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Survey scrutiny

Editorial Obiter

Young lawyers don’t have it easy. It’s tough to make it into law school.

Once there, prospects for landing a good articling position — or becoming an associate with an established firm that offers mentorship opportunities — can be daunting.

According to a recent Law Society of Ontario survey done to look at the articling experience, 21 per cent of respondents said they experienced unwelcome conduct or comments related to personal characteristics such as their age, race, citizenship, gender identity or sexual orientation. Seventeen per cent said they experienced “different or unequal treatment” due to these personal characteristics.

There may be shifts to articling and the broader licensing process coming, as the law society’s professional development and competence committee is anticipated to release a report this month that will suggest possible reforms. Options could include ending transitional training as a requirement, limited or specialized licensing or a U.S.-style bar examination system.

Critics have proposed doing away with articling altogether. Other suggestions have included specialized licensing for people who practise in a particular area of law.

According to a feature in this week’s edition, younger lawyers are also seeking different aspects from their work than generations that have preceded them. There’s a higher value on work-life balance, say some, which is translating to changing expectations of the workplace.

The truth is there’s no pat answer on what all young lawyers are looking for, but there is room for hope. In the survey, the average rating reported by survey respondents was 3.62 for how satisfied they were with their work during their articling placement, with “0” being highly dissatisfied and “5” being “highly satisfied.” That means people are deriving meaning from the experience. The results of the law society’s forthcoming report may hold more important insight for those entering the profession in the future. 

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By 2025, there is expected to be 1.6 new licensed lawyers for every one new practising position, according to a Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario report. Does this mean positions should be restricted in law schools?