Fernando Garcia, the general counsel at Nissan Canada, doesn’t hire articling students. Nor does he plan to. His in-house department consists of five people — and only two are lawyers — so onboarding a law grad without much practical experience would derail his entire workflow. “The articling system,” explains Garcia, “has never worked well for small in-house departments.”
But the Law Practice Program (LPP), a new path to licensing offered at Ryerson University, caters to small legal teams. The program starts with four months of online and in-person training, with a focus on practical skills, such as drafting factums and editing contracts. So when candidates advance to the second half of the program, a four-month work placement, their employer doesn’t have to train them from the ground up. Garcia likes that candidates hit the ground running, and now he offers one LPP work placement each year. We sat down with him to find out why he’s become such a fan of the program.
One selling point of the Law Practice Program is that candidates receive four months of practical training before they start their work placements. When you take on candidates, what sort of work can they do on day one?
Oh, they’re unbelievable. If I give them a small-claims case, they can do everything with proper supervision: draft the submissions and appear in court. They can also review contracts.
Now, they still have some things to learn, and we help them along the way, but they’re ready to run with it. And they’re eager. They want to prove themselves.
How could you see this affecting the legal job market?
It means that lawyers who couldn’t afford the time to take on articling students now have a way to employ and mentor the next generation of lawyers. The LPP has opened up a whole new market.
For lawyers who don’t know much about the LPP, what would your message to them be?
Look, I’ve heard people say, ‘There’s stigma attached to the LPP, so let’s kill it.’ I think that’s a really bad approach. We should say, ‘Some people are perpetuating that stigma, so let’s, instead, fix that.’
And I think we will fix it. After all, we’ve seen this before. Back in the day, everyone thought that lawyers who went in-house were lazy and that they couldn’t cut it at a law firm. There was a real stigma attached to us. It took a while for us to change that perception, but we did.
To those who don’t know much about the program, I’d say this: offer a placement. As more lawyers work with LPP candidates, they’re going to see how much they bring to the table.
What’s the best thing about the LPP?
That it offers consistent training. This is also one big advantage the LPP has over articling. Because the bulk of the program is standardized, candidates are guaranteed to learn the basics.
With articling, it’s hit and miss. You could be lucky, and work under a terrific mentor, but you could also get really unlucky and learn almost nothing.
The Law Practice Program at Ryerson University is a rigorous eight-month training program that equips law-school graduates with the practical skills they need to become great lawyers. To learn more, visit ryerson.ca/lpp.
This story is from our 10th anniversary issue, published in Fall 2017.