Last updated: October 30, 2012 7:47 pm
No relief yet for Ontario law grads without articling positions
WINDSOR (CUP) — A pilot co-op project to help Ontario law grads struggling to land an articling position has been shelved.
During a public meeting last Oct. 25, the Law Society of Upper Canada was to make a decision on creating a supplement articling program for law school graduates, but instead broke for lunch at and won’t reconvene until next month.
The organization’s Articling Task Force has written a proposal calling for new licensing preparation through a Law Practice Program. It’s intended to lift the pressure from recent law graduates who cannot find articling positions in Ontario by offering them an eight-month program as opposed to a 10- to 12-month articling position. This would also create a streamline process for students to take the bar exam.
Despite an increase in articling positions in Ontario from 1,200 to 1,700 over the last decade, there are currently an estimated 200 post-grads unable to find articling positions, according to the Articling Task Force’s report.
Roy Thomas, director of communications for the Articling Task Force, said the volume of work in Ontario is far higher than that of other provinces. Ontario is an attractive place for prospective lawyers but the economics of paying an articling student today are not as favourable.
While the proposal is being decided upon, the Task Force is suggesting that an Australian model be used as a way to license new lawyers.
“It’s basically about four months of classroom training in practice management and professional ethics followed by or interspersed with a placement,” said Thomas of the Australian model, which has proved effective in a number of jurisdictions.
The placement portion of the Law Practice Program would not be a paid position and it’s currently unknown if students would be able to apply for OSAP to cover their living expenses while completing the training.
Vanessa Playtif, an articling clerk at Windsor’s Mousseau DeLuca, is a recent law grad from the University of Windsor. She may be the exception to the rule on articling because she said she didn’t find it hard at all to find her position. She worries that without the benefit of being an articling clerk, prospective lawyers will be losing out on their education.
“I understand why they’re doing it and as much as school is great, I believe I’m getting 10-times more experience doing what I’m doing right now,” said Playtif. “Seeing the process of everything, I feel like if that gets shortened than I feel you’re losing out.”
While Playtif has a shorter work week than most since she is working for a family law office, about 45-hours a week, many articling clerks work 60-80 hours a week. If the LPP’s placement garners the same amount of work, students may find it hard to earn a living unless they are supplementing expenses by living at home or relying on loans.
Playtif suggested that post-grads may be having a difficult time finding an articling job because they are chosing to apply to firms in one city rather than throughout the province.
Jack Ramieri, a lawyer who is also at Mousseau DeLuca, was called to the bar in 1990. He said he doesn’t think that there has been an influx of new lawyers, but when he was looking for an articling clerk position it was not as hard as it is today.
“You learn the law in law school, you learn how to be a lawyer as an articling student,” said Ramieri “You have to learn other skills like how to work with clients and think on your feet. You don’t necessarily get those at law school.”
“The articling experience across Ontario is so varied,” said Jacqueline Horvat of the Articling Task Force. “We’re there to protect the public; we’re not here to protect lawyers. We’re not here to make sure lawyers have jobs, and we can’t go to the public right now and say, ‘Everyone we call to the bar is a competent lawyer because they articled.’”
Horvat said some articling clerks complete tasks for firms that resemble nothing of the job of a lawyer, such as picking up dry cleaning for partners. Since a good articling experience can’t be guaranteed, she doesn’t see why articling should be a requirement for being called to the bar.