Articling is here to stay

For any of you who were hoping there might be a chance of bypassing the10-month articling term and jumping straight into a job after you writethe bar, it doesn’t look like it’s in the cards this time around. TheLaw Society of Upper Canada has spoken, and articling is here to stayin Ontario.

Late last week, Convocation made its decision on the future of the licensing process. Instead of getting rid of the articling period, there will be changes made that aim to enhance it — mainly by helping you to find a position.

The major problem being faced by the profession is the limited number of articling placements and an increasing pool of applicants. Obviously, some people are going to be left out in the cold with nowhere to go.

There were suggestions of getting rid of articling altogether; letting market forces dictate the future. Opposition to this strategy turned out to be very high. Several groups spoke out strongly against the idea, including the Ontario Bar Association. The licensing and accreditation task force charged with examining the situation received somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 submissions (60 from individuals and 40 from institutions). According to the task force, the majority of submissions “overwhelming rejected” the suggestion.

In the report of the task force, they recognize that there will be challenges in the days ahead. Articling, though, was seen to be too critical of a component to simply abandon it. The report then goes on to state, “However, while the enthusiasm with which the profession supported articling in this consultation process is heartening, it will be of limited value if not accompanied by a commitment among those who have not traditionally hired students to now do so.”

So how do they plan on making that a reality?

First off, following in the footsteps of the Law Society of British Columbia, a new online articling registry is being implemented. The goal is to make it easier for students to find out about potential openings to make sure no open spot goes unfilled. In B.C., employers can post positions and students can post their resumés online, with useful and practical search criteria making it easy to narrow down your selections. All of this is offered for free, of course.

Secondly, an outreach position is being created at LSUC. The duties of the position will be “promoting and coordinating articling initiatives and additional job placements.” Having a full-time staff member dedicated to articling opportunities is another step toward bringing more awareness to positions and helping to encourage smaller firms to participate.

Smaller firms and sole practitioners will be the main target for increasing the number of openings. The report seems to suggest that smaller firms aren’t doing their part in helping to train future professionals. One source of frustration they identified was the complexity of the process. “Respondents frequently cited the filing requirements as a major irritant, particularly for sole and small firm lawyers,” said the report.

Streamlining the process should make it easier. The task force found that they could decrease it from the current nine points of contact down to only two, which should help to ease some of the administrative burden that’s acting as a deterrent to firms.

All in all, the solutions aren’t radical but they should help to quell some of the fears over shortages, at least in the short term. With any luck, future graduates should find it a bit easier to secure their entry into the job market.

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