Articling: the difficulties of it are on the minds of everyone these days — students, law societies, law firms, and, well let’s admit it, parents, too. The Law Society of Upper Canada in December issued a 134-page consultation report looking at different options for the future of articles in the province of Ontario. It includes taking the articling portion right out and instituting a practical legal training course. There’s no talk of going the American route and simply having students go from law school to writing the bar exams. And there’s been no indication that any of the other provinces across the country are looking to change their qualification systems either. Thus it would seem for the time being, at least, articles are likely here to stay.
So the big question, or problem even, is what to do if you’re not one of those who’s managed to get an articling position through the traditional on-campus-interview process. There are two sides to the coin here: the first is that law students need to get creative and second, that small law firms and even sole practitioners need to get on board. Canadian Lawyer 4Students has put together an articling how-to that gives some great tips for both sides to get rolling.
During a recent chat with a law school career counsellor, it was heartening to hear that not only is the school promoting its students to create their own internships, but many students are doing it with gusto. Internships are a bit easier to put together than articling terms, which require more formal structures, but there’s still a lot of flexibility that can come into play. Part of it is for law students to get out there and make contact with lawyers in areas — of the law or geographic location — in which you want to practise. Taking chances can really pay off. And making the approach to lawyers in smaller communities or law firms may be the awakening they need to take on an aspiring lawyer.
For decades, it has been the bigger law firms that have trained the majority of Canadian lawyers, but that model is no longer sustainable. It is expensive for the large law firms that cannot be expected to be the sole training ground for the profession. Law students today are involved in a wide variety of pursuits and are often highly accomplished. There’s no reason not to put that same drive and creativity into getting an articling position, that (almost) final hurdle to get into the esteemed legal fraternity. You won’t know if you don’t try.