From An African-Trained Lawyer to a Canadian Lawyer. How to get there?


If you are an African-trained lawyer who has recently immigrated to Canada or considering immigrating to Canada, it is normal for you to have many questions relating to your career prospect in Canada. As in many countries around the world, in Canada, the legal profession is heavily regulated. In short, before anyone can hold himself out as a lawyer and charge clients for his legal services, the person must have been licensed to practice law in Canada.

How do you get your law license in Canada? What will you be doing during the licensing period? Where do you get jobs and career tips?  These are the frequently asked questions by foreign-trained lawyers in the first few weeks of their arrival in Canada. Based on our interactions with scores of African-trained lawyers who are currently practising law in Canada, Beauty of Africa attempts to answer some of these questions.

#1 Licensing process for foreign trained lawyers in Canada

Getting your law license in Canada involves two steps. For the first step, you will apply to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) for accreditation of your foreign law degree. FLSC will assess your academic transcripts and prescribe the law exams, which you will need to challenge. These exams are self-study so if you are not used to a self-study testing system, you may have to devote extra attention to these exams. After you have successfully challenged the exams, FLSC will issue you a certificate certifying that your foreign law degree meets the standard of a law degree awarded by a Canadian law school. At this point, you have just crossed a major hurdle in your journey to becoming a practising lawyer in Canada. Congrats!

The second step is to apply to any of the 13 law societies in Canada; there is one in each province and territory. Determining where to apply to requires that you do a thorough research and be strategic. Key factors you should consider in determining the province/territory of choice include your personal preference for the location and the availability of law jobs there.  If I may offer you one piece of advice, it is that you should be geographically flexible. No place should be seen as too cold or too far to live.  While enrolled with the law society, you will do a yearlong mandatory articling program after which you will be admitted to the bar in that province/territory.

#2 Jobs options during the licensing period.

This is by far the issue that borders foreign trained lawyers the most. Here are four things you can do:

Transitional Job: While you are writing your accreditation exams, you will need to keep body and soul together and if you have a family, this concern is elevated to the peak. With your law degree, there is a wide array of non-traditional law jobs that you can do in the meantime. These include contract administrator, legal assistant/paralegal, credit/credit specialist, lease specialist, regulatory analyst, and privacy analyst. Depending on the prevailing economic climate, these appealing job titles may not be readily available. In that case, you will need to get a “survival job” while taking solace in the fact that it is but for a temporary period.

Get a Local Degree: If you don’t have an LL.M prior to arriving Canada, it may be best to consider enrolling in one of the Canadian law schools to get this graduate degree. In fact, some Canadian law schools such as University of British Columbia and York University have LL.M program with specialization in Common Law. Basically, the program’s curriculum comprises the traditional courses you will need to challenge to get your foreign certificate accredited. If you can afford the tuition, this type of program is the way to go since you are basically killing two birds with a stone. Having a Canadian degree helps you integrate into the legal system, build network, and boost your resume.

Network: Agreed there is a culture of meritocracy in Canada, but getting a job sometimes depends on referral. Often, you need somebody who can speak to your skills, integrity, ability, and dependability. Networking also opens the door to credible sources of career related information. I will advise that you start building your network. A good tip to use when you are networking is to not focus on what the other party will do for you but on how you can be of benefit to the person. Try it, it will work. Remember, even mentorship is two-way!

Volunteer: It is the law of nature that every society rewards people that give back to it. Find a place where you can volunteer your skills and time. The benefits will be tremendous. Volunteering is a viable way to build your network and boost your resume. It also helps you integrate into the community. Whenever an opportunity to volunteer comes up, please jump at it.

#3 Where you can get jobs and career tips

In Canada, online job application is the rule of the game. For lawyer and non-traditional law positions such as contract administrator, articling position, legal assistant and credit/mortgage specialist, lease specialist, regulatory analyst, court clerk, law librarian, and privacy analyst, you should use a niche job site that is specifically focused on Canadian legal recruitment. Legal Embassy is a good example. There are also general job sites like Indeed,, and Workopolis.  In order to make your job search stress free, it is advised to set up a job alert on these websites, most especially the niche site since it is specifically devoted to law jobs in Canada. By doing this, they will deliver newly posted jobs to your email.

This piece is provided to guide you in finding your feet within the Canadian legal profession. Even though we are confident that if you utilize these tips, they will go a long way in making your immigration story a positive and a memorable one, they do not guarantee that your path to becoming a Canadian lawyer will be an easy sail. Good and lasting success will not come easy. However, with hard work, determination, and persistence, you will hit the mark. Others have successfully swum this ocean of uncertainties, why not you?

[Photo: Miss Towunmi Arowosebe, 3, playing the role of a judge in a kindergarten’s playlet]

Leave a Comment