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Consider Your Options for NCA Requirements

June 26, 2023

Christine Briggs

This is the third part in our four-part series. If you haven’t already read Part 1: Identifying Your Goals and Getting Licensed to Practice Law in Canada or Part 2: The NCA Process you will want to start there.

Although this may seem obvious, before considering which option is best for you – ensure you review your NCA assessment.

Your options fall into three categories:

Write NCA Challenge Exams
Challenge exams are a series of examinations designed to assess your knowledge in specific subject areas required by the NCA. These exams are held multiple times a year, and you can find information about the schedule and registration on the NCA’s website.

Writing challenge exams can be a great option for self-motivated, independent learners. Generally, if you are coming from a Common Law background and only have the six subjects – writing challenge exams is the most time and cost-effective way to meet your NCA requirements.

There are several tutoring companies and Facebook groups that offer support and notes for students writing the NCA exams. This option is the least costly but carries a risk if you require additional support and guidance with learning new concepts.

However, there are some downsides to the self-study challenge exams. Self-study may not be suitable for everyone, as some individuals need more structured learning environments and guidance from instructors. Additionally, challenge exams may not provide feedback on your performance, making it difficult to identify areas for improvement. Finally, although the exams cover the core subjects, they might not include all the content that will appear on the bar exam, which could leave gaps in your knowledge.

Complete NCA-Accredited Courses/Programs Several universities offer courses/programs with NCA-Accredited content. OsgoodePD is home to Canada’s oldest NCA-accredited graduate program and the broadest range of options for internationally trained lawyers.

Keep in Mind – Not every student can complete all of their NCA requirements through an LLM. The number of requirements you can complete in a program depend on: your NCA assessment and the degree requirements of your program. Typically, a student in the Canadian Common Law specialization can completion 6-8 NCA requirements.

Canadian Common Law LLM (Full-Time) – The full-time LLM in Canadian Common Law is a one year in-person program. Full-time studies are a good fit for someone who can commit to a full-time course schedule (it’s unmanageable to enroll in full-time studies while also trying to work full-time). In-person classes offer a structured learning environment with access to professors and classmates for support.

Canadian Common Law LLM (Part-Time): Part-Time Canadian Common Law students have access to the same in-person courses as full-time students, in addition they have access to online learning options through problem-based learning courses. The part-time program is designed to be completed over two years.

General Law LLM (Full-Time and Part-Time) – The General Law LLM program offers a broader curriculum, allowing you to tailor your studies to your interests and career goals while still meeting some or all of the NCA requirements. Depending on the program’s structure, you will be asked to select 2-3 areas of focus. You can select Canadian Common Law as well as an additional area of interest from one of the 16+ LLM specializations we offer, such as health law, tax law, or business law to develop a more diverse skill set.

Other LLM Specializations – Keeping your goal of securing a job top of mind, take a look at the 16+ LLM specializations offered at OsgoodePD. Is there a specialization that pertains to your interests? Is there a specialization that employers will look favourably upon? Is there a need in the legal market for a particular niche specialty? Does a particular specialization align with your previous work experience and would pursuing an LLM in it distinguish you from the competition?

Single Course Enrollment – At OsgoodePD, we call taking an LLM course as a non-degree student Single Course Enrollment (SCE). You can take a lifetime maximum of 12 credits as an SCE student. This is a great option for those that can generally learn independently but require extra support for particularly challenging subjects.

Complete a Mix of Self-Study Challenge Exams and NCA-Accredited Courses/Programs
This option allows you to strike a balance between self-study and structured learning by combining challenge exams with NCA-accredited courses or programs. By tailoring your approach, you can focus on self-study for subjects you’re more comfortable with while seeking support through courses via Single Course Enrollment for areas where you need additional guidance.

Which is the Right Option for You?
It comes back to your goals and background – you will want to consider:

Your Academic Background: Take a moment to think about your previous education and how familiar you are with the Canadian legal system. If you are well-versed in common law, self-study and challenge exams might be right for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a more structured approach to learning, an NCA-accredited program could be just what you need.

Your Professional Background: Reflect on your work experience and how it relates to the Canadian legal market. If you have extensive experience in your home jurisdiction and are confident in your ability to adapt to the Canadian context, self-study might be sufficient. However, if you need to build new connections and gain practical experience in Canada, an NCA-accredited program could be beneficial.

Your Learning Style / Needs: You know your study style better than anyone else. If self-study would be a struggle for you, then taking courses might be a better option. However, remember that accreditation doesn’t end with the completion of your NCA subjects – you also have to write the bar exam, so developing effective study skills is crucial.

What resources do you need that you don’t currently have: When weighing your accreditation options, think about the networking, career development, and other opportunities that an LLM program can offer. Enrolling in an LLM program, like the one at Osgoode, can open doors to invaluable resources, such as professional networking events, career services, and mentorship opportunities. These additional benefits can help you build a strong professional network, enhance your career prospects, and connect with professors and fellow students who can support you throughout your legal journey in Canada.

Ready to apply? Applications are open for Winter 2025. Apply Now.