After talking about our Quebec Bar School reform for many years, it appears like it is finally going to happen. Starting with a pilot project in the 2022–2023 academic year, a full transformation is scheduled to occur as of the 2023 – 2024 academic year. In a nutshell, the new program will be a cross between the current Quebec Bar Exam, the previous (pre-2005) Quebec Bar Exam structure, and the Ontario Bar Exam.
The most significant change will be that there will no longer be really much “Bar School,” rather it will be the responsibility of each student to self-study to prepare for their Bar Exam. In addition, there will be a legal clinic requirement where students will have to take part in a legal clinic for 16 weeks. But before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s go through the entire new proposed system based on the dates for the pilot project.
Around the month of January preceding your entrance into Bar School, you will need to apply for Bar School.
After your application process, you will have to do a diagnostic exam. Your score on this exam will have no impact on whether you pass the exam (it doesn’t count officially), rather the purpose of this exam is to identify your knowledge in different areas of the law and to guide you in your self-study.
Upon receipt of the results from your diagnostic exam, you will then have to start your self-study to prepare for the actual Bar Exam. You will be able to start Bar School either in the Fall or the Winter. Here’s the schedule assuming that you are doing the fall starting date as part of the pilot project.
Pilot Project Dates
Ethics Exam August 27, 2022
Drafting Exam September 10, 2022
Law Exams September 20 and 22, 2022
Retake Exams October 25, 2022 (ethics)
October 27, 2022 (drafting),
November 1 and 3, 2022 (law).
As of around June preceding the start of Bar School students will have access to all of the online preparatory materials in particular the online modules and videos which have been prepared. These modules are likely the current modules which are used for the preparatory classes. Essentially, you will have all summer to study and to get up to speed on the different bar subjects to be ready for your actual Bar Exam in mid September. Unfortunately, it appears like you will have to dedicate yourself to study all summer full-time in order to be ready for your Bar Exam in September; the Bar counsels against studying part-time during your summer.
Bar School itself will start in mid August and will consist of two weeks of classes on ethics followed by an exam solely on the topic of ethics.
Then, you will have another two weeks of classes on the legal drafting and understanding the theory of the case (théorie de la cause) followed by an exam solely on the topics of legal drafting and understanding the theory of the case.
Thereafter, you will have a little more than a week to do a final revision of the law before having two days of actual Bar Exam. This new Bar Exam will only be multiple-choice questions, but will cover all 12 law subjects as opposed to only six as is the case now. In theory, this new type of Bar Exam is supposed to be easier than the current Bar Exam. However, we will have to wait and see whether that will actually be the case. Based on everything I know about the Bar, I doubt that it will be much easier if their goal is to maintain the same pass rate. Currently, the multiple-choice exam day is extremely challenging.
This new Bar Exam will only be multiple-choice questions, but will cover all 12 law subjects
It will be necessary to pass (60%) all three of those exams individually (ethics, drafting, law). If you do not pass each of these exams are not passed, there will be a retake cycle in late October and November, but you will only need to retake the failed exam(s). You will have up to three years to pass these exams, but notice how all of the retake exams are scheduled in quick succession.
Once you have passed all three of the exams, you will then start a 16-week legal clinic. Essentially, you will receive two weeks of training and then will have to help people who are seeking legal advice at the clinic (or fictional problems if no one shows up). This will be done under the guidance of supervising lawyers. The last two weeks will be allocated to preparing a portfolio of the different legal opinions/letters which you prepared as part of the legal clinic. In addition, during those 16 weeks, you will also participate in three practical exercises: a negotiation exercise in labour law, a representation exercise in criminal law, and a drafting exercise in business law.
This 16-week block will be graded on a pass/fail basis and assuming that you pass, you will then be eligible to start articling. Same as is presently the case, you will be required to complete a six-month stage before being sworn in as a lawyer.
Once the pilot project is completed, in the following year, there are supposed to be two potential starting dates for the actual reformed bar program, a fall starting date with classes starting in August and a winter starting date with classes likely starting in January.
Although at first glance, this appears to be a significant change to the structure of the Bar Exam, in fact, the actual Bar Exam itself and the associated preparation will likely be quite similar to that for the current exams. As we get closer to the start of the pilot project, new information and further details will surely come to light. At a minimum, anyone who is considering entering the pilot project or will be writing the Bar after this new program comes into effect will need to spend considerable time self-studying. This means that there is all the more interest to take as many Bar subject classes as possible in law school. And finally, it goes without saying that we will offer tutoring services to anyone who desires a helping hand during the self-study process.
At a minimum, anyone who is considering entering the pilot project or will be writing the Bar after this new program comes into effect will need to spend considerable time self-studying.
Good luck and this post will be updated as new information comes to light.