There are plenty of reasons why American attorneys and other legal professionals might decide to move their practices to Canada — political climate, universal healthcare, lifestyle, etc. And just as Americans welcome Canadian lawyers because of their highly regarded educations, Canadians are just as open to hiring US-educated lawyers into their firms. Of course, not everyone is qualified to seek citizenship in Canada, but information on the qualifications needed for living and working in Canada is available to help determine whether or not it’s a viable option for you. And if you do decide to take the leap, here’s what you need to know in order to maximize ease and opportunities during the transition.
Attorney accreditation in Canada
Before arriving in Canada, it’s recommended you begin the accreditation process, as it can take one to several years to complete. Contact the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) for more information. Documents such as transcripts, certificate to admission to the bar, letter of good standing and a detailed CV are recommended and should be obtained from your university or law society. In addition, a wealth of information can be found for applicants with foreign law degrees to ensure that no detail goes missed. Familiarize yourself also with the bar admission requirements, which differ from province to province and can be obtained from each law society.
Differences between US and Canadian legal practice
Litigating personal injury in Canada has its differences from doing so in the United States. For one thing, the process in Canada is significantly less expensive, as the rules of procedure are reduced. The winner of the legal case also gains significantly less in damages than in the United States. There are also a few key differences in jurisdiction and legislation. For example, if you were to hire a personal injury lawyer in Halifax, you would be limited to under $400,000 for the amount of damages you could be awarded for pain and suffering, whereas in the US, such limits don’t exist. Also, the US judiciary is considered more conservative than in Canada. This can be seen most prominently in Canada’s stance on the death penalty, which is not a part of its law anywhere in the country. Other differences include Canada’s one federal criminal law as opposed to America’s 50 state criminal laws, Canada’s stricter employee discrimination regulations, the difference in stances on who pays attorney fees and court cost, and Canada’s openness to looking to other countries for answers to pressing legal matters.
Aside from litigation practices, one major legal stance that has people talking is the country’s lead on legalizing marijuana for all uses. As of October 17, 2018, Canada’s marijuana dispensaries legally opened their doors for business. This not only gives adults the right to purchase products like weed and CBD edibles for health or recreation, it will also allow for some previous offenders to be pardoned. But the country is not jumping into it lightly. Regardless of its newfound freedom, there are still some restrictions. For example, you still cannot cross the border with it, drive while under the influence, or possess it as a minor. They will even have government-appointed officials available for marijuana counseling to ensure its proper usage.
Moving your practice to Canada could be the perfect plan for you, but it is a very personal decision. Factors that often contribute to the decision to relocate to the country often include the variation in legal practice, the legalization of marijuana, or the current political climate. Whatever you decide, thoroughly research the immigration process and the various legal procedures required to become a citizen.