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Steps to become a Lawyer/Attorney in Canadian Provinces / Territories

Canada

Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:

  1. Get Your Undergraduate Pre-Law Degree in Canada
  2. Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
  3. Go to Law School in Canada
  4. Complete Your Province’s Bar Admission Course and Articling

Lawyer Career info in Canada

There are 14 territorial and provincial law societies across Canada responsible for controlling 106,851 lawyers (as of 2009).  The national coordinating body of Canadian lawyers is The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC), which is responsible for developing national regulations standards for the legal profession.  

According to its 2009 survey, the FLSC has compiled the following numbers of practicing attorneys in each Canadian province/territory:

British Columbia:     12,116
Alberta:       12,374
Saskatchewan:    2,073
Manitoba:           3,926
Ontario:  40,979
Baneau du Quebec:      24,436
Chamber des Notaires du Quebec:    3,990
New Brunswick:  1,618
Nova Scotia:   3,043
Prince Edward Island:     290
Newfoundland & Labrador:   917
Yukon:      259
Northwest Territories:  551
Nunavut:  279

If your ambition is to join their ranks and become a lawyer in Canada, keep reading.
 

Step 1

Get Your Canadian Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

Most Canadian law schools require that you have a bachelor’s degree, or have completed 90 credit hours (three years) towards a bachelor’s degree, prior to entering law school. Check the LSAC Official Guide to Canadian Law Schools for your chosen school’s admission policies regarding undergraduate education.

Accreditation

Because Canadian education is regulated on a provincial level, there are no national accreditation bodies for Canadian colleges and universities. Government organizations recognize certain colleges and universities within their jurisdiction. There are certain national associations that establish quality standards and regulate colleges and universities, including:

If your undergraduate institution is accredited by one of the above-mentioned organizations, you should be assured that Canadian law schools would accept your undergraduate education as valid.

Requirements and Standards

Again, each Canadian law school has its own requirements and standards regarding the undergraduate education you must complete before applying to law school. Most have credit requirements, while others may require certain courses to be taken. Check with your law school’s policies for more information.

Degree Options

A Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in any field (or acceptable work towards such a degree) is usually sufficient for entry into a Canadian law school. Check with the individual law school that you are interested in attending for its policies.  


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Step 2

Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Canada

You must pass the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, before you will be accepted into any LSAC-member Canadian law school. This standardized entrance test is given four times annually.  

How to prepare

You can access free study materials, such as practice tests and sample questions and answers, at the LSAT website. Other preparation material for the LSAT in Canada includes:
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Canada:

Exam content

There are three key areas tested on the LSAT:

  • Reading Comprehension – Long, complex passages resembling information you will encounter in law school and in the law profession are presented. You must answer questions based upon your ability to understand, make inferences, and draw conclusions from these passages.
  • Analytical Reasoning– Your abilities to see relationships and draw conclusions are tested here.
  • Logical Reasoning– You must identify the strengths and weaknesses in given arguments in this section of the LSAT.

Although not scored as part of the LSAT, you must also produce a writing sample on a given topic. This will be sent to the law schools to which you apply for their review.

Application process

Applications for the LSAT are taken online. The LSAT is given on Wednesdays and Saturdays in February, June, October and December. Examination centers across Canada include:  

  • Alberta:
    • Bow Valley College, Calgary
    • University of Calgary, Calgary
    • University of Alberta, Edmonton
    • Grande Prairie Regional College, Grande Prairie
    • Canadian University College, Lacombe
    • University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge
  • British Columbia:
    • University College of Fraser Valley, Abbotsford
    • British Columbia Institute of Technology, Burnaby
    • Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops
    • Academy of Learning, Prince George
    • Ashton College, Vancouver
    • University of British Columbia, Vancouver
    • Camosun College, Victoria
    • University of Victoria, Victoria
  • Manitoba:
    • Assiniboine Community College, Brandon
    • Brandon University, Brandon
    • University of Manitoba, Winnipeg
  • New Brunswick:
    • University of New Brunswick, Fredericton
    • Mount Allison University, Sackville
  • Newfoundland:
    • Memorial University of Newfoundland – Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook
    • Memorial University of Newfoundland, Saint John’s
  • Northwest Territories:
    • Aurora College, Yellowknife
  • Nova Scotia:
    • Xavier University, Antigonish
    • Dalhousie University, Halifax
    • University of Cape Breton, Sydney
  • Nunavut:
    • Nunavut Arctic College, Cambridge Bay
    • Nunavut Arctic College, Iqaluit
  • Ontario:
    • Loyalist College, Belleview
    • Saint Lawrence College, Cornwall
    • McMaster University, Hamilton
    • KLC College, Kingston
    • Queen’s University, Kingston
    • Saint Lawrence College, Kingston
    • Fanshawe College, London
    • University of Western Ontario, London
    • Canadore College, North Bay
    • Carleton College, Ottawa
    • University of Ottawa, Ottawa
    • Trent University, Peterborough
    • Algoma University, Sault Ste Marie
    • Cambrian College, Sudbury
    • Laurentian University, Sudbury
    • Lakehead University, Thunder Bay
    • Humber College, Toronto
    • Queen’s Collegiate, Toronto
    • University of Toronto, Toronto
    • York University – Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto
    • University of Waterloo-St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo
    • Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo
    • Niagara College, Welland
    • University of Windsor Faculty of Law, Windsor
    • University of Windsor, Windsor
  • Prince Edward Island:
    • University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown
  • Quebec:
    • McGill University, Montreal
  • Saskatchewan:
    • University of Regina, Regina
    • University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
  • Yukon:
    • Yukon College, Whitehorse

Receiving Your Score

Your LSAT score, which will be between 120 and 180, will be mailed to you three weeks after the date of the exam.  

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Canada

The next step in the process of becoming a Canadian lawyer is to go to law school. View the LSAC Official Guide to Canadian Law Schools for application procedures for the law school in which you intend to apply for admission. There are two legal traditions in Canada: French civil law, dominant in Quebec; and English common law, dominant in all other provinces and territories. If you intend to practice law in Quebec, you must graduate from a Quebec law school. If you intend to practice in an English common law jurisdiction in Canada, you must graduate from one of the common-law schools in the other provinces/territories. Canada has mobility agreements among the provinces/territories that allow lawyers licensed in one common-law jurisdiction to practice in another common-law jurisdiction.

Application process

Ontario Law Schools

If you are applying to any law school in Ontario, you must apply online through Ontario Universities Application Centre. Instructions will be given on what is needed, such as undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, community involvement, personal statement, and LSAT scores, when you apply.

Law Schools in Other Provinces

Each law school has its own admission policies and requirements. Check with your individual law school for its expectations.

Accreditation

The Law Society of Upper Canada

The Law Society of Upper Canada, which represents Ontario, requires that you graduate from a law school approved by Convocation in order for your law education to be provincially recognized. All schools listed under “Law Schools in Canada” below are approved by Convocation.
Barreau du Québec

The Barreau du Quebec requires that you graduate from a French civil law school in order to become a licensed lawyer in Quebec. Approved law schools include:

All other law societies

Other provincial law societiesrequire that you graduate from a Canadian common-law university. All schools below except McGill University are common-law schools.

Law Schools in Canada

Law schools in Canada include:

Online Law Degrees

Foreign law schools

If you attend a foreign law school and wish to become a Canadian lawyer, your education must be approved by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA). You must submit your qualifications and experience in law to the NCA. The NCA will then determine what, if any, further coursework you must complete at an approved Canadian law school prior to licensure as a lawyer in your province. You may also be asked to complete examinations in order to qualify for licensure. If you qualify, you will be issued a Certificate of Qualification, which you may use to seek entry to your province’s law society.

Degree Programs

You must complete a Bachelor of Laws (L.L.B.) program or Juris Doctor (J.D.) program in order to qualify for bar membership in any Canadian province or territory. This generally takes three years to complete.

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Step 4

Complete Your Province’s Bar Admission Course and Articling

The next step in becoming a Canadian lawyer in all provinces is to complete your province’s Bar Admission Course. This differs a bit from one province to the next, as you will see below.

Ontario (Law Society of Upper Canada)

Ontario’s Bar Admissions Course consists of online self-study in the following subjects: Real Estate, Wills and Estates, Business Law, Professional Responsibility, Family Law, Criminal Law, Civil law, and Constitutional Law. You must then pass two major licensing exams covering these subjects – both self-study and open book. One is the Barrister Examination and the other is the Solicitors Examination. Each exam takes about seven hours to complete.

After finishing this step, you must complete a 10-month Articleship. During this time, you will work for a principal (licensed lawyer) who must approve of your work. You will be assessed midterm, at which time your principal must report your progress to the Law Society of Upper Canada. You must also complete an online Professional Responsibility and Practice Course during your articling period.

Once you have completed all of these steps, you will be called to the Bar, conferred with the degree of Barrister-at-Law, and sworn in and enrolled as a Solicitor of the Court of Appeal and the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario.

British Columbia (Law Society of British Columbia)

You must complete the Law Society Admission Program, a 12-month program that includes:

  • Completion of nine months of articling in a law firm or other legal workplace. You must obtain your own articling position, and work full-time continuously for at least nine months
  • Completion of a 10-week Professional Legal Training Course (PLTC). This course covers legal practice and procedure, legal skills, ethics, and practice management. Classes are held at the Law Society in Vancouver and at Camosun College in Victoria.
  • Passing two qualification examinations covering the PLTC Practice Material, which includes:
    • Civil litigation
    • Creditors remedies
    • Criminal procedure
    • Family law
    • Commercial law
    • Company law
    • Conveyancing
    • Estates
    • Practice Management
    • Professional responsibility

After completing these requirements, you will receive a package from the Law Society including an application for call and admission, plus membership options and fees due. You must be presented formally to the court in a call and admission ceremony, where you must take the barristers and solicitor’s oath before you will be eligible to practice law in British Columbia.

Alberta (Law Society of Alberta )

To become a Student-at-Law, you must complete the Law Society of Alberta Admission Program.  This entails completing the Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED) course and a clerkship/ articling period.

The CPLED program is shared by Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It is based on a Competency Profile, or skills and competencies needed by new lawyers. You are evaluated on these competencies before you pass the course:

  • Lawyering skills
  • Practice and management skills
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Legal knowledge

The Articling Program usually consists of a 12-month work period (or reduced to five months if you have already completed a clerkship with the courts). You work for a principal during this period. You and the principal must complete an Evaluation Certificate and submit it to the Law Society within six months of completing the Articling Program.

Before completing your CPLED and Articling Program, you must schedule your Bar Call at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary or Edmonton, or at the Provincial Court of Alberta (for Bar Admissions south of Red Deer) or the Provincial Court of Alberta (for bar admissions in Red Deer, Edmonton and northern Alberta). Your Bar Call date must be scheduled for at least 30 days after your completed enrolment application and fees are received in Law Society of Alberta’s Calgary office. When the

Court House has confirmed your Bar Call date, submit a Notification of Call Ceremony and Membership Information Form. You will be instructed as to fees and documentation necessary to submit prior to bar admission.

Manitoba (Law Society of Manitoba )

If you want to become a Manitoba lawyer, after law school you must complete the Manitoba CPLED Program and an Articling Period. The CPLED program includes both face-to-face and online classes in:

  • Drafting Wills
  • Drafting Contracts
  • Drafting Pleadings
  • Oral Advocacy
  • Legal Research and Writing
  • Written Advice and Advocacy
  • Negotiations
  • Practice Management

The Articling Program consists of 52 weeks working full-time for a principal. You will work under the supervision of a lawyer approved as a principal by the Law Society of Manitoba.

After completing all requirements, you will be instructed to submit the proper application and fees for your ball call. The Law Society will arrange for your call ceremony. Once your bar call date is confirmed, you must submit an Application to Commence Active Practice and attend the scheduled call ceremony before you can practice as a Manitoba lawyer.

Saskatchewan (Law Society of Saskatchewan)

You must complete the CPLED Bar Admissions Program and a 12-month Articling Period prior to becoming a lawyer in Saskatchewan. First, apply to become a Student-at-Law. Next, secure an articling position, in which you will work for 12 months under a principal (licensed lawyer in Saskatchewan). Then, complete the CPLED Bar Admissions Program, focusing on the following competencies: Drafting Wills, Legal Research and Writing, Practice Management, Interviewing and Advising, Written Advice and Advocacy, Drafting Litigation Pleadings, Drafting Contracts, Negotiation, Oral Advocacy, and Ethics and

Professionalism. Classes are conducted through online and face-to-face modules. You are required to complete Assignments and Competency Evaluations during the program.

After completing these requirements, you must apply to become a Saskatchewan lawyer. This involves signing the Law Society Roll at the Regina Law Society office. Your Application for Admission as a Lawyer must be submitted and approved before appointments to sign the roll are made. Formal presentation ceremonies to introduce newly admitted lawyers to the Court are conducted in the fall.

Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia Barristers Society)

You must complete the Nova Scotia Barristers Society Bar Admission Course and Articling before becoming a lawyer in the province. The Bar Admissions process consists of a Skills Course covering Practice Management Skills (online); Interviewing, Negotiation and Litigation Skills (in-person at the Society offices in Halifax); Legal Writing Skills (online) and Legal Drafting Skills (online).

You must then take a two-day essay format Bar Examination, testing your knowledge and skills in:

  • Administrative law
  • Business organizations
  • Constitutional law
  • Commercial transactions
  • Criminal law
  • Contracts
  • Evidence
  • Professional responsibility
  • Family law
  • Torts
  • Real estate law
  • Wills and probate
  • Trial procedure

Your Articling period must consist of working full-time as an articled clerk for a qualified principal for 12 months (including the time for the Bar Admission Course).

Once you are eligible for bar admission, you will be called by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society for membership. Admission ceremonies occur throughout the year.

Quebec (Barreau du Quebec)

After finishing your law school training period of three years, you must work at the Quebec Bar School, gaining professional training and practice, for four months. Then you are placed in a Work Placement (Articling Period) for six months. Next, you must take an examination in spoken and written French set by the Office de la Langue Francaise. Finally, you may make application to the Quebec Bar for membership.

New Brunswick (Law Society of New Brunswick)

Once your law school education is completed, you must complete a one-year program prior to admission to the Law Society of New Brunswick. This consists of:

  • a 48-week Articling Period, in which you work as a clerk for a principal (lawyer approved by the Society to supervise your work)
  • four weeks of full-time class attendance at the Bar Admission course on legal competencies and skills held in Fredericton and St. John
  • passing the Law Society of New Brunswick Bar Examinations:
    • Civil Procedure exam – one hour and 30 minute short-answer essay open-book test based on the New Brunswick Rules of Court and Forms
    • Statutes of New Brunswick exam, four hours and 30 minutes open-book exam focusing on:
      • Business law
      • Property law
      • Family law
      • Civil litigation
      • Motor vehicle law
      • Professional conduct and ethics

After completing all of the above requirements, you may petition the Society for admission as a Barrister and Solicitor.

Prince Edward Island (Law Society of Prince Edward Island)

Before enrolling in the Law Society of Prince Edward Islands’ mandatory Articling Clerk program, you must complete the following courses in law school:

  • Civil procedure
  • Canadian Constitutional law
  • Criminal law
  • Contracts
  • Property Law
  • Ethics and Professional Responsibility
  • Torts

And four of the following seven courses:

  • Commercial law
  • Criminal procedure
  • Evidence
  • Corporate law
  • Wills/trusts
  • Family law
  • Administrative law

The Articling Program is a 12-month program in which you work as a clerk under the supervision of a Principal (a lawyer with at least five years of bar experience).

You must then complete a Bar Admission Course, consisting of a two-week in –person Prince Edward Island component  on PEI substantive law and practice; and a three-week Nova Scotia Skills component on Practice Management Skills, Legal Writing Skills, and Legal Drafting Skills that is in-person and online.

Once you have completed the Bar Admission Course and articling period, you are eligible for admission as a member of the Law Society and to take the oaths of office in a court ceremony. You will then be a lawyer who may practice in Prince Edward Island.

Newfoundland and Labrador (Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Admission to the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador consists of an Articling Period and Bar Admissions Course. Before beginning this process, you must complete the law school courses listed above in the Prince Edward Island section.
After being admitted as a Student-at-Law, you must complete the Articling Period, working as a clerk for a principal. Contact the Law Society for more details on applying for this program.

The Bar Admission Course lasts eight weeks from 9 am to 5 pm each day. It is a concentrated program focusing on Civil Advocacy, Examination-in-Chief/Cross-Examination, Interviewing Skills, Negotiation Skills, Examination for Discovery, Real Estate Transactions, Title Searching and Surveys, Criminal Advocacy and a Mock Trial and Sentencing Hearings. In order to pass the course, you must pass exams in Family Law, Commercial Law, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Administrative Law and Real Estate/Wills.

After fulfilling these requirements, you will be eligible for membership in the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and to legally practice law in the provinces.

Yukon (Law Society of Yukon)

After completing your law school education, apply for Student-at-Law status with the Law Society of Yukon. You will then complete a 12-month term of Articles and a Bar Admissions Course and Examinations. You may, during your term of Articles, appear and act as counsel in a Yukon Territorial Court, a Yukon Supreme Court, and any Yukon Court in approved areas under the supervision of a Principal.  During this period, you must also attend the Bar Admissions Course and pass all examinations. Once these requirements are completed, you may apply for admission to the Law Society of Yukon and work in the territory as a licensed lawyer.

Northwest Territories and Nunavut (Law Society of the Northwest Territories) (Law Society of Nunavut)

Under the Legal Profession Act of the Northwest Territories and of Nunavut, you must apply to become a Student-at-Law after finishing law school. Once you are a Student-at-Law, you will serve 12 months of service in articles of clerkship approved by the Society to a member. This member may be a judge of the Northwest Territories/Nunavut Court of Justice; a Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Canada or of a superior court of a province or territory; or a barrister and solicitor who does not live in Northwest Territories/Nunavut but is an active member in good standing and has practiced law for at least five years.

Then, you must take a Bar Admissions Course and pass the Bar Admissions Examination. Finally, you will be eligible for membership in the Law Society of the Northwest Territories and/or of the Law Society of Nunavut.

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