Federation Developing Competency-based Assessment Process for NCA

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is developing a competency-based system for assessing the credentials of internationally educated applicants seeking to practice law in Canada.

The Federation’s National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) is mandated by the law societies in Canada’s common law jurisdictions to assess the legal education credentials and experience of lawyers and graduates who obtain their law degrees outside of Canada. In 2017 the Federation undertook a comprehensive review of the NCA and its processes as part of its commitment to excellence in the delivery of its services and programs. The goal of the review was to assess whether the NCA process effectively prepares applicants for success in bar admission programs and legal practice.

The NCA program review resulted in 28 recommendations in seven areas including communications, assessment, data collection and governance. Included in the recommendations was a call for the development of a competency-based assessment system for NCA applicants based on clearly identified competency benchmarks.

The NCA Assessment Modernization Committee, comprised of representatives of the Federation Council, law society leaders and senior staff, and the legal academy, was established in 2018 to make recommendations on the development and implementation of a competency-based assessment system for candidates applying to the NCA.

As a first step in the process of developing competency benchmarks, the Federation commissioned a study by an outside consultant to analyze whether NCA candidates experience challenges in the licensing process and in practice relative to the experience of Canadian educated graduates and lawyers.

The consultants reviewed law society data and information from interviews with employers and representatives of law societies. They also conducted a survey of candidates who have completed the NCA process and Canadian law school graduates.

The study demonstrated that while many NCA candidates experience similar rates of success in bar admission programs as those experienced by Canadian educated applicants, internationally educated lawyers and graduates can face challenges in the licensing process, in securing articling positions, and in obtaining post-licensing employment.

The findings from the study will assist the NCA Assessment Modernization Committee in developing a comprehensive competency profile for NCA applicants with clear benchmarks identifying the level of competence required at each stage of the legal education and licensing process. The Federation has engaged the services of ACT, a credentialling services consultant, to assist in the development of the competency framework. Work on this phase of the project began in late summer 2020 and is expected to conclude by the end of 2021.