LSO releases results of investigation into cheating on lawyer licensing examinations

Both results and registration in licensing process of 126 candidates have been voided

LSO releases results of investigation into cheating on lawyer licensing examinations

The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) has released the results of its investigation into cheating on the November 2021 lawyer licensing examinations.

“The Law Society has taken the appropriate action in the circumstances, given the gravity of the conduct and the evidence supporting its conclusions,” LSO CEO Diana Miles said. “Critical to fulfilling our mandate is facilitating a licensing regime that is properly and effectively administered and that ensures good character and the entry-level competence of licensees.”

Early this year, the LSO received information and cheating material suggesting that a third-party tutoring company was facilitating examination misconduct. It then reviewed the material and found that the cheating keys directly mapped to the barrister and solicitor licensing examinations conducted in November 2021.

These findings prompted the LSO to take immediate action, which included: (a) a comprehensive forensic analysis of all the November 2021 licensing examination results; (b) retaining a team of external investigators; (c) cancellation of online examinations, rescheduling, and changing the examination modality to an in-person format; and (d) placing affected candidates’ licensure or eligibility to attempt another examination in abeyance, pending the outcome of the investigative process.

The LSO confirmed that between July and August, it notified 150 candidates that they had breached the LSO rules and regulations regarding the November 2021 licensing examinations. The finding was based on the results and recommendations of a forensic analysis conducted by testing security experts and other information and evidence obtained through the investigative process.

The LSO told the candidates that they could face a range of outcomes based on its mandate to protect the public interest and maintain the integrity of the licensing process and public confidence in the legal profession. They were allowed to provide their response to the investigators.

The LSO also confirmed that from August to October, it notified 148 candidates that its licensing and accreditation department had rendered “a decision as to the appropriate administrative outcome on the basis of the available evidence.” A summary of the administrative outcomes imposed is as follows:

  • Twenty-one candidates were advised that their examination results were void. Accordingly, they received a “fail” result for the void examination, which counts as an examination attempt;
  • Meanwhile, 126 candidates were notified that the LSO voided their examination results and registration in the licensing process registration.

The LSO noted that individuals whose registration is void are no longer candidates in the licensing process, and all previous examination attempts, along with the completion of any form of experiential training, such as articling, are considered void. Moreover, they cannot re-apply for one year to enter the licensing process.

“In addition, the rendering of this administrative decision must be disclosed should they apply at any point in the future, at which point they may be subject to an investigation concerning whether they are presently of good character,” the LSO said.

Moreover, the LSO advised one candidate that their exam result and registration had not been voided, while 22 candidates under investigation were notified that the inquiry into their possible actions had been closed without any administrative action being taken.

“Candidates were given the opportunity to request that the Executive Director, Professional Development and Competence review the outcome decision, and to submit additional information in support of that request,” the LSO said. “The results of these reviews have now been communicated to most candidates. A small number of candidates are still within the period of time in which they could request a review.”

However, the investigation being conducted by an external investigator concerning several other individuals is currently ongoing, the LSO added.

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