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.
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."