make the Law Schools more accountable for the numbers they are graduating
As noted elsewhere, I have been an assessor for the Ryerson LPP since its inauguration in 2014, and am generally impressed by the quality of training and candidates in that programme — I do believe that it offers an attractive model of combining practical skills and experiential learning, which should inform an ultimate successor to articling, if it can be upscaled in a cost-effective manner.
The implementation of a one size fits all set of exams that each candidate seeking to obtain a licensee to practice from the LSO would have to pass.
The failure rate on the current bar exam is so low that the exam is essentially pointless, so why even offer it?
As northern and rural communities struggle to attract new practitioners, we should look to provide incentives through the licensing fee structure to encourage new calls to practice in under-served markets, regions with an aging local bar, or in under-served areas of law.
Practical training for graduates is essential, particularly if there is consideration of reducing the length of a traditional law school education. The Ryerson Law Practice Program has been receiving solid feedback, but it cannot accommodate all the students who need practical training. Financial incentives should be available to small firms and solo practitioners to hire students to help provide them with valuable real world experience.
We have recently reviewed licensing.
As noted with respect to pathways to licensing, I have strongly voiced my concerns about the status quo. I have spoken out in Convocation in favour of an alternative arrangement, which would require the LSO to collaborate with law schools (and use its influence at the Federation of Law Societies to do so). I have advocated for this alternative arrangement as I do not believe that the status quo is acceptable. Forcing students to go through a system where there is rampant abuse and harassment in order to be licensed, or facing the perception that their program is 2nd tier is unacceptable (even though I do believe the LPP program is of very high quality and provides excellent training). If the costs could be brought down significantly, however, I would perhaps also be in favour of an LPP program only (with additional oversight by the LSO) but I do not think it is equitable to impose a further cost of about $25,000 on each student (which was the cost quoted during the licensing debate).
I have spoken out in Convocation, during the Licensing Debate on Dec 10, 2018, on needed enhancements and alternatives to the current licensing system. My comments can be found starting at page 68 of the transcript: http://lx07.lsuc.on.ca/R/9V4BVJDYF7ELBQLRPBMMNISAQNLIVE949CUXTDM69EXSLIY6I3-01081?func=results-jump full&set_entry=000006&set_number=000052&base=GEN01
According to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, by 2025 there will be 29,500 law school graduates per year, but only 11,000 articling positions.
The LSO proposal for mandatory paid articling is a good one. But the effect on articling positions may exacerbate an already growing problem. We need to continue to support and develop the LPP to balance what will be a problem of even fewer articling positions going forward.
We should treat the articling of lawyers and placement of paralegals as an apprenticeship much like the trades. Specific learning outcomes are designated as schooling outside school. There is a vast difference between experiences of students in different placements settings that a core curriculum should be developed.
I support initiatives that will help licensees enter practice.
The existing bridge between ‘administrative suspension’ (for failing to file forms or pay fees on time, for instance) and ‘disbarment’ should be eliminated. Currently, members who are under administrative suspension can be automatically disbarred, without a separate process or hearing, if they remain under administrative suspension for a year or more. There should be no causal link between administrative suspension and disbarment. Disbarment should be a separate process – restricted to disciplinary offenses and resorted to only after a full and fair hearing. For its part, an administrative breach should result in no more than an open-ended suspension of a member’s license, a suspension that would remain in effect indefinitely — until the breach that activated it is resolved. There should, accordingly, be an impenetrable barrier between administrative breaches (and the suspension in which they can result) and disciplinary offenses (and the disbarment in which they can result).
I have tutored students who do not pass the Solicitor Exam for the last 25 years. More and more, what I see that is needed: PRACTICAL COURSES… it is one thing to read LSO materials the size of a phone book.. and answer a multiple choice exam under very tight time constraints – it is another thing to actually be taught how the practice laid out in that phone book actually unfolds and how those concepts are actually applied in real time.
If we continue with the current requirement for articling experience as a preferred method for experiential traning, then LSO must incentivize soles and small law firms to open up paid articling positions. LSO must consider some form of financial incentive for soles and smalls. LSO must provide free training with appropriate forms, schedules and policies to follow. LSO cannot expect soles and smalls to invent the wheel, and it must provide flexible interpretation of training requirements to recognize that every sole and smalls have unique practices that may not deliver appropriate opportunities to cover every desired experiential goal. LSO supervision of articling should apply equally to all articling principals, whether in large or small or sole practices – no one should be exempt. LSO should endorse best practices for articling and regularly communicate precedents and recommendations to follow best practices.
I am personally leaning towards entrance exams which clearly have fixed admission standards to be met with a high percentage of achievement such as 80%, and then LSO can carry out its legislated function to educate and train the successful qualifiers during the first three years after admittance. No person admitted would be allowed to start a law practice until after successful completion of the first three years working under a practicing lawyer.
Two measures are essential: reducing the fees the LSO charges for examinations and calls (and related fees) and doing whatever we can to encourage solo and small firm practitioners (particularly in remote areas) to serve as articling principals.
I support the enhancements adopted by Convocation in December and resolution of the issue of skills assessment at licensing.
The LSO needs to look at the viability of a Chartered Institute of Legal Executives form of licencing in Ontario. It works well in the UK by providing a much less expensive pathway to gaining a licence. This can be a viable way to improve A2J.
Supported them. Our data shows that the significant majority of articling positions are in fair and respectful work environments that teach practice skills. The goal should be to identify and eliminate any that don’t meet that criteria.
As a part-time professor since 2005, I have seen first-hand the challenges facing law students. I believe we need to ensure a clear, accessible and fair pathway to licensure. The LSO should carefully monitor the effects of its latest iteration of the licensing model and remain open to adjustments to address the changing needs of the profession and of those seeking to join it.
Ensuring lawyers are competent so that they can be licenced to serve the public is a serious public interest issue. It appears that the practice of law is becoming more and more specialized. As a result, our licencing system may need to change to address this reality. I would be interested in exploring this discussion further at Convocation and in consultation with the membership and public. I have heard one suggestion for a graduated licencing process which may be an appropriate approach.
The LSO should discuss the need for more training being offered in law school before students graduate. We should review the progress that has been made with the Lakehead University – Bora Laskin Faculty of Law school curriculum which enables students to write the bar examinations right after law school without articling.
Rather than enhance the system, it ought to be reduced to the minimum required to ensure competence of those entering the profession. Eliminate unnecessary and disproportionate barriers to entry like the good character requirement, Articling, and high licensing fees.
There are lots written on this subject matter, if it comes before convocation during my terms I would be pleased to sound out lawyers and the public and take the appropriate position.
We have just completed a lengthy project on this – my view remains that long-term there should be one path for all licensing candidates. It will be some time before we get there.
Smaller and simpler.
I need study in this area. Please contact me if you have ideas.
The focus of my campaign is on creating greater access to justice by virtue of reducing barriers for students entering law school and becoming licensed, but to do so with a particular emphasis on experiential learning that has a clear social connection or link. My approach envisions the LSO as helping to promote a concept of justice in the
public interest that is built from the ground up through experiential learning that is incentivized to allow for abridged licensing. In this sense, licensees bear less burden in transitioning from law school to the practice of law. I think that law schools have a role to play in assisting with the development of practice ready lawyers. I also believe that the LSO must work in conjunction with law schools to develop competencies of candidates in areas that relate to practice in the form of a hands-on training regime such as an LPP for all model.
Competence is key when assessing the licensing system. A combination of experiential learning along with testing of key knowledge points is required. Practicing without the experiential portion of learning is worrisome. Better work needs to be done to make taking on a student or becoming a mentor easier. Reducing barriers in this regard and encouraging students to seek their articling experience outside the larger population centres will help bring lawyers to underserved areas. We need to make such positions more attractive to students either by subsidizing such positions or making sure their debt load is not so significant that they cannot take such a position.
We need to ensure candidates are receiving the proper knowledge base–a skill is the practical application of knowledge. The current exam process appears to have become an exercise in using an index, and a business opportunity for those that can produce such documents. Not all candidates are able to afford a “professionally” prepared index or take the time away from their families or children to produce one. I believe that the money the LSO currently spends on tutoring might be better deployed by having the OBA and local law associations provide educational weekends or evenings for candidates that are available both in person and remotely. I personally found that the old model provided better results from a educational perspective, although it presented its own issues in terms of cost and time commitment.
I have long been a believer that there should be a graduated form of licensing for lawyers.
For example, everyone should be required to complete basic exams on ethics, and basic competence. From there, lawyers must choose what practice areas they wish to pursue. For example, a recent call who wishes to practice criminal law should write this basic exams and then their “”Criminal C1″” licensing exam which would permit them to take on certain criminal cases. Over the years, they could then fulfill C2, C3, etc. requirements and advance in their careers. For general practitioners, that itself could be a specialization (G1, G2…). This would increase not only the competence of lawyers, but reduce LawPro claims and increase the value of lawyers as they advance in their careers. This would also have effects on how the government could assign lawyers with minimum requirements, and tariff schedules in contexts of LAO.
This model could also be applied in areas of business whereby if a lawyer wished to open a practice, they must complete a course, exams, on basic business practices and so forth. Put simply, the LSO must play a greater role in ensuring that lawyers increase their specializations.
I would not advocate for any restriction on lawyers practicing now. This would have to be “grandparented” in over many years.
1. Licence lawyers to practice in particular areas. The law is no longer as narrow as it was 200 years ago. Like doctors, we would serve the public better if we obtained specific licences for specific areas.
2. Make the examination process more rigorous, but allow students three opportunities to write the exam. This would protect the public.
3. Work with law schools to offer training like the LPP in the last year of law schools and then eliminate articling. This would provide one pathway and level the playing field.
I support looking into the development of programs geared towards small firms and firms outside large urban centers that incentivize hiring articling students. As part of this approach we can learn from the British Columbian model of the Rural Education and Access to Lawyers (R.E.A.L.). It is a program that is committed to assisting law firms and practitioners in small communities and rural areas of British Columbia to recruit, hire and retain law students and new lawyers. Law firms apply for funding and student can view a job board and apply through R.E.A.L. This initiative is run by the Canadian Bar Association (British Columbia branch) and is funded by the Law Society and Law Foundation of British Columbia.
The practice of law is getting more and more complex. As part of my McMurtry Fellowship I am researching Integrated Practice Curriculums where law students could graduate in three years, with a specific area of practice concentration and not be required to take the LPP or article. The day of the generalist is long gone but what to do from there is much more difficult.
I am a member of the Professional Development and Competence Committee and support enhancements to Articling and the Law Practice Program to ensure quality placements free from harassment and discrimination.
On entry-to-practice, the LSO needs to overcome the articling barrier to entry. It is a system that relies on the market to meet a necessary prerequisite to entry. I was a strong voice on the Advocates’ Society’s LPP Task Force which made submissions to the LSO that the LPP had to be maintained until the LSO can create a single solution for the articling crisis, which most adversely affects racialized candidates. I will push for a solution that makes the requirements for entry equally available to every candidate, and merit based, without barriers imposed or influenced by the market. Requirements for entry must set high standards for competence, and should be equally able to be completed by any candidate regardless of gender, race or economic circumstances. This means looking at any number of solutions, such as exams, an across-the-board LPP or other bar admission programs, and making articling or internship optional, not a mandatory prerequisite.