Ontario Law Society Sticks It To Law Students – I’m Embarassed to be a Member

Before I start, I’m going to stake out my bias here.  I hate the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the organization responsible for regulating lawyers in Ontario.   Not because I’ve had any problems with them, but because, in my experience, there are few no public organizations as inept, incompetent and clueless as the LSUC.  Everything they do, they do badly.  They are the living embodiment of the old maxim that: “Those who can, do.  Those who can’t do, regulate”. When I went through the bar admissions program, they handed around material that was outdated and wrong (badly, badly wrong).  The bar admissions exam was a fiasco – the exam itself was filled with typos and spelling errors, and the organization was so poor it ran twice as long as it was scheduled to run and almost resulted in a riot.  Every year I have to fill out to two separate annual reports at two different times, rather than filing a single report at the same time (ok, this is a petty complaint, but you know, even the tax man doesn’t make me file two tax returns).  Even in their principal role of protecting the public from unscrupulous lawyers, it’s not clear that it is particularly competent (witness the recent Heydary fiasco, where the LSUC stepped in only after a lawyer allegedly disappeared with $3 million of his client’s money).

So, against that background, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that the LSUC would do something to completely fuck this year’s class of law school graduates.  And yet… even as jaded I am, I was shocked by the announcement that the LSUC was DOUBLING licensing fees for students to become lawyers in the province of Ontario to almost $5000.

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Law School Graduates Can’t Get Articling Jobs? So What?

A big issue among Ontario lawyers these days is the paucity of articling jobs for law students looking to become lawyers (generally, to become licensed as a lawyer you have to work for another lawyer as an “articling student”, basically a glorified apprenticeship, for 10 months).  Between a sharp drop-off in activity in the legal community, and increases in enrollment at Ontario law schools and in the number of Canadians law students who couldn’t get into a respectable Canadian school attending law school abroad (hello, Bond University, I’m looking at you), we’ve reached a crisis point with hundreds of students graduating from law school (often with 6-figure student loans) with no realistic possibility of ever becoming lawyers.

To the Law Society of Upper Canada (the “LSUC”), this is a problem to be addressed.  Since lawyers can’t be persuaded to hire more articling students then they need, the LSUC is proposing to create a new parallel licensing arrangement (the “PLA”), consisting of a  4-month long “Law Practice Program” and a 4-month co-op placement.

Personally, I don’t think the current excess supply of law students is a problem, over time it will decrease if gradates can’t find jobs.  And the PLA is a non-solution to this non-problem that, if it achieves anything, it will be to increase the amount of disciplinary complaints about new lawyers.

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