This is a comprehensive guide in which you will learn about how to become a lawyer in Ontario. The process of qualification as a lawyer in Ontario is similar to other provinces with regard to initial stages. However, the latter stages of becoming a lawyer in Ontario differ from other provinces.
Requirements: Stage 1 of How to Become a Lawyer in Ontario
This stage of your qualification journey will be the same in every province.
High School Diploma
You must complete your provincial high school education. This will depend on the province that you reside in.
Completing your undergraduate degree is a prerequisite to applying for any law degree (Juris Doctor), in Canada. This is because a law degree in Canada is considered a graduate degree. Many refer to an undergraduate degree needed to attend law school as a “pre-law” degree.
Canadian law schools require the completion of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Your LSAT score will largely affect your chances of acceptance into Canadian law schools.
To practice law In Ontario, as well as in other parts of Canada, you must complete a law degree in order to become a lawyer. Your law degree can be from any law school in Canada, or a law school from abroad as long it is recognized by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA). In Ontario, you apply to law schools through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).
2-Year Graduate Entry LLB is a perfect alternative to the traditional 3-year law degree.
Applying to Law Schools
It is important to note that every university will have its own law school admissions requirements. However, a law school application form will usually consist of a personal statement, resume, letters of recommendation, and academic transcripts. For those applying to law schools in Ontario, there are 7 law schools located in the province:
- Bora Laskin Faculty of Law (Lakehead University)
- Osgoode Hall Law School (York University)
- University of Ottawa Faculty of Law
- Queen’s Law
- Ryerson Law School
- U of T Law
- Western Law
- Windsor Law
Requirements: Stage 2 of How to Become a Lawyer in Ontario
This part of becoming a lawyer in Ontario is different when compared to other Canadian provinces.
Once you finished law school and obtained your degree, you must complete a period of experiential training called articling. Articling must be a minimum of 10 months in Ontario. Alternatively, you can complete the Law Practice Program instead of articling.
Ontario is home to eight law schools, which produce the majority of Canada’s 3,900 yearly law graduates competing for close to 1,900 articling positions. With many students focusing on their studies, not everyone is aware of Ontario’s licensing process.
Aspiring Ontario lawyers must first register with the Law Society of Ontario as articling students. Then they must complete the Law Society exams in order to be admitted to the provincial Bar. Prior to beginning articling, during, or after, all aspiring lawyers in Ontario must complete mandatory exams. These courses are administered by the Law Society of Ontario and include the:
- Barristers Exam – this section consists of Civil and Criminal Litigation Procedures, Practice Management, Barrister-Client Relationships and Ethical and Professional Responsibilities. All these modules are accompanied by Alternative Dispute Resolution Law, Ontario Law, Federal legislation and Case Law. Candidates will also be examined on identifying, analyzing and assessing issues.
- Solicitors Exam – this fragment of the Ontario Bar Exam mirrors the knowledge of the Ontario, Federal and Case Law component and all the other modules focusing on professionalism, issues, ethics and client relationships. It differs in the inclusion of the Fulfilling the Retainer module.
Both sections of the combined Bar Exam each take four hours to complete and test candidates’ knowledge of 160 case-related multiple-choice questions.
Articling Application Process in Ontario
The process of applying for articling positions in Ontario is outlined below:
Application – submit your application either through the VI Portal or directly to the firm. Your application will usually include:
- The standard resume-cover letter pair;
- Law school and post-secondary degree transcripts; and
- Letters of reference/a list of references.
Interview – if you were successful at the application stage you will then be invited for an interview. Interview dates are set by the Law Society of Ontario and are listed below.
Articling Application Deadlines in Ontario: How to Become a Lawyer in Ontario
Below are outlined the articling deadlines for the 2022 and 2023 recruitment:
Firms in Toronto
The Winter Recruitment Season is to accept applications until mid to late January with interview week details to be shared in early February. Actual interviews are scheduled at the end of February and Offer Day – just two hours after the closing interviews are carried out.
Ontario Summer Recruitment Season will not accept applications after mid-August. Successful candidates will be called to interviews in mid-October, with interviews being held at the beginning of November. This is when offers will also be confirmed.
Firms in Ottawa
Those eyeing Summer articling spots in Ottawa must prepare to apply between mid-September to mid-October. Seven days after the cut-off deadline firms will contact prospective interviewees to schedule interviews in late October. Just a day later some will fulfil their law articling ambitions once offers are made during the last days of October.
Further recruitment for the year will take place in the same year, with the VI Portal receiving applications between the start of December and mid-January. From the end of February until early March is the period that is set to oversee the interview week, with offers being sent out on in early March.
Firms in London
London witnessed a speedy application process for its articling vacancies. Applications close in mid-January and successful candidates are interviewed in early February and offers are sent out on just after the end of the interviewing period.
Firms outside of Toronto and Ottawa
- Application deadlines are all after mid-May.
- Interviews are conducted after mid-May 19.
- Articling position offers are sent out in early June 3.
Is it Worth Becoming a Lawyer in Ontario?
Ontario is Canada’s legal nucleus – out of Canada’s 130,000 lawyers a total of 57,000 (approximately 44%) are based solely in Ontario – and that does not include the extra 10,000 paralegal licenses issued by the province! With such a high-profile competition, this is the top province for those most ambitious to prove themselves in the zestful world of Canadian law.
More importantly, Ontario attracts formidable companies. The club of international legal representatives in Ontario is constituted by the polycentric Dentons LLP, the innovative Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, the Chicago-headquartered Baker McKenzie and the Canadian legal jewel Gowling WLG amongst others. Such companies build far-reaching bridges for Ontario by tying closer the cities of Ottawa and Toronto to distanced worldwide locations, such as New York, London, Munich, Moscow, Hong Kong, Singapore, Cape Town, Perth, and Sydney.
Of course, apart from big international firms, Ontario is home to locally and nationally founded law firms. Ontario greets the interprovincial Canadian top firms McMillan LLP, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Fasken LLP, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP and Davies LLP. Thus, Ottawa and Toronto foster strong collaboration with Montreal, Vancouver, Quebec, and Calgary on a national level. The business world would cheerfully greet such bonds and it is no wonder that the non-contentious legal sectors, e.g. Business, Finance, Corporate, Commercial and Insurance, headline Ontario’s legal world.
The more individualistically spirited aspiring lawyers may enjoy Ontario’s legal world as out of the 11,170 registered law firms in this province, 8,204 consist of singular practitioners (and 2,678 of 2-10 lawyers, plus 288 of 11 or more legal professionals).
With multi-office companies settling in this east-central Canadian territory, logically come to the highest wages. We have collated indicative figures, ranging from CA$84,035 (Indeed.com) to CA$102,548 (Glassdoor.com), but in practice, a lot of qualified lawyers with respective experience can earn close to CA$150,000 annually. Toronto and Ottawa also offer some of the highest-paid articling programs (CA$65,000 – CA$75,000).
By Georgi Minchev