LSUC approves new licensing pilot project

Here’s the official word from the Law Society of Upper Canada on the 36-20 vote to create a new Law Practice Program pilot project as part of its efforts to transform the articling system.
The Law Society’s governing body today approved a three-year pilot project that will allow lawyer licensing candidates to either article or complete a Law Practice Program, starting in the 2014-15 licensing year.

The pilot project will measure competence through a fair process which provides access to the profession and fosters access to justice, while protecting the public.

The new licensing pilot will be extended for up to an additional two years if there is sufficient evidence to properly evaluate the pilot after three years.

Convocation also approved an appropriate member contribution to help defray costs of the pilot project. The amount of the contribution will be recommended by the Law Society’s Professional Development and Competence Committee to Convocation.

The program reflects the views of the majority of the Articling Task Force and was developed following extensive consultation with the profession and other stakeholders throughout 2012.

“Convocation had a robust discussion and agreed that this is the best path to follow, recognizing the complexity of the issue and that there is no one tried and tested solution,” Law Society Treasurer Thomas G. Conway said.

“This project addresses the reality of the articling placement shortage and that the articling requirement should not be a barrier to licensing to eligible, competent candidates.”

Under the pilot project, candidates may either complete the traditional 10-month articling term, with enhanced documentation, or an approximately four-month long LPP, which will also include an additional four-month co-operative work placement.

The Law Society will outsource the LPP and the establishment of the work placements will be the responsibility of the third-party provider.

The Law Society will oversee the assessments of defined learning outcomes necessary for entry-level practice for all candidates.

The debate over creating this new two-tiered articling system went on for many hours this morning and was watched online by over 1,000 people about 500 people. The Twitterverse was also all over it with a variety of people live tweeting and debating the debate. For a time, the hashtag #articling was the top trending topic in Canada.

No matter what the outcome, interest in the future of articling is great and the profession and law students probably had more input and open discussion about this issue than any before at the LSUC.

However, there was a tremendous amount of displeasure on two from law students who were following the debate on Twitter: no student voices were heard during the debate itself and the outcome. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

@sweetcement: What a bad decision LSUC. Thank you for potentially creating a generation of under-qualified, indebted, unpaid lawyers. #articling

University of Ottawa’s @KatarinaGermani: disappointing decision by LSUC on the #articling crisis to move to a two-tier system, disregarding huge issues with access to the profession

@tomreidwilson in Toronto: Saddened by how little attention was paid to student voices in the recent #articling decision.

@JamesDBowie in Ottawa: LL.B’s like me who feel strongly about #articling still have the choice. I want to article, and I plan to.

@ErinDand: Sad that the #articling crisis has been ‘solved’ by a bandaid solution creating a 2tier system. LPP wont help the fact of too many lawyers

Ottawa’s @MichDoody: Well LSUC, we put an important decision in your hands... you just let down a lot of people.

@HopelessJD: my final thought is how screwed my future is by this decision

University of Toronto’s @Ella_Henry: Unpaid co-ops + higher fees is the opposite of helping students graduating w/ 100,000+ in debt

Some lawyers were behind the decision:

@dougferguson9, the director of Community Legal Services at Western Law: Congratulations to the benchers @LawsocietyLSUC for moving forward with change after a thorough debate.

@Joel_Welch: Thanks to the #36 #LUSC #Benchers who voted for changes to the licensing reqs. It gives many candidates a fighting chance.

Many were not:

@dforce66: I think our profession just made a huge mistake, but I guess only time will tell... #articling 36-20

Criminal lawyer @RHDefence: The proper solution to the articling crisis is known to everyone. The idea of a two tier licencing process is a sham

Ottawa’s @GalldinRoberts: #LSUC, hard to show young lawyers there is value to their work when we’re telling them to work for free #articling

@wiselaw: Wrong outcome, but cudos to the LSUC for the open process and live streaming of this important debate

@renattaaustin: LPP is now with us as an alternative to #articling. The ball is now in the law schools’ court to move to the Carnegie Model.

We’ll have more analysis and insight into the debate and its impact on Law Times and Canadian Lawyer 4Students next week.

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