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One reason Ontario changed its licencing rules for lawyers? A rise in foreign-trained grads from schools like Australia's Bond University

By Diane Peters

On Tuesday March 19th, 2013

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The Law Society of Upper Canada cites the rising number of lawyers educated overseas as a major driver in the so-called articling crisis. (A shortage of positions in Ontario motivated a new licencing program that will start in 2014.)

While Ontario students travel to the U.S. and the U.K. to study law, the overwhelming forerunner in overseas law schools is at Australia’s Bond University.

This 24-year-old university on the Gold Coast just south of Brisbane graduates between 100 and 150 Canadians from its law school each year.

A big selling point is the curriculum, which focuses on the practical. The university is kitted up with mock courtrooms and client interview rooms. Long a backup choice for students unable to get into local schools, Bond’s appeal has broadened. “We find students are applying to us as well as Canadian schools. And some are just applying to Bond,” says Stuart Floyd, international regional manager for the university.

It’s expensive — tuition for the two-year, six-semester program costs $96,000 — that compares to approximately $82,300 charged by U of T, our priciest school. But Bond takes a year less to complete, and living on the Gold Coast is cheap. The school runs three semesters a year and students can start in January, May or September.

If students pass Bond’s four Canadian law electives, they should be able to get full accreditation in Ontario without writing any additional exams. Bond reps have been on the ground in Toronto, working to shore up jobs for its students.

The school does not collect data on how many of its grads obtain articling positions in Canada, but Floyd says about 15 percent remain in Australia.

The new licencing rules in Ontario — which will allow students to either article or take a combination of practical course work and a short co-op — may have been driven in part by Bond’s grads, and will in turn benefit them. These students will now have fewer worries about finding an articling position from across the globe.

“This has always been a concern for students,” admits Floyd. With that worry crossed off their list, we’ll likely keep seeing Ontario students consider a world of choices when it comes to law school.


Photo: tupungato via iStockphoto