Articling abolition? A groundbreaking LSUC report

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It arrived quietly and without fanfare. I’ve seen no reports of it in the mainstream media or the legal press. In fact, the young-lawyer-focused law blogs Precedent and Law Is Cool are the only places I’ve seen talk about it so far. But the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Licensing and Accreditation Task Force Interim Report To Convocation, delivered last week in Toronto, is set to completely overhaul the process of admission to the practice of law in Ontario and, eventually, the rest of Canada. If you’re a law student, a lawyer who intends to hire new lawyers someday, or interested at all in the present and future direction of lawyer training in Canada, this report is an absolute must-read.

The main interim report is 44 pages long, followed by an additional 152 pages spread out over 10 appendices. I doubt there’s ever been a more comprehensive report on the bar admission process (nor will any other province likely try to duplicate the task force’s efforts or findings), and I can only imagine what the final report will look like. For what it’s worth, I think the report’s findings are accurate, timely and sorely needed.

I don’t have time here to break down the report in detail — I’ll be writing a more comprehensive commentary that will appear at SLAW in a few days’ time and will be cross-posted here. But this is what you need to know:

1. The Task Force recommends the abolition of the current Skills and Professional Responsibility Program from the bar admission process in Ontario. Of all the reasons the task force gave for this recommendation, perhaps none is more suprising than its assertion that right now, law schools are doing a better job of teaching students skills and professional responsibility than the law society is.

2. The Task Force offers three alternatives to the current articling process by which lawyers ostensibly receive sufficient practical training to enter the practice of law. These are:

(a) make it extremely clear to all current and prospective law students that the law society does not guarantee articling placements, and accordingly cannot guarantee that a law graduate can become a practising lawyer (laissez-faire).

(b) set up or certify a parallel Practical Legal Training Course that provides law graduates who could not obtain articles the chance to earn an equivalent certification in practical legal skills training (Australian model).

(c) Abolish articling outright (the U.S. model).

The Task Force makes no recommendation concerning these three options — it offers pros and cons of each — but it makes quite clear that the status quo is not sustainable, not least because the Ontario bar admission process is facing a tsunami of rising applications over the next few years, culminating in an expected 2009 application class no less than 38.7% larger than in 2001.

The report is groundbreaking, if for no other reason than that it squarely lays out the numerous shortcomings of Ontario’s present bar admission process and demands that the profession act, now, to change. Go read it.

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7 Responses to “Articling abolition? A groundbreaking LSUC report”

  1. nsb

    My daughter has done her LLb in the uk. She has also completed her Accreditation exams this Feb2009. She is trying so hard to get an articling position but no luck so far. Feedback she gets thus far is “good luck, law firms in Canada don’t recognize foreign law degrees”. My daughter was on the waiting list to get into uni here and rather then wait it out she chose to do some thing about it. She applied to uk universities to gain a global prospective on law and got immediately accepted. It cost her twenty thousand pounds a year only to come back and find herself having to do 9 exams to gain her accreditation. Law is no longer just serving clients in Canada but is a global service and The Law Society has to come to terms with this. Every student should get a placement through the universities and or through the Upper Law Society of Canada. A fund should be set up where every practicing lawyer practicing in Canada should contribute towards this fund as a member and this money then should be used to subsidise the law firms hiring Articling Students. This way every law student will be guaranteed a position with private law firms, Attorney General’s office or legal Plan etc etc.

    Can any one help my daughter gain an Articling position in Corp. Law and Real Estate???? Is it wrong for a concerned father, a parent to reach out for help???? In light of her experiences, yes articling should be abolished and we should do either as the Australians or the US does………

  2. rochelle

    Hello there,

    I have just got accepted to study law in the UK and I am starting to have 2nd thoughts about it. Is it worth it, would I have a hard time finding employment upon my return? It seems like there are more and more prestigious careers and less and less companies hiring…Should I go or should I continue trying to get into a Canadian school and waste even more time waiting? That’s my daily dilemma…

  3. David Grey

    In response to the post above!

    I’ve done some reading on the topic and in light of this news re: The Future of Articling maybe you should look into the University of London’s External System which offers the ability to earn a UK LL.B within 2 years without the costs of having to physically relocate to the UK (saving yourself some serious coin). Sure this might mean having to write Qualifying Exams to have your foreign degree recognized in Canada (NCA). Traditionally, the major disadvantage of this route was the stigma and difficulty to find articling positions but this report might change that.

  4. Gabriel

    I have been looking for articling position for 5 months.

  5. Frank

    In response to NSB, which firms told your daughter she was ineligible??

    I’ve been in contact with a few firms across Canada (mostly western) and some municipal offices. They’ve all said they do consider foreign law grads and do not consider their applications handicapped. This is all once the NCA process is complete of course, which in your daughter’s case is true.

    If you could shed some light on the matter I would be happy to help.

  6. Frank

    Also in response to David Grey, in theory it makes sense, but distance programs get dinged a lot harder by the NCA. You’ll most likely end up having to take classes at a Canadian law school too after, where placement is not guaranteed. Doing it in person is safer but costs more, then you write your exams. Then the matter of articling arises….

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