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The NCA Process

June 26, 2023

Christine Briggs

This is the second 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 you will want to start there.

In this part, we’ll discuss the NCA Process. If you prefer an audio/visual explanation of the process, we encourage you to watch our Practise Law in Canada Info Session which discusses the NCA process and how OsgoodePD’s programs can assist you with the process.

Before diving in keep in mind that the NCA assesses each individual candidate based on the policy in effect at the time you submit your assessment application. Your NCA assessment is specific to you and binding as between you and the NCA. OsgoodePD has expertise in understanding the NCA process including the NCA’s assessment policies and requirements and how they apply generally to specific categories of applicants, and we are pleased to help you identify possible pathways and options for accreditation. However, OsgoodePD cannot provide binding advice or guarantees as to NCA requirements for any individual. You, as the NCA candidate, are responsible for obtaining your assessment and obtaining approval from the NCA for any plan of study to satisfy NCA requirements.

The NCA Assessment
The NCA assessment is a crucial step for internationally trained lawyers seeking to practice in Canada. This evaluation determines the requirements for obtaining a Certificate of Qualification, allowing you to take the relevant bar exams and become a licensed lawyer in Canada. We recommend using the self-assessment tool provided on the NCA website as a starting point to better understand your unique situation.

Based on your credentials, the NCA will provide you with an assessment that outlines the steps you must take to demonstrate competencies equivalent to Canadian law school graduates. This assessment takes into account factors such as your country of education, the type of law degree you hold, and any legal work experience you have acquired.

Your assessment may require you to take certain courses or exams in specific subject areas to demonstrate your competency in Canadian law. Some of the core subject areas you will likely need to cover include:

1. Foundations of Canadian Law: This subject provides an overview of Canada’s legal system, sources of law, and the principles of legal reasoning.

2. Canadian Constitutional Law: This area focuses on the Canadian Constitution, including the division of powers between federal and provincial governments, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

3. Canadian Administrative Law: This subject delves into the principles governing administrative decision-making and the relationship between administrative agencies and the courts.

4. Canadian Criminal Law: This area covers the general principles of criminal liability, specific offenses, and criminal procedure in Canada.

5. Canadian Professional Responsibility: This subject explores the ethical and professional obligations of lawyers in Canada, including the rules of professional conduct and the role of law societies.

What to Expect from Your Assessment
Broadly speaking, (again, remember your assessment is going to depend on your academic and professional background):

Graduates from a Common Law Jurisdiction: Assessed with only the 6 mandatory subjects with the option to write challenge exams and/or take courses.

Graduates from a Civil Law Jurisdiction: (you’re skipping ahead in your civil law description – you have to start from) – The NCA won’t give you an assessment until you have …. This means that civil law graduates cannot enter the NCA process by taking challenge exams – they must first complete some Common Law education. Keep in Mind – If you obtained your legal education via distance learning, the NCA may also require that you complete 1-2 years of in-class studies at a Canadian law school like Osgoode. Please keep this in mind before pursuing a distance learning law degree. You may have to spend more time (and money) in school than if you were to pursue a law degree at a Canadian university.

What to Do with Your Assessment
Your NCA assessment will indicate your options for completing your subjects: challenge exams, taking courses, and/or a mix of both and it’s going to include a deadline by which you have to complete these requirements.

Failure to meet the deadline set by the NCA results in having to reapply for a new assessment, which can be both time-consuming and costly. Not meeting your requirements by the deadline can have several negative effects on your path to becoming a licensed lawyer in Canada:

1. Delayed Progress: Missing the deadline will significantly delay your progress in the accreditation process. Reapplying for a new assessment means that you will need to wait for a new evaluation and complete any additional requirements before you can proceed with your legal career in Canada.

2. Financial Impact: Reapplying for a new assessment entails additional costs, such as fees for the assessment and any further required courses or exams.

3. Lost Opportunities: The time spent waiting for a new assessment and completing additional requirements may result in lost job opportunities, as potential employers might question your commitment to the profession and your ability to manage deadlines.

4. Policy Changes: The NCA’s policies are subject to changes and revisions. If you don’t complete your requirements by the deadline outlined in your assessment, and have to get a new assessment you will be subject to the NCA’s policies at the time of your second assessment.

It is important to note that the NCA will generally only grant extensions to the deadline in exceptional circumstances. Examples of such circumstances may include serious illness, a family emergency, or other unforeseen events beyond your control. If you believe you have a valid reason for an extension, you should contact the NCA as soon as possible to discuss your situation.

Determining the best options for you in part three of our series we’ll talk about the options for fulfilling your NCA requirements.

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