In this thorough overview, you will learn how to become a lawyer in Nova Scotia. The process of qualifying as a lawyer is split into two separate stages where the first stage is the same throughout Canada, while the second stage is unique to Nova Scotia.
Requirements: Stage 1 of How to Become a Lawyer in Nova Scotia
At this stage, you will have to complete your legal and non-legal education, and this is the same in every province or territory of Canada.
High School Diploma
It is compulsory to complete provincial high school education. The specifics of it will depend on the province that you reside in.
Any law degree (Juris Doctor) in Canada is categorized as a graduate degree. Therefore, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in order to apply to Canadian law schools.
When applying to common law schools in Canada you will be required to provide your Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score. During the admissions process, law schools will require your LSAT score to assess your application.
In order to practice law in Nova Scotia, you need to obtain a law degree. Your legal education can be either from Canada or from abroad. If you went to a foreign law school your education will have to be recognized by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA).
Find out about your options to study the 2-Year Senior Status Law Degree.
Applying to Law Schools
In Nova Scotia, as well as in other parts of Canada, you apply to law schools through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Every university will generally require you to submit a personal statement, resume, letters of recommendation, and academic transcripts. If you are planning to study law in Nova Scotia then you can apply to the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. It is the only legal education provider in the province.
Requirements: Stage 2 of How to Become a Lawyer in Nova Scotia
This stage is specific to the province. In order to be enrolled in the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, law graduates must satisfy the following admission requirements of the Bar Admission Course/Program:
- Practice Readiness Education Program
- Cultural Competence Workshop
Practice Readiness Education Program in Nova Scotia
Like some of the other Canadian provinces, Nova Scotia labels the Practice Readiness Education Program (PREP) as a mandatory course en route to accomplishing an articling clerkship. It is administered by the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education. PREP registration opens on October 27 every year.
- PREP consists of Foundation Modules, which include Lawyer Skills; Practice and Skills Management; and Professional Ethics and Character. General and legal communication, analysis and matters’ planning/ resolving from the Lawyer Skills curriculum. The Practice and Skills Management module consists of risk/time/project/client management, introduction to the technology, emotional intelligence, client/team relationships and conflict resolution. Lastly, the Professional Ethics and Character component consist of a syllabus with topics, such as code of conduct, ethics and honesty, professionalism, conflicts of interest and confidentiality.
- PREP also involves role-playing in honing advocacy, interviewing and negotiation skills via Foundation Workshops.
- This is followed by the Virtual Law Firm and Capstone stages, which involve simulating activities and coaching, and a one-week practical work on real-life transactions, respectively.
Cultural Competence Workshop
PREP is succeeded by participation in the Cultural Competence Workshop lasting just a day. Articling candidates will be contacted via email with further details about this short-lasting training. It is worth noting that there is no formal Bar examination in Nova Scotia.
Articling in Nova Scotia
Articling is an essential component of the qualification process that must be completed in order to be called to the Bar. The process of applying for articling positions in Nova Scotia is split into two phases:
Application – candidates must submit articling application forms to the Barristers’ Society at least six weeks before the clerkship’s start date. These forms are available on the Society’s website. When applying for vacancies through the VI Portal or directly to law firms, make sure to prepare your resume and cover letter, as well as law school and post-secondary degree transcripts.
Your skills and academia will need third-party commendation, therefore, make sure to supply a list of at least three referees. You have to ensure that documents are formatted in accordance with the organization’s requirements.
Interview – interviews information is usually available on Nova Scotia law firms’ websites.
Articling Application Deadlines in Nova Scotia: How to Become a Lawyer in Nova Scotia
As the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society places responsibility on candidates to find articling opportunities, there are fluid deadlines.
Applications to be admitted as an articling clerk must be submitted to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society by April 1. This applies if you are applying for a clerkship starting June 1. If you are applying for articling at a different time – at least six weeks before the articling program start. However, to get to this point, one must secure an articling vacancy, so the information below should be a good guideline as to when to apply.
Please, do note that some articling clerkship providers run summer placements, after which shortlisted candidates are offered articling employment. The Department of Justice Legal Services Division – Halifax hosts summer placements with application deadlines usually being mid-January. It is often that articling positions are filled from students that participated in summer placements.
Applications to Courts
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal closes its recruitment in mid-March. Successful candidates received further confirmation as to the date and time of their interview slots. Interviews are conducted in April each year before judges-interviewers, with offers being made either at the end of the month or in May.
Early December is usually the cut-off point for online articling applications to the Atlantic Regional Office partnering with the Tax Court, the Federal Court, and the Federal Court of Appeal. Again, only successful applications will be privately contacted to arrange interview timings.
Applications to Law Firms
Determine which law firms you would like to apply and follow their websites for information on applications. Next are outlined two sample processes from different firms.
Dartmouth’s BOYNECLARKE LLP’s articling applications are received up to early January. Two rounds of interviews are held – one in early January and a second one in late January. Offers are usually finalized before the end of January.
Similarly, the Halifax downtown firm Burchells LLP closed its applications in early January and interviews took place afterward.
Is It Worth Becoming a Lawyer in Nova Scotia?
Similar to Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia is home mostly to tightly knot legal professions. There were only four firms with more than 51 lawyers according to the 2016 Statistical Report of The Federation of Law Societies of Canada. However, look at the positives of that: no monopoly is exercised on the legal competition, thus it is no wonder that there is such a diversity of law firms and services.
Equally important, this opens space for everyone to accommodate clients, so unsurprisingly the Nova Scotians have rated the vast majority of local legal services providers with over 4.4-4.5* out of 5* on online review platforms.
Nova Scotia has a widespread provision of well-known business services, for example, corporate, commercial, banking and finance, in addition to criminal and family law. Nevertheless, a few other industries also stand out in their popularity. One of them is the field of arbitration, mediation and alternative dispute resolution with the corresponding service specialists being Blackburn Law, Highlander Law Group and Burnside Law Office.
A strongly established sector of medical negligence and malpractice, road traffic accidents and personal injury claims exists in this Canadian province. It is home to offices of Wagners Law Firm, MDW Law, McKiggan Hebert Lawyers, Preszler Injury Lawyers – Dartmouth, Kimball Law and Carter Simpson acting as a small proportion of injury-focused law firms.
Municipal law legal consultancy is omnipresent, so a handful of law firms, namely Goodman MacDonald Patterson Daley, Burchell MacDougall LLP, Wells Lamey Bryson Schnare & Mailman and Wickwire Holm, offer services related to this area of law.
Finally, Nova Scotia has a well-developed branch for dealing with drug-related cases (especially those involving cannabis). Mackillop Pictou Law Group Inc., Singleton & Associates and Stewart McKelvey are some of the law firms taking such matters into their hands.
By Georgi Minchev