About the NCA
The National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) is a standing committee of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. The mandate of the NCA is to help Canada’s law societies protect the public interest by assessing the legal education and professional experience of individuals who obtained their credentials outside of Canada or in a Canadian civil law program. An assessment is done before an individual may apply for admission to a law society in a Canadian common law jurisdiction, and is based on the academic and professional profile of each applicant.
The NCA applies a uniform standard on a national basis so that applicants with common law qualifications obtained outside of Canada or with civil law training in Canada do not need to satisfy different entrance standards to practise law in the different provinces and territories of Canada.
Once a file is assessed by the NCA, an applicant may be asked to complete one or more exams and/or attend and complete specific law school courses within a prescribed time frame. Upon successful completion of these requirements, the NCA issues a Certificate of Qualification.
Most law societies in Canada require the NCA’s Certificate of Qualification to access their bar admissions process. Applicants with internationally-obtained legal qualifications can apply to the NCA regardless of which common law province or territory in which they plan to practise.
The NCA does not assess the legal credentials of individuals who want to apply to and become members of the Barreau du Québec or the Chambre des notaires du Québec. These law societies have their own evaluation procedures.
As part of its commitment to excellence in the delivery of its programs and services, the Federation recently undertook a comprehensive review of the work of the National Committee on Accreditation (“NCA”), the body responsible for assessing the credentials of internationally trained lawyers and students.
Cambridge Professional Development (“CamProf”) was engaged to conduct the review which looked at the NCA’s policies and procedures, its goals and strategies, the training and preparation currently available to applicants, the success rate of NCA applicants both in the NCA program and in law society bar admission programs, and the NCA’s governance and organization structure. CamProf was also asked to identify relevant trends and best practices in peer jurisdictions.
The final report from the review was presented to the governing body of the Federation in June.
The report concludes that the administration of the NCA program is exemplary, but notes that the program could be further enhanced to improve the success rate of applicants. CamProf makes 28 recommendations that fall into seven areas including communications, assessment, data collection and governance. They include suggestions for operational improvements, including improving the current website and extending the NCA’s online presence, governance improvements to enhance accountability, and exploring a move to a competency-based assessment system.
The Federation is committed to responding effectively to the recommendations and will be moving soon to implement those that are purely operational (for example, improving the website) while it consults with the law societies and other stakeholders to develop a full implementation plan. A workshop to consider the recommendations and next steps will be held with law society leaders in the fall.