Last Updated on August 30, 2023
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How to Become a Lawyer in Canada for International Students
Here are some of the things you will need to do to achieve this goal:
1. High School: Graduate with your diploma
Complete your high school education, regardless of your educational system in the world, e.g. Ontario Grade 12, US Grade 12, GCE/GCSE at the A/AS level, CAPE, IB, etc.
2. After High School: Aim for earning an undergraduate (Bachelor’s) degree
You cannot enter Canadian law schools directly from high school. After finishing high school, continue on to higher education (post-secondary) studies. Any undergraduate degree is good preparation for law school, e.g. BA, BSc, BBA, BComm, BEng. BMus, BPHE, BKin etc.
There are people at U of T law school who have degrees in engineering, biochemistry, English literature, political science, economics, music etc. For your initial undergraduate degree, select the program that you will enjoy studying, since no subject is better than another for getting into law school. You are not obligated to obtain your initial undergraduate degree at the university where the law school is located, it is better to choose the institution that is the best fit for you for your initial degree. If you wish to consider obtaining the initial undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, then please visit the undergraduate admissions webpage, and direct all undergraduate admissions inquiries to the undergraduate admissions office.
Finish your degree
Undergraduate degrees are typically designed to be completed in four years of full-time studies. In order to qualify to be accepted into law school, most law schools in Canada require the completion of equivalent of at least three full-time years, or a completed degree.
Even if the law school you are applying to does not require it, your application will be more competitive if you have completed your undergraduate degree. At the University of Toronto almost all law students have completed at least a four-year degree. In recent years, approximately five very exceptional applicants a year have been admitted without completing a four-year undergraduate degree.
Degrees from accredited, recognized higher education institutions across the world are generally eligible. Consult the desired law schools to be certain.
3. Write the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
This is a standardized test created and administered by the LSAC, an independent non-profit organization based in the US.
Nearly all Canadian and US law schools require the standard LSAT. The standard LSAT is held in many countries throughout the world. Not valid are the specially-designed LSAT for entry into law schools located in India, and the specially-designed Spanish-language LSAT for law schools located in Puerto Rico.
In Canada and the US the test is held up to nine times a test cycle in the months of June, July, September, October, November, January, February, March and April.
The LSAT consists of two portions, both of which must be completed:
- Several sections of multiple choice questions and problems designed to test reading comprehension and your ability to think logically and analytically, written at a test centre, and
- Writing a brief essay, which is done separately from the multiple choice portion and is required for the test score to be available to law schools.
It does not test factual information on law or any other subject area, therefore it does not rely on the subject(s) you study in school to do well on the LSAT.
You may write the test more than once. However, you should check with each desired law school to see how it treats multiple writings of the test. Some law schools average the scores and others take the highest or the lowest score. For convenience, many applicants tend to write the test in June or July after third year or during first term of their fourth year undergraduate degree, since there are usually the least conflicts with their school schedules.
Free test preparation & the UofT Law School Access Program (LSAP)
LSAC, the LSAT test maker, provides a free official online preparation program. Private agencies offer preparation classes and practice tests for a fee. Investigate them thoroughly to determine which are reputable and reliable.
Once a year during the summer, for high-potential undergrad students who have limited financial resources, the U of T Faculty of Law offers the Law School Access Program (LSAP). This is a free LSAT prep course plus law school admissions support, see law.utoronto.ca/lsap
4. Apply to law school
Do the research to determine the law schools to which you should apply
There are 18 common law schools in Canada, eight of which are in Ontario, and hundreds more in the US and around the world.
When picking a law school, you will consider many things, including the size of the school, its distance from your home, the type of law it specializes in, the composition of the student body and faculty, whether it offers courses or a degree in French, and the philosophy of the school.
In particular, you must also consider whether you are likely to gain admission to that particular school, based on your grades, LSAT score, and other accomplishments and attributes. There are special programs offered by different law schools as well. For example, at the U of T law school, you can do “combined” degrees in Law and Social Work or Law and Business Administration.
Complete the application form
All law school applications in Ontario are coordinated by the Ontario Law School Application Service. The OLSAS application is completed on-line. The applications are processed by OLSAS and then forwarded to each law school the applicant has applied to for an admission decision.
Every law school has different requirements for entrance. However, they all require your academic transcripts, LSAT score and some form of a personal statement. Many law schools also request reference letters. The deadline for applying to law schools in Ontario is usually the first week of November of the year before you want to enter law school. Law schools outside Ontario all have different deadlines.
5. Earn your law degree
Length of Program
In Canada, the first-level common law degree is the Juris Doctor or JD, which takes three years to complete. It is an undergraduate degree program, and not a graduate degree program, even though prior undergraduate education is required for entry.
First Year Law
The first year of law school is similar at most Canadian law schools. Students take introductory courses in areas such as Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Property Law, and Contracts Law. There are also special courses designed to teach first year students about other, exciting areas of law. In addition, first year law students are given specialized training in legal research and writing.
There are many extracurricular activities and volunteer experiences open to first year students. Many students participate in trial advocacy and client counselling competitions, volunteer at legal clinics or non-profit organizations, and participate in student-led clubs and social events at the law school. This is a great way to meet people with similar interests and find out how you can apply your legal training outside of academics.
Summer After First Year
A small number of students get summer jobs in the legal field after first year. For example, students may work at a Legal Aid Clinic, or may do research for a professor. Most students take jobs outside the legal field, but continue to do volunteer work to gain legal experience.
Second Year Law
During second year, there are many opportunities to pick your own courses based on your areas of interest. In either first year or the upper years of the law program, most law schools also require students to participate in a “moot” which is a mock trial, in which students act as “lawyers” on a fictional case and are “judged” by professors and lawyers.
Summer After Second Year
Many students work in law firms, government legal departments or legal clinics doing legal research after their second year of law school. It is a good way to learn about different legal employers, and to decide what type of law, if any, that you want to practice. During the summer, students apply for articling positions and go through articling interviews.
Third Year Law
This is your last year of law school, and it is the year in which you can really get involved in a leadership role in clubs, committees, journals or other extracurricular opportunities at the law school. Students take more specialized courses, and work on lengthy research papers in their areas of interest. Students may also participate in exchange programs. For example, U of T law school offers exchanges with many universities around the world. There are exchanges to the West Indies, Singapore, Australia to name just a few.
6. After you graduate with your law degree
Becoming licensed to practice law
In Canada, completion of a law degree alone is not sufficient to permit a candidate to practice law (that is, work as a lawyer). In order to be admitted to the bar in one of the provinces or territories in Canada, you must also write and pass the provincial bar exams and either:
- “Article” or
- In Ontario, complete the Law Society of Ontario (formerly the Law Society of Upper Canada) Law Practice Program
Articling is the last phase of your formal legal education and occurs prior to being licensed to practice law. In Ontario, “articling” entails working under the supervision of a licensed (and qualified) lawyer for ten months.
Articling is an excellent way to gain exposure to different areas of law before actually becoming licensed to practice. Licensing candidates can complete their “articles” in private practice (with a sole practitioner or firm of any size), with a Government office, legal clinic, or with an in-house legal department. In Ontario, articles can be completed on a full or part-time basis, split between one or more employers, and completed anywhere in Canada or abroad. Candidates can also elect to “clerk” for a judge to fulfill the articling requirement.
The Law Practice Program (the alternative to articling)In Ontario, licensing candidates may choose to either article or complete the Law Society of Ontario’s Law Practice Program (LPP) in order to satisfy the experiential training component of the Lawyer Licensing Process. The LPP consists of a four-month training course and a four-month work placement. Both the training course and work placement must be completed by candidates who select the LPP experiential training path. The program runs from late August/early September until the end of April. The English language program is offered by Ryerson University and the French program by the University of Ottawa.
The Bar Admission Exams
In Ontario, licensing candidates are admitted to the “bar” after successfully writing the Barrister and Solicitor examinations, which are administered by the Law Society of Ontario and offered three times per year (November, March and June). Both examinations are self-study and approximately seven (7) hours in length.
The Barrister Examination assesses knowledge of the law in the following practice areas: public law, criminal procedure, family law and civil litigation.
The Solicitor Examination assesses knowledge of the law in real estate, business law, wills, trusts and estate administration and planning. Both examinations assess a candidate’s knowledge of their ethical and professional responsibilities and ability to establish and maintain the lawyer-client relationship.
Cheapest law school in canada
Working as a lawyer
There are many fields of law that a lawyer can choose. Often, the many possibilities are divided into three categories:
- Law in the Public Interest
Working in the public interest may involve working for a public interest group such as the African Canadian Legal Clinic, or the Women’s Legal and Education Action Fund, or doing legal aid work at a legal aid clinic, like the Metropolitan Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.
- Private Practice
Working in private practice means that you have individual clients, which may be people or corporations. This may involve working at a big firm (over 100 lawyers) or a small law firm. Lawyers often specialize in one area of the law, for example, family law, criminal defence law, corporate law, environmental law. Others, however, have full service practices, in which they specialize and offer services in several practice areas.
Working for the government means that the government itself is your client. This may involve working as a Crown Attorney prosecuting criminals or working for a ministry such as the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Labour.
Lawyer Career info in Canada
There are 14 territorial and provincial law societies across Canada responsible for controlling over 120,000 lawyers as of 2019 (as well as 3800 notaries in Quebec and 9000 independent paralegals in the public interest in Ontario). 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 2016 Statistical Report
- British Columbia: 11,656
- Alberta: 9,720
- Saskatchewan: 2,158
- Manitoba: 2,064
- Ontario: 42,359
- Baneau du Quebec: 25,766
- Chamber des Notaires du Quebec: 3,498
- New Brunswick: 1,326
- Nova Scotia: 2,017
- Prince Edward Island: 244
- Newfoundland & Labrador: 753
- Yukon: 316
- Northwest Territories: 397
- Nunavut: n/a
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.
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:
- Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education
- British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training
- Association of Commonwealth Universities
- Degree Quality Assessment Board of British Columbia
- Campus Alberta Quality Council
- Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario
- Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance
- Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
- Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (Ontario)
- Manitoba Ministry of Advanced Education
- Manitoba-Saskatchewan Universities Program Review Audit Council
- Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.
- New Brunswick Ministry of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour
- Newfoundland Labrador Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills
- Nova Scotia Ministry of Labour and Advanced Education
- Prince Edward Island Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning
- Quebec Bureau de Cooperation Interuniversitaire
- Saskatchewan Ministry of Advanced Education
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 chosen law school’s policies for more information.
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.
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:
- LSAT Prep Courses, Oxford Seminars, Locations Across Canada
- LSAT Prep, Richardson Prep Center, Toronto
- Official LSAT Prep, Khan Academy, online
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.
Applications for the LSAT are taken online. The LSAT is given on Mondays and Saturdays in November, January, March, June and July. Examination centers across Canada include:
- Bow Valley College, Calgary
- University of Calgary, Calgary
- University of Alberta, Edmonton
- Grande Prairie Regional College, Grande Prairie
- Burman University, Lacombe
- University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge
- British Columbia:
- British Columbia Institute of Technology, Burnaby
- North Island College, Courtenay
- Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops
- University of British Columbia-Okanagan, Kelowna
- Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo
- Ashton Testing Services LTD, Vancouver
- University of British Columbia, Vancouver
- Camosun College-Lansdowne Campus, Victoria
- University of Victoria, Victoria
- Assiniboine Community College, Brandon
- Brandon University, Brandon
- Canad Inns Destination Centre Fort Garry, Winnipeg
- New Brunswick:
- University of New Brunswick, Fredericton
- Mount Allison University, Sackville
- Memorial University of Newfoundland – Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook
- Memorial University of Newfoundland, Saint John’s
- Nova Scotia:
- St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish
- Dalhousie University, Halifax
- Cape Breton University, Sydney
- Law Society of Nunavut, Iqaluit
- Loyalist College, Belleville
- Saint Lawrence College, Cornwall
- Queen’s College, Etobicoke
- McMaster University, Hamilton
- KLC College, Kingston
- Queen’s University, Kingston
- Saint Lawrence College, Kingston
- University of Western Ontario, London
- Dewey College, Mississauga
- Niagara College, Niagara-on-the-Lake
- Algonquin College, Ottawa
- Saint Paul University, Ottawa
- University of Ottawa, Ottawa
- Trent University, Peterborough
- Algoma University, Sault Ste Marie
- Cambrian College, Sudbury
- Lakehead University, Thunder Bay
- Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School, Toronto
- Humber Institute of Technical and Advanced Learning, Toronto
- Madonna Catholic Secondary School, Toronto
- St. Basil-the-Great College School, Toronto
- University of Toronto, Toronto
- Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo
- University of Windsor Faculty of Law, Windsor
- University of Windsor, Windsor
- Prince Edward Island:
- University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown
- McGill University, Montreal
- University of Regina, Regina
- University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
- 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.