Although lawyers are in high demand across all Canadian provinces and territories, most foreign lawyers in Canada find themselves unable to practice law due to the fact that their credentials are not recognized. There are over 130,000 practicing lawyers in Canada. Ontario alone has the largest percentage of foreign lawyers admitted to the bar to practice law.
To practice law as a lawyer in Canada, you must be properly licensed. The bar association of each Canadian province has a particular set of requirements for you to become certified to practice law. The bar examination itself is usually offered three times a year. Aside from meeting provincial requirements, Foreign lawyers are also required to take a standardized exam known as NCA Exams.
The National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) has established a re-certification process that evaluates law credentials that are obtained from outside of Canada and provides international or foreign lawyers an opportunity to speed up their preparation for the Canadian Bar exam.
This article gives a brief overview of the NCA Exams, assessment, and accreditation process to help foreign lawyers prepare for their re-certification.
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What Is The National Committee on Accreditation (NCA Canada)?
According to the FLSC website, the NCA is a standing committee of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC). The primary mandate of NCA is “… to protect the public interest by assessing the legal education and professional experience of individuals who obtained their credentials in a Canadian civil law program or outside Canada, and want to apply for admission to a common law Bar in Canada.”
In other words, the major aim of the NCA is to ensure that a degree obtained from a Canadian civil law degree or from abroad meets the national standards for legal practitioners in Canada.
With this, candidates will not be required to follow different entrance requirements in order to practice law in Canadian provinces and/or territories. The only exception is the province of Quebec as the Barreau du Québec and the Chambre des Notaires du Québec have different evaluation procedures.
The NCA Assessment For Foreign Lawyers In Canada
The NCA assessment is a series of processes that includes an exam that is very similar to those written in Canadian law schools and is NCA’s method of determining if you actually meet up with the standards for becoming a lawyer in Canada.
Citizenship and residency are not looked at during the assessment process, so, internationally trained lawyers have the liberty to apply for the NCA assessment, even before coming to Canada or becoming a permanent resident.
How To Apply For NCA Assessment In Canada?
Foreign lawyers in Canada are required to follow the steps below to apply for NCA and get accredited:
Step 1: Begin the application process by signing up online on the NCA’s website.
Step 2: Provide all necessary documents and meet all requirements demanded of you by the NCA.
Step 3: After your application has been approved and you have received a Certificate of Qualification, you may go ahead to apply to the bar by applying for law society bar admissions in any Canadian province or territory of your choice.
The formalities listed below are identified by the FLSC and are necessary for the NCA assessment to be processed:
- Online assessment application form, including a certain payment (about C$350, plus applicable taxes);
- The original official set of final academic transcripts from the institution of your studies;
- Set of documents to be sent to the NCA by the institution where you completed your legal education, including:
- a copy of your academic transcripts;
- a letter or certificate of membership in good standing from the local regulatory authority (if applicable);
- (if applicable) an official copy of your transcripts for any courses or examinations from the local regulatory authority that is required by such authority.
- If the official language of instruction of the law degree or the official language in the jurisdiction was other than English or French, the language proficiency of a minimum of 7.0 on each module of the IELTS test (for English) or TESTCan (for French) is required. If sufficient evidence is presented, this requirement may be waived.
After all of the required documents are received, the NCA will start the application process, and an assessment report will be mailed to the applicant within 4-8 weeks. Each application is looked at on an individual basis, evaluating candidates’ experience and qualifications, the length of the program and subjects of studies will be looked at, academic performance and also, the type of legal system where education was acquired, as well as other similar criteria.
After the assessment is complete, candidates will receive their assessment report that outlines the list of requirements they would need to meet in order to receive a Certificate of Qualification. The requirements can be divided into 3 types:
- Passing the NCA exams;
- Taking courses in specific areas of law at a Canadian law school; or
- Completing a Canadian common law degree program.
The assigned requirements focus on the key competencies of the Canadian common law, including 5 mandatory subject areas:
- Foundations of Canadian Law;
- Canadian Administrative Law;
- Canadian Constitutional Law;
- Canadian Criminal Law; and
- Canadian Professional Responsibility.
The candidates may also have to demonstrate knowledge and skills on other key subject areas, including:
- Business Organizations (formerly Corporate Law);
- Contract Law;
- Torts; and
- Property Law.
The NCA Exams Information
Applicants that received their NCA assessment can register for the NCA examinations. Each examination follows an open-book, paper-and-pen, pass-or-fail format, and lasts approximately 3 hours. Candidates are required to pre-register for each exam session, and they are expected to do that as early as 4-6 weeks prior to the start of the exam. Candidates can check their NCA exam results which are usually released 10-12 weeks following the exam date.
Usually, an outline of study materials is made available on the website but candidates will have to study on their own. Looking at recent exams written in Canadian law schools can give candidates an idea of how the exams will look like. NCA exams past questions can also be found in some Canadian law school libraries.
Applicants are responsible for their preparation for the NCA exams, including finding their study and preparation materials, and/or registering for the NCA Exams Prep courses, if they choose to. The cost of each NCA exam is CAN$340, plus applicable taxes, and applicants are expected to pay this fee as many times as they choose to take the exam.
The exams can be written in six different provinces in Canada four separate times in a year. The NCA may also allow the exam to be written in certain countries. You will find more information about the international locations for the exam if you visit the NCA’s website.
How To Prepare For The NCA Exams?
Candidates are likely to become tense as NCA exams approach. By adhering to these simple tips, however, you should be able to do well in your NCA exams.
- Start reading early
- Set up a workable reading schedule for yourself
- Set reading goals and try to meet up with them
- Stay away from distractions while studying
- Try not to adapt foreign concepts from your previous country (do this by sticking to the NCA’s syllabus only.)
- Pay attention to learning all jargon related to the Canadian Legal Systems
- Join relevant social networking groups
The NCA Exam Rules
Recently, the NCA exams became an online process. Even so, the rules guiding the examinations remain the same and the integrity is just as strict as before. Here are some of the rules that guide the NCA exams:
- Because the exams are now conducted online, the NCA will add an extra hour to the normal 3-hour schedule for the examination
- The questions are to be answered in a long response form
- The examination remains open book bur only hard copy materials are permitted to be used.
- Responses are to be entered using a keyboard only. No scanned or photograph attachment will be allowed.
- Each NCA candidate is responsible for providing internet connectivity and will have the online exams taken in a quiet and secure location.
The NCA ensures that all rules are adhered to through its partnership with MonitorEDU and Paradigm Testing. Candidates who are found to have gone against the rules may be disqualified and may have to reregister for the exams.
What’s Next After The NCA Assessment?
Upon meeting all of the NCA requirements, you may request a Certificate of Qualification. This certificate can be useful when you decide to enter their Bar admission process.
Without a doubt, the re-certification process can be lengthy and can require candidates to pursue more education. At the same time, the results will be worth it. After all, according to the WorkBC website, a median annual salary of a lawyer in British Columbia is $106,638.
FAQs About The NCA Exams
Q. How long does the NCA Process Take?
Ans. The initial assessment may take about 4-8 weeks before you get your report. After taking the exams, your results will be released about 10-12 weeks from the exam date.
Q. Are NCA Exams Online?
Ans. Yes, NCA exams are now written online. Because of this, an extra hour may be added to the 3-hour time frame so you can be able to cover every question in a full report format.
Q. How do I Get the NCA Exam Syllabus?
Ans. Upon registering for the exam, you will receive the syllabus for that particular session as part of your package.
Q. What Province is Best for Foreign Lawyers in Canada?
Ans. Toronto, Ontario. As the most welcoming province in Canada, Ontario’s cultural diversity affords foreign lawyers the best location in Canada to thrive. In 2015, about 30% of lawyers in Ontario schooled outside Canada.