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LPP: answering a different call

While it’s too early to declare Ontario’s English- and French-language Law Practice Program an overnight success after just one year, it’s interesting to consider its successes and breakthroughs, and acknowledge it’s a program many law grads might have benefited from in the past — perhaps more so than from traditional articling.

Instead of looking at it as an “alternative” to articling or the bottom rung of what detractors see as a two-tier system, is it perhaps more appropriate to view it as an entirely different beast aimed at arming certain law school grads with the skills for the future of the practice of law depending on their own personal career goals?

After speaking with the LPP grads we interviewed for the cover story, it seems there’s been too much focus on the declining opportunities for articling in big law and the reduction in hire-back rates. The reality is many graduating from law school are not headed for Bay Street. It’s also estimated that 50 per cent of those who do go to work at big firms end up leaving after three years. So why not equip them for the future? There are also many foreign-trained lawyers who sought out LPP as a means to become licensed.

What’s interesting, too, is the employers who participated in the LPP program now have a view as to how they can play a role in addressing the articling crisis. The law firms we spoke with that offered placements said that, while they are still believers in traditional articling, they recognized the need for others to have a passage to their call and saw no reason not to support the LPP.

As Simon Mortimer of Toronto labour and employment firm Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP told us, while much of the knowledge the LPP candidate arrived with didn’t have direct applicability to the L&E practice, he was much like any other new student arriving in need of the “real-life experience.”

Mortimer says it takes at least eight weeks to assimilate into the fairly large firm of more than 100 lawyers, making four months a short time. Some students felt that way as well.

Hicks Morley views the LPP program as more of an internship, while articling is a path to becoming an associate.

Fair enough. But it seems there is ample room for a second means toward gaining employment in law after law school.

It’s time to move past any “stigma” associated with LPP and view it as another way forward for a new generation of law grads.