In many places around the world, aspiring lawyers have to pass a bar exam before they can get a licence to practice law. And you may be wondering, is there a bar exam in Alberta?
The short answer is no…but there is a bar course!
In Alberta, instead of a bar exam, aspiring lawyers have to pass a bar course called Practice Readiness Education Program (PREP) in order to be admitted into the bar.
Practice Readiness Education Program (PREP)
PREP is a bar admissions program administered by the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED) and it’s designed to provide aspiring lawyers with practical legal knowledge and the competencies required to become a lawyer.
The PREP program is divided into four phases (Foundation Modules, Foundation Workshops, Virtual Law Firm, and Capstone). Capstone is the final assessment portion of PREP. This is where students must demonstrate what they’ve learned throughout PREP and achieve what’s called “entry-level competence” to pass the program.
Previously, PREP was only offered as a nine-month course that you would have to complete alongside your article. In other words, during your articling year, you would also have to do PREP at the same time.
But since COVID, CPLED has come out with what’s called Accelerated PREP which gives aspiring lawyers the option to do PREP full-time online. You do this by spending 7-8 hours a day on PREP for five days a week. Unlike the regular PREP mentioned above, you complete Accelerated PREP prior to commencing your article but don’t worry, it’s still counted towards your articling term. If you’re doing a 12-month term, completing 4 months of Accelerated PREP would leave you with only 8 months of articling). CPLED offered Accelerated PREP for the first time in 2019 and it held a soft launch of the program in 2020. There is no guarantee that Accelerated PREP is here to stay but for now, it is an option available to aspiring lawyers in Alberta on a first come first served basis.
Which PREP Should You Do?
The stream of PREP that you choose (regular or accelerated) depends on you. Some people swear by Accelerated PREP. And you can see the appeal because it lets you simply focus on PREP without having to juggle it with work. Plus, the time you spend on it is counted toward your article = shorter articling term. That said, it also has strict requirements that might not make it the ideal choice for some law students e.g. you must complete it at a certain time frame (usually during the summer) and you cannot take vacations in between so if you’d like to take a couple of months off after law school, Accelerated PREP may not be for you.
You do not need to have secured an article to enroll in accelerated PREP (or regular PREP for that matter) but if you already have an article, whether you do regular or accelerated PREP may also depend on the law firm you’re articling at. Some firms may allow or even encourage you to do Accelerated PREP while others only offer regular PREP. Firms that prefer their students to do regular PREP generally provide them time off each week to dedicate to completing the program. Some law firms also pay for all or part of PREP (which costs around CAD $6,000) while others don’t. Talk to your firm about PREP to figure out what options are available to you.
If you want to learn more about Accelerated PREP or PREP in general, go to the CPLED website.
Well, there you have it. In Alberta, we have a bar admissions program or (as I like to call it) bar course. So while there is no bar exam in the same way that there is, for example, in the United States, this doesn’t mean that there is no admission process for lawyers in Alberta!
Interested in studying law in Alberta? Check out my blog on How to Become a Lawyer in Alberta!