LAW LOVE STORIES Day 5: What about articling?

So what is being done about the “articling crisis” anyways? Here are a few of the recent intiatives in Canada and beyond! On November 22, 2012 the Law Society of Upper Canada approved a pilot project starting in licensing year 2014-2015 as an alternative to the articling requirement for students graduating law school in Ontario. The new Law Practice Program (LPP), will allow students who don’t get articles to instead take four extra months of classroom training and an unpaid, four-month co-op placement. At the end of the LPP the students will be qualified to practice law, despite not having articled. The LPP was developed in response to the fact that many qualified law graduates simply can’t find articles and therefore are unable to practice law despite having obtained a law degree.

There are critics of course. Some fear the new program will create a two-tiered system: those who get articles and those who do the co-op program instead. This article by Kirk Makin published in the Globe and Mail on November 23, 2012 explains the concern. In my view, while the new option may have its drawbacks, the fact remains that the lack of articling positions is a huge problem in Canada, and any willingness to try something new is a step in the right direction.

A different program started by the Law Society here in BC is the Rural Education and Access to Lawyers (REAL) initiative. The program is designed to help bring new lawyers out to rural communities and provides benefits to both students who may not otherwise obtain articles and also to communities who are lacking in access to legal services. The Law Society website says“[t]he focus of the program is to place law students in rural law firms for summer work experience and to facilitate the placement of articled students in communities with less than 100,000 people and a greater than 500 person-to-lawyer ratio.” You can find out more information on how to apply here.

It has also been argued that law schools and their theory-based teaching are the cause of the articling crisis, and there is an ongoing debate about whether changes should be made to the current law school curriculums to bring in more clinical legal education for students. In this respect, many different initiatives have popped up with the goal of introducing more practical skills based teachings into law schools (and at the same time increasing access to justice). One such organization is the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE). Others include: Probono Students Canada, the Legal Help Centre in Winnipeg, and CLASSIC Legal Services.

Some INSPIRING STUDENTS are also taking things into their own hands. Lindsey Cybulskie, a second year law student at University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law is currently working to create a Family Legal Advice Clinic for this fall. The clinic will make it possible for students to assist clients in Saskatoon, who may not otherwise obtain legal advice, with their family law matters, and at the same time provide practical experience to law students.

AND once again…here are some cool things going on in the UK and the US!

In the US, law schools are starting up law firms! Arizona State University is starting up a not for profit law firm to address two compelling problems: law graduates without jobs and members of the public unable to afford legal services. The program aims to employ 30 law graduates and to provide services to underrepresented members of the population of Phoenix. You can read more about it here. Other law schools are set to follow suit, and some have already started similar smaller initiatives – such as Lawyers for America, in California.

In terms of legal education Yale claims to have“one of the most robust clinical programs in the country”. And on the revamping of law school curriculums, Stanford has been in the forefront, with others such as NYC and Indiana soon to follow.

In the UK, there is a company that trains law graduates and connects them with law firms looking for a particular type of skill set! Meet Accutrainee - deemed an “innovative approach to solving the challenges law firms face in recruiting appropriate numbers of trainees and managing their cost” by Tony Angel, the ex-Managing Partner of Linklaters (a global law firm). Accutrainee website says: “As an SRA [Solicitors Regulation Authority] authorised training establishment, we recruit trainees ourselves and second them to law firms and in-house legal departments in accordance with their requirements and business needs. The result is improved efficiency and flexibility for our clients and greater opportunities for our trainees.” You can check out the benefits to “trainees” here.

While lack of opportunities for law graduates is still a huge problem in Canada, a conversation has started and some changes have been made – and, I have no doubt, more change is to come! So let’s not be discouraged – instead let’s look around us for inspiration and keep the momentum going!

Here’s to getting rid of the articling headaches so law grads everywhere can create a LIFE they LOVE in LAW!

And that’s it for Day 5 - check back tomorrow for more real life LAW LOVE STORIES.