Starting the licensing journey as an internationally trained lawyer in a new jurisdiction can be a nerve-racking ordeal. For experienced candidates, it can feel like starting a career from scratch given the various requirements they have to meet such as equivalency exams and courses. The need to foster a community to mentor and inspire internationally trained lawyers was the motivation behind the ITL Voices project! ITL Voices is a platform to mentor, inspire and support our diverse community of internationally trained lawyers and encourage them by shinning the spotlight on stories of legal professionals in Canada.

In our second edition of ITL Voices, a well-known guest joined us – Deborah Wolfe, the Executive Director of the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA). Most ITLs are familiar with her as the NCA is usually the first organization and the rite of passage to get licensed to practice in Canada. During the session we learnt an interesting fact about Ms. Wolfe, which is that she’s not a lawyer! She is a civil engineer who served as a former Military Engineer in the Canadian Armed Forces. She has previously worked with Engineers Canada, where she was responsible for accreditation of undergraduate engineering programs in Canada. Therefore, she has a wealth of experience in the accreditation and evaluation of foreign credentials.

Ms. Wolfe discussed the various options available to ITLs to satisfy their NCA assessments. After getting an evaluation, ITLs can either self-study and write their exams themselves or attend a Canadian law school that offers NCA courses or specific NCA programs. The law schools which offer specific NCA programs include the University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, and Osgoode Hall Law School. It is important to note that some assessments may require ITLs to fulfill their requirements by going through a law school.

For ITLs from non-common law jurisdictions, Ms. Wolfe explained that the licensing process had been made easier for them through directed policies. If an ITL from a non-common law jurisdiction is a licensed paralegal or notary, they can take the NCA exams instead of attending a law school.  A popular question that has generated mixed reactions from internationally trained lawyers is the NCA’s shift to remotely proctored online exams. We asked Ms. Wolfe about this, and she clearly stated that the NCA would not be moving back to in-person written exams. She explained that online exams benefit both the NCA and candidates in terms of logistics and flexibility. ITLs can now write their exams from their home countries or anywhere in the world.

Ms. Wolfe also informed us that the NCA is introducing a Legal Research and Writing competency requirement for ITLs that get their assessment from January 1, 2022. She emphasized the necessity of this additional requirement because ITLs come from various jurisdiction where the standards and methods of legal research and writing may differ. We understand there have been different feelings about these developments, so we would love to know how you feel about them under this blog post!

We had an enlightening experience learning about the licensing process and the new assessment requirement from Ms. Wolfe. ITL Voices will bring many more amazing guests in the coming weeks, so make sure you stay tuned to our blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

By: Christianah Adeyemi