Three steps to help foreign-trained lawyers achieve career success in Canada

Meghan Thomas from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University shares three steps to help foreign-trained lawyers on the path to income and career growth.

Accreditation and Licensing,Career Success and Planning,Education and Training

August 2, 2022

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In summary:

  • Employment opportunities for legal professionals in Canada are growing and the outlook for the coming years is strong.
  • As a regulated profession in Canada, learning more about the lawyer licensing process can help you launch your legal career in your new country.
  • Depending on the province or territory in which you wish to live and work, as well as your career advancement goals, your journey to become a lawyer in Canada may be different from other foreign-trained legal professionals.

It’s a good time to be a lawyer in Canada.

This looks to be the case in the years ahead, too. The Government of Canada’s job prospect projection information suggests the employment outlook for legal professionals in Canada is strong in almost every part of the country. Even economic uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic could benefit the legal profession in Canada. Windmill Microlending’s Trending Jobs Report says the same thing. If you’re a foreign-trained lawyer in Canada, career opportunities are looking promising for you.

Both skilled immigrants and refugees, who are legal professionals in their country of origin, have made significant inroads within the Canadian legal sector. For example, in Ontario, the largest jurisdiction for Canadian lawyers, approximately 30 per cent of lawyers admitted to the bar received their legal education outside of Canada. As a regulated profession in Canada, there are rules and restrictions pertaining to the practice of foreign lawyers which varies from province to province. That said, foreign-trained lawyers can qualify to practise law in any Canadian province.

Want to understand how to navigate the lawyer licensing process and become a lawyer in Canada? Download Windmill’s free Educational Pathways for Skilled Newcomers today.

Windmill reached out to Meghan Thomas, Director, Professional Graduate and International Programs at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. We asked her to help us understand the steps of how to become a lawyer in Canada, the lawyer licensing process and her best career advancement advice for foreign-trained lawyers wishing to achieve career success in their new country. These are her three steps on the path to income and career growth opportunities in the Canadian legal sector.

Meghan-Thomas - Web

Osgoode Professional Development logo

Meghan Thomas from Osgoode Hall Law School’s Professional Development team offers advice to foreign-trained lawyers on how to become a lawyer in Canada and reach your career success goals.

Step 1: Begin the lawyer licensing process

If you’ve decided you want to become accredited to practise law in Canada, your first step is to apply to the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA). Based on your legal education and experience, they’ll provide an assessment that tells you whether you need to take exams, courses, or go to law school in Canada. After you complete your NCA requirements, you’ll go through licensing with the law society in a common-law province or territory. For an overview of the process, visit the resources linked below.

Did you know an affordable loan from Windmill Microlending can help you pay for the costs of accreditation, education, training, qualifying exams, licensure and professional development courses in Canada? Find out if you’re eligible for a low-interest Windmill microloan, of up to $15,000, by completing our two-minute online loan eligibility quiz. Click here. 

Step 2: Expand your professional network in Canada

Network with lawyers and professionals with similar backgrounds or in practise areas that interest you. Those working lawyers are the best sources of information on current market trends and where your current skills fit in the Canadian legal job market. If you’re considering a new practice area, colleagues in that field can make a big difference. A few professional organizations, with a focus on supporting foreign-trained lawyers, include ITLNCANetworkS, Global Lawyers of Canada and NCA Network. Many of their members have had surprising journeys to law practise or to rewarding non-practising careers in Canada.

Step 3: Explore professional development courses to grow your skills and knowledge

Look into education and training opportunities that could be valuable to you. You may be in search of legal English upgrading, research and writing training or substantive Canadian legal knowledge. Other options include graduate law programs that can assist with accreditation or give you a deep grounding in a specialized area.

In the resources below, you can find a helpful guide to studying law in Canada, among other useful links.

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