Editorial: Give LPP more time

While the decision to offer the law practice program sparked many concerns among members of the legal profession, the Law Students’ Society of Ontario has added to the debate with its recent letter to Law Society of Upper Canada Treasurer Janet Minor calling on the regulator to reconsider the issue.

It’s an important contribution as the concerns are no longer theoretical. The program is now off the ground, and with reports shedding light on the number of unpaid work placements for students, we now have the benefit of seeing the results so far. The student group’s recommendations include a single licensing stream for all candidates or, if the law practice program is to continue, requiring reasonable compensation for all work placements.

In a response last week, Minor noted the LSUC continues “to strongly advocate” for paid work for those in both the law practice program and the articling stream. She also noted the law society offers a repayable allowance program to help those going through the licensing process with a demonstrated need. In addition, she said Ontario lawyers are providing a $1-million contribution to help defray licensing costs. Further, she said, “the issue of remuneration will continue to be assessed.”

Both sides have fair points. The law practice program was a pilot project aimed at seeing whether it could work as an alternative to articling given the shortage of placements. We have yet to see the full results, so it’s too early to pronounce on its success or failure. But the students’ society rightly points out some significant issues: unpaid law practice program placements could affect the availability of paid articling positions; there are significant equity concerns around people from disadvantaged groups potentially being more likely to turn to the law practice program; while many employers are offering paid placements, some of the positions involve small stipends; and many of those in the program have to start paying back student loans even while doing unpaid work.

Essentially, the concerns outlined by the students’ society offer useful criteria for assessing the pilot project and considering some of the alternatives the students offer up. In the meantime, those involved in the law practice program have clearly put major effort into getting a quality alternative off the ground and we should give them more time to finish the job ahead of a more fulsome assessment.
Glenn Kauth

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