1 Information for Solicitors on Working in Canada
2 1. GENERAL INFORMATION You are not entitled to work as a lawyer in Canada unless you first qualify with a Canadian Law Society. If you wish to practice as a lawyer in Canada, the first step is to satisfy a Canadian regulatory body that you have, at least, the educational equivalent of what someone graduating out of a Canadian law school has. Then, no matter how much experience you have gained in the legal profession in Ireland, you must successfully complete a licensing process with a Law Society in Canada. At every step of this process, you will be liable for sizeable fees. Even to work as a paralegal. One is required to successfully complete a paralegal licensing programme. However, this is not difficult to complete - nor is it strictly enforced. 1. CANADIAN VISAS A visa and a work permit are always required for Irish citizens wishing to live and work in Canada. Visa services for residents in Ireland are handled by the Immigration Section of the Canadian High Commission in London. All visa information and application forms are available at: USIT process a 12-month Work and Travel Canada Programme. Details of this are at: The various visas available to Irish solicitors are as laid out below. International Experience Canada (IEC) This is a Working Holiday Programme that enables Irish citizens aged between to travel and work in Canada. As of 2011, Irish citizens have the option of submitting an IEC application directly to the Government of Canada. Programme participation has been expanded up to two one-year periods. You will need to re-apply if you wish to repeat as a participant, but you can continue your stay in Canada after one year or travel again several years apart. You are now permitted to apply to the IEC if you have a spouse or partner and dependents. If you are accepted, your spouse/partner and dependents will now be permitted to travel to Canada with you, although they will be required to obtain their own individual status. The IEC charges a Participation Fee of $150 CND (about 110), but you will now pay this fee by electronic bank transfer to the Government of Canada only after you have been notified by that your application has been accepted. As a legal requirement in order to be eligible to be issued a temporary work permit, you will still need to obtain and submit police certification from Ireland. If approved as a participant you will be required to purchase comprehensive travel medical insurance for the duration of your working holiday. The current processing time for an application to the IEC is 8 weeks from the date it is received at the Embassy of Canada. Registering online is the only way to access a personalised application kit.
3 Federal Skilled Worker Visa Skilled workers are people who are eligible to become permanent residents based on their ability to become economically established in Canada. To be eligible for this visa you must include results of your official language proficiency test and have a valid offer of arranged employment. You will also need a work permit. Usually you will need a job offer or contract of employment from a Canadian employer before you apply for a work permit. You will need to provide evidence that you meet the requirements of the job offer. Your employer helps determine if you are eligible. Your employer may need to get a labour market opinion (LMO) from Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). A labour market opinion confirms that the employer can fill the job with a foreign worker. You must meet general requirements for entering Canada and for staying there. You have to apply for a work permit from outside Canada. The fee is $150 CND. A work permit is not an immigration document. You must also qualify for a skilled worker visa. All visa and work permit information / application packs are on the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration web site: Canada Investor Visa The Canadian Immigrant Investor Programme or (IIP) is a Canadian visa service designed for work visa applications from business people with significant experience and capital who wish to relocate to Canada. Immigration applications under the investor programme require applicants to demonstrate at least two years of managerial experience. In addition, candidates must be able to demonstrate a minimum net worth of $1.6 million CDN. They must then invest $800,000 CDN with the Canadian Government for five years (all of which will then be returned) or make a one-off, non-refundable payment of approximately CDN$120,000. Canada Entrepreneur Visa For anyone wishing to set up a business in Canada, this is the best visa option. It is designed to attract applicants with desirable business skills and experience who wish to immigrate to Canada to live and work on a permanent basis, thereby helping to further develop the economy. The Canadian entrepreneur visa offers a route to permanent residence in Canada and allows applicants to begin living and working in Canada without the need for a specific job offer, as would be the case with a Canadian work permit. In Canada, immigration applications under the entrepreneur programme require applicants to demonstrate two years of business experience. In addition, candidates must be able to demonstrate a minimum net worth of $300,000 CDN. Applicants must commit to manage and own at least one third of a business of a pre-defined size for at least a year, which will create at least one job for a permanent resident in Canada or Canadian citizen, outside of their family. Candidates may only apply for one Canadian business immigration service. Once an application has been submitted, switching to another route is not permitted.
4 2. PROCESS OF QUALIFYING IN CANADA Canada has 10 provinces. 9 of these operate under a common law system. One province, Quebec, operates a civil law system, similar to the French legal system. What follows here is an overview of how Irish lawyers qualify in all provinces other than in Quebec. Information on qualifying in Quebec is outlined in Section 5.3 of this document and further information can be accessed at: 3.1 Demonstrating Educational Equivalence Canada s law societies have established the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) to assess the qualifications of foreign qualified lawyers who wish to be admitted to practice in Canada. The assessment is based on the academic and professional profile of each individual applicant. The fee for the assessment of qualifications is $450 CDN, including all applicable taxes. The payment must be in the form of a money order or certified cheque. Applications must be sent by regular mail or courier, and payment must be included with the application. The process takes 2 to 4 months. The application forms can be downloaded at: It is possible to be assessed by the NCA before you ever go to Canada and it is generally advised to commence work on this whole matter well in advance of any planned move. Certificate of Qualification After reviewing an application, the NCA will issue an assessment result to the applicants listing the subjects and / or legal education that is required to ensure that the applicant s legal education and training is comparable to that provided by an approved law school in Canada. In order to obtain an NCA Certificate of Qualification, most applicants are required to demonstrate competence in a number of subjects this is done through the NCA examinations. The NCA offers four exam sessions per year January, May, August and October. Each exam is a 3 hour, open book examination and you must obtain a 50% pass grade. You may split your examinations between sittings. The current examination fee is $400 CDN per exam (including all applicable taxes). For more information about the exam and subjects go to Once the applicant has successfully completed the NCA requirements, the NCA issues a Certificate of Qualification. Most law societies in Canada accept the NCA s Certificate of Qualification for entry to their bar admissions.
5 Required Documents When submitting your educational and licensing documents, you must arrange to have the issuing authority send the following to the NCA: Academic record, showing the courses or subjects studied, the grades earned, and the hours of study or number of credits for each course. Your Certificate of Admission to the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland a letter from the Law Society confirming admission to the Roll can be obtained from the Admissions Administrator: contact Philomena Whyte ) or Anthea Coll ) Transcripts for the course and exams completed in The Law School these can be obtained from the PPC Examinations Dept. in The Law School: contact Tara Caffrey ) Letter confirming you are a member in good standing from the Law Society of Ireland to obtain a letter of good standing from the Regulation Department contact Nicola Kelly ) or Mary Ann McDermott ) 3.2 Completing a Licensing Programme The second step within the process of qualifying in Canada is completion of the licensing programme of the Law Society in the province you wish to work within. The Licensing Programme has three mandatory components: You must complete a Solicitor and a Barrister Licensing Exam these 2 selfstudy, open-book examinations test your knowledge of the law and your competence in skills you will need as a lawyer. You must complete an Articling Term articling is similar to apprenticeship in a skilled trade. You must work for a lawyer, in a law firm, a government legal department or legal department in the private sector for 10 months. You will be paid for your work in most cases. Finally, articling candidates are required to complete the online Professional Responsibility and Practice course and assessment. This course provides training on competencies related to professional responsibility, ethical issues, and practice management. You may be eligible for an exemption from the articling requirement. Usually an exemption will be based on one month off per year of previous PQE the person has. If a person is granted an exemption from the articling programme, they still must attend and complete a professional conduct and practice course. 3.3 Call to the Bar On successful completion of the licensing programme, the person is then eligible to be called to the Bar and they can apply to the relevant Canadian Law Society for same. You receive the provincial Law Society s certificate with the designation Degree of Barrister-at-Law and the Court s certificate that designates you as a Solicitor. Attendance is Mandatory if you wish to be licensed.
6 3.4 University of Toronto Internationally Trained Lawyer Programme In response to the challenges faced by internationally trained lawyers seeking accreditation to practice law in Canada, the University of Toronto established the Internationally Trained Lawyers Programme (ITLP) in Ontario, Canada. The ITLP is a bridge training programme and is optional. It is not a requirement to practise law in Ontario. The ITLP is a 10-month comprehensive programme that will assist internationally trained lawyers who wish to practice in Ontario. It provides both academic and career-related courses that address the unique needs of international lawyers. The ITLP is not a substitute for the NCA (National Committee on Accreditation) process and requirements. The course will help to prepare international lawyers to successfully complete the NCA exams, however, they will not replace the NCA exams. The ITLP will not assign grades to participants. Admission to the ITLP will only be open to internationally trained lawyers who have had their credentials assessed and have obtained a letter of assessment from the NCA specifying which Challenge Exams that must be completed. The ITLP is open to all internationally trained lawyers who have received a law degree in a country other than Canada and are licensed to practice law and a member in good standing in that country. The programme is open to 100 immigrant lawyers each year. There are several costs associated with the ITLP, including the programme fee, books and materials, and the application fee. The programme fee is 2,600 and the application fee is Further information can be found at 4. GENERAL INFORMATION 4.1 Canada s Strengths as a Work Location Availability of a 2 year easy to get working visa for anyone under age 35.. Reasonably accessible longer term visas available Canada has a stable economy, unemployment is at 7.6%. Consistently voted a very popular place to live. Canada has a low cost of living. Similar common law jurisdictions and practice/procedures. Recognition between Ontario and British Columbia. 4.2 Canada s Weaknesses as a Work Location Canada has strict visa procedures and requirements. Employers are conservative. There is a preference for employing Canadian citizens and employers are slow to hire newly qualified lawyers. The lawyer recognition process takes a long time and involves high costs. There has been a general decrease in legal recruitment and articling positions. There are regulations and licensing involved if you want to work as a paralegal.
7 4.3 Recruitment Websites Useful links Citizenship and Immigration Canada Law Society of British Columbia Law Society of Upper Canada Federation of Law Societies of Canada Canadian Bar Association Health Canada Ontario Ministry of Transport Translink The Newcomer s Guide to Vancouver 4.5 Working as a Paralegal To take up employment in Canada as a paralegal you must successfully complete a paralegal licensing programme. In order to complete this, a person must be registered into the paralegal licensing process and pass the paralegal licensing examination. An applicant must submit a fully completed application, including all required documentation and pay all required fees by the prescribed due dates. The licensing exam is a self-study, open-book exam of paralegal competencies. The focus is on knowledge, skill, ability, attitude or judgment required to practice and areas covered include professional responsibility, ethics and practice management. Detailed information on this whole process is available at: 4.3 Useful Articles and Websites Internationally Trained Lawyer Programme Career map for internationally trained lawyers: ument/oi_cm_lawyer.pdf Exemptions/Abridgements to Articling: 5.
8 5. ADVICE PROVIDED BY COLLEAGUES Irish solicitors living in Canada and others who have spent time there have provided a wide range of information that they want made available to colleagues. This is laid out below. 5.1 General Tips It is worth noting that only 33 Irish solicitors in the last 10 years have received Certificates of Qualification from The National Committee on Accreditation. More than likely, even fewer have gone on to qualify with a Law Society. Once you receive an evaluation of your qualifications from the NCA and they require you to sit challenge exams try doing these first through self study - as course fees are high in Canada. Canada has a large immigrant population. As a result, professions are quite rigid when it comes to qualifications obtained outside Canada. In general, if a degree is not from a Canadian university, it won't be considered to be as good as a Canadian degree. This practice isn't limited to law. It applies to all professions. If you are applying for the International Experience Canada (IEC) working holiday programme you should immediately begin the process of applying for a Garda Certificate. To do this, make an application in writing to the Superintendent in charge of the district where you reside. 5.2 Information about Quebec A colleague who lives in Quebec provided us with the following information: Quebec is a Francophone province and French is the official language. You must have a certain level of fluency in French in order to be able to practice any profession (from nursing to law to engineering). Quebec is also a civil law province. In practice there isn't a huge difference between common law and civil law, but Quebec has a civil code which results in slight different approaches in contract law, civil liability, property law, etc. I applied to the Equivalence Committee of the Quebec Bar (not the National Committee on Accreditation). I had to provide transcripts of my results from university and law school. I also had to provide letters from all employers since I qualified, proving that I had worked in these firms. The cost was about $800. The Equivalence Committee ruled that I had a full equivalency of professional training (i.e. law school) but that I only had a partial equivalency of academic training (i.e. my Irish BCL was not sufficient). I needed 60 university credits in specific law subjects and a list of the subjects was provided. This effectively meant that I needed to go back and do 2 years of a bachelor of law degree.
9 Once I completed my required subjects, I had to pass a French exam (obligatory for all professions in Quebec, but not in the other provinces). I also had to provide a police certificate to make sure I wasn't misbehaving. Then the Quebec Bar invited me to become a member. I should point out that I'm a member of the Barreau du Québec (avocat). An Irish solicitor also has the opportunity of becoming a notary by applying join the Chambre des Notaires. A notary would be very similar to a solicitor who specialises in probate, conveyancing and drafting of all sorts of agreements. Notaries generally do not plead in court or get appointed to the bench. The reason I mention notaries as an interesting option for Irish solicitors is that there is currently a shortage of practising notaries and the Chambre des Notaires is trying to raise its profile among law students in the hope of tempting more people to enter that profession. On the subject of finding work as a lawyer in the Province of Quebec, the market is reasonably good in the bigger cities (Montreal, Laval, Quebec City, Sherbrooke). University is very useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, many large and medium size firms, as well as provincial and federal governments, favour campus recruitment. Like in Ireland, law students in their 2nd year apply for internships. If they're successful, they spend the summer between 2nd and 3rd year working in the law firm and the following year, having obtained their degree, they start law school. This goes from September to June. Then they start their "stage" which lasts 6 months. On completion of the 6-month stage, they are considered qualified lawyers. For those who don't get an internship, there are still opportunities to get summer placements through the university. Often, students can get credit for a summer job if it is in the legal area. Also, university professors frequently hire research assistants and many professors are practising lawyers. This can often lead to more full-time opportunities. Both provincial and federal governments hire a large number of law graduates and lawyers. I work for the Quebec Department of Economic Development. 5.3 Information about Living in Toronto A colleague who lives in Toronto provided us with the following information: Travel from Abroad Pearson International Airport is the main airport servicing Toronto. Cheap flights to and from Ireland can be found at: and When flying through the U.S., authorisation must be obtained in advance. It can be purchased online by credit card on the ESTA website. It is valid for a period of 2 years from the date on which authorisation is given. Canadian airports operate immigration pre-clearance for travel into the U.S. So if you intend to fly to the U.S from Canada you need to allow for longer delays in the airport.
10 Travel within Canada Travel within in Canada is not comparable to Ireland or Europe, it can be very expensive. If you are planning to make a trip it is usually better to book well in advance for the greyhound bus services and rail service. Porter Airlines located on Toronto Islands sometimes has good deals to Montreal or Quebec City. American Airlines offers cheap flights to New York if booked in advance. Megabus.com is a cheap bus service - you can get trips for $1.00. Carpooling or ride share is a popular form of transport. Posts by drivers looking for passengers can be found on -www.craigslist.ca, Car rental is also another good way to get around. You are able to drive in Canada with an Irish driving licence but it is limited to 60 days. With an international driving licence you can drive for up to a year, after that you are required to obtain a Canadian driving licence. Car rental companies may require an international driving licence to rent a vehicle. More information on driving in Ontario can be found at: - Ontario has no fault motor insurance. In Ontario those injured by a motor vehicle can make an Accident Benefits claim. If the injured party is not covered by a motor insurance policy of their own, or that of their spouse, they can make a claim to the insurance company of any other vehicles involved. They can also separately pursue a claim in tort. Legislation imposes strict time lines to ensure that people injured receive payment for expenses incurred as a result of the accident, as those expenses arise. More information can be found at: - N.pdf. Public Transport in Toronto Toronto has a good public transport system called the TTC. One trip is $3.00CAD regardless of whether you are going 1 stop or 20. The trip is transferable between the subway system and streetcars within the metro area. The transfer must be obtained at the point of entry from either the streetcar driver or machines in the subway. Passes are available on the weekend or monthly passes can also be purchased for frequent use. Tipping Tipping is viewed as more or less mandatory in Canada. The rules on tipping vary depending who you talk to. It would be expected in all cafes and restaurants where you sit-in, at a rate of 15%. It would also be expected in hairdressers, by taxi-drivers and tour guides, it is also expected by barmen regardless of whether you are served at the bar or at the table.
11 Health Canada does have a very good public health care system. It is only available to residents that fulfil the criteria. It isn t available if you are on the USIT work visa. In Toronto you can expect to pay anywhere between $ 50 $ 90 for a visit to a doctor. It is worth shopping around if you have particular medical requirements that require regular visits. There are sexual health clinics that provide free services in Canada such as providing prescriptions for the pill. A visit to hospital is very expensive if you are not covered by insurance. Social Activities for Toronto Toronto has lots of events and activities throughout the year. Irish people moving to Toronto can look-up the group Irish and New in Toronto, on Facebook. The group provides information on upcoming events and Irish clubs. Toronto Touch Rugby Pick-up, is a facebook group page organised by Irish people living in Toronto. It has a good mix of Canadians and other nationalities both male and female. It is a casual group, people come and go as they please and no money is required to join. Neighbourhoods have community centres and libraries which are generally free to use. This may vary but it seems to be a common case in Toronto. They have swimming pools with free classes. They also have free internet access in the libraries. Parks are widespread in Toronto, they usually have basketball courts, baseball diamonds and hockey rinks which are free to use. They also have areas which are turned into ice rinks during the winter. Toronto Islands and the beaches are popular locations during the summer for sporting activities. Sports equipment can be bought at reasonable prices from: Canadian Tire, Walmart, Craigslist and the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). Rock-climbing is popular amongst Canadians. Rock Oasis located in downtown Toronto is a good place to start. Toronto has a number of festivals and events throughout the year. All festivals and entertainment is advertised in If living in Toronto it is worth signing up to Group On which has daily deals on any number of goods and services - Accommodation in Toronto Short-term, for people under 35 arriving in Toronto, hostels are great to stay in. The following are two of the better hostels in Toronto: - and
12 During the summer months, the University of Toronto has short-term accommodation available. A number of companies offer short-term lettings that are fully furnished but you will generally pay above standard rents for these. Sublets and short-term letting can be found at Long-term, is a good place to find rooms to share, or apartments. They have listings unique to each city. It is not the norm for apartments/houses to be furnished in Canada. In Toronto some of the best places to pick-up furniture, kitchen equipment and items for the bathroom and bedroom are: - Honest Ed s, Canadian Tire, IKEA, Chinatown Summer is a good time to furnish a house. Yard sales and garage sales are common at weekends and are listed on Craigslist, you can pick-up items for free from people moving. It is also common for Canadians to pick-up furniture from the streets on bin day. Items on these weeks increase when students are leaving Toronto for the summer. It is common because housing must be left unfurnished. SWAP offices are a good place to buy items from other travellers who are leaving the country. Warning: Bed bugs are a major problem in Canada. It is really important to be careful when buying second hand beds or moving into accommodation where there is already furniture. It doesn t matter how nice the house or apartment is, it is a very common problem. Apartments or houses do not always have their own washing machine and dryer, so if this is the case when renting you should look for a nearby Laundromat. Landlords look for tenants to sign one year leases normally, although on asking some are open to negotiating shorter leases. There is a website on residential tenancies in Ontario which may be worth looking athttp://www.ltb.gov.on.ca/en/key_information/stel02_ html It is normal for landlords to look for first and last month s rent. The last month s rent is similar to a security deposit and it is considered illegal for landlords to look for a security deposit in addition. Mobile Phones As a jobseeker it is important to be aware that mobile phone providers in Canada charge for sending and receiving both messages and phone calls. They also charge to check voic and to have a voic service available and for the service of having caller ID. It is really important to sort out a good phone contract as soon as possible. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a phone call from a potential employer and getting cut- off.
13 Not all Irish phones work in North America, you need to check that the phone you have is unlocked and that it will work there. Often if you enter into a contract with a phone company it is easier and cheaper to buy a phone through them. Mobile phone operators such as Rogers and Fido can tie you into contracts of a year or longer. In Toronto Wind and Solo provide month to month contracts, which can be a better option for foreigners. Tax Each province has their own rates of tax on goods and services, which are for the most part not included in the price listed. As in Ireland, if you are employed your employer will pay your tax contributions. However, some employers will classify you as self-employed and you will be responsible for paying your own taxes, there is a rate of income under which you do not have to pay tax on income. Regardless of whether you are classified as an employee or self-employed all Canadians are required to make an annual tax return. This can be a complicated procedure for foreigners. When making the return for the first time you cannot do it online but you can in subsequent years. It is worth keeping rent receipts, invoices or payslips and transport expenses to claim back at the end of the tax year. There are a number of computer programmes that you can purchase online to help with this process and there are companies, who for a fee will do this on your behalf. Employment There is a website set up in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland called Information for jobs is also available on the Irish chamber of commerce for Toronto website. USIT/SWAP provides an orientation service if you go through USIT and they organise your social security number which can take a few weeks. Each province has its own minimum wage laws. Ontario has one of the better rates of minimum wage. They have a separate minimum wage for those working in the hospitality industry which is lower than the general wage. Before arriving it is a good idea to do some research on recruitment agencies and prepare a Resume as opposed to CV in a Canadian style. If people are considering bar or waitressing work to tide them over on arriving, they should note that because of the tipping culture it is viewed as a good career, so it can be difficult to get jobs. In Ontario you are required to complete training if the establishment serves alcohol. In Ontario it is called Smart Serve Training. The training can be done online at https://smartserve.org/online_training.asp It is possible to get work as a legal assistant without undertaking any additional exams.
14 Some agencies in Toronto willing to hire foreigners are: this is a legal recruitment agency this legal recruitment agency - legal recruitment agency Temp office work is fairly widely available through recruiters. It is a good way to get work while looking for a more permanent job and also opens up opportunities to having a company decide to keep you. Recruiters will require that you perform tests to assess your typing speed and to assess your knowledge of Microsoft Office programmes. The level of difficulty of these assessments can vary but people should have a good knowledge of Microsoft Toronto has a large financial services industry. A number of Irish people have obtained work in banking. It is worth contacting the HR departments of the major banks and checking out the recruitment sections of the websites. Some of the big banks in Canada are Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, TD Canada Trust and CIBC Legal Sector in Canada The Canadian legal system does not distinguish between barristers and solicitors in the same way as in Ireland, the terms are often interchangeable. The general term of lawyer is sometimes preferred. There are plenty of sources on the internet explaining the terms in Canada. There are a number of provinces or territories in Canada, each with their own Law Society governing legal practitioners. Each province has its own provincial courts and federal courts. Quebec has a more distinct system. Information on the legal system can be found on the Department of Justice website Canadians recommend visiting law firm websites and ing a lawyer working in an area that you are interested in and inviting them for lunch meeting. This is something that is regularly done by Canadians. It isn t acceptable to ask them for a job but it is a way of finding out about the company and creating a contact should a job become available. Important Disclaimer Please Note The Law Society does not give any guarantees, undertakings or warranties concerning the accuracy, completeness or up-to-date nature of information within this document. The Law Society also does not take responsibility for any dependence or reliance placed on the use of career support information provided - and cannot accept liability for any loss or damage incurred as a result.