Where I work, the Vancouver office of Lawson Lundell LLP, lawyers often practise in multiple provinces. After all, we also have offices (and clients) in Yellowknife and Calgary.
Knowing the law in several provinces has a real career benefit: it allows us to work on a wide range of files across the country. If you’re thinking of practising across multiple provinces after you graduate, here are my top tips:
1. Bienvenue au Canada!
Want to practise in another province? Good news: Canada has nine of them, plus three territories. And if you end up at a corporate firm, you’ll probably have to advise clients who need to know what works in Vancouver will work just as well in St. John’s. Why? Because Canadian businesses often work across provinces, and they like to ask their lawyer for general advice. They don’t want to go to one lawyer in each province. Luckily, thanks to the National Mobility Agreement for the legal profession, you can practise temporarily across most provinces (for 100 days each year) without having to qualify there.
2. Get ready to hit the books
If you do decide to cross-qualify in another province — maybe you’re moving, for instance — then you’ll need to hit the books to study for their bar exam. I hope, for your sake, that you enjoyed law school.
Another heads-up: once you arrive in your new home base, don’t be a carpetbagger. Courts, clients and other lawyers never like the guy who flies in and insists on doing things his way. Take the time to learn the little things. Check your ‘Your Honour,’ ‘Your Worship’ and ‘My Lord’s’ in each province. A little work here goes a long way.
3. Brace yourself for paperwork
We’re in a heavily regulated profession. Requalifying in another jurisdiction is not a simple process. Check the deadlines for applications. Check the law society rules in both jurisdictions. Do it now.
Then, once you’re dual-qualified, get used to fulfilling the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements in both provinces. If you thought dealing with one law society was hard . . .
4. You’re exotic
On to the good news: you’re going to stand out from the crowd. You have experience and knowledge that other lawyers don’t. Don’t be afraid to emphasize that once you’re hired. If a partner’s work involves your home province, offer to get involved. Both firms and clients will value that.
5. It’s fun
You’re a lawyer because you like a challenge, right? Try thinking in two different legal systems at once. Dual-qualification makes you more aware that there are different ways of doing things — in law and in life. It stretches you, and ultimately makes you a better lawyer.