How to Become a Corporate Lawyer in Canada
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There are a few ways to become a corporate lawyer in Canada. One is to attend law school there, get your degree and license, then specialize in corporate law. Another is to get your law license in the United States, move to Canada and qualify as a Canadian attorney. A corporate lawyer can work as an in-house company lawyer, or for a law firm specializing in corporate law.
Once you graduate college, take the LSAT to qualify you for Canadian law school. After you graduate, study for and then take the bar exam.
Getting Your License
To get into a Canadian law school, you'll need a bachelor's degree or at least 90 hours of coursework. Each school sets its own standards; if you have a school in mind, contact them or visit the website to find out what they want from applicants. Any law school you attend will require you pass the LSAT, the SAT test for law students. Once you're in, you'll need to finish a Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor program to qualify for bar membership. That typically takes three years.
After you graduate, you study for the bar exam. Each Canadian province sets its own requirements. In Ontario, even if you're only interested in business law, you'll have to study other topics, such as real estate, wills, family law and constitutional law. You'll actually have to take two exams: one for barristers – litigators – and one for solicitors. Then comes "articling," a 10-month apprenticeship under a licensed lawyer. If you perform satisfactorily, your province's law society will call you to the bar.
Become a Corporate Lawyer
Articling isn't just about getting credentialed. It's also your chance to get your feet wet. Find a firm that does corporate work, even if it's a small one, and ask about articling there. The ideal firm will give you a chance to work in different areas, such as mergers, finance and insolvency law, perhaps trying both solicitor and barrister work. Some provinces will let you article at more than one firm so you can broaden your experience. You'll get the hands-on training you need along with connections that can help you find a job, and you'll learn what area of Canadian corporate law you like best.
If you got your law degree in the United States, or even if you have an established corporate U.S. practice, you'll have to prove yourself all over again in Canada. First, apply to the Federation of Law Societies in Canada (NCA) for accreditation. Even if you've already studied up on laws such as the Canada Business Corporations Act, the NCA may test you to confirm your qualifications. Next, take the Canadian bar exam for the province you want to move to. After you pass, you join the province's law society. The society can waive articling for an experienced lawyer, but it's a case-by-case decision.
- If you know any corporate lawyers, shadow them while in high school or completing your undergraduate studies.
- If your university has a co-op or internship program, watch out for opportunities at law firms. Sometimes, big firms will offer clerical work to undergraduates, giving you the opportunity to see what corporate law is like.
Over the course of his career, Fraser Sherman has reported on local governments, written about how to start a business and profiled professionals in a variety of career fields.. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com