Becoming a Lawyer

In order to become a lawyer, you must obtain a law degree and fulfill the educational and training requirements for admission to a law society. Becoming a lawyer takes time and effort - but if you're willing to make the commitment, it can lead to a challenging and rewarding career.

Getting a Law Degree

Canada has two legal traditions: common law and civil law. Common law is derived from the British legal system and applies to all provinces and territories except Quebec. Civil law is based on the French legal system and is used in Quebec. Lawyers in all parts of Canada except Quebec must have a degree in common law, while Quebec requires a civil law degree.

There are 20 universities in Canada that offer professional law degrees, including 16 common law schools and six civil law schools (two of the universities offer degrees in both systems of law). It usually takes three years of study at law school to obtain a degree.

A degree in law is a graduate degree, which means that you must engage in university studies at the undergraduate level before applying to law school. There is no mandatory discipline of study so you may chose almost any program that interests you. Most Canadian law schools require the completion of at least three years of an undergraduate program, but some law schools will accept applicants after two years of undergraduate studies. Students typically find it beneficial to obtain an undergraduate degree due to the competitive nature of the law school admissions process.

Law schools judge applicants on the strength of their undergraduate academic record and involvement in extracurricular activities. Common law schools also assign much weight to performance on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which is a standardized examination designed to measure acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills.

Admission to a Law Society

After getting a law degree, you must go through the licensing process in order to become a lawyer. This involves applying for admission to the law society of the province or territory in which you want to practice law. A law society is a regulatory organization that governs the legal profession by setting and enforcing standards for admission and professional conduct for lawyers. Only members of a law society are licensed to practice law.

Admission to a law society requires fulfillment of additional criteria following graduation from law school. Applicants must be of good character and are required to complete an apprenticeship program (known as articling), attend a professional legal training course (called the bar admission course) and pass licensing examinations (the bar examinations).

Articling involves working under the supervision of a practicing lawyer for a period of approximately one year. The purpose of articling is to provide exposure to the practical application of law in a variety of areas. The length of the articling program depends on the province (for example, Ontario requires a term of 10 months).

The bar admission course is designed to develop and evaluate skills that are necessary for the practice of law, as well as to safeguard the standards of professional responsibility and competence. After the course work is completed, you must write the bar examinations to qualify as a lawyer.

Once you have met all of the admission requirements of the law society, you can be admitted as a member (this is known as "call to the bar"). You are now entitled to practice as a lawyer.

Contacts

Further details can be obtained from law schools or the law society of your province:

Alberta - Law Society of Alberta

British Columbia - Law Society of British Columbia

Manitoba - Law Society of Manitoba

New Brunswick - Law Society of New Brunswick

Newfoundland - Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

Northwest Territories - Law Society of the Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia - Nova Scotia Barristers' Society

Nunatut - Law Society of Nunavut

Ontario - Law Society of Upper Canada

Prince Edward Island - Law Society of Prince Edward Island

Québec - Barreau du Québec Chambre des notaires du Québec

Saskatchewan - Law Society of Saskatchewan

Yukon - Law Society of Yukon

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