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How To Become A Lawyer In Canada

Canada Supreme CourtIf you want to know how to become a lawyer in Canada the first thing to note is that becoming a lawyer in Canada is actually governed by each province separately.

However, all of the provinces – apart from Quebec – operate on broadly similar ways as they all use Common Law. The province of Quebec uses Civil Law instead, and so the process is slightly different.

This means you will have to opt for either studying Civil Law in Quebec or a Common Law degree program somewhere else in Canada. 

Being a lawyer in Canada – and indeed any other country for that matter – is a fulfilling role to play in society, not to mention being very financially rewarding.

Legal salaries

Working as a lawyer in Canada is a great career and lifestyle decision – here is a table showing the salaries of lawyers* in this lovely country.



In-House Council

Up to $60,000



$60,000 to $80,000



$80,000 to $100,000



$100,000 to $120,000



$120,000 to $140,000



$140,000 to $160,000



$160,000 to $180,000



$180,000 to $200,000



$200,000 and above




Steps to becoming a lawyer in Canada

Here's a guide to the various stages that students need to undertake to become a lawyer in Canada.

1. Pre-law undergraduate degree 

Attending law school in Canada requires the student to already have an undergraduate degree, and law schools – such as the University of Toronto – say that no one subject is better than any other. Students must complete the undergraduate degree before applying to law school. 

2. Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) 

The LSAT is the method of entry into Law School across the US and Canada, and is administered by the Law School Admission Council. It runs tests around the world and is held about four times a year. There are a number of organisations that run preparation courses to take the exam, such as Oxford Seminars, who hold courses across Canada, or Kaplan who hold courses around the world. 

3. Complete law degree 

After successfully passing the LSAT, students then need to attend one of the 17 Common Law Schools in Canada and undertake the three year JD program. This process is slightly different if they wish to practice in Quebec, as in this case they need to complete a Civil Law course at a law school in Quebec. 

4. Foreign-trained lawyers – NCA examination 

Those students or lawyers who hold a law degree from another country must gain a Certificate of Qualification to show that they have the necessary understanding to go on to the Bar Examination in Canada. To begin with, they must pass the exams held by National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) – which is run by the Federation of Law Societies in Canada – to show that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to become lawyers in Canada. These exams are held around four times a year, and students can either study by themselves in preparation for the exams or take a course in NCA examination preparation run by one of the law schools in Canada. 

The courses cover the five mandatory subject areas in the exam of Foundations of Canadian Professional Responsibility, Canadian Law, Canadian Constitutional Law, Canadian Criminal Law and Canadian Administrative Law. Students may have to demonstrate knowledge of Contract Law, Business Organisations, Property Law and Torts through courses undertaken in Canada or previously to moving to Canada. Once internationally trained students have passed the NCA exam they can then move onto working on the provincial Bar Admissions Course and Articling in the province they wish to live and work in. 

5. Provincial Bar Admission Course & Articling 

Students go on to complete their provincial Bar Admissions Course and a period of 10 months to a year of Articling. This is where the student works with supervision from a member of the provincial Bar as a clerk in a law firm, courtroom or legal department. Again this is slightly different if the student wishes to practice in Quebec, then the student will have undergone a Civil Law JD program and go on to spend a term attending Bar School. After this, the student completes the Stage and this is the Civil Law equivalent of Articling. 

Once a student has passed the Bar Exam in their province they are free to practice as a lawyer. Lawyers in Canada can call themselves Barristers or Solicitors and tend to define their practice with the title they choose. Barristers appear in court or in mediation and solicitors do not appear in court but involves legal issues such as contracts and wills. 

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Post-LLM careers In Canada

Canada is a vast and diverse country with plenty to offer former LLM students, here are some of the post-LLM career options available to international students in Canada.

Right to remain in Canada – most LLM students will be able to extend their student visa to work in Canada for some time after their student visa has expired. This is known as the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWT) and will make it easier to gain the experience necessary to then apply for permanent residence. The PGWT costs $255 CAD and can take up to 150 days to process.

Opportunities for foreign lawyers – there are many avenues for foreign-trained lawyers to consider in Canada. Many Canadian cities have large populations of recent immigrants from all over the world, and these people need legal help and advice when dealing with their home countries, as does the Canadian Government and international corporations. Foreign-trained lawyers must pass an assessment run by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) who then inform the lawyer what Canadian Law courses they must take to gain a pass or if they must complete a Canadian LLB instead.

LLMs for foreign lawyers – most law schools in Canada offer LLM programs specifically for foreign-trained lawyers to gain the skills necessary to pass the NCA exams and Provincial Bar Exams, for example Osgoode Law School offers an LLM program in Canadian Common Law. Foreign-trained lawyers should be careful as not all LLM programs in Canada are designed for students to pass the NCA exams. The University of Toronto offers a range of LLM programs and have designed some for foreign-trained lawyers – such as the Global Professional LLM with a concentration in Canadian Law in a Global Context – but others are not designed for foreign-trained lawyers, so make sure you choose the right option for you.

Canadian law firms recruitment – Canadian law firms tend to recruit directly from law and LLM programs and through events held by law schools. They are usually looking to recruit well-rounded graduates with a good range of skills, who will broaden the outlook and diversity of their firm. This is all to the advantage of foreign-trained lawyers, and if you speak a couple of languages and can offer a unique view of the law, then you will be a great asset to many Canadian law firms. Canadian law schools are also looking for students with excellent grades who also participated in the social life of the law school. The key to success is to network whilst studying your LLM program to gain an understanding of the culture of the different law firms you are interested in and attend every event that you can.

Legal job prospects in Canada – there are plenty of opportunities in Canada for foreign-trained lawyers. With a diverse population from all over the world, there is always the need for legal experts who speak different languages to help support new Canadian residents. 

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