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Former treasurer touts 3rd option for articling crisis

|Written By Julius Melnitzer

Former Law Society of Upper Canada treasurer Gavin MacKenzie has jumped into the articling controversy by criticizing the current options on the table and positing a new alternative for Convocation to consider when the debate resumes this week.

Former Law Society of Upper Canada treasurer Gavin MacKenzie is calling on benchers to consider financial incentives to increase the number of articling positions.

In a letter addressed to current Treasurer Thomas Conway and all benchers, MacKenzie, who currently practises at Heenan Blaikie LLP, expresses concern that an approach to the issue that “rightly enjoys widespread support in the profession” isn’t one of the options offered to Convocation.

His option would continue to require applicants to article while increasing the number of articling positions through financial incentives to students or employers, or both, if necessary.

As MacKenzie sees it, this option isn’t before Convocation because of a concern that it would be unfair to students unable to find an articling position even if the number of positions increased.

“This concern is legitimate but overstated,” he writes. “The dramatic increase in the number of applicants who wish to practise law in Ontario is a problem that we neither created nor encouraged. We should do all we can to accommodate the increasing numbers of applicants by making as many articling positions available as possible, but it would be a serious mistake for us to compromise our high standards of competence to do so.”

The options now before Convocation find their origins in the recommendation of a task force commissioned by LSUC.

A majority on the task force suggests that licensing could be accomplished in two ways: by articling, a course expected to be pursued by a majority of students, or through an eight-month law practice program.

The minority on the task force suggests that articling has run its course and should be abolished and replaced by a two- or three-month transitional training program.

MacKenzie finds the suggestion that articling be abolished particularly disturbing.

“I think we would be making a serious mistake if we were to do away with articling as a requirement of admission to the Ontario bar,” he said in an e-mail.

In his lengthy missive to the benchers, MacKenzie provides detailed reasons for consideration of an increase in the number of articling positions to be supported by financial incentives.

Confidence that “articling is an effective transitional training program,” MacKenzie observes, was expressed by lawyers in large and small firms, in large urban areas and rural communities, and in most if not all practice areas.

As for the law practice program, MacKenzie isn’t confident that it will ensure competency among new lawyers.

Indeed, he notes that even the majority recommending the program recognized that, given the lack of experience with the option anywhere in Canada or the United States, “there is a large degree of supposition” in the analysis of its adequacy.

For more, see "Dissent on articling task force" and "Articling D-Day set for November."

  • Sharma
    The system was working just fine. The lsuc and schools just want to make more money so they can keep their cushy jobs. They could have just created financial incentives for those that take on students. Much better option,. And the articling period should be 2 years in my opinion. 2 years of law school + 2 years of articling. Then you will get competent lawyers. More school makes them incompetent. You need a longer articling period. The LPP Program will be crap. Nothing compares to real world training... Nothing.
  • Pershot
    For years watched the clowns wrestling with articling issue at Law Society. Pathetic...Legal fraud...Scam to drain members funds folks rise.
  • Garibaldy
    Does any LSUC employee, Bencher, treasurer cares what
    articling students, lawyers are going through every day. Too many lawyers and law graduates than hand-over law society to paralegals. Glad to be called the member of Ontario Bar.
  • gov lawyer
    As the head of our student committee I can attest to the value of articling, having spoken to the students in the program at the end of each year. Since when did we guarantee articling spots. Firstly, lets reduce the number of spots in law schools before we abolish articilng. Secondly, lets recognize that some people should perhaps not practice law but put their degree to other uses. If they are unable to get an articling job what makes anyone think that they will get a job after completing the program. Either there won't be a job available or they won't be hired for the same reasons that they did not get an articling job. They will then be left to start their own practice or buy one from a retiring lawyer with little to no idea what they are doing. That frightens me.
  • John A. Cyr
    I like Mr Mackenzie's suggestion. The face to face in articling is a useful transition. Whether good or bad the on site articling experience exposes students to a range of practitioners that the student might, or might not, want to emulate but it is all grist in the student's learning to deal with practical every day intereaction with other lawyers, clients and members of the public. There is no subsitute for experience.
  • Mukhtiar Dahiya
    Silence is foolish if we are wise but wise if we are foolish.
    Justice for articling students
    Not unless the entire chain works.

    City Law Centre
    In pursuit of justice for street people
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