Ontario law students struggling to find an articling position now have an alternative route to the bar

  • November 22, 2013

By Ashley Csanady
QP Briefing

Ryerson University will offer a new Law Practice Program (LPP), a three-year pilot program born out of a strategic partnership with the Ontario Bar Association to address the growing number of Ontario law students who can’t find articling work. The Law Society of Upper Canada selected Ryerson to offer the English-language program and the University of Ottawa will offer the French version.

Students who pursue the LPP program will attain the same knowledge as those who pursue traditional articling, but instead of spending the full eight months in traditional articling roles, half of that will be spent doing course work through the university and the other four months with a law firm or clinic.

The move will address both the shortage of articling positions and enable smaller firms to tap into articling students’ potential and skills, which was sometimes a challenge in the past because of the time and administration required to take on a student.

“On behalf of our more than 17,000 members across the province, I am pleased that the voice of practising lawyers will be heard in the design, delivery and continuous improvement of this innovative new program,” said Pascale Daigneault, president of the Ontario Bar Association.

LPP students will complete “interactive, web-based” modules that will cover some of the basics usually attained through articling: how to set up a law firm or follow the Law Society’s rules for billing. Pupils will also be paired with fully-licensed legal practitioners, who will act as mentors. Then, they will have four months of hands-on experience in practices as diverse as family law and corporate, in-house counsel.

Some insiders suggest Ryerson has long coveted a law school, one that would focus on social justice to counter the University of Toronto’s more corporate connections. The university’s press release does add some credence to that suggestion.

“Ryerson has a strong foundation of original approaches to integrating legal education into core curriculum in a variety of our undergraduate and graduate degree programs,” said Mohamed Lachemi, Ryerson's provost and vice-president academic, in a statement . “Our ability to adapt on-line learning tools to the profession's training needs will be a win-win for aspiring and practising lawyers.”

“The articling enhancements and LPP are part of the Law Society's innovative three-year Pathways Pilot Project, designed to proactively respond to the changing legal landscape and remove barriers to licensing created by the articling placement shortage,” the Law Society’s press release states .

Its benchers also approved Wednesday a program at Lakehead University's law school: the Integrated Practice Curriculum. That program graduates students who are fully qualified to take the bar and don’t require articling or the new LPP experience.

The only qualms about the new LPP program appear to be some ambiguity as to whether students will be paid, as they would for traditional articling, a legal blog reports.

"Creating on-line learning tools that will help develop the next generation of Ontario's legal professionals leverages the power of technology in education and prepares students for their careers in an innovative way,” Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Brad Duguid said in an email. “This collaboration between Ryerson and The Law Society of Upper Canada represents the ways in which our post-secondary institutions are meeting the demands and needs of the labour force."

Reprinted with permission from QP Briefing