. A certificate of qualification from the National Committee on Accreditation (“NCA”)

http://www.lsuc.on.ca/regulation/a/by-laws/bylaw4/

It is important to note that having either qualification does NOT allow one to be admitted to the bar. Rather, the academic qualification provides the “required competency” to enter the Lawyer Licensing process. The Lawyer Licensing Process consists of both articling and some required exams. Successful completion of the lawyer licensing process will allow one to be admitted to the bar and become a licensed lawyer.

  1. How are these requirements limited by the provisions of the Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario’s “Fair Access To Regulated Professions Act”?

The requirements for bar admission in Ontario are subject to both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario’s Fair Access To Regulated Professions Act.

The purpose of this essay is to provide a short overview of the bar admission process for foreign lawyers. What works? What doesn’t?  Suffice it to say that:

–         Law Society requirements for bar admission have been struck down because they violated various sections of the Charter of Rights (example citizenship);

–         The rules of the NCA may well be challenged as being in violation of the basic provisions of FARPA – the NCA requirements may not meet the requirement of S. 6 of FARPA – that is that they be: “transparent, objective, impartial and fair”.

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_06f31_e.htm#BK7

  1. How are the requirements to become a lawyer applied to graduates of both law schools located in Canada and law schools located outside of Canada?

Graduates of Law Schools Located In Canada (but outside Quebec)

It’s simple. They enter the Lawyer Licensing Process. Their law degree is a presumption  (without further inquiry) that they have the “required competencies”.

Graduates of Law Schools Outside of Canada

Graduates of law schools outside of Canada are required to get a “certificate of equivalency” from the National Committee on Accreditation (“NCA”). Once that certificate has been issued, graduates of foreign law schools are deemed to have the “required competencies” to enter the lawyer licensing process.

  1. What is the National Committee on Accreditation? What role does it play in evaluating graduates of foreign law schools?

The National Committee on Accreditation is a committee that has been created to evaluate the transcripts of foreign lawyers. It has only the authority delegated to it by the Law Society. The National Committee on Accreditation is the Law Society’s “servant” for the purpose of evaluating foreign law school transcripts.  That said, it has tremendous power.

http://flsc.ca/national-committee-on-accreditation-nca/about-the-nca/

  1. What, are the NCA requirements for graduates of three year U.S. and U.K. law live classroom (this does not apply to the University of London external program) programs?

Whether you live them or hate them, the fact is that the NCA is evaluating transcripts from law schools all around the world. The following discussion is narrow in focus. It applies to graduates of three year live law school programs in the United States and the U.K.

The NCA has identified that the “required competencies” must be demonstrated in ten basic areas. In the words of the NCA:

“NCA recommendations focus on the core common law subjects in which applicants must demonstrate competence, including four Canadian subjects which are mandatory for all applicants:

http://www.flsc.ca/en/foreignLawyers/faq.asp

Note that of the ten subjects only the first four are Canadian subjects. The last six courses are “common law” subjects that can be studied at any “common law” school. The law of contract is the same whether you take the course in London, England at Queen Mary or in London, Ontario at Western. This means that graduates of U.S. law schools who have studied the last six courses are (subject to acceptable academic performance) presumed to have demonstrated the “competency requirement” for those six courses.

Therefore, in order to demonstrate the competency requirement for the four Canadian courses, U.S. and U.K. law school graduates must (in most cases) pass challenge exams in:

  1. What are the ways in which these “required competencies” can be demonstrated?

Once again, the objective is to demonstrate competency in those ten core common law courses. How can these competencies be demonstrated?

  1. Competency in the six “non Canadian” common law courses can be demonstrated by taking those courses in the U.S. or U.K. law school. Professional Responsibility” is a required course in ABA approved law schools.
  2. Competency in the four “Canadian courses” can be demonstrated by passing those four challenge exams.

Are there other ways that these competencies can be demonstrated?

Yes. Here are some examples:

–         Bond University in Australia actually teaches Canadian Courses in Administrative, Constitutional and Criminal Law. These courses are taught by professors who are graduates of Canadian law schools. Hence, Bond graduates, who have taken these courses have demonstrated competency in those three areas. (Note that this principle could be used by other law schools).

http://www.bond.edu.au/law/

–         Successful completion of the U.S. “Multi-State Professional Responsibility” exam may be sufficient to meet the competency requirement in professional responsibility (for those who have not taken the course).

http://www.ncbex.org/multistate-tests/mpre/

–         The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, evidence, and real property.

http://www.ncbex.org/multistate-tests/mbe/

–         Lawyer licensing requirements in various jurisdictions may require one to pass exams (or otherwise demonstrate competency) in subjects like: evidence, company law, etc. Demonstration of the basic competency in one context (say the bar course in the U.K. or a state bar exam in the U.S.) may suffice to demonstrate competency to the NCA.

Conclusion

This short analysis is NOT legal advice. It is to provide a framework for graduates of U.S. and U.K. law schools to understand how to become a lawyer in Ontario. It is essential that foreign law school graduates:

  1. Keep track of how the laws and NCA requirements may change.
  2. Contact the NCA and make sure that you understand the requirements.

I welcome your thoughts and comments below.

John Richardson, B.A., LL.B., J.D. ( Of the Bars of Ontario, New York and Massachusetts).

http://www.prep.com

http://www.lawschoolbound.org

http://lawschoolbound.wordpress.com

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30 thoughts on “U.S. and U.K. (3 Year) law school graduates – bar admission in Ontario

  1. Dina

    Thank you very much for this article. It was very helpful. I’ve recently graduated from a UK university with an LLB and I am interested in moving to Canada to be with my boyfriend. Any further/specific advice about entering the bar?

  2. Law School Exp

    There are a lot of online law schools that offer a program for this kind of

    degree and you might find it hard to choose which one would be the best. The

    first thing that you must do is to check out what specific schools are

    accredited by distance learning organizations and bar associations in your

    state.Even applying to law school is extremely expensive and time consuming,

    let alone enrolling. Many law students drop out during their first year, and

    many others rue the day they ever enrolled.Therefore I suggest everyone for a

    online law program ,cheap and best !

    Online Law Programs

  3. Sarah

    I have just completed my LLB at the University of Leicester and would like to move to Canada to practise law. I have heard from fellow Canadian students that it is very difficult to secure an Articling position with big law firms in Canada and people are more likely to set up their own practices or usually have to work independently. Could you please shed some light on this matter? Also, I was thinking of moving more specifically to Brampton as I have family there, is there a lot of competition there, in terms of getting qualified and clients? Lastly, what is the typical pay I would expect to receive, whilst articling and also once qualified?

    Many thanks in advance!

  4. NAF

    HI , TO BECOME A LAWYER IN UK YOU HAVE TO FIRST DO LLB HONOURS AND THEN HAVE CHOICES TO DO LLM AND BPTC OR CAN DO EITHER OF THE TWO. TO BE CALLLED A BARRISTER IN UK STEPS ARE :
    1)LLB HONOURS
    2)LLM
    3)BPTC OR LPC OR BOTH

    I WANT TO KNOW IF I WANT TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL IN USA AND BECOME A LAW GRADUATE AND A BARRISTER WHAT ARE THE STEPS .PLEASE REPLY

  5. Barrister

    Hello i am a Barrister from UK but by nationality i m Bangladeshi, i am looking forward to move in to Canada, therefore i would like to know whether my Bar-At-Law degree is accepted in Canada, if yes then what is the next step moving to Canada and if not what else i have to do in order to get a call to the bar in Alberta.

  6. Barrister

    Hello i am a Barrister from UK but by nationality i m Bangladeshi, i am looking forward to move in to Canada, therefore i would like to know whether my Bar-At-Law degree is accepted in Canada, if yes then what is the next step after moving to Canada and if not what else i have to do in order to get a call to the bar in Alberta or ontario.

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  23. zoly

    Hi,
    I have an LLM and a GDL from BPP law school in London which is a one-year, full-time intensive course designed to provide non-law graduates or foreign law graduates with a diploma equivalent to a law degree. With GDL we can work as law graduate in England. Does it count as an LLB by Ontario?

    Many thanks

  24. UK Law Student

    For those of you who have read NAF’s post; disregard it as it is grossly incorrect.
    To become a Barrister in England and Wales you must:
    1. Obtain a LL.B. (Hons.) Law or ‘Qualifying Law Degree’ recognized by the Bar Standards Board or complete a ‘Graduate LL.B’ or complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)
    2. Join one of the four Inn’s Of Court (Grays, Lincoln, Inner Temple and Middle Temple)
    3. Complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and achieve a grade of ‘Competent’ or higher
    4. Complete a pupilage at an authorized provider (usually a barrister’s chambers or rarely ‘In-House’).

    The reason the above only applies to England and Wales is that:
    To qualify in Scotland you must complete a qualifying Law Degree from a Scottish University and then complete the Diploma in Legal Practice, be admitted to the Faculty of Advocates and finally complete a period of ‘Devilling’.

    To qualify in Northern Ireland you must obtain a LL.B. (Hons.) Law or ‘Qualifying Law Degree’ or complete a ‘Graduate LL.B’ or complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and then the Degree of Barrister-at-Law which is awarded by the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University Belfast and finally complete pupillage.

  25. Hamed Muj

    Will a 3 year online JD from an Australian university covering all the competencies required in Canada excepting the 4 Canadian law courses be counted as covering the competencies for Canadian licensing process – or will its being online be a hurdle like London University External Law which, I understand, is 2 years?

  26. Auritry

    Hi, I have completed my LLB hons with the division 3rd class from University of London External programme from Bangladesh. Now I am doing LLM in UK. But now am interested to move in to the Canada. Is there any possibilities to get chance in the Canadin Bar or practice as a lawyer in Canada. can anyone please give me in detail as I am very much worried about my 3rd class degree. And what is the procedure of NCA exam for my overall condiiton?
    Thank you

  27. Syed Kamran Shehzad Siddiqui

    Hi,i am s.Kamran Shehzad Siddiqui advocate of High court in Pakistan having LL.B degree in first division from Karachi university, i have 13 years professional experience , now i am willing to enrolled as an lawyer in Toronto Canada, so please guide me that what can i do?

  28. Charlotte

    Hello Im a non residing Canadian that is currently doing my LLB (final year in coming oct) in UK. Am planning to move back to Toronto after graduation- I am wondering if I should do the LPC in UK before having my qualifications assessed at NCA or directly have my qualifications assessed at NCA right upon graduating. (It occurs to me that if i want to practise in CA. A LPC is not needed..?)
    Further. Do the NCA look at your grades to determine if you need the exams again? (For common law subjects ie. Tort and contract?)
    Also as my uni offer us all 8 optional modules in final year, evidence and corporate law are not in my consideration. Would you recommend that I take evidence and corporate law for the sake of NCA?

    Thanks in advance!

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