For the Record: Becoming a lawyer

On becoming a lawyer in Ontario, for the record - September 18, 2012

The article, “No Room at the Firm,” (Toronto Life, September 2012) by Christopher Graham, described issues that new lawyer licensing candidates face in Ontario, particularly the growing shortage of articling positions.

The licensing of the next generation of Ontario lawyers is a matter of great importance to the Law Society. We appreciate the difficulties licensing candidates face, and have been monitoring articling issues and other aspects of the pre-call education process for several years. This is why we implemented the Articling Task Force, as noted in Mr. Graham’s article. 

The task force prepared a consultation report and, in early 2012, consulted with the profession on the effectiveness, fairness and ongoing viability of the articling program. We received 125 public submissions, including one from Milan Seres, whose experiences are featured in the article. A diverse range of ideas was provided, and this extremely valuable input has assisted the task force in assessing the current process and looking for possibilities for improvements.

While the Law Society appreciates Mr. Graham’s description of articling issues and the dialogue that the consultation process has generated, he makes two comments regarding the lawyer licensing system which the Law Society would like to correct.

Mr. Graham describes the bar admission exams as being a “farce.” The Law Society’s licensing examination process is very thorough and objective. Licensing examinations are based on validated entry-level competencies, as defined by a group of more than 500 members of the legal profession through a rigorous development and validation process.

Mr. Graham also states that the articling process is a “10-month training free-for-all, devoid of oversight and accountability."

Although there is currently no province-wide process for assessing the consistency of the articling experiences, the Law Society maintains reporting requirements by articling principals, and has established articling goals and objectives for articling principals to include in articling student's placements. The articling principal, or supervisor, is required to take on full management responsibility — investing time and energy into training, mentoring and performance feedback for the 10-month articling period.

The task force’s review of the current program reflects the Law Society’s best efforts to develop and enhance the competency of lawyers entering the profession to continue to protect the public interest, while also ensuring that licensing requirements are fair and accessible. The healthy, ongoing dialogue that the consultation and articles like Mr. Graham's have created is very valuable.