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Under Section 37(4) of the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society Benchers, Executive Director or delegate may, in special circumstances, waive or modify a requirement for, or membership in, the Law Society of Alberta.
Please note that this process can take up to six months after a completed application is received, depending on departmental, board and executive workload.
In order to be eligible for a Section 37(4) Application, an applicant must have:
- An NCA Certificate of Qualification or Canadian common law degree;
- Minimum three years of membership in a bar or a common law jurisdiction outside of Canada; and,
- Minimum three years of active practice experience in a common law jurisdiction outside of Canada.
To apply for a waiver or modification, please complete the following:
Determine your eligibility for a Section 37(4) Application – Factors which constitute “special circumstances” must exist for applicants to have their enrolment requirements modified or waived. The Law Society reviews specific criteria to determine if special circumstances exist in the case of a particular application. Special circumstances may include, but are not limited to, a combination of the following:
- The applicant’s successful completion of equivalent admission requirements for a bar or a law society in a common law jurisdiction outside Canada;
- The applicant’s legal practice experience (post-law school) in a common law jurisdiction outside Canada, taking into consideration the length, currency, nature and scope of the experience;
- Correspondence from lawyers, judges or the applicant’s former legal employer, who have direct knowledge of the applicant’s legal practice experience and which confirm the length, currency, nature and scope of the experience;
- The applicant’s legal experience in Canada (as a paralegal, legal researcher, legal assistant, etc., in a law firm, law department, legal organization, etc.), taking into consideration the length, currency, nature and scope of the experience;
- The applicant’s advanced legal training or legal education obtained outside or inside of Canada;
- The applicant’s volunteer experience with a legal organization in Canada;
- The applicant’s non-legal experience in Canada; and,
- Other circumstances that may be relevant and particular to the applicant (for example, prolonged illness or injury of the applicant or events beyond the applicant’s control, which arise when the applicant is nearing completion of the enrolment requirements).
Once the applicant has determined their eligibility for a Section 37(4) application, they may submit their application to the Law Society’s Membership team via email. This application may include supporting documentation including:
- A letter signed by the applicant specifically describing the applicant’s legal practice experience in a common law jurisdiction outside of Canada (original not required);
- Proof of good standing (current within 6 months) during the period of membership for each common law jurisdiction in which the applicant is admitted outside of Canada (This may have already been submitted as part of a student-at-law application);
- Written confirmation from the applicant’s principal in Canada/Alberta supporting the request for a modification or waiver (this letter is a critical aspect of the application as the Law Society is looking to the principal to assess the applicant’s competency in alignment with their Education Plan); and,
- Information about any significant or exceptional circumstances in relation to the applicant or their background.
Once the application has been received by the Law Society, Membership will confirm receipt of the application and request any additional materials, if required.
It is highly recommended that applicants enroll in the PREP program (the bar admissions program administered by the Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED)) as soon as possible. A modification or waiver of all of part of the PREP program is only granted in rare and exceptional circumstances and applicants should enroll immediately to avoid delay in registration and commencing the program. Applicants should be aware that they do not have to wait for an articling position or a decision from the Law Society in relation to their waiver/modification application before enrolling in PREP. However, they must have received Law Society approval of their Student-at-Law Application prior to commencing articles.
After the application is complete and submitted to Membership, the application is then sent to the Executive Director or delegate for review.
The Executive Director or delegate will review the application in its entirety and may ask the applicant for more information or to clarify the information contained in application materials.
In reviewing an application, the Executive Director or delegate may consider the applicant’s special circumstances to determine if they are equivalent to entry-level competency to practice law in Alberta.
Following the review, the Executive Director or delegate will provide Membership with a written decision clearly outlining their decision regarding the applicant’s Section 37(4) application. This decision may waive or modify some or all membership requirements or the application may be denied. The applicant will receive written reasons for the decision via email. Please note that decisions are confidential and should not be shared or posted online
Following the decision, the applicant must advise their principal as well as CPLED prior to successfully applying for enrolment.
An applicant may appeal the decision of the Executive Director or delegate to the Law Society’s Credentials & Education Committee, pursuant to Rule 48.4 of the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta. A Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of receipt of the decision and a fee for the notice of appeal must be paid to the Law Society upon filing.