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Tweeting about the future of articling

|Written By Heather Gardiner

Last night, Omar Ha-Redeye hosted a Twitter chat on behalf of the Canadian Bar Association’s Futures Initiative to find out participants’ thoughts on articling.

It was the second in a series of CBA chats being hosted by Ha-Redeye every Tuesday in October from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Last week’s conversation focused on the objectives of legal education.

Ha-Redeye posed five questions to participants in last night’s articling discussion.

1.    What is the most important thing articling gets right? What are the current system’s strengths?

Alex Shalashniy, an associate at Kanuka Thuringer LLP in Regina, wrote: “current articles get ‘real world experience’ right, something that totally needs emphasis after law school.”

Heather MacMillan, a partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Saskatoon, said: “in theory, articling provides ‘real world experience’ but that requires principal/firm that invests in process.”

Jonathan MacKenzie, who just completed his articles, agreed that your articling experience depends on your principal.

Another tweeter, identified as Valarie, a Harvard University law graduate who recently moved to Canada, said: “In principal [articling] makes sense, but if you’re going to a big firm it just seems like a way to keep salaries low.”

Shalashniy also mentioned articling rotations are key, especially for law students who don’t know what they want to practise.

“Exposure to many areas of law in articles will pay dividends in the future: more certainty, less burnout down the road,” he said.

2.    Are there ways to preserve these articling strengths in alternative methods of professional training?

Shalashniy suggested cultivating more co-op programs in law schools.

Valarie said law schools are notoriously theory-heavy and suggested lawyers might need more management training.

Ha-Redeye also asked fellow tweeters what they think about legal clinics.

Valarie said “clinics are helpful, but there’s only so much you can learn in three months.”

Shalashniy said legal clinics are limited in focus.

3.    What are the major limitations of the current articling system?

MacKenzie mentioned mentorship. “I think the mentorship aspect of articling (in many cases) has deteriorated. [I] have many colleagues that don’t get face time with principals.”

Toronto lawyer Monica Goyal said, “we’ve created a two tier system but I think the alternative of people not licensing was and is not an option.”

4.    Which of the limitations above can be improved by revising the current system?

Lakehead University law student Ayoub Ansari said practical training can be taught through tutorials led by local lawyers, an initiative that Lakehead has started.

Ha-Redeye also asked why it’s difficult to get candid responses from articling students about their bad experiences.

Law student E Alderson replied: “because law students think there is a crisis, and we’re all desperately trying to get/keep jobs.”

Ha-Redeye quickly diverted the conversation. “Yes it’s the elephant in the room. But in the interest of being solution oriented, that’s not the focus tonight,” he said, adding, “We know, for example, that when studies are done anonymously law students tend to have a lot more to say.”

5.    Describe your ‘ideal’ alternative to the current professional training system.

“Ideally students start practicums in 2L instead of summering and get a better idea for articling interviews held later,” said Shalashniy.

Tune in Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. using the hashtag #cbafutureschat for the next discussion, which will focus on necessary changes to legal education in Canada.


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