Speaker's Corner: Why the LPP should stay

As the legal profession continues to evolve and adapt to changing needs and as we search for highly qualified, diverse talent to add to the profession, the Law Practice Program provides employers like myself with a window into the future of legal training.

I have had the privilege to be both a mentor and a work placement employer for the program since year one. I have seen first-hand the tremendous rigour with which the LPP is conducted and the tremendous skills that are developed and demonstrated by the candidates.

I am very disheartened and disappointed with the LSUC subcommittee report suggesting the LPP end this year. I hope the recommendation is voted down by the benchers in November and the LPP program can continue.

The LPP’s rigorous, experiential, comprehensive, innovative and fully assessed training is preparing lawyers to meet the challenges of 21st-century practice.

In just two years, the LPP has created more than 440 work placements, which previously did not exist.
Further, the competent and talented licensing candidates in the LPP truly reflect the population of the province. They are a diverse, intelligent group of individuals that bring many experiences to the profession.

In my view, these successes are clear evidence to support my confusion, and the confusion of many others, as to why the LSUC’s subcommittee has recommended terminating the LPP pilot early.

Yes, the LPP was conceived as a three-year pilot with the possibility of a two-year extension to ensure adequate data was gathered, so that important decisions could be made based on facts and not on “perceptions” as the subcommittee report seems to rely heavily upon.

Also, I could understand if the LPP was failing why an early wrap-up would be on the table, but with the factual success it currently enjoys, it is hard to understand why an early wrap-up is at hand. 

Maybe I missed it, but why wouldn’t an additional two years of data assist us all in making an informed choice, particularly since the subcommittee’s report itself mentions that there is a lack of relevant and tangible data in a number of critical areas? 

Once again, let’s make this decision based on the facts and not on “perceptions.”

Ryerson’s LPP is innovative, experiential and entrepreneurial. The four-month intensive practical training component and its four-month work placement component were designed by the profession for the profession. I have witnessed first-hand the success of this training.

The eight-month program graduated more than 450 licensing candidates in the past two years, and the program is now in its third year with more than 230 licensing candidates participating. Without the LPP program, there would be more than 600 individuals who would have no path to getting called to the bar.

During the rigorous four-month practical training component, candidates are grouped into virtual law firms with a practising member of the bar acting as their mentor. I have had the privilege of seeing 18 talented and very competent individuals grow and develop their legal and practice management skills over the last two years. I am now working with my fifth group during the third year of the program, and I’m again extraordinarily impressed with the calibre of the candidates. 

Candidates work through and manage simultaneously files in seven different areas of law. They complete more than 100 different tasks during the training component on which they are offered feedback and, in many cases, assessment. Some of these tasks may occur several times to provide candidates with the opportunity to develop and refine the desired skill over time, such as client interviewing, legal research and writing and docketing. Other tasks performed by candidates include: arguing motions; drafting commercial contracts, retainer letters, a will, statements of claim and defence; negotiating a separation agreement; opening and closing files; and the list goes on. I only wish that I had the benefits of such exhaustive training during my articles many years ago.

Upon successful completion of the training component, candidates are eligible to move on to a work placement. During the four-month work placement component, more than 200 practitioners across the province open their doors to provide candidates with work placement opportunities. These range from in-house opportunities in some of Canada’s largest corporations to placements in all three levels of government, large and small private law firms, legal clinics and sole practices across the province.

The LPP candidates are well trained and become excellent lawyers. I know that because I have hired and supervised several of them directly. 

The LSUC subcommittee mentions that “ . . . in some ways the LPP delivery is superior to the Articling Program for consistency and attention to sole and small firm practice realities.” I would argue the superiority of the training is relevant to all practice environments.

If it is clear that the LPP ensures that licensing candidates develop and refine the core legal skills outlined by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the practice management abilities necessary for admission to the bar, protection of the public and future success in practice, why is there a motion to wrap the LPP up early? I hope our benchers vote down the LSUC subcommittee recommendations.

Marni Dicker is executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Infrastructure Ontario.

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