Skip to main content

Landing a Legal Job in Canada

June 26, 2023

Christine Briggs

This is the fourth and final part of our four-part series, focusing on how to land a legal job in Canada. If you haven’t read the first three parts, we encourage you to start here:

Part 1: Identifying Your Goals and Getting Licensed to Practice Law in Canada
Part 2: The NCA Process
Part 3: Consider Your Options for NCA Requirements

Understand the Canadian legal market
In order to land a legal job in Canada take time to identify the current needs in the legal market and follow trends in how law firms/in-house legal teams operate. This will help you not only in selecting a specialization or practice area you are interested in but will give you an understanding of the business of law. Identifying growing needs in the market and pursuing an LLM to fit that need will increase your chances of standing out from the crowd. (An example of this can be identifying growing industries like privacy and cybersecurity, or AI, and seeking out work and academic opportunities based in those areas – certificate programs are also a great way to build your CV and demonstrate an interest in an area)

Network in an organic and non-transactional way.
Most people approach networking as an annoying necessity, and so treat it as a purely transactional relationship. Instead of networking with this mindset, try to see it as an opportunity to find mentors that share your values and background and foster long-term authentic relationships with them. Most lawyers want to give back, so network to allow them to do so. This will mean going outside your comfort zone and demonstrating your competency, willingness to learn, and genuineness.

Here are some practical tips you can use to network in order to get a legal job in Canada:

i) Make a list of all the law firms that practice in the area you are interested in and identify the lawyers at those firms that share a similar background to you (could be someone who went to your law school, is an NCA candidate, moved from the same country as you, is part of a minority group you identify with, is involved with community work that interests you). Email those lawyers asking to set up a Zoom or in-person coffee chat to learn more about their journey and ask them for any advice they may have for students. Don’t email with the intention of getting anything from them – email them to learn more about how they got to where they are, and what you can learn from them.

ii) Join associations and Bar groups in practice areas of your interest. There are groups for every possible specialization, as well as events hosted by organizations dedicated to supporting NCA students (such as ITLNCA, and NCA Network). Become an active member of these groups and meet people to learn how others have navigated the legal market in Canada. Attend events for internationally trained lawyers – like Osgoode’s Internationally Trained Lawyers Day

iii) Don’t expect others to do the work. Reaching out once to a potential mentor, or recruitment contact is not enough. You have to follow up and take a proactive role in the relationship. However, be sure not to overdo this. Emailing every week for a coffee chat is excessive. Emailing once every few months to catch up is appropriate.

iv) When meeting with lawyers or recruiters, be a good listener and ask questions that you genuinely want to know answers to. Don’t ask questions that can be easily answered on the Firm’s website. Asking thoughtful questions will demonstrate your self-awareness and insightfulness.

If you’re pursuing an academic program – make the most of it.

Career Services – Osgoode offers extensive career counseling for its students. The careers service is perhaps your best secret weapon- use it as much as you can. They not only offer CV reviews but will help with interview prep and give you honest and tailored advice as to what Canadian legal employers are looking for. Take advantage of this resource.

Course Selection – Firstly, select a program that makes the most sense with your career goals and frame it with the lens of a need in the legal market. Use an LLM specialization to differentiate yourself from the competition. For example, if you identified a law firm that has a growing corporate practice, and you are pursuing an LLM in Tax Law, use the cover letter to explain how the LLM in Tax has given you a deep knowledge of corporate transactions and tax consequences that flow from those transactions. Framing your LLM in this light will automatically demonstrate your value-add to the hiring manager.

Academic Performance – Use the academic program as a means to provide Canadian employers with context of how you compare to Canadian JD/LLB grads. International qualifications can sometimes be confusing for employers but by having stellar grades from a Canadian program such as an LLM, employers will easily be able to contextualize how you might rank among those with JD/LLBs from Canadian Law schools. An LLM might also provide you with an opportunity to improve your CV if you received otherwise lower/average grades during law school.

Understanding the NCA process and making a plan for completing your NCA requirements is crucial for a successful transition into the Canadian legal market. However, landing a job as a lawyer in Canada requires more than just meeting the necessary qualifications. It is essential to understand the nuances of the Canadian legal market, develop a strong professional network, hone your interview skills, and create a compelling narrative that sets you apart from the competition.

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