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LSUC AGM motion seeks to force articling jobs on firms

|Written By Glenn Kauth

With the debate over the Law Practice Program in the news again, a group of lawyers are putting forward a motion at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s upcoming annual general meeting to force law firms with eight or more lawyers to take an articling student chosen at random.

While it’s an interesting idea, Monica Goyal has her doubts about a proposal to force law firms to take articling students chosen at random.

The motion, put forward by 15 lawyers, will be on the agenda at the May 13 meeting. Citing attempts to address the shortcomings of the articling system that “have created new problems” and noting the stress and rivalries of the current arrangement that they say interferes with the law school experience, the lawyers are proposing an alternative where the law society “places each qualified law student into an articling position by random selection.” A firm of eight or more lawyers would have to “accept and provide articles of clerkship to those law students it is assigned,” according to the motion.

While she has doubts about the feasibility of the proposal, Toronto lawyer Monica Goyal says it has some merit in light of the concerns about the Law Practice Program. “There may be ways to work with it,” she says, citing someone who mentioned the idea of allowing larger firms that take more than one student to accept both a randomized person as well as one they choose.

“But it’s an interesting proposal anyway,” she adds.

“The other thing it does is it opens up the issue again,” she says, citing the reemergence of discussions about the Law Practice Program, particularly around paid placements and equity concerns.

Ryan Robski, president of the Law Students’ Society of Ontario, says while his organization shares “a lot of similar concerns” about barriers in the licensing process, it also would have liked the lawyers proposing the motion to have consulted it on the matter. And on the merits of the idea itself, it has concerns about students’ choice and flexibility in where they article given that they may have a particular geographical preference or want to work in a certain field. “I don’t think that their approach now . . . that that would be something that we would support at the AGM,” he says.

But is it fair to force law firms to take students? Goyal, for one, has her doubts. “It goes against how currently things operate,” she says. “It goes against some economic principles about people choosing who they work with and who they hire.”

The lawyers proposing the motion include Peter Waldmann as well as Mason Caplan Dizgun LLP managing partner Leslie Dizgun. If carried by a majority vote at the meeting, the non-binding motion must go to Convocation for consideration within six months.

For related content, see "Give LPP more time."

  • M. S. Lynham
    Hmm...almost 35 years since my graduation from UWO, the same plaintive whining about the law schools graduating too many students in a dismal job climate continues...trust me, getting a decent job in the early 80s anywhere in Canada was no picnic, even getting an articling position wasn't a given. When students couldn't find articles, they went to profs and lawyers who taught courses they had shone in and asked for help. Phone calls and some arm-twisting followed-jobs were found.
    The GTA and Ontario, in general, are not the only spots in Canada to get good articles. There are small towns and cities throughout Canada that need and want younger lawyers as those of my vintage retire. It may even be easier to land a"hot job in the city" after these wider-ranging articles. God forbid, someone might even like it and stay as there is this "work/life balance" thing and often more than a decent living to be made "in the sticks". More students/young lawyers should try it out
  • John Willey
    I'm only going on what my law school buddies have told me. Back door just means they went overseas and came back to Canada, I'm not taking away from the rigorous testing they come back to. I'm a just concerned about a job in a flooded makers.
  • EMM T
    Articling jobs should go to the best qualified candidates. It's unfortunate that the law schools admit too many students, but no student should expect a guaranteed articling position. Private legal practitioners should not be forced to clean up the law schools' mess.

    Firms should have the right to choose who they hire. What happens when a law firm is forced to hire a student who barely passed law school and that student screws up and gets them sued? If they chose that person, that's on them. If that person has been forced on them, it's on LSUC. Will LSUC pay the damages?
  • D G
    The proposal is outrageous on a number of grounds: (a) lack of choice for both students and lawfirms; (b) no limit on number of students that can be placed in a firm with over 8 lawyers; (c) it provides that LSUC would set salary and other compensation.

    So the LSUC assigns a firm 5 unilingual english students, when in fact the firm requires bilingual students, decides it has to pay each of them $65,000... and effectively bankrupts the firm. And why? Because lawschools and the LSUC are admitting/passing too many students. How anyone can think the proposal is logical and reasonable is almost beyond understanding.

    If the proposal sounds like a communist model, that's because it is exactly what it is. Does anyone know of any sector in Canada where private employers are forced to hire individuals and pay them a salary set by the state? Probably not. Why? Because its repugnant to the concept of freedom and free enterprise upon which our country and economy are built.
  • Andres B
    While I completely agree this program is ridiculous, I doubt the program would ever actually dump multiple law students into a firm in this manner and bankrupt them. They would probably have some kind of scale whereby the number of students is indexed to the firm size. But a much better solution is for the Law Society to a)force schools to limit the number of attendees to cease the flooding of the market and b) limit the number of out of country grads who can practice.
  • Martha R
    The idea of a random placement is very appealing. It could eliminate some of the biases that continue in the system as it presently exists. Sadly Mr Wiley demonstrates that bias. 20 years ago students from various communities found themselves excluded and tried to get the Benchers to act. I hope this group are more successful. And to Sarah:perhaps if articling students at firms worked 35 hours instead of 70 I could get behind the comment.
  • New Call
    Do the firms not have a right to look over someone's application and reject them for someone with better experience, or courses that are more relevant to that area of law? Law firms are a business, not a charity, not a school.

    If you were worried about certain biases only then you could maybe mandate all those applications have to be done with a student number and NOT a name, and the interviews take place by phone. This would only blind a potential employer from certain biases but still allow them to do decide who is a good candidate for their firm, which you can't do if they're randomly assigned.
  • Moira Gracey
    What about the right to have useful articles? I don't understand how being randomly placed will help students. If I want to go into corporate law, how will articles in an immigration law firm help you? Or a personal injury placement for an aspiring criminal lawyer? You wouldn't even get experience in the court in which you want to practice, much less the area of law.
  • Sarah Hentschel
    Force law firms to article law students so they can...what....go get work that isn't available? isn't the root cause of this problem that provincial governments should be adjusting the number of positions in law school to reflect the realities of the marketplace?
  • John C. Willey
    Why should firms pay the price for backdoor NCA Canadian students who are flooding the market?
  • Julius Caesar
    If NCA qualified lawyers flood the market, then it says a lot about their legal knowledge and skills compared to that of students who obtained first law degree from a Canadian law school!
  • Mark Morris
    First thought: Our firm hires a lot of NCA students. They are some of the hardest working and best legal minds we have. That they have chosen to spend their three years of law school exploring the world and learning about other cultures makes our organization stronger every day. We love our NCAs and proudly take many of them on as articling students.

    Second thought: This proposal will never fly. People need freedom to work with whom they choose.
  • Jailhouse Counsel
    Oh, please. Spare us the nonsense. Mark, with all due respect, your Axxess Law shop hires these NCA grads because no Canadian law student who invested over 100K in tuition and other expenses will want to work at Walmart stores across the country. For your business, NCA hires equals cheap labour.

    And foreign experience? LOL! 99.99999% of law students that go abroad to study law are unable to gain admission to a reputed Canadian schools for a variety of reasons that are plainly obvious (e.g. abysmal LSAT score, subpar GPA, no work experience, etc)

    Going to study law at Harvard or Yale is one thing. Going to a no name worthless school in Australia or England that accepts applicants right out of high school is another thing altogether.

    There is a reason why newly minted lawyers with law degrees from schools overseas are faced with negative stigma. The NCA equivalency process is a compete joke and potential employers know this all too well.
  • Mark Morris
    Actually, person who chose to respond without a real name, we pay our employees at a competitive rate. One wonders about the true state of our profession when esteemed practitioners are able to hurl such invective without the scarcest understanding of our actual pay scales. For the record, the reason I stated that we love ncas are because we love ncas. They are some of be hardest working and driven people I have come across in my 15 year law career.
  • Phil Jones
    Have they chosen to spend three years learning about other cultures, or have they spent three years paying through the nose for a foreign degree because they couldn't get into school here? It's well known that many students head to Australia to get their law degree from diploma mills - it's the equivalent of going to med school in the Caribbean.
  • Uzman M
    Diploma Mills??? These are genuine Law Schools we are talking about. I did not go to Australia but do know that my friends who did and are qualified in Canada to practice are one of the good lawyers I know. Who is to say that Canadian Law schools are better than the ones in Australia, the US or the UK?
  • Uzman M
    John "Back door"??? can you please explain. I hope you realize that they go through the challenge exam process that the federation has imposed on them. Protectionism of the profession has to take the back seat. We are in the 21st century.
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