How do you return to Canada to practice as a lawyer with an Australian law degree?

3 December 2020

How do you return to Canada to practice as a lawyer with an Australian law degree?

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It’s a question we get frequently: “If I graduate from an Australian law school, can I come back home to Canada to practice as a lawyer?”

The answer is yes!

There are a few steps you must take though between law school graduation day and becoming a practicing lawyer.

#1 Write (and pass) the NCA exams

The National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) is responsible for evaluating the credentials of foreign lawyers, or Canadians with foreign law degrees. Everyone who applies is evaluated on an individual basis. When you graduate, you must apply to have your credentials assessed by the NCA. You will be asked to write exams focusing on core common law subjects. Most Australian law school graduates write their exams in the following five areas:

  • Principles of Canadian Administrative Law
  • Canadian Constitutional Law
  • Canadian Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Foundations of Canadian Law
  • Canadian Professional Responsibility

Exams are graded on a pass/fail basis (50% is considered a pass). Results are released approximately 10–12 weeks from the date of the last scheduled exam of each session. You may have to take additional exams depending on your grades from law school.

The NCA exams are self-study, so you must obtain the material on your own. Many law graduates get their texts from law schools/libraries, and from searching on Google. Be sure to consult the syllabus before purchasing the materials as the textbooks used can change, and ensure you purchase the correct edition of all texts.

Once the applicant has successfully completed the assigned requirements, the NCA will issue a Certificate of Qualification. That certificate is required to apply to a Canadian law society in a common law jurisdiction. More info is available on the NCA website.

#2 Complete your articling and write the bar exams

Once you receive your Certificate of Qualification from the NCA, you’ll have to complete your articling position. This hands-on training is required for both Canadian-trained and foreign-trained lawyers. Requirements for articling and the duration of this process vary by province, but in general it involves 9-12 months of working under an established lawyer (principal).

For students in Ontario, you can also look to complete a Law Practice Program (LPP), this pathway will also adequately train students to complete the law licensing process. Feel free to visit the Law Society of Ontario for further details.

In order to be “called to the bar” you will also have to write your province’s bar exams. These exams assess your knowledge of critical areas of law, such as public law, criminal procedure, family law, and civil litigation. Both Canadian and foreign-trained lawyers must complete these exams in order to practice as lawyers.

#3 Being called to the bar and begin your life as a lawyer

After successfully completing your articling position and writing your bar exams, paid applicable fees, and filed applicable documents, you will be called to the bar. Again, exact details vary by province, and to practice in more than one province you will have to be called to that province’s bar.

Once this is complete you can officially practice as a lawyer!

It may sound daunting, but keep in mind that thousands of Canadian lawyers have successfully completed this process, and once you complete the NCA qualification process, the remaining steps are the same for all lawyers regardless of where you completed law school.

To hear more about this process from someone who has successfully navigated it, check out this video from Australian law school graduate, Ryan. He’s now a practicing lawyer in Hamilton, Ontario and has some good tips to make the most of your time!



Would you like more information about law schools in Australia? Please contact OzTREKK’s Australian Law Schools Admissions Officer at We’re here to help!