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Denied NCA, would-be lawyer also loses in court

|Written By Heather Gardiner
Denied NCA, would-be lawyer also loses in court
Juron Grant-Kinnear was denied the right to sit for bar exams in Canada.

It’s not unheard of for internationally trained lawyers to be denied access to the Canadian bar. But in a rare move, a U.K. law graduate whose application was rejected took his case to court, and ultimately lost.

In June 2010, upon returning to Canada, Juron Grant-Kinnear applied to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s National Committee on Accreditation to obtain his Ontario licence. He had completed a bachelor of arts at Western University and went to England to get a law degree from the University of Kent.

However, the NCA rejected his application because he graduated with third-class honours after completing eight courses with an average grade of 41.6 per cent, which is considered a passing grade in the United Kingdom. The NCA refused to recognize his law degree and told him he would need to complete a law degree at a Canadian law school in order to write the bar exams.

According to the NCA, it received 1,249 applications in its 2011-12 fiscal year, of which 57 applications were denied and 14 appealed the assessment decision.

Grant-Kinnear appealed the decision to the NCA panel, arguing the initial assessment was not objective or fair and contravened s. 6 of the Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act, but the panel upheld the decision. He then applied for judicial review to the Ontario Superior Court, which dismissed his application on March 13.

In Grant-Kinnear v. Law Society of Upper Canada, the judges questioned whether this issue falls under the court’s jurisdiction.

“With respect to the fairness and lawfulness of the accreditation process generally and whether it complies with FARPA, we have reservations as to whether this is properly the subject of judicial review by this court. This is a highly policy-laden process, closer to an administrative process than a judicial one in the decision-making spectrum,” said the ruling.

But Grant-Kinnear says he just wanted a chance to write the competency exams. “[T]o just arbitrarily say, ‘Sorry, go ahead and do a Canadian law degree,’ seems quite unfair,” he tells 4Students.

The NCA’s argument regarding his academic standing also isn’t valid, he says.

“[W]hen you go to a Canadian law school here, in terms of equivalency, there is no standard in terms of whether you get a certain grade, whether you can be allowed to write the law society exams. You pass or you don’t pass, and if you pass you’re allowed to write those exams,” he says.

Grant-Kinnear won’t have the opportunity to write those exams after the court determined the NCA’s decision was a reasonable outcome.

“The panel applied reasonable and objective criteria, took into account the individual circumstances of the applicant, and reached a decision that was within the range of reasonable outcomes. The reasons are justified, intelligible and transparent,” said the ruling.

Grant-Kinnear argues the process is not transparent at all.

“[T]here should be a set guideline to say if you complete an undergrad in Canada and you go away to the U.K. to do law school and you go to one of these 20 or 30 top-tier schools, when you come back here’s how many courses you’re going to have to do — and that’s not how it is. You can do the exact same course load and have the exact same experience as a peer . . . and be given a completely different outcome. There’s not really an understanding as to why that is,” he says.

Students would benefit greatly if there were specific guidelines to provide a better understanding of what to expect when they go abroad for their law degree and when they come back and apply for accreditation, he adds.

For now, Grant-Kinnear says he’s still “mulling it over” as to what to do now, adding his current role as legal counsel in the investment division at OPSEU Pension Trust doesn’t require a licence to practise law. He’s considering completing an LLM in the U.K. or maybe the United States, but says it’s unlikely he will go to a Canadian law school to get another law degree.

  • Right decision by the NCA

    Aravinth Muthuraman
    Kumar, you bring a bad name to other Tamils who worked hard to become lawyers and are honest with our profession. I recently read a article where you were facing charges of real estate fraud.

    Your support for the guy in this article is also astonishing as he graduated with barely passing grades from a sub-par law school (if you can even call it that) from outside Canada and dares to waste our time here? We already have a glut of lawyers and lawstudents having trouble in the job market. Do we need guys like this to misrepresent the legal profession? He is not fit to be a lawyer in Canada. Period.

    And Kumar, please avoid tainting the name of the Tamil community in the future. We have struggled enough and already have a bad rep in Canadian society.

    -Another Tamil Canadian who graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School
  • Ms.

    Tough Luck
    Correct decision. Before we went over there, a lot of us read the requirements for NCA, did research and asked around. He's complaining because he came back with low marks and wasn't accepted. Understandable the program he did was more difficult then one of the ones in a lower tier school but that's his problem. He should have worked harder. Thats like suing UofT b/c you didn't get in lol.
    The NCA rejected his application b/c he has low grades and they accepted the applications that did WELL. He has no one to blame but himself. The rest of us worked hard when we went abroad, came back with something higher then a third class degree and are studying for our ncas now.
  • Hipster

    I am Not a Hipster
    I am no lawyer or law student. And neither am I a hipster. But I know several people who's been in the NCA accreditation process. Based on what I heard from them, I think he should consider himself lucky.

    Wait till he is actually in the NCA accreditation process -- then maybe he will get a first taste of and truly see the many significant problems and shocking unfairness of the overly protectionist and inward-looking legal profession in Ontario, as alleged by some.

    He should consider himself lucky that NCA is sparing him the trouble of the NCA accreditation process.

    Personal opinion: to advance, one should look south of the border, where the professions are generally more competitive and outward looking, with the added benefit of a friendlier, less risk-averse people, more opportunities and pay, lower tax, less bureaucratic red tap and bloat, along with warmer weather . . . and importantly, a place where intellectualism is loved, not despised.
  • Student

    Kumar, how are you sure that assessment will be granted if one has been called to the Bar in another jurisdiction? What about with an LLM and a Call to the Bar, will the NCA take into consideration the LLM aswell? or is it not worth it wasting time doing the LLM?
  • Mr

    Kumar Sriskanda
    Yes Sam, if you do LLM, you can skip NCA and straight to Bar Admission Course.
  • RE: Student

    Kumar Sriskanda
    Nca is foreign lawyers and not for foreign law graduates. Depending on the jurisdiction, the number of subjects may vary but I have not seen a single foreign lawyer who was rejected by NCA.
  • NCA

    To get into A UK law school, you just need a high school diploma. You compete against other 18 - 19 year olds. If you do a good job according to their standards, you get an A. To get into a Canadian law school, you need to complete at least two years of full time study from a university (with top grades), write the LSAT and finish in the top 20% (this test is written worldwide and all scores are scaled), have work experience, volunteer experience, and in most cases an applicant has a full degree, and or a masters + need all of this just to APPLY. Only about 8- 9% get in. It doesn't matter if you are smart as shit, you're graded based on how much better you do then others. I have to sit in a constitutional law class next to someone who did his PhD in Political Science. I believe UK students are lucky we even consider their degrees...any Tom, Dick and Harry get get one.
  • Student

    Would the NCA assessment have been different if he was admitted to practice law in the USA (ex: passing the New York Bar)? Or does that not matter when being assessed?
  • RE: Student

    Kumar Sriskanda
    yes, irrespective of your marks, if you are called to the Bar anywhere else, you would get NCA assessment.
  • no legal but para legal

    Kumar Sriskanda
    UK qualified LLB cannot become a lawyer here. But without LLB, one can become a para legal and stand as equal to a Barrister & Solicitor in Ontario. Law Society's double standard here.
  • partner

    This brave soul did not have to launch this fight - he has a good job and is obviously contributing to the field or else he would not have been hired over everyone else (lawyers still operate in a free market where their services can be purchased or not purchased). He's probably trying to take the stand and pave the way for others who may not have had the chance he did to illustrate the sometimes silly protectionist measures taken by Canada's professional societies; law included.
  • Lawyer

    Brave soul?? lol

    How about sense of entitlement? They clearly had their reasons for the decision and his appeal was denied. I'm positive this is not the first nor last time the NCA has made a decision such as this one. They are not pulling their decision from thin air. I think he is just looking for sympathy votes by coming forward with this. He is not special.
  • RE: Denied NCA, would-be lawyer also loses in court

    He should be allowed to write the NCA exams. I went to a top school in ON and once went to see a prof re: a hard exam. The raw scores ranged from 40 to 63 out of a hundred. 63 got the A+, 40 got the C, maybe even a D I suppose. Shame on not letting him write.
  • laywer

    I had to jump the hoops by doing some law courses to bring my UK degree up to a canadian law school degree....why should Mr Grant-Kinnear be allowed to be unique in this process? Also the NCA is quite lenient in deciding what courses one should do. We should preserve the canadian legal system insularity ....he should at least do the constitutional, administartive and criminal law courses.
  • RE: Denied NCA, would-be lawyer also loses in court

    What's missing from this article - and maybe the NCA decision-making process? - is that calling 3rd class honours as 41.6% is highly misleading. Some convert first-class honours - the highest possible mark in the UK system - as 70%. Some convert 3rd class to a letter grade of B or B-.

    None of this necessarily means he should be licensed, but it is suggestive that maybe no-one involved understood the differences between the UK marking scheme and others.
  • RE: Denied NCA, would-be lawyer also loses in court

    according to opseu, the position of legal counsel requires that the individual in question be a lawyer (see:

    why is mr. grant-kinnear holding himself out as a lawyer?
  • Agreed

    In addition, if you google him and see his linkedin account - his title is "lawyer" and he refers to himself as legal counsel again. He fails to make mention of the fact that he has not been called to the bar.

    How is this acceptable? Allowing any tom dick or harry to call themselves lawyers simply trivializes the hard work of those of us who are actual lawyers.
  • RE: Denied NCA, would-be lawyer also loses in court

    Good point Vlad.

    Not to mention, even if the position did not require the individual to be licensed to practice law, he is holding himself out as a lawyer to the public by labeling his position as "Legal Counsel." Clearly Mr. Grant-Kinnear is not suited to be a legal representative in any capacity.

    I often sympathize with NCA candidates as I was one myself, and despite graduating above average, still had a difficult time (almost 2 years) finding an articling position. However, it's individuals such as this that taint the image of the rest of us who obtained our legal degree overseas.
  • RE: Denied NCA, would-be-lawyer also loses in court

    Correct decision: to allow applicants such as this to side-step 3-year Canadian Law School process (or equivalent) would be unfair. "He graduated with Third Class Honours from the University of Kent. This was a two year course of study in which the applicant completed eight courses with an average grade that is the equivalent of 41.6%, with a range of marks between 38 and 49%."
  • Denied NCA

    Kumar Sriskanda
    Even though the course is 2 yrs, it was a full year program without summer holidays. So it is equivalent to three years of Canada with all sorts of holidays and vacations here. Secondly, with the same marks he would have passed Canadian LLB and that would have allowed him to sit the Bar exam here. So what is the big deal here!!!
  • RE: Denied NCA

    What law school did you go to? At mine, marks between 38% - 49% are failing, not passing, grades!
  • RE: Denied NCA

    Kumar Sriskanda
    I went to Ludlaw School, at Univ of New Brunswick. By merely attending classes, one could get more than 80%. In UK, it is not like that!
  • Cannot compare marks

    [quote name="mee"]What law school did you go to? At mine, marks between 38% - 49% are failing, not passing, grades![/quote]
    The grading scheme in the UK is different. For example, an 'A' starts at 70% and the maximum mark ever given is 80%, and then only extremely rarely.
    The percentages here have quite different meaning. So you are mistaken in thinking you can address them so straight-forwardly.