Q&A: More About The NCA Conversion Process in Canada

November 24, 2018

I’m so glad that so many of you have found our previous NCA post so helpful. Here area few follow up questions that might be helpful too. If you don’t see a question answered here, please send me a note! How tough and long was the NCA process?  I did not really find the process […]

I’m so glad that so many of you have found our previous NCA post so helpful. Here area few follow up questions that might be helpful too. If you don’t see a question answered here, please send me a note!

How tough and long was the NCA process? 

I did not really find the process tough at all. It can be as long or short as you want it to be. If you want to complete the exams in one round of exams, then maybe it would only take you a few months, although not many people advise this. It took me a year because I ended up missing two rounds of exams due to travel and family emergencies. Realistically, I could have completed it a lot sooner. I found 3 exams each round was completely doable, but honestly, I could have done more each round. The only thing that stopped me was that I was nervous I would waste money by failing if I took on too many at a time. Since there was no real rush and I was trying to save money by not purchasing text books and notes, I went with 3 exams at a time because it felt like a safe beat.

How tough are the NCA exam compared to UCT law school exams? Are we talking Admin / Property law hard, or more like Civil Procedure / Criminal law easy?

I felt the exams were easier because a) they’re open book; and b) I know better than I did in first year Law School so I knew how to study and write practical answers. Admin is still relatively ‘hard’ in terms that it’s basically all the same work / same type of long cases that you need to use in long form answers so it’s a lot to study / read. Property Law was easier than UCT (I felt). 

How did you go out seeking employment once completed?

I can’t answer this, because I haven’t yet. Working in a completely different career right now because I need the flexibility to travel more. 14 days leave after a year is not going to cut it. But most people have to just start applying to law firms. Google firms in the areas you want to live in and then start applying. There are often job offers online or application times/dates for each of the law firms listed on their website — I think it’s similar to SA Law Firms. 

Why did you opt for Alberta? 

It happened to be the easiest for us to get into initially, bearing in mind, we moved for Craig’s career as a physician. We’re staying now because it is cheaper, Craig gets paid more here and because we have settled in. BUT if we did move, I would have to rewrite the BAR exam for a different province if I wanted to practice as a lawyer in any other province. I would also have to get NCA to resend my qualification certificate to the provincial Law Society. 

Did you consider British Columbia, specifically Vancouver?

We considered moving there eventually but decided that we would prefer saving money than spending it in Vancouver. We can make more money / spend less living in Alberta and STILL travel to Vancouver 3 times a year so it didn’t make sense to move. Vancouver is stunning though, and feels a lot more familiar than Alberta. If we had a choice, money not being a factor, Vancouver would be more of an option. 

In your blog, you mentioned the exam subjects you were required to write. Should I expect the same? I graduated from UCT around 2016, so I assume a similar time period.

More than likely! The only reason it would change is if they felt standards were different or if you didn’t reach a high enough mark. The last 3 exams are compulsory because of our Civil Law influence. In Canada, it’s purely common law. 

What is the best studying material for the above exams?

I didn’t buy any textbooks because I was fed up of the costs associated with it all. I would rather purchase notes or spend time actually reading the cases. So, that’s what I did. I made my own notes, so I knew where everything was, and read pretty much every single case plus journal articles etc. Past exams are really helpful too! Answering Frameworks are really important to prepare as those were extremely helpful in the exams. Most often, some form of past questions would come up again. 

What did your study schedule look like? Any tips?

Like I said I write 3 exams each round. I studied for 2 – 3 months, but to be fair, only really buckled down to study hard 3 – 4 weeks before the exams. I wrote 2 exam rounds with a part-full time job, while travelling and blogging so it is manageable. Make good notes so that you can find things during the exams. 

Do you think it’s best to get certified before moving over, I assume so?

Yes! Just because, if you aren’t in my position, where I didn’t have to ensure I brought in an income too, you’ll have a lot more to stress about. It makes sense to convert beforehand and then move straight into a job. 

What is the biggest difference between Canadian law and South African law?

I didn’t notice much of a difference at all. It felt like all the same work, just with different case names. 

What was the biggest obstacle when moving?

Adjusting to the move with things like culture shock, being away from family and friends, but in terms of law? The frustration of having to do exams again and the costs of it. It all adds up. 

I am considering doing a research LLM at UBC or McGill, what are your thoughts? Seems best for integration, meeting a bunch of people, build a local education profile, etc. 

It’s a really good idea! Just bear in mind, if you’re on a work / study visa, you’ll pay international fees! If you have PR (Permanent Residency), you wouldn’t have to pay international fees.

How did you manage to get UCT to directly mail hard copies of your UCT transcripts to the NCA? 

This was relatively easy for me. As far as I remember there was an online process or a form to be faxed for this that I just completed with all the addresses I wanted my transcript to mailed to. I think this was the link.

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