“We’ve been looking for advice from in-house counsel as to how to get their expertise infused in the program — how to make sure it will appeal to potential employers in all parts of the law,” says Christopher Bentley, executive director of Ryerson’s LPP.
“We want to know what skills would you want them to have when they arrive at your doorstep? One of the ways to do that is to engage in-house in helping us to build the program. We want to know, for example, what are the top three things in-house counsel would want to see this transition year program address.”
The LPP at Ryerson, along with a French-language program at the University of Ottawa, launches this August as an alternative to traditional articling leading up to becoming a licensed lawyer in Ontario. Ryerson is expecting about 300 students.
Bentley says Ryerson has been reaching out to in-house lawyers for input but the university’s own general counsel and secretary of the board of governors, Julia Shin Doi, suggested an advisory board of in-house counsel would be best to provide ongoing input and advice.
“Basically we’re looking for ideas on what in-house counsel look for in articling students, work placement candidates, new hires, as well as the types of situations they encounter in-house and the skills they look for in their law departments. They may be the same skills sought after generally but used in a different way,” says Bentley.
Ryerson will also be looking to place LPP participants in in-house positions.
“There’s been a huge growth of in-house law departments over the past decade but not a corresponding growth in the number of articling students they traditionally take. We see this as an interesting opportunity for us to make the connection and place law practice program candidates. The best way to do that is to make the training as strong as possible and they will hopefully see the benefit in taking a work placement candidate,” says Bentley.
Ryerson is currently gathering names for the advisory board.
“The advisory board is a focus group — it’s not the exclusive place for in-house counsel to provide their input and advice. In-house counsel wherever they are can provide that by any means possible. We’re happy to have conversations about how the training should be structured,” says Bentley.
Ottawa U says it already has an advisory board set up. One of the members is Amélie Lavictoire, legal counsel at the Supreme Court of Canada. Ottawa's board includes teaching staff and representation from middle-sized and small firms, clinics, unions, and academia.
Part of Ryerson's program will include “a day in the life of” and one of those will be in-house counsel.
The LPP starts at the end of August with a week on campus and will run for four months, most of it virtual interactive online. Only three weeks will be on campus. Following that will be four months of paid work placement.
There are a number of in-house placements lined up and Bentley says they continue to encourage in-house departments to reach out if they are interested in providing a work experience.
“It’s a great opportunity — you can take a candidate in for four months and we make sure they can hit the ground running. They will have had four very strong months of training including some basic familiarity of what to expect in certain types of practice,” says Bentley.
“Ultimately the profession will decide the success of this program so we should engage the profession in all of its parts in designing it, implementing it and instructing it so they will be more interested in taking the candidates and accepting them ultimately, into the profession,” says Bentley. “This is not a course, we are treating this as work.”
If you want to be part of the board or want more information contact Bentley by e-mail or at 416.979.5000 ext 2308.