On May 24, 2018, the Law Society of Ontario released a consultation paper to launch the second phase of its comprehensive analysis of the lawyer licensing process. Developed by the Professional Development and Competence Committee, the document outlines possible options for a long-term appropriate and sustainable licensing system for lawyer licensing candidates in Ontario.
The consultation paper follows last year’s Dialogue on Licensing, which looked at the realities, challenges and opportunities of lawyer licensing in the province. Throughout the Dialogue, the Law Society heard a wide range of views from lawyers, licensing candidates, law students, academics and legal organizations, highlighting concerns associated with the current system, such as student debt, licensing fees, inadequate placement remuneration during transitional training, and the need for practical skills and standardized training during the licensing process, to name a few.
This input and insight was invaluable to the committee in its development of four potential options, about which we are now seeking input. Each option maintains the requirement to pass both the Barrister and Solicitor Licensing Examinations. Two of the options involve retaining the two current transitional training pathways, with enhancements, while two options involve making significant changes. Three of the options would involve a new, mandatory Skills Examination.
This second consultation phase will run until October 26, 2018. Written comments are welcome and can be submitted via the Dialogue on Licensing website at: www.lsodialogue.ca. In addition, focus groups will be arranged with a broad range of organizations and individuals, including law students, to ensure that they have the opportunity to participate and provide input. Further details will be posted as they become available.
The four options are as follows:
Option 1: Current Model
Under this option, the current two transitional training pathways — the articling program and the Law Practice Program (LPP) /Programme de pratique du droit (PPD) — would be retained, taking into account the fact that the current model is continuously adjusted to accommodate new developments.
Option 2: Current Model with Enhancements
This option retains the current two transitional training pathways noted above — but with enhancements. These include a requirement that candidates be paid at the statutory minimum wage, and greater oversight of articling and work placements. Random audits would also be conducted to confirm that placements are meeting transitional training goals and to ensure a more consistent articling experience for all candidates.
Licensing candidates would also be required to successfully complete the Barrister and Solicitor Examinations prior to the transitional training phase, so that only those who have attained the required competencies in law school would enter the transitional training phase.
At the conclusion of their articling or work placement, to become licensed, all candidates would be required to complete a new Skills Examination.
Option 3: Examination-Based Licensing
Under this proposal, the transitional training requirement would be eliminated. Candidates would be licensed after they successfully complete the Barrister and Solicitor Licensing Examinations and the new Skills Examination.
Based on available data regarding regulatory risk, candidates who choose not to practise law would be licensed after the examinations and would continue to be in a non-practicing membership category. They would not be required to complete transitional training as a pre-requisite to licensure. As well, licensees practising in a workplaces of six or more lawyers would not be subject to any additional requirements, because they would have greater access to supervised training and mentoring within their firms.
Licensees practising as sole practitioners, or in firms with five or fewer lawyers, would be required to complete a new Practice Essentials Course designed specifically for sole practitioners and members of small firms. This course would ensure that lawyers entering sole practices or small firms have been exposed to, and are required to demonstrate the same competencies necessary for the practice of law, including specific course content relating to the business of law.
The Practice Essentials Course would also be a requirement for all licensees who move from a workplace of six or more lawyers to a sole or small practice at any point in their careers.
Option 4: LPP for all Candidates
This option would ensure a single pathway to licensing. All licensing candidates would be required to complete the training course component of the LPP/PPD, without the work placement component, on the basis that the LPP/PPD 17-week training course is specifically designed to train candidates in the experiential training competencies and support their ability to fulfill the Law Society’s transitional training goals.
Candidates would also be required to successfully complete the Barrister and Solicitor Examinations before their transitional training. To ensure practice readiness, they would also be required to take the new Skills Examination before becoming licensed.
When considering and providing feedback on these four options, the committee asks respondents to evaluate each option in relation to the following principles:
- Transitional training: the licensing process should ensure that each candidate has achieved the five goals of transitional training;
- Competence: candidates should be provided with an opportunity to meet required standards of professional competence;
- Fairness: licensing processes should be fair, objective, transparent, and accountable;
- Consistency: there should be some degree of uniformity in the transitional training experience for each candidate; and
- Cost: in evaluating each option, the estimated financial impact of each option should be taken into consideration.
I strongly encourage members of the professions, stakeholders, law students and other interested individuals to review this consultation paper and provide their input by October 26, 2018 via www.lsodialogue.ca. Written submissions, in Word or PDF format, will be accepted through an online form, found on the site.
The submissions received will inform the Committee’s recommendations to Convocation regarding the lawyer licensing process in early 2019.
Peter Wardle, Bencher and Chair of the Professional Development and Competence Committee