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From LSATs to articling, the path to becoming a lawyer is long but comes with great rewards. With over 200 American Bar Association-approved law schools in the US to choose from, moving south of the border to study may just be a favourable option. But before you step out to become the next Elle Woods, it's important to know how to get there and to be familiar with how to come back.

JD in the US

Because the admissions process is so competitive and there are fewer law schools in Canada, attending law school in the United States is a viable option for many aspiring Canadian attorneys, says Annette Pettyjohn, director of admissions at Liberty University School of Law, noting that several of the school's students are currently practicing back in Canada.

The Virginia-based university prepares its students for a career in law through their three-year juris doctorate program, offering 11 certificates of specialization from business law, criminal law, and international law'just to name a few'in addition to a comprehensive skills program.

Students will conduct negotiations, depositions, arguments before a judge, and a trial, says Pettyjohn. They will draft more than 15 different types of legal documents ranging from legal memos, complaints, motions, summary judgments, sales contracts, statutes, articles of organizations, and operating agreements. 

Admissions checklist

According to Liberty University's International Student Department, Canadian students do not need to submit an SAT/ACT for admission. Canadian law students do need to submit an LSAT score, of course.

With almost 200 Canadian law students enrolled in both the school's undergraduate and graduate degrees, Canadian students simply need to present the necessary paperwork at the US border.

Some of the items students will need'in addition to the completed application'are a personal statement, letters of recommendation, post-secondary transcripts, an affidavit of financial support, and their passport.

Practicing in Canada

For Robert Niemi, a Canadian lawyer and 2011 graduate of Liberty University School of Law, the quick transition back to practicing in the Canadian law system was all about timing. Exams for both the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) and Bar Exam are only at specific times of the year, he says. The NCA examinations evaluate students who have graduated from law school outside of Canada, then issues a certificate given that all criteria is met.

The second step is articling'a law internship, which is usually paid, where a lawyer acts as a principal to the articling student, Niemi explains. And once the articling is completed, the student is sworn in as a lawyer.

As international law continues to grow, the viability of Canadians studying in the US is ever more present. The proximity of the United States and Canada creates a natural interaction between the countries, says Pettyjohn. Therefore, being trained in both legal systems provides students with an international advantage. And, particularly for Liberty University School of Law, the cost of living in Central Virginia is much lower than many major Canadian cities, without jeopardizing the quality of living.

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