With back-to-school right around the corner, many people are thinking about their future pursuits and career options. Perhaps some of you are contemplating becoming a lawyer. What is the process of becoming a lawyer? This article aims to give a quick glimpse at joining the legal profession in Alberta, and offers some helpful hints about doing so.
After completing high school, your first step to becoming a lawyer is to obtain an undergraduate degree from a university. A typical undergrad degree takes four years to complete. Be sure to choose an area of study that interests you, even if it is not law-related. Law schools admit students with a variety of education backgrounds such as commerce, engineering, and drama, so don’t restrict your options to pre-law or social science studies.
When applying to law schools, it is important to research which schools you are seriously considering attending and making note of what each requires for your application. All Canadian (and American) law schools will require you to complete the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) before applying. Once admitted, Canadian law schools consist of three years of education. Some courses are mandatory for all students, but most law schools provide much leniency overall as to what courses students enroll in. This allows you to focus on the areas that interest you and, ultimately, the type of law you may want to direct your career towards.
The final phase of joining the legal profession occurs after law school. This phase is called articling. Articling is a one-year process similar to a practicum, during which an articling student is authorized to do almost anything a lawyer can. Of course, this comes with some restrictions. The Law Society of Alberta specifies certain services an articling student cannot perform, such as witnessing documents acknowledging division of property between two spouses, signing trust cheques, or imposing trust conditions on another party. Every articling student is also paired with a lawyer (known as their Principal), and that lawyer will oversee your work and progress throughout the year.
There is a structured educational component to articling, too. Traditionally, all articling students wrote the Bar Exam. This exam consisted of 2 full-day, 7-hour multiple-choice tests. Some provinces, such as Ontario, still require its students to write the Bar Exam. However, in Alberta this requirement has been replaced by the CPLED program. CPLED consists of both face-to-face and online modules assigned throughout the course of a student’s articling, which requires him or her to conduct research, draft documents, participate in debates, and complete other projects focused on real life scenarios. After completion of this CPLED program and your one-year articling term, you are then qualified as an official lawyer in Alberta!
The road to becoming a lawyer is largely focused on training a person to become an excellent writer, reader, and speaker. If you choose to pursue this career path, I encourage you to do so with an open mind. While this article describes the technical process for becoming a lawyer, each lawyer’s personal experience and development throughout this process will be different. As a result, the career that each lawyer develops will be unique to his or her skills, goals, strengths, and personality. So, if the legal profession interests you, then I urge you to consider embarking on this career path and embracing all the great opportunities it has to offer.
Pritchard & Co. Law Firm LLP helps you navigate the turning points of life. Contact one of our lawyers at (403) 527-4411 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org