Lawyer careers are held in high esteem in Canada. Those who hold lawyer jobs put in years of education, articling, and work to get into the profession. It’s a career that can take you in many directions and lawyer salaries are higher than average in Canada. If you’re an internationally trained lawyer interested in continuing your law career in Canada it’s vital to research the profession in Canada and understand job requirements. Continue reading to learn more about the law profession in Canada, job requirements, law salaries, job search techniques, and much more!
Lawyers in Canada require two to three years of undergraduate studies, a bachelor’s degree from a recognized law school, successful completion of the bar exam, and must complete an articling period. In addition, every lawyer in Canada and notary in Quebec is required by law to be a member of a law society and to be governed by its rules and the provincial laws that regulate entry into the legal profession.
- How to Immigrate to Canada for Lawyer Careers
- What to Expect When Pursuing a Lawyer Career in Canada
- Requirements to Become a Lawyer in Canada
- 5 Steps to Accreditation as a Lawyer in Canada
- Upgrading Your Skills to Meet Lawyer Job Requirements
- Bridging Programs for Lawyer Careers in Canada
- Law Schools in Canada
- Law Societies and Associations in Canada
- How Much Do Lawyers Make in Canada?
- Best Provinces to Work in Canada as a Lawyer Based on Salary and Lifestyle
- Major Employers for Lawyer Jobs in Canada
- How to Find Your First Job in Canada as a Lawyer
How to Immigrate to Canada for Lawyer Careers
You can immigrate to Canada and become a lawyer, but you will be required to complete a series of steps to get accredited before you can practice law. The National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) which is part of the Federation of Law Societies in Canada (FLSC), assesses the qualifications of all internationally-trained legal graduates, whether they are Canadian citizens who have obtained their legal education abroad or newcomers to Canada with an overseas legal education. You can start the assessment process before moving to Canada. Note that the NCA will not process your application until they get all your documents and the required fees.
Before You Move to Canada to Continue Your Law Career
If you have international qualifications, it’s helpful to know how your qualifications will be assessed. It’s also important to research the Canadian labour market to identify if there is a demand for the type of law that you want to practice. Ensuring that a demand exists will go a long way to continuing your law career in Canada.
There are steps that you can take before you immigrate to improve your chances of practicing law in Canada:
- Attend the What to Know About the Canadian Job Market webinar to learn about job search strategies.
- Contact the provincial or territorial law society where you plan to settle in Canada to find out about the:
- The process to follow to obtain a law license, and
- Steps you can take before and after you immigrate to Canada
- Documents you require
- Assessment fees.
- Assess your language skills by taking an online self-assessment on the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks website.
- Improve your language skills and enroll in language classes while still in your home country and continue them after moving to Canada. You’ll need to prove your English or French (depending on your destination province) language competency or be tested. Good communication skills are essential in lawyer careers.
- Understand how the law is practiced in Canada and familiarize yourself with the provincial legislation where you’ll settle.
- Research lawyer salary, benefits, and compensation. Lawyer salaries can change a lot based on where you live.
- Know the name of your job title in Canada so that you know what job titles to search for.
What to Expect When Pursuing a Lawyer Career in Canada
If you want to continue your law career in Canada, it’s essential to research what’s required. You may need to upgrade your skills and prepare for licensing exams.
Lawyers and notaries belong to a regulated profession in Canada. This means that you must be licensed by the provincial or territorial law society where you settle. It can take both significant time and money to prepare to work as a lawyer in Canada and you need to plan for that reality.
The FLSC is the national body that coordinates the provincial and territorial law societies that exist in the country.
The English-speaking provinces of Canada follow the English common law traditions, while in the French-speaking province of Quebec, the legal tradition is based on civil law.
To practice law in the province of Quebec, a bachelor’s degree in civil law from a recognized law school and a master’s degree in notarial law are required along with licensing by the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
Employment Outlook for Lawyer Jobs in Canada
The labour market conditions (supply and demand) for lawyer careers in Canada are balanced. It’s expected that 39,200 lawyer jobs will become available from 2022-2031 and there will be enough job seekers to fill these roles, including new immigrants. The Government of Canada’s Job Bank is a valuable resource with key facts and figures about working as a lawyer in Canada. You’ll also find information about wages (national, provincial, and regional averages) job prospects, and a summary of labour market conditions.
Start Your Research with the NOC Code for Lawyer Jobs in Canada
To begin your research, you can refer to the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 41101 for Lawyers and Quebec notaries. Here you’ll get a profile and overview of the main duties, employment requirements, and other job titles that employers may advertise for. This is helpful to know when you begin your job search in Canada.
Requirements to Become a Lawyer in Canada
Whether you are an internationally trained lawyer immigrating to Canada, a Canadian citizen who has obtained a legal education abroad, or even a prospective immigrant, the NCA will assess your qualifications. You can apply while still in your home country – your citizenship, nationality, and residency are not factors in the assessment process.
5 Steps to Accreditation as a Lawyer in Canada
1. Apply for a Certificate of Qualification
Submit your application to the NCA with the right documents and payment.
2. NCA Assessment
The NCA assesses each application on an individual basis, taking into account legal education and professional experience, and determines what further education is required.
3. NCA Assignments
The NCA will tell you what you must do to qualify for law society bar admission (known as “assignments”). Applicants from a common-law jurisdiction may be asked to take a number of NCA exams or equivalent courses at a Canadian law school. Applicants from a non-common law jurisdiction, who have had minimal or no exposure to common law, are usually required to obtain a Canadian LLB/JD degree.
4. Complete Your NCA Assignments
The NCA will send you a letter to describe the legal education you need to complete your assignments. These assignments ensure that your knowledge of Canadian law is similar to someone who got their degree from a Canadian common law program.
5. NCA Issues a Certificate of Qualification
Upon successful fulfillment of your requirements, the NCA will issue you a Certificate of Qualification.
With your NCA Certificate of Qualification in hand, you must then apply for student-at-law status with the Law Society of your province (see section: Law Societies and Associations below).
Documents Required for the NCA Assessment
To apply for an NCA assessment, you will have to submit some or all of the following:
- A completed application form
- An original set of your final academic transcripts (copies will not be accepted)
- A current detailed Curriculum Vitae (your education and work experience)
- Payment of a non-refundable application fee.
As well, the institutions referred to below must send the following documents directly to the NCA:
- An official copy of your academic transcripts issued by the institution where you obtained your legal education
- A certificate or letter of membership in good standing issued by the local regulatory authority which governs your admission to the practice of law in that jurisdiction (if applicable)
- An official copy of your transcripts issued by the local regulatory authority which governs your admission to the practice of law in that jurisdiction (if applicable).
While language competency is not a requirement, NCA exams require a high language competency both in reading and writing. As well, to practice law in Canada you need to have high competence in listening, reading, speaking, and writing communication skills.
Once the NCA receives all your documents, it can take up to three months to process your application. The NCA will mail their assessment to you.
Credentials Assessment Services for Lawyers
If you plan to enroll in a college or university program to upgrade your skills before pursuing a lawyer career, you may have to get an educational evaluation. However, before you spend any money, contact the school to find out if they have a preferred credential assessment agency that you should use. This step can save you money.
To find more organizations and agencies providing credential evaluation, assessment and qualification recognition services click here.
Upgrading Your Skills to Meet Lawyer Job Requirements
In addition to accreditation, upgrading your skills through a bridging program or other courses and workshops is an important part of your journey to becoming a lawyer in Canada. You must have strong communication, legal research and writing, and technical skills. Canadian legal employers also expect you to be resilient, flexible, assertive, and innovative.
You may have strong technical skills, but often that is not enough to get a job or maintain it afterward. You may need more training or skills upgrading, especially about your soft skills. Any additional skills you add will help your chance of success in your lawyer career.
Language Training for Lawyers in Canada
Having strong skills in one or both of Canada’s official languages – English or French – is extremely important for your future in Canada. Whether you choose to focus on learning or improving English or French will depend on which of the two languages most people speak in the area where you live.
You may be eligible for Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. Otherwise, you can find other free or affordable English as a Second Language or French as Second Language classes through local school boards or settlement agencies.
There are even language courses to teach you professional terminologies, such as job-specific language training and if residing in Ontario, Occupation Specific Language Training (OSLT). If you are in Toronto, the Toronto District Board of School offers a fourteen-week Enhanced Language Training program focusing on Customer Service & Administration for immigrant women.
And, if you already speak one of Canada’s two official languages at a high level, learning the other one is a good option, as it may offer you better lawyer career opportunities.
Bridging Programs for Lawyer Careers in Canada
Bridging programs are a helpful way to transition from your international experience and training to the Canadian workplace. You can find more information about bridging programs for lawyer careers in Ontario and Alberta:
Bridging Programs for Lawyer Careers in Ontario
Osgoode Hall Law School
This course is specifically designed for foreign-qualified lawyers planning to write the NCA exams. It offers instruction in: Foundations of Canadian Law; Constitutional Law; Administrative Law; and, Canadian Criminal Law.
Bridging Programs for Lawyer Careers in Alberta
Bredin Centre for Learning
A no-cost program that helps internationally educated professionals (IEPs) understand and navigate the licensure and credential process in Canada. Bredin staff will support IEPs through the process and assist them with finding employment that is related to their education.
CRIEC helps internationally trained lawyers to navigate the accreditation process including mentoring, workshops and observerships in legal workplaces and more.
Law Schools in Canada
There are 23 law schools in Canada: seven in the Western Region, eight in Ontario, five in Quebec, and three in the Atlantic Region.
All these schools offer a professional degree in one or both of Canada’s two systems of law (Common Law; Civil Law). They also offer a variety of programs: the Juris Doctor (J.D.) and traditional Bachelor of Laws (LLB); professional degrees leading to the practice of law, graduate studies in law, and various joint programs. Some offer their programs in English only, others in French only, while others offer partially or fully bilingual programs.
In Ontario, there are several law schools that offer programs to help internationally trained lawyers with the accreditation process:
University of Toronto Faculty of Law
Global Professional LLM (GPLLM)
Juris Doctor (J.D.) Program – admits some foreign-trained lawyers to the program.
In B.C., the University of British Columbia offers the Master of Laws (Common Law) Program LL.M (CL). This year-long, l program provides foundational training in common law and in Canadian law for foreign-trained or non-common law trained lawyers.
Learn more about Canadian law school programs and admission criteria:
Law Schools in Ontario
Western Region Law Schools
Law Schools in Quebec
Faculté de droit – Université de Sherbrooke
Law Schools in the Atlantic Region
Law Societies and Associations in Canada
The following associations provide information about licensure and certification and offer professional development, education and networking opportunities.
National Law Societies
Provincial Law Societies
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
Law Society of Yukon
Immigrant Networks for Lawyers
Professional immigrant networks are volunteer-run member-based associations or networks created by and for immigrant professionals that seek to:
- Create a forum to contribute to and enrich their respective communities
- Provide opportunities for members to find employment and achieve their professional goals.
These groups organize networking events, mentoring, information sessions, and professional development opportunities that can be beneficial for your job search. Here are some networks you can consult:
National Immigrant Networks
Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (Ontario Chapter)
How Much Do Lawyers Make in Canada?
Lawyers in Canada are paid well. Lawyer salaries are much higher than average compared to other professions. According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, lawyer salaries can range from $27,446 to $423,922 annually. The lowest median lawyer salary is $79,485 in New Brunswick. The highest median lawyer salary is in Alberta at $140,808.
Lawyer Salaries in Canada
Lawyer salaries in Canada depend on where you live. Your lawyer salary can vary quite a bit depending on the province where you practice. So, consider lawyer salaries and earning potential when choosing a location. Here are the most recent Lawyer salary numbers in Canada:
|Province||Low ($/year)||Median ($/year)||High ($/year)|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||55,248||131,203||279,002|
|Prince Edward Island||30,537||89,419||144,905|
Best Provinces to Work in Canada as a Lawyer Based on Salary and Lifestyle
Demand for lawyers is linked to population growth and the volume of business activity, such as real estate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and bankruptcy, and can therefore be cyclical. Demand for legal services involving real estate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, for instance, tends to decline during a recession, while those involving bankruptcy activities increase. One growing area of demand in today’s complicated business environment is corporate regulatory compliance – helping companies keep up with government and other regulatory rules.
Because job prospects can vary, it’s best to research national, provincial, and regional job prospects for the legal profession in Canada before you arrive. You can find labour market information and job prospects for lawyers at the Canada Job Bank site.
You can research different cities in Canada to learn which ones would best match the personal, professional, and cultural needs of you and your family. Other important factors to consider when choosing a city in Canada, are the costs for housing (both rental housing and home buying) and other costs such as insurance and other recurring monthly expenses.
While wages for lawyers in Canada are lucrative, living in larger cities such as Toronto and Vancouver can be quite expensive. So when you research possible cities to settle in Canada, you may discover secondary cities such as Edmonton, Alberta where housing costs are more affordable. This means that you can probably rent or buy housing that is much larger at a lower cost.
Major Employers for Lawyer Jobs in Canada
The federal, provincial, and municipal governments employ lawyers. So do prosecutor’s offices, educational institutions, and private businesses, particularly businesses providing scientific or technical services. In addition, lawyers can join partnerships or law firms, or open their own private practices.
Some of the biggest law firms in Canada are:
- Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
- Fasken LLP
- Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
- Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
- Norton Rose Fulbright LLP.
You can also visit Canada’s Best Diversity Employers website to check for law firms. This special designation recognizes Canada’s best employers for diversity, inclusion, and equity. On the list, you’ll find many law firms, and large organizations that would have a legal function.
How to Find Your First Job in Canada as a Lawyer
The Canadian job market can be competitive, so you need to understand the job search process and prepare for job interviews. And because you must register as a lawyer in the province where you plan to live, you need to search for jobs in that province.
Take your time to research job requirements in different regions throughout the province and develop a plan to find work.
There are many job-finding techniques to help you search for a job in the legal profession, for example, you can:
- Join legal job-finding or networking clubs through immigrant-serving agencies.
- Attend career job fairs and search online job boards to learn about job requirements and pay. When searching job boards pay attention to any skill gaps that you see in job postings and address them if possible.
- Seek out a mentor in the legal sector who would give you valuable insights and advice and introduce you to their professional network.
- Have a strong and active presence on social media channels like LinkedIn. Join groups, where you can contribute content, ask questions, build connections, and also learn about law in Canada.
Use Immigrant Settlement Agencies
Finding a job in Canada may be different than in your home country and you may need help to find job vacancies, update your resume, write cover letters and prepare for interviews. Settlement agencies can also help you to understand what Canadian employers look for.
Click the link to find immigrant services in your area.
Network with Others within the Legal Profession
Networking is all about meeting people, building relationships, and sharing information. It’s also a vital activity that will help you to expand your professional network in Canada. By connecting with others, you can learn more about what it’s like to practice law in Canada, get advice or information about a specific law firm, and even discover job leads. Often, many job vacancies are not advertised. This is known as the “hidden job market”. Making connections through networking is a good way to learn about available jobs.
Good places to network include conferences, law associations, and schools. LinkedIn can also be helpful for online networking. With LinkedIn, you can connect with former colleagues and employers, look for jobs and search for employers. You can also get introductions to people in the legal field and join related professional groups.
Conduct Informational Interviews
An informational interview is a brief (20–30-minute) meeting that you schedule with a lawyer to learn more about the field in Canada. Your goal should not be to obtain a job or to ask the individual for a job. This allows you to learn about the profession and meet others working in the law profession with no pressure on either you or the other individual.
An informational interview with a contact from your network can be an excellent source of career information. You also gain the benefit of hearing from their first-hand experiences and personal impressions of practicing law in Canada.
Resume Writing for Lawyers in Canada
Besides your name and contact information, your resume should begin with a brief profile of your legal experience. Be sure to highlight any bar admissions you have at the top of your resume. The legal experience section of your legal resume should be separate from your work history section. Writing your resume in this way will highlight your experience and help potential find information about your achievements and transferable skills.
After your work history and education sections, make sure to list any associations you are a member of as well as work you’ve done within the legal community. When writing your resume, use the active voice to make it easy to read.
Interview Techniques for Lawyers in Canada
Interviewing for a law position can be competitive. So, you need to be well-prepared to be a successful interview candidate. It’s helpful to prepare and practice responses to some of these common interview questions:
- What interests you in this law firm/organization?
- What sets you apart from your peers?
- What are your strengths?
- In what areas of your profession do you excel?
- Describe a challenging case that demonstrates your analytical skills.
You also need to research the law firm or organization. Find out what the firm does, the types of law that it specializes in, and what it does not do. Some do corporate law, some do litigation. Some are big, some are small. Not to mention how their organizational culture may vary. So, try to find out what you can about the firm, and tailor your interview responses. Present yourself in a favourable light but be careful not to unduly embellish your accomplishments.
With a balanced outlook for lawyer jobs in Canada, it’s wise to carefully research job prospects to ensure that you can continue your career in Canada. Labour market conditions can also vary by province and city, so carefully examine where the outlook is good.
Interested in learning more about working in Canada? Check out our Finding a Job in Canada resource page. We can help you achieve your career goals in Canada.