The Law Society of Upper Canada announced this morning that the University of Ottawa and Ryerson University will be the providers of the Law Practice Program (LPP), offering graduates a way to get licensed without articling.
The programs will consist of a four-month training course followed by a four-month work placement, which might or might not be paid. Ryerson is set to provide the program in English, and Ottawa will teach students in French.
These programs are a pilot project that will be reviewed in three years, unless LSUC decides it needs more time to evaluate them. In that case, the project length will be extended to five years.
Meanwhile, LSUC also approved a program at Lakehead University that will incorporate practical training directly into the law school curriculum, allowing students to be qualified to practice law without having completed an LPP course nor an articling placement. Graduates will, in essence, be licensed lawyers straight out of school (they will still need to pass the bar exam).
Lakehead’s tuition is staying the same, but students have an extra three hours of class and students will be able to complete optional, unpaid work-placements at local firms throughout their three-year degree. Importantly, this program is separate from the pilot project. In other words, it’s here to stay.
Both the Lakehead initiative and the LPP have been in development for several years in order to address the growing number of Ontario law school graduates unable to find articling positions — since 2008 the number of unplaced grads has more than doubled, from 5.8 percent to 12.1 percent.
It’s also worth noting that many blame law schools for the shortage of articling positions. This argument, in short, accuses law faculties of accepting more students than the job market can accommodate. Statistically, enrolment in Ontario has jumped from 1,091 to 1,388 since 1997. Earlier this fall, Queen’s University proposed an increase to their class size to raise more money to compete with Toronto law schools — a move that frustrated many of its students.
This morning’s announcement will have a wide range of implications for the future of the legal profession in Ontario and Precedent is on the case. Expect a more detailed analysis tomorrow (update: now available here).
Until then, check out our extensive coverage of the articling and LPP debate over the last two years: that includes a refresher on the LPP, a critique of LSUC’s initial call for LPP proposals and our argument for why law schools are best suited to provide practical legal training.