The interjurisdictional practise of law in Canada is governed by a system founded upon (i) the legislation and rules/by-laws that govern the legal profession in each jurisdiction and (ii) two inter-jurisdictional agreements.

Prior to 1994 lawyers who were not members in a particular jurisdiction had to obtain a permit to temporarily provide legal services there. Permanent mobility (transfer) required transfer examinations and, in certain circumstances, articling.

By 1994 there was a national and international movement towards allowing greater mobility across provincial and national borders. Many law societies decided that mobility of lawyers within Canada was good for clients and good for lawyers, provided that systems were in place to protect the public.

In 1994 all of the provincial law societies signed the Interjurisdictional Practice Protocol (1996 for the Barreau du Quebec). The territories did not sign. Under the IJP, members of participating provinces can practise temporarily without a permit in reciprocal jurisdictions on a maximum of 10 legal matters, for no more than 20 days in a 12-month period (provided certain conditions are met). This is commonly referred to as the 10-20-12 system. The IJP includes a framework for the protection of the public. Under this system those wanting to transfer to another province must write transfer examinations.

In 2001 the law societies of Western Canada agreed to expand the ability to practise temporarily without a permit to a maximum of six months out of any 12-month period (provided certain conditions were met). This became known as the 6 in 12 system. The 6 in 12 system is no longer in existence because all jurisdictions in which it applied have implemented the National Mobility Agreement in its place.

In December 2002 British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, the Barreau du Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia signed the National Mobility Agreement. The NMA applies in jurisdictions where the governing body has both signed and implemented the Agreement.

Under the NMA,

  • members of participating provinces can practise without a permit in other NMA jurisdictions for up to 100 days in a year (provided certain conditions are met);
  • a lawyer wanting to become a member in a participating province is not generally required to write transfer examinations, provided that the lawyer is, at the time of transfer, a member of an NMA governing body and is entitled to practise law in that jurisdiction.
  • the IJP provisions for protection of the public have been modified;
  • the 6 in 12 system is overtaken by the NMA system;
  • jurisdictions that have implemented the IJP but not the NMA are governed by the IJP; and
  • jurisdictions that have not implemented either the NMA or the IJP can only exercise temporary mobility with a permit.