Immigrant Lawyers Rarely Admitted to Practice

Statistics Canada has released a study of how often immigrants who studied outside Canada for “a regulated occupation” wind up working in that occupation. Of the various regulated professions, law admitted the least number of foreign-trained immigrants. According to the full report of the study, which used 2006 data,

Immigrants who studied law outside Canada had the lowest match rates of all fields of study leading to a regulated occupation. While 69% of the Canadian-born who studied law worked as lawyers, the corresponding figure was 12% for immigrants, making the Canadian-born with law degrees almost 6 times as likely as immigrants to be working as lawyers.

Health professions generally had the highest “match rates.”

Of all those in Canada who had studied law at the time of the research, 96,865 were Canadian-born and 29,120 were immigrants; of this latter group, 10,955 studied in Canada and 18,165 studied abroad. (See the chart of data for all the professions.)

The National Committee on Accreditation, the profession’s gatekeeper for all jurisdictions but Quebec, provides some statistics for the last decade — Summary of Evaluations 1999-2009 [PDF], Certificates of Qualification Issued 1999-2009 [PDF] — but they are shockingly badly labelled and explained, proving to be nearly useless. What they would appear to show is that England is the largest source of foreign-trained lawyers admitted to practice here, with 22.7% of the total (trebling in number over the decade, by the way), with the United States second at 19.6% (more than trebling in number) and India a close third at 17% (more than quadrupling over the decade).


  1. This is a very interesting study. I do wonder, though, whether there are incorrect assumptions that render its narrative analysis less than helpful. Surely the study ought to have compared the “match rates” of immigrant law graduates compared to that of Canadian-born law graduates — and ditto for the other professions?

  2. Whoops — please disregard the above comment (or, better yet, simply delete it, and this): that’s exactly what they did.

  3. I wonder if this is not comparing apples and oranges. After all, most other professions, particularly medicine and engineering, have more things in common than different across national boundaries. Law is fundamentally different, particularly when comparing common law employed in only a few countries and civil law in the rest of the world.

    without this notion, the comparison above may seem to suggest that law is more exclusive than other professions.

  4. I agree with Seva – law is far less portable a field of knowledge than medicine (the human body works the same way everywhere) or engineering (building stay up for the same reasons everywhere – subject to local conditions like earthquake vulnerability etc).

    It would be an interesting statistic to see what immigrants from common law countries manage to do, compared to those from other legal systems.

    The Law Society of Upper Canada has just approved joining a national standard about mobility into Ontario of lawyers from Quebec (the Federation of Law Societies’ standard.)

    So immigration of lawyers even within Canada is limited when the legal background is different.

  5. That’s easy to say that law is different in each country. Of course it is but legal work experience has the same value in Canada and elsewhere. Experience should be automatically credited to foreign lawyers. After years of practice abroad you know how to handle clients and do your job.
    Of course law is different in each country but even after you’ve done your Canadian law courses, or even after you’ve done your law studies all over again (which means studying 3 more years and a lot of money) and get a Canadian LL.B., you still have a hard time with employers who will think twice before hiring a recent immigrant, even if the person has a Canadian LL.B, is fluent in French or English or both, has experience and is hard-working. Because you’re “not from here”: you have the same Canadian education as them but you’re not from the same “mold”, i.e you’re not Canadian born. And just imagine if you are a woman above all that.