Next week Benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada will (hopefully) decide on the future of articling in the province of Ontario. So, rightly or wrongly, one piece of the legal training puzzle in Ontario will be determined.
The elephant in the room however is the law schools.
Many will say that law schools are there simply to serve the purpose of providing a legal education that students are free to use in whatever fashion they choose; ensuring students become lawyers is not the role of law schools.
This is naïve. And it would only be the most hard-hearted law professor who could look her class in the eye and make such a comment.
On the legal profession’s side of things, lawyers will say that law school should provide vocational training so that students are better equipped to practice law upon graduation. This again may be naïve as law schools are far less equipped to provide such training than any other body.
Readers can argue the merits of either case ad nauseam, so let me suggest something completely different.
Let me suggest that law school (and articling for that matter) are unnecessary.
Yeah, I said it.
What if you could, right out of high school, follow a program that allows you to become a lawyer within 5 or 6 years at a fraction of the cost of law school?
The program would work something like this:
1. Graduate from high school
2. Work in a law office for 5 or 6 years while taking a number of part-time law courses provided by a community college (kindof what many Canadian paralegals do now to get their certification).
3. In the end, you are a certified to practice law perhaps in only a few specific areas (which is what a number of lawyers do in any event).
Well, such a program already exists in England.
The CILEX program creates Chartered Legal Executives who are fully able to practice law. They have trained at a much lower cost, built usable skills while taking academic courses part-time, been of long-term value to their employer (at affordable rates) and made a decent living at the same time.
Is there a role for CILEX in Canada? And would it give law schools a run for their money?
The answer to both questions is, “Yes!”