Articling Debate Exposes Convocation’s Flaws

Today the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) once again considered the issue of what to do with articling in Ontario.

Once again, the matter was webcast so that all could see the debate.

Once again, viewers were shocked by what they saw.

Once again, Benchers came across as clubby and out-of-touch.

Time and again, they stood up and made verbose, rambling arguments based on nothing more than anecdotes, personal experience and emotional pleas.

Given that most are litigators, it’s astounding that so many do not understand how to make brief, pithy remarks; they’ve clearly been trained (perhaps during articling) to only stop speaking when nearly dead from oxygen-starvation.

Empirical evidence was glaringly absent in the debate – this alone should raise red flags over whether or not the debate was driven by logic and reason.

Still, far too many Benchers wanted even more study of the issue. It seems that the work of the special committee was taken very lightly by some Benchers (who didn’t do nearly the same amount of study themselves).

Even when Lay Bencher Marion Boyd rose to suggest that as a representative of the public (remembering that LSUC is supposed to act in the public interest, not in accordance with the whims of those who elect them), the public demands a decision, many Benchers blithely suggested that more time was needed.

In the end, the decision was finally made to move forward with the Majority Proposal at a vote of 36 to 20.

What the past two viewings of Convocation have shown me is that the usefulness of Convocation to manage LSUC has finally run its course. And it also suggests to me that the natural life cycle for the self-governance of the profession is also at an end.


  1. That’s a pretty anecdote-laden argument for doing away with self-governance, Mitch.

  2. Actually a pretty good example of confirmation bias. A strongly held view usually finds supporting evidence and doesn’t see what doesn’t fit the preconception.

    This was an example of a good democratic debate that came to a conclusion after strongly held differing views were aired. Not efficient. not perfect. but Winston Churchill was right – better than the alternatives.

  3. Garry,

    LOL – nice. See my comments below.


    The Law Society is not a democracy. Convocation is not a legislature. Benchers are not politicians with constituents whose whims they are to consult with and follow.

    Convocation is the board of directors of the law society and is supposed to act in the best interests of the public (not lawyers) – even where that is at odds with the wishes/nostalgic dreams of lawyers.

    More on this in my blog next week.

  4. Your comment is spot on but your analysis of what happened isn’t – two proper principles were in play – public protection and fair access to licensing – I think the right choice was made but I dont doubt for a moment that benchers were trying to figure out the right thing to do – I’ll take a messy public debate over quiet state regulation any day – no one is the smartest one in the room

  5. I have to side with Malcolm on this one. The overall debate consisted of a long period of consideration that included a detailed study by knowledgeable people followed by two days of debate over two months ending in a decision which significantly altered the way things are done. In the debate a wide variety of public interests were discussed including (1) the public interest in properly training lawyers; (2) the public interest in ensuring access to justice and (3) the public interest in ensuring that students who have invested in a legal education get access to practice. There was also a discussion of the public interest in ensuring equitable treatment of minorities and groups not traditionally part of the professions.

    It seems to me that Mitch’s main complaint is that he thought some of the speakers were windbags. Hardly a convincing indictment of a system of regulation.

  6. Personally I just love that we have Benchers like Malcolm commenting on blogs. The Treasurer is now blogging too.

    If anything these moves undermine Mitch’s premise that the law society is unable to change and grow over time. There’s hope here, at least that we can engage the Benchers directly and have these discussions outside of the time-constricted Convocations.