Lawyers are recognized around the world as leaders in business and public service.
They are valued for their expertise in dispute resolution, and serve in roles as trusted advisors, skilled negotiators, effective advocates, and creative problem solvers.The Law Society of BC oversees admission to the legal profession in BC. If you are a high school student considering a career in law, we can answer many of your questions about how to become a lawyer in BC.
What do lawyers do?
The range of work lawyers do is extremely varied and there is no single type of legal practice. As a lawyer, you might draft real estate transfers, help businesses with financial contracts, negotiate divorce settlements, represent insurance companies in court, prosecute or defend criminal cases, or provide advice on tax law to investors.
Some lawyers work in private practice, either on their own or with other lawyers. In BC, about one-third of all lawyers work for themselves as sole practitioners, and about 25 per cent work in a firm of between two and five lawyers. Private practitioners advise a wide range of clients such as large corporations, small businesses or individuals.
Other lawyers work “in house” as employees of companies, governments or other organizations. An in-house lawyer might work for a bank preparing loan agreements, for a public interest organization representing environmentalists or for the provincial government prosecuting criminal cases.
Some law graduates choose to use their legal education in a career outside of law, such as teaching, journalism or business.
How do I become a lawyer in BC?
If you are a high school student, the most common path to a career in law is to first complete an undergraduate degree, then a graduate law degree in common law, and then complete the Law Society Admission Program. Note that not all Canadian or international jurisdictions are common law jurisdictions - some practice civil law, and univeristies in those jurisdictions may focus their studies on civil, not common, law.
Graduates of a Canadian law school
Most law schools require applicants to have completed at least three years of an undergraduate program and to pass an admission test. Completing a common law degree from a Canadian law school typically involves three years of graduate study.
Courses vary from university to university. Applicants should consider what each law school has to offer, how the available courses match their interests and career plans, and where they want to live while attending school.
International law school graduates
If you complete a law degree outside Canada and want to practice in BC, you must first apply to the National Committee on Accreditation. The committee, administered by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, will evaluate your credentials and work experience and determine whether you must complete further academic requirements before your are eligible to apply to the Law Society Admission Program.
The Law Society Admission Program
After graduating from law school, if you want to practice law in BC you must complete the Law Society Admission Program.
Successful applicants will spend nine months as an articled student working under the supervision of a lawyer, and must also complete the Law Society’s 10-week Professional Legal Training Course.
Before being accepted to the program, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they are of good character and repute. Applicants must provide the Law Society with a complete employment history, as well as details of any factors that might affect their character or fitness to practise law such as financial difficulties, drug or alcohol abuse or criminal charges. Past problems do not necessarily prevent applicants from becoming a lawyer. Anyone with questions or concerns can contact the Law Society and ask to speak with a credentials officer for confidential advice.
The role of the Law Society
The Law Society of BC is responsible for setting and enforcing standards for the licensing, competence, professional conduct and discipline of lawyers in BC.
Legal services, like other professional services, are regulated for public protection. Regulation helps lessen the risk that a member of the public will suffer serious harm at the hands of someone who purports to be a professional service provider, but lacks the expertise, skill or character to deliver a service properly.
The Law Society regulates the legal profession through a number of programs, including:
- Credentials: deciding the standards for admission to the profession and overseeing the education of articled students;
- Ethics: setting ethical standards for all lawyers;
- Practice Standards: setting standards of competency for the administration and practice of law;
- Professional Conduct and Discipline: investigating allegations of misconduct, resolving complaints and taking disciplinary action when appropriate; and
- Financial Protections: providing liability insurance for lawyers and trust protection coverage for the public.
If you have any questions about the requirements for becoming a lawyer in BC, contact Credentials and Member Services at the Law Society.