Becoming a Lawyer in Ontario

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Becoming a Lawyer in Ontario

Becoming a Lawyer

The law profession is widely respected, the work is interesting, and the profession provides a good income for practitioners. Lawyers are also in demand; in Ontario alone, there are more than 42,000 active, practicing attorneys. But the path to becoming a lawyer is a long one, and requires a great deal of dedication and work. There are a number of steps in the process to become a lawyer, including degrees, exams, work experience, and more. In Canada, the process varies from province to province, but the basic process is the same. Whether you’re wondering about your lawyer’s education, or considering a career in law yourself, it’s useful to know more about how it all works!



The Undergraduate Degree and the LSAT

Before attending law school, you’ll need to get an undergraduate degree from an accredited university. Each Canadian law school has different requirements and standards, but most have credit requirements, and some may have requirements regarding courses. If your goal is law school, make sure that your undergraduate degree meets the requirements for your chosen law schools. Generally speaking, a four-year Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in any field is sufficient for entry into a Canadian law school, but depending on the competition for spots, preference may be given to fields that relate more closely to law, such as political science. And of course, grades matter!


After you have your undergraduate degree in hand, it’s time to write the LSAT: the Law School Admissions Test. This is a standardized test that is administered several times per year in Canada. There are numerous materials, such as practice tests, available online that can help you to prepare for writing the LSAT, and there are also several courses that you can enrol in that increase your likelihood of obtaining a high score. The LSAT employs multiple choice questions to test in three separate areas:

  • Analytical reasoning, the ability to see relationships and draw conclusions.
  • Logical reasoning, your ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses in various arguments.
  • Reading comprehension, your ability to answer questions based on reading passages that resemble the material you’ll encounter in law school.

There will also be a written essay on a prescribed topic.


You may take the LSAT more than once, but some law schools will take the highest score while others will average your test scores. Your score on the LSAT exam, along with your undergraduate transcripts and relevant life/work experience will be used to secure admission to law school.



The Law Degree, the Bar, and Articling

You’ve graduated with an Honours undergraduate degree and passed the LSAT with flying colours: now it’s time to go to law school. Each province has its own requirements. In Ontario, you must attend a law school approved by the Law Society of Ontario. This ensures that your degree will be recognized provincially. You can find a list of approved law schools in Canada here. There are agreements in place that allow graduates from an approved program in English Common Law in one province to practice in other provinces; but if you want to practice in Quebec, you will have to go to law school in Quebec, where you’ll study French civil law. All eighteen law schools in Canada require your academic transcripts, your LSAT score or scores, and some form of a personal statement; many also request letters of reference.


The most common first-level legal degree is a J.D (Juris Doctor), which takes three years to complete. During the first year, you’ll take courses in areas such as criminal law, contracts law, and constitutional law and you’ll be trained in legal research and writing. You’ll also be able to participate in extra-curricular activities and volunteer work. In the second year, you’ll have more ability to choose courses based on areas of interest. Second year is often when students participate in a “moot” or mock trial. In the summer after second year, many students find summer work that relates to the law, and apply for articling positions. In third year, you can take on leadership roles within your law school and take more specialized courses in your area of interest.


Following graduation from law school, you’ll need to become licensed to practice law. In Ontario, in order to be admitted to the bar you must also pass the provincial bar exams. The Barrister and Solicitor examinations, which are administered by the Law Society of Ontario, are offered three times per year, in November, March and June. These exams assess your knowledge in various areas of the law and evaluate your knowledge of a lawyer’s ethical and professional responsibilities.


Next you must either:

  1. "Article,” which entails working under the supervision of a licensed lawyer for ten months or,       
  2. Complete the Law Society of Ontario (formerly the Law Society of Upper Canada) Law Practice Program.


And then it’s time to join a firm, or hang out your own shingle, and begin working in the field that you have been preparing for for so long. The possibilities are limitless!