Firm Culture

Homegrown Ignorance

When I retired from the practice of law in 2020, I could not have told you what NCA stands for. I am willing to bet that the majority of home-grown Canadian lawyers in private law firms are just as ignorant about this as I was.

On the other hand, I have never met an internationally trained lawyer who did not know what NCA stands for.

This is probably where you think that I am going to tell you. I am not. If you do not know, it is well past time that you Google it and find out. While you are at it, you might want to do some reading up about what internationally trained lawyers have to go through to be licensed to practice law in Canada.

Now why should established Canadian lawyers care about what internationally trained lawyers have to do to become licensed to practice law in Canada? I suggest that the reason is that if we do not, we are operating from a position of ignorance when some knowledge might assist us to make better hiring decisions.

Let me explain. We all know that Canadian law schools do not train lawyers to practice law, a subject which deserves its very own rant. We are also quick to complain that it is difficult to attract the best talent to our law firms, and that we are not always satisfied with the work ethic and attitudes of those people who apply to our firms. 

You would think that all of us who whine about these issues would seek to understand the available talent pool so that we can make the best possible hiring decisions. The simple fact is that there is a segment of the talent out there looking to be hired that we know very little about, being internationally trained lawyers.

Since we know so little about the journey that internationally trained lawyers must take to become accredited in Canada, we tend to make assumptions about the state of their knowledge of Canadian law, which are typically unfavourable.

But what if there was actually a system in place to ensure that internationally trained lawyers know just as much about Canadian law as the rest of us? If you were in charge of hiring lawyers at your firm, presumably you would want to fully understand that system to determine if there are actually more (and potentially better) candidates for you to consider. Wouldn’t you?

And if you know nothing about this and are still doing the hiring at your firm, wouldn’t that make you kind of negligent?

So, Google NCA. Have a coffee chat with an internationally trained lawyer or candidate for licensing. Look into one of the organizations that support internationally trained lawyers  (e.g. Start reading. Learn something. Widen your horizons and expand the talent pool from which you are hiring. Or, if you won’t do any of that, at least stop whining.

This article (under a different title) was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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