The LPP lives on

A mere two months ago, the Law Practice Program was clinging to life. The Professional Development Committee at the Law Society of Upper Canada had released a two-year study of the new program and made this recommendation: scrap it.

But the profession fought back. More than 130 letters swamped the Law Society. And the vast majority demanded that the committee reverse its decision to kill the LPP, a coursework-based alternative to articling, taught in English at Ryerson University and in French at the University of Ottawa. (Precedent, too, argued that scrapping the LPP would be a “bullshit move.”) By late October, such strong blowback coaxed the committee into issuing a new report. That one recommended keeping the LPP for at least two more years.

And at Convocation yesterday morning, the benchers voted to do precisely that.

“All of us have been informed by the views we’ve heard,” said Peter Wardle, chair of the Professional Development Committee, in his remarks to Convocation. “I actually think we’ve arrived, though perhaps in a circuitous fashion, in a very good place.”

In broad strokes, he explained his committee’s about-face. To start, he said the committee heard from both students and lawyer-mentors who participated in the LPP and raved about its quality. Wardle added that it would be “defeatist” to cancel the program so early in its existence on the grounds that it stigmatizes students who take it instead of articling.

The debate was brisk, and ended after about an hour.

But two first-term benchers — Joe Groia and Rocco Galati — used the occasion to voice contrarian viewpoints.

“If we continue this program, we are creating another 500 candidates who will go through the rest of their professional life with the stigma that comes from the fact that they went through the LPP,” said Groia, a controversial lawyer who remains embroiled in a legal dispute with the Law Society. (He is currently fighting a ruling that that he violated the Law Society’s courtroom civility rules during a trial almost two decades ago.) “Not withstanding our best hopes and wishes, that’s not going to change.”

Galati then made the case that articling itself is “racist” and should be abolished. “I want to talk about a couple elephants in the room,” he began. “For the last 50 years, the legal profession has had a healthy racist, exclusionary practice against whatever racialized groups are coming up through the profession at the time. Talk to any Jewish lawyer who came through in the 50s and the 60s, and they’ll tell you they couldn’t get articling jobs. If you talk to any of us who are Italian, we’ll tell you that, up until 30 years ago, it was the same thing.”

He didn’t say it outright, but he seemed to be referring to the fact that many racialized students, after getting shut out of the articling process, have turned to the LPP. In 2015, for instance, 18 percent of articling students in Ontario were racialized — in the LPP, that number shoots up to 32 percent.

“The real problem is articling itself,” said Galati. “Let’s eliminate that preliminary gate of exclusion.”

So what’s next? Well, the LPP will continue for two years. In the meantime, the Professional Development Committee will come up with a game plan to launch a full investigation into the entire lawyer-licensing process. It will present that plan to Convocation in the first quarter of 2017.


For more on the Law Practice Program, visit PrecedentJD.com to find out what two former LPP students thought of the program.

On the Record: Good news for Ryerson’s LPP grads

It was a daunting task, but Ryerson University managed to secure work placements for all 250 students in the first class of its Law Practice Program (which law grads can now complete instead of articling). As it turns out, law offices of every ilk — from banks (TD Bank, RBC, BMO and CIBC) to Bay Street firms (such as Goodmans and Lenczner Slaght ) — hired students this past winter for four-month stints.

At the same time, Ryerson failed to secure paid placements for each student — a lofty goal it assigned itself at the outset of the program. In the end, about 30 percent of the work placements were unpaid.

LPP Work Placements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This story is from our Summer 2015 issue.

 

 

 


Illustration by Alina Skyson

Lawyers can win free office space at a Dragons’ Den-style competition

At the best of times, starting a business is a “scary proposition,” says George Horhota, a corporate lawyer and president of BrightLane, a shared office space in Toronto’s King West neighborhood that caters to small businesses. On top of a smart idea, he explains, entrepreneurs need customers, a well-defined target market and a marketing plan. And if that’s not overwhelming enough, they might need to hit up the bank for an initial shot of capital to afford overhead.

And so, Horhota wants to make things easier for aspiring entrepreneurs across the city.

In early December, BrightLane will host its first ever Entrepreneur Awards, pitting ambitious business people against each other in a contest modeled after the hit television show Dragons’ Den. The panel of judges — which includes Precedent’s editor Melissa Kluger — will award a six-month membership to as many as 25 candidates. After that six-month period, BrightLane will select five businesses to receive another six months of free space. Then, after a year, BrightLane will pick a single champion and hand over a cheque for $15,000.

In future years, BrightLane will name the award after G. Raymond Chang, the Toronto philanthropist and businessperson who founded the facility in 2013. Chang also died this past summer.

BrightLane is now accepting applications — and Horhota wants forward-thinking lawyers to throw their name in the hat.

“People don’t often see lawyers as entrepreneurs, but what it takes to thrive as a sole practitioner is the very essence of entrepreneurship,” he says. “Lawyers who want to set up their own practice confront the exact same challenges as someone starting a software company from scratch.”

For any lawyer thinking about entering the competition, Horhota has the following advice: solid business ideas don’t have to be earth shattering. In fact, they can be quite simple. Horhota offers up an idea of his own: “If I it were me, I might say, ‘I’m going to start a real estate firm and only go after condo owners in Toronto. There are 100,000 of them in the city today. They’re growing by 10,000 every year. And here’s why I can serve them better than anyone else.’”

He also says that, when crafting their pitch for the judges, lawyers should formulate a marketing plan — a key ingredient in the strategic vision of most companies, but an afterthought in law firms. “Most firms farm it out to marketing firms that really don’t understand the legal market or they ignore it altogether,” he says. “But effective marketing is essential for getting most businesses off the ground.”

So far, two lawyers have already taken their practices to the BrightLane offices.

And those lawyers often develop meaningful business relationships with other entrepreneurs in the building, says Tawny Dhaliwal, the community manager at BrightLane. “One of our lawyers” — Sarah Hooper, founder of Charles Hooper Law — “uses one of our designers to brand her law firm and, in turn, she provides legal services to our entrepreneurs.”


You can sign up for the event online.

News: The licensing scorecard

Starting this September, law school graduates can skip articling if they enrol in the LPP. The program consists of four months of coursework that focuses on practical legal skills, followed by a guaranteed four-month work placement — to be run in English by Ryerson University and in French by the University of Ottawa. Here’s what the players in the legal profession stand to win and lose if they opt for the LPP.

 

Students

LPP StudentsUpside

Rejoice, the articling shortage is over! About 15 percent of law grads looking for articling gigs in Ontario don’t land one. Now, they’ve got an almost-guaranteed path to becoming a lawyer (provided they pass the bar), and so do the growing number of grads from international law schools looking for work.

Downside

Money. Even if work placements pay their LPP students, as Ryerson intends, they only last four months, compared to articling jobs that come with paycheques for 10. Plus, LSUC is raising the one-time licensing fee for all students from $2,400 to $4,300.

 

Firms

LPP FirmsUpside

Small and rural firms that can’t afford an articling student might find the budget for an LPP student. Plus, it’s possible that LPP-ers could require less on-the-job training — they’ll have learned practical skills in their coursework.

Downside

The LPP schedule is rigid: work placements start every January, no exceptions. Also, the program only runs for four months, which is not a lot of time to train and get to know a student before making a hiring decision.

 

LSUC

LPP LSUCUpside

No more grumbling from law schools and recent grads about the lack of articling positions in Ontario. The Law Society has outsourced most of the hard work — training grads and finding work placements — to third parties.

Downside

They’re on the hook if the LPP leads to a two-tiered licensing system that ghettoizes LPP grads.

 

Ryerson University

LPP RyersonUpside
A chance to raise its profile in the legal community — and maybe become a full-fledged law school in the future? Plus, with most of the coursework taught online, Ryerson reinforces its brand as an innovator in web-based education.
Downside
Ryerson is an outsider in the legal world, so it has to prove to the industry it can offer a viable alternative to articling. Short term, it has to find work placements for a maximum enrolment of 400 LPP students.


Read why Australia is giving up on the articling system.