This week, Convocation at the Law Society of Ontario voted to approve the Integrated Practice Curriculum (IRC) for Ryerson’s new law school. This will make Ryerson the second school in Ontario, following Lakehead University in 2014, to adopt this model.
Approval of the proposed curriculum, which is available online, is based on the 2014 list found in the Integrated Law Practice Program for Law Schools document, which reviews exposure to specific skills and tasks, and demonstration and assessments. What this approval means is that graduates of the new law school, which are expected in 2023, will not have to complete articling in order to obtain licensing.
The relevance of this approval is significant, as the most common refrain and opposition to this school from the profession has been concerns over accentuating further the articling crisis. This approval means that graduates from Ryerson can choose to go directly into sole practice, and will be trained for that specific purpose, in addition to being encouraged to be entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technology developers. Courses in emotional and cultural awareness, change management, autonomy, professional capacity, and social innovation, are also included, the latter being a reference to overcoming barriers to justice to serve unmet legal needs.
The Ryerson curriculum will include 26 mandatory courses, well beyond the mandatory first-year alone that other schools often employ, as well as additional supplementary courses that focus on building skill sets. An emphasis on practice-readiness has been built into the very conception of the Ryerson pedagogical model, without avoiding legal theory and public policy. The difference is that the concept is solution oriented, looking at how legal skills and technology can address contemporary challenges.
As the IPC list notes, other law schools face considerable challenges with integrating experiential competencies within an existing law school curriculum. Designing this innovative curriculum, which includes a strong emphasis on technology and business management, has only been possible through construction from the ground up.
Further entry-level practice competencies are mapped to the National Admission Standards Competency Profile of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, as well as competencies identified through the law society’s current licensing process. It’s for this reason that the motion this week was framed as advancing the Options for Lawyer Licensing Report last year, which looked at several different models.
Convocation ultimately went with the option that would promote the Current Model with Enhancements, focusing on improving articling and the Law Practice Program (LPP). Although the Ryerson law school will certainly utilize its experience in delivering the LPP to deliver an IPC, these graduates would not require either options within the current model.
Of course like with all new lawyers, these graduates will still require further training, in the form of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), mentorship, and additional skills development on actual files. Much of that will fall on the profession, in providing these additional resources and supports. But it does mean we are now formally entering a new chapter in legal education in Ontario.