For those of you who don’t know, the Law Practice Program (LPP) is created by the Law Society in partnership with Ryerson University and the University of Ottawa that offer curriculum in English and French, respectively. It is designed to provide a licensing pathway to becoming a lawyer without having to article. This program is a pilot project that started in 2014, and was scheduled to run for three years before the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) evaluated the success of the program.
It is now coming to the end of this three-year stint and the LSUC has recently released a report (Report to Convocation September 22, 2016, by the LSUC Professional Development and Competence Committee) of the program’s successes and failures. The report recommends that the program be scrapped. I was sincerely sad to hear the recommendations of the LSUC’s report, as I saw this program as a innovative way to increase the number of opportunities for licensing, increase diversity in the profession, and to provide a standardized and quality driven legal education.
To expand on these points, racialized, mature, Francophone, and internationally trained lawyers predominantly utilized this program. As a young lawyer myself, I understand the difficulties that law school graduates encounter when looking for articling positions. However, compounding these difficulties with the issues relating to the lack of diversity in the profession puts up major and arbitrary roadblocks for certain people looking to become licensed. (For a more in depth opinion of the LPP and its contribution to diversity in the legal profession click on the following link to read an article by Kevin Ball… Scrapping the LPP would be a bullshit move.)
In addition to the LPP breaking down these barriers created by the lack of diversity, it offered a “very high quality [curriculum] and may, in fact excel over articling in a number of areas” according the the LSUC report (at para 59). Despite the actual quality of the program, it often was considered a second-tier licensing pathway, which was acknowledged in the report. The stigma surrounding this program was not merited, however, it seems to be one of the downfalls of the program nonetheless, at least according to the report.
I had the opportunity to work at the LPP in its first year, and saw first-hand the opportunities that the students were offered. As someone who at the time had just been called to the Bar, I recall stating on many occasions that I wished I had become licensed through the LPP, as I saw the well-rounded education that students received. I’m not saying that I was unhappy with my articling experience. However, the LPP offered experiences that went beyond the practice of law. It encouraged students to develop their own access to justice initiatives and plans as to how they would open their own law firms. Basically, it offered useful advice on how to engage in the business of law, not just the practice of it. This type of curriculum opens up opportunities to students that may not have been possible though the traditional articling pathway.
Since the release of the LSUC Report, there has been an outcry from the public regarding the scrapping of the program. In light of this, the LSUC has thankfully agreed to keep the pilot project open for another 2 years for further assessment. I’m not sure of what the future of the LPP will look like. However, I am using this opportunity as a call to all those who may be interested to get involved with the program. There are several opportunities to offer mentorship or job placements to the students. Counsel are needed to help with evaluations. Students can even get involved by volunteering there time to assist with the in-person evaluation periods that compose a portion of the program. Being involved in the LPP is a great way to network and help soon-to-be lawyers achieve their goals.
I personally think the LPP offers so much more to the advancement of the legal profession and legal education than what is even discussed here and I hope that it survives in the years to come.