Can I Practise Law in Another Country?

It is not new for lawyers licensed in one country to practise law in another country or jurisdiction. This practice has improved diversity in the legal profession.1 A full-fledged lawyer who is qualified to practise law in his home country can usually practise law in another country if he meets that country’s requirements.

practise law in another country

Different countries have different rules that govern how foreign-trained lawyers may be allowed to practise law. This article aims to show how a lawyer can practise law in another country other than where he is qualified to practise by looking at three different jurisdictions.

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How a foreign-trained lawyer can practise law in Canada

There are different provinces in Canada, and each province has its own rules regarding practice. An applicant must first decide on the province he intends to practise. Then he must apply to the law society of that province and meets its requirement before he can be licensed to practise. The following are the steps to getting licensed by an applicant:

  1. Assessment by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA)2. This is a committee responsible for evaluating foreign-trained lawyers seeking admission into the Canadian bar. The assessment comprises an NCA exam, taking courses in specific areas of law at a Canadian law school or completing a Canadian law degree program, as the case may be. When a candidate passes his assessment, he is awarded a certification of qualification.
  2. Taking the Barrister Licensing Examination and the Solicitors Licensing Examination.3
  3. Completion of a 10-month articling process. This is similar to an internship under the supervision of a principal. Alternatively, the candidate may undertake a law practice program.
  4. The candidates must also pass the character fitness requirement of the province4.

How a foreign-trained lawyer can practise law in America

Just like Canada, every state in the US has different requirements for allowing a foreign-trained lawyer to practise law. Generally, there are five ways a foreign-trained lawyer can practise in the United States.5 They are;

  1. When he is permitted as a foreign legal consultant.
  2. When he is permitted to practise on a temporary basis.
  3. When he is permitted to appear in ongoing litigation temporarily.
  4. When he is permitted to practise as an in-house counsel.
  5. When he is permitted as a licensed lawyer in a U.S jurisdiction.

Permission as a licensed lawyer is the most common means. The following steps will usually be taken by a person applying to the state of New York to be licensed:

  1. An online foreign evaluation to show eligibility to take the bar exam.6
  2. A qualifying law degree based on the English common law. This must be equivalent to a United State law degree approved by the American Bar Association.
  3. An LL.M in the U.S where his degree does not meet the qualified standard.
  4. Upon successful completion, he can sit for the American Bar Exam. If he passes, then he will be licensed to practise.

United Kingdom (England and Wales)

A lawyer is either addressed as a barrister or a solicitor. Therefore practising in the United Kingdom means an applicant will have to apply and be qualified as a barrister or a solicitor.

The following steps qualify an applicant as a solicitor:7

  • A law degree, equivalent to a UK law degree;
  • He must pass the solicitors’ qualifying examinations (SQE1 AND SQE2);
  • Two years of qualifying work experience;
  • He must pass the character and suitability test.

To qualify as a barrister,8 the applicant must show:

  • A law degree, equivalent to a UK law degree;
  • He passed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC);
  • Completion of one-year pupillage with a barrister’s chambers;
  • He passed the character and suitability test.

If an applicant passes all the necessary requirements of the foreign country where he intends to practise law, then he will be licensed to practise law abroad.

1 Kenneth S. Kilimnik, Lawyers Abroad: New Rules for Practice in a Global Economy, 12 Penn St. Int’l L. Rev. 269 (1994).

2 The Federation of Law Societies of Canada

3 The Law Society of Ontario

4 Law Society Act, R.S.O 1990, c. L. 8 (amendments current to 1 March 2018)

5 Terry L, Jurisdictions with Rules Regarding Foreign Law Practice, Penn St. Dickson Law, (2016)

6 Section 520.6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law (22 NYCRR 520.6)

7 As laid by the Solicitors Regulation Authority; which is the body that regulates solicitors in England and Wales

8 As regulated by the Bar Standards Board; the body which regulates barristers in England and Wales

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