If you’re thinking about becoming a lawyer in Canada and you’re wondering which steps you need to take to make your dream a reality, this article will provide you with the seven key steps you need to take, from graduating high school to passing the bar.
- Obtain an Undergraduate Degree
The first step to becoming a lawyer, after graduating high school, is to go to university and obtain a bachelor's degree. Contrary to popular belief, a bachelor's degree in just about any concentration is sufficient for entry into a Canadian law school; whether it be a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), or even a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). However, degrees such as a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Policing may provide you with a strong foundation of the law enforcement perspective as well as criminology, answering the question of why a crime happens.
Only in exceptional circumstances will a law school consider applicants after completing two years of study, and certainly at least 90 credit hours, or three years towards a bachelor's degree. Your application will be much more competitive with a four-year undergraduate degree. Check the LSAC Official Guide to Canadian Law Schools for the admission policies of Canadian law schools regarding undergraduate education.
- Take the LSAT
Once you have completed your undergraduate degree, and before you can apply to law school, you will need to take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Quebec-based law schools do not require the LSAT, but it is still recommended to take it. The standard LSAT is held throughout the year, usually eight times. You can apply online to take the LSAT in any one of a number of testing locations across Canada.
There are three key areas tested on the LSAT: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. You will also be asked to provide a writing sample on a given topic, which will be sent with your application along with your LSAT score. There are a number of free study materials to help prepare you for your LSAT, some of which can be found here.
Your LSAT score will range between 120 and 180 and you will be given a percentile based on other applicants who have also written the LSAT during the same time. You can always write the LSAT again if you are unhappy with your score; however, you should check with the law school(s) to which you are applying, as they may have different rules about how they accept multiple scores, e.g. average of the scores or taking highest or lowest scores.
- Choose a Law School
Once you have completed your undergraduate degree and written you LSAT, you are ready to choose a law school. There are at least two dozen law schools across Canada to choose from, and it is up to you to do the research to determine which school is best for you.
You can compare each of the schools here, paying particular attention to: average number of applicants, first year enrollment, tuition fees, application fees, application requirements, size of the school, distance from your home, and the philosophy of the school.
- Complete the Application Form
When you have narrowed down your school choice(s), you must prepare your application form in hopes that you will be accepted. While each school has differing requirements for entrance, they all will require your academic transcripts, LSAT score(s), application fee, a personal statement, and in many cases, letters of recommendation. To determine the application and entrance requirements of the school(s) to which you are applying, view the LSAC Official Guide to Canadian Law Schools application procedures.
- Go to Law School
At this point, your hard work has paid off. In order to qualify for bar membership in Canada, you must take either a Bachelor of Laws Degree (L.L.B.) or Juris Doctor (J.D.), which both take three years to complete.
Your first year of law school will consist of general courses, such as Constitutional Law, Property Law, Contracts Law, and Criminal Law. This is where your undergraduate degree in Policing or Criminology would help you excel. During your second and third years you will have the opportunity to choose more specialized courses based on your areas of interest. You will also participate in a mock trial and write several lengthy research papers.
- Complete Provincial Bar Admissions Course and Article
Once you have completed your L.L.B. or J.D., you still have a little bit more work to do before you can officially practice as a lawyer in all provinces. Depending on the province in which you’re completing your Bar Admission Course, there will be different requirements.
You will be required to take online self-study courses, as well as “article”. Articling is the last step in your formal legal education and consists of working under the supervision of a qualified, licensed lawyer for anywhere from 9-12 months. This type of internship will expose you to the different areas of law, as well as give you the experience of what it is to be a lawyer in Canada.
- Pass the Bar Admissions Examination
Finally, once you have completed the Bar Admissions Course and articling period, you will be required to take and pass your provincial Bar Examination. Once you have passed, you are now eligible for admission as a member of the Law Society of your specific province, as well as to be legally able to practice law in all Canadian provinces and territories.
If criminology and policing are areas of interest to you, consider Wilfrid Laurier University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Policing. A 100% online degree, the BACP program helps you complete the first step in your journey to becoming an lawyer in Canada. Get your program guide today to learn more.
Last updated June 1, 2021