Canada International Trade in Legal Services

Canada International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector




Governance of the legal profession in Canada is a matter of provincial and territorial responsibility.  Every lawyer in Canada and notary in Quebec is required by law to be a member of one of Canada’s 14 provincial and territorial law societies and to be governed by its rules.  All law societies are members of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC), the national coordinating body of the regulators.  Each law society in Canada has its own legislation governing the regulation of its members, however, with national mobility of the profession, the law societies recognise the benefit of moving toward a harmonised national standard of rules of conduct.

Under what title do lawyers practise?

See specific province.

How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?

Admission is undertaken at provincial level and requirements may vary.

Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

Licensing by a provincial or territorial law society entitles a lawyer to practise in that jurisdiction. The law societies have also entered into   two National Mobility Agreements that provide broad permanent and temporary mobility rights to members of the legal profession. Lawyers admitted in any of the provinces or territories of Canada (other than Quebec) may become licensed in any other province or territory without passing an examination. These permanent mobility rights will be extended to mobility to and from the Barreau du Québec under a new National Mobility Agreement expected to come into force before the end of 2014. In addition, lawyers can practise temporarily, for a maximum of 100 days, in any of the following:  British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?

The scope of reserved practice is the law of the province of qualification and Canadian Federal law.

Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?


What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)

The legal forms permissable to lawyers are determined at provinical level.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

Ethical rules are determined at provincial level but the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) has approved a Model Code of Professional Conduct which is in the process of being implemented by the Canadian law societies. Over time, it is expected that any significant differences in rules of conduct across Canada will be eliminated.

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

Licensing is undertaken at provincial level - see relevant body under each province.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

Licensing is undertaken at provincial level - see relevant body under each province.



Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

Foreign lawyers who are practising in a Canadian province are required to register as foreign legal consultants. Only the province of British Columbia permits foreign layers to “fly-in fly-out” without a permit.  Lawyers who intend to stay for less than six months and do not plan to enter the Canadian labour market and who can demonstrate their main place of business and source of income is located outside Canada and the profits from their business will accrue outside Canada, may obtain visas for business purposes.  US and Mexican lawyers have more flexibility to market their services under NAFTA.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?


Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

See provincial information.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

See provincial information.


Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

See provincial information.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation? Yes
Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?


Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?



Yes.  In order to obtain a full licence to practise law in any province or territory other than Quebec, foreign lawyers must apply to the National Committee on Accreditation for evaluation of their credentials and experience. The National Committee on Accreditation establishes the educational and practising criteria an applicant must meet to be considered for admission to any of the law societies. Once an applicant satisfies those criteria, he or she must follow the same process for admission as domestic graduates. There is a similar process in Quebec administered by the Barreau du Québec.


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

See provincial information.

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

See provincial information.
Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)

Not applicable

Is there a quota on the number of licences available? No
Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have? No
Are there "scope of practice" rules that apply directly to foreign law firms (as opposed to lawyers themselves)? (e.g. home, host, international law), if so, what are they? There is no firm based licensing so the scope of practice is dictated by the licence of  the individual lawyers in the firm. If they are Canadian licensed they have unrestricted scope but if they are FLCs, they may only advise on their home country  law.
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? See provincial information.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? See provincial information.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL See provincial information.


Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?

See provincial information.

May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

See provincial information.

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?

See provincial information.

Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?

See provincial information.



Other useful sources or comments or links

Federation of Law Societies of Canada:
Canadian Bar Association:

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Federation of Law Societies of Canada (August 2014)


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