Prospective lawyers must go through several steps before they can practice law, from graduating high school to completing undergraduate and graduate degrees, to different examination processes and passing the bar. Though, the first step is asking yourself why you want to become a lawyer and whether you are willing to make the commitment and do everything it takes to achieve your goal.
Law can be a very challenging profession and lawyers are expected to not only have an expansive knowledge base of statutes, codes, rules, and regulations but to continuously update that knowledge base as new legislations are passed. As in most places worldwide, becoming a lawyer in Canada requires completing several years of education.
In this guide, we will provide you with insight into the key steps you need to take before you can start practicing law.
Obtain an Undergraduate Degree
You first need to obtain an undergraduate degree. This can be in any concentration of your choosing, whether it’s a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, or even a Bachelor of Business Administration. With that said, students who pursue an undergraduate degree in a law-related field acquire a strong foundation of relevant disciplines in law enforcement and criminology.
Law schools rarely consider applicants who have only completed two years of study or those with less than 90 credit hours. Your application will be a lot more competitive if you earn a four-year undergraduate degree. For more information, you can check the Law School Admission Council’s official guide on admission policies and undergraduate education requirements.
Earning a practicing law degree can take approximately seven years in Canada whereas UK universities offer law as undergraduate and graduate degrees. This is the same as Australia where there are direct entry programs for law school, so the length of study is much shorter compared to Canada and the US.
Take the LSAT
After completing your undergraduate degree, you will need to take the Law School Admission Test before you can apply to law school. This exam is typically held eight times throughout the year, and you can apply online to take it in the location of your choice across the country.
The LSAT involves three areas that you will be tested on, reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. You will also be required to present a writing sample on a specific topic within your application along with your LSAT score. You can find resources to prepare for the LSAT here.
Go to Law School
After completing your undergraduate degree and writing your LSAT, you can then pick a law school. You should do your research ahead of time to determine the best school for you. This table can help you compare law schools across Canada based on tuition fees, application requirements, etc.
Then, you can prepare your application which will typically include your academic transcripts, LSAT score, application fee, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Most schools offer a diverse range of specializations, namely constitutional law, business law, and international law.
To qualify for bar membership, you need to either earn an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) or a JD (Juris Doctor). The first year of law school consists of general courses while the second and third years are more customizable since you will have the opportunity to choose courses based on your areas of interest.
Article and Pass the Bar Admissions Examination
After you graduate, you must article with a licensed lawyer for at least 10 to 12 months before you can apply to the bar admissions examination. Working under the supervision of a licensed and qualified professional will broaden your knowledge in the different areas of law and provide you with the experience you need to become a lawyer.
Once you fulfill the articling requirement, you can then apply to the bar in your province which often includes additional training and two bar examinations. Clearing your exams gets you admitted to the bar and licensed to practice in your particular province.
These are the top law schools in Canada as of 2022 while these are the top law schools worldwide. While your high school grades will not be taken into consideration in your application to law school, they will determine which undergraduate program you get into.
So, focus on achieving the admission requirements of the undergraduate program of your choice. This could be an entirely different discipline like biochemistry or engineering. However, a more law-relevant one would definitely introduce you to industry-specific courses which will help you further down the line.