Canada to Nationalize Admissions Standards for New Attorneys

Currently, new attorneys in Canada are admitted to practice based upon the criteria of the controlling law society in the applicant’s jurisdiction. There are 14 of these law societies, which, as in the United States, have historically  hindered attorney mobility due to inconsistent standards. Their policy changed with the approval of the National Mobility Agreement (NMA). According to the follow up letter from the ALI-ABA/CLEA conference entitled Equipping Our Lawyers, “An underlying premise of the NMA was that standards for admission were already reasonably comparable. The reality, however, is that significant differences exist between law societies in their admission standards and processes-differences that cannot be justified. The existence of common standards should eliminate concerns about the qualifications of mobile lawyers.”

Now, in a step beyond the NMA, The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has announced that Canada will move to national standards by the end of 2011. The move will clearly alleviate lawyer mobility problems and will save on costs for each law society as they currently duplicate many standards. A primary task now is to determine the requisite competencies of a new lawyer, the elements of good character, and determining how to assess those attributes.

Whether such a model will change the American approach is a question for the future as we await the final product. As the editors note, globalization and nationalization make the state-by-state model seem obsolete. One benefit of nationalized standards and improved mobility would be greater access to people in need of legal assistance. Instead of concentrating lawyers in a few jurisdictions without the ability to move, nationalized standards would improve resource allocation.

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One Response

  1. Certainly, from the standpoint of satisfying the unmet legal needs of the thousands who cannot afford private lawyers, nationalizing the bar admissions process would seem to be a no-brainer. One can envision a scenario in which a legal crisis of Katrina-type proportions arises and pro bono lawyers and law students from around the nation seek to help but are thwarted because of local rules preventing them from appearing in “foreign” courts.

    Another justification for nationalizing the bar admissions process could be the likely streamlining of the bar-preparation process; recent law school grads who went to school in states distant from their own could take one exam to qualify them for the right to practice in their home state as well as others.

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