As law students, we are faced with many dilemmas when it comes to the various paths we can take to start our legal career. We turned to the French Law Practice Program (PPD) which is one of the options recognized by the Law Society of Ontario, to access the legal profession. In order to better understand what the PPD offers, we met with four jurists to answer our questions. The consensus was that it provides candidates with the most comprehensive practical experience possible whilst honing their transferable skills which gives them a competitive advantage.
Relevant legal work
The PPD addresses a common and important concern faced by many law students. That is, how may they acquire the practical skills required to practise law. Curtis Whyte, who completed law school and the PPD amid the pandemic, described the PPD as the answer to that concern. He explains that with its integration of practice into the training component, the PPD “gave him the opportunity to acquire indispensable skills, such as how to accomplish legal tasks that are essential to the legal profession” and to benefit from the feedback of more than two dozen legal professionals. Thanks to the PPD, he is now confident that he is well prepared for the legal profession.
An array of transferable skills
Andréanne Charron, former interim assistant director of the Association of French-speaking Lawyers of Ontario, explained that what attracted her to the PPD was also the practical experience and the in-depth knowledge of the practice of law that the PPD offers. She added that thanks to the skills taught, the work experience at the PPD made it easier for her to transition into the working world. She was also able to discover new passions as a result of the variety of areas of law that were covered. Indeed, navigating the different areas of law is something that makes the PPD offering unique. In 16 weeks, candidates navigate through 10 areas of law, including the full range of practice management components. There is something for everyone!
Abundance of networking opportunities
It is well known that in any field, but especially in law, networking and mentoring opportunities are essential for career development. Stanley Desmoulins, a legal project manager in the Law Practice Program, explained that, by involving teachers and mentors who are experts in their fields as part of the training component, a unique sharing of experiences is fostered. This sharing does not stop between the practitioners and the candidates, as the latter form professional ties with the legal community even before becoming lawyers. He noted that “[t]he director of the program and the instructors, who are practitioners in their field of expertise, go above and beyond to provide the best practical experience for the candidates” during and even after their time with PPD. This support which goes beyond the minimum expectations is quite exceptional and demonstrates the team’s attention to the candidates’ experience.
Contribution to Access to Justice
A recurring theme in our discussions with interviewees is that the PPD allows candidates to delve deeply into and contribute to the legal community, especially the Francophone community. Precisely, Olivia Adie shares that she met many French-speaking and bilingual jurists with whom she was able to build professional relationships and better understand the interconnections of these communities. For Oliva, the PPD gave her access to quality training by experienced lawyers while allowing her to expand her network in Ottawa, where she had just moved. Whether it is with the PPD candidates, the teacher practitioners or the employers, the connections made last beyond the eight months of the program. She also recounted that although most common law materials are in English, the PPD encourages the production of French language resources and has shown her how to navigate this imperfect system. The PPD continues to promote access to justice in French as it is a program by and for the community that advocates for increased resources, representation, and access for Francophones.
At the end of our conversation with these jurists, we understood that the PPD is a program that, beyond any doubt, meets the needs of new law graduates to thrive in the rapidly changing legal world. It is also clear why employers are interested in recruiting candidates from the program. By working closely with lawyers in various legal areas in a simulated law firm, the candidates of the PPD emerge from the training period equipped and ready to enter the legal profession. Based in the nation’s capital but operating throughout the province of Ontario, the program places at the heart of its values and its offering to candidates, the need for access to justice, with a particular emphasis on the needs of Francophones.
About the authors
Sandra Khalil is a student in the joint Political Science and Juris Doctor (JD) program at the University of Ottawa and has worked as a project officer in the Law Practice Program.
Yasmin Abdul Malik is a student in the joint Business and Juris Doctor (JD) program at the University of Ottawa and has worked as a project officer in the Law Practice Program.
Christiane Saad is Director of the Law Practice Program at the University of Ottawa and a member of the Official Languages Committee of the Ontario Bar Association.