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Challenges overseas law grads face when returning to Canada… and how to overcome them!

July 12, 2021

Recently, there has been an upsurge of people in Canada going abroad to complete law school. These countries include the United Kingdom, France, Australia etc. As a result, there are certain challenges these specific law school graduates face when they return to Canada. I will share with you a few common challenges and will explain some of the best ways to get over them.

First of all, there is the issue of networking. It is true that face-to-face interactions are one of the best ways to network. Law schools across the world usually have events, where speakers, students, alumni, and professors attend. However, the issue here is that you will be forming relationships with people thousands of miles away from Canada, where you plan to eventually work. Regardless, this is no reason to avoid engaging in these events. It is important to remember that many people have international connections, and you never know how far one person’s network extends. One tip which helped me land my current articling position was adding my professors and alumni on LinkedIn, and more importantly, following up with them when I returned to Canada. Another really good tip is to reach out to firms while you complete your NCA exams. Depending on how many exams you have, the process usually takes from 6 months to 1 year. Therefore, you have plenty of time to network extensively while back in Canada.

Another issue that many students face is the worry that the legal knowledge they learn from a different jurisdiction will not be of any help in Canada. One important thing you need to know is the legal system of the country where you are going to school. Is it a common law jurisdiction or a civil law one? Canada has a primarily common law system, with the exception of Quebec. Therefore, it will usually be more helpful for you to learn the law in a common law country. However, just because you study in a civil law jurisdiction, it does not mean you will not be able to practice effectively here. The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has overcome this hurdle by requiring almost all foreign law graduates to complete the NCA exams.

This leads to another issue that students face when returning to Canada, which is the time frame for completion of the NCA exams. Although most people do not find the NCA exams particularly difficult, they do require study. There are numerous case study’s that I’ve seen, where students who thought they didn’t need to study for these exams eventually failed. I’ve also seen graduates who took all 7 exams in one sitting in order to speed up their timeline, however, they failed about half of them. The average number of exams that graduates usually take is 3-4, but at the end of the day, it depends on your specific study habits and own life circumstances. How do you reduce the time frame for the NCA exams? I found that the best way is to be patient and take the exams at a pace that allows you to pass all of them. If you are working part-time, your exam load may be more, whereas a full-time NCA student may need to take 2 exams at a time. Remember, the last thing you want is to fail an exam and then have to wait 3-4 months to take the next one.

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