To article or not to article
- Subtitle: Editor's Desk
The majority of the members of the task force, all benchers of the law society, suggested a parallel stream that would continue articles (for those fortunate enough to get them) and also introduce a pilot project for a so-called “law practice program.” The LPP would be where those poor sods who can’t get paying articling jobs with law firms would have to turn in order to complete their training via a co-op placement and skills training course. The co-ops will likely not be paid.
Four members of the task force are forcefully against the LPP and who can blame them? If anyone believes this won’t create a two-tiered legal profession, they’re kidding themselves. New lawyers will be judged on how exactly they arrived at that call to the bar and it will affect their careers. The suggested pre-call assessment won’t level the playing field. A five-year pilot project to test this would affect a lot of would-be lawyers.
I’m a big proponent of the articling system. There is great value in on-the-job training. Plumbers need it to make sure they don’t flood my house. A lawyer sure can use it to deal with my major life crises. But I’m not blind to the problems the system now faces. Costs of training young lawyers are going up, clients don’t want to help foot that bill, more students are coming out of law school than there are places for them to train, small firms need but can’t handle them — but the need for them is still great. The system isn’t working but what the task force is proposing won’t fix the problem.
There needs to be more give and take on both ends, and law schools do need to start taking some responsibility. They cannot continue to argue that there is great demand for law school seats and therefore they are responding to that demand with larger class sizes but have no stake in the future of those law students. As critics have been saying for years, you don’t spend $20,000 a year to go to law school just for the fun of it. While some students who go to law school don’t end up practising law, the majority of them aren’t there just to learn to think differently. Most are looking for jobs on the other end.
The debate will pick up again Nov. 22. Let’s see how the extra month of input and reflection will alter the final outcome.
One of Canada’s most experienced and respected legal journalists, Gail J. Cohen is the editorial director of Canadian Lawyer and Law Times, responsible for the editorial direction of all the publications in the group, which also includes Candian Lawyer InHouse, Canadian Lawyer 4Students, and the daily Legal Feeds blog. Gail has been covering the legal profession in Canada as a reporter and editor since 1997, putting her in a prime position to access and engage thought leaders in the regulatory, legal, and business realms. Canadian Lawyer and its editorial team have been the recipients of many journalism awards and their publications are highly respected throughout the legal profession in Canada and abroad.