Alberta has been the subject of some change-related discussion lately, described with words like transformation, major change, new ways and old ways, and alignment nationwide. And I’m not referring to politics.
On May 22, 2015, the Law Society of Alberta sent Alberta lawyers and students-at-law an article offering “a glimpse into the new education plan” — which plan was rolled out this Monday, June 1, 2015.
The Education Plan addresses the articling process in Alberta: According to the article, any student who applied to be a student-at-law after June 1 is to use the new plan. The plan is also available to interested current articling students who coordinate the move with their principals and the Law Society.
The May 22 announcement alerts us that the new focus of the Alberta articling experiences is on entry-level competencies, shifted away from a substantive law approach. It is said to align Alberta articling students with nationwide standards for entry into the legal profession.
The new plan identifies five competency areas, with goals the student is expected to meet by the end of the articling term:
- Ethics and Professionalism
At the end of the articling term, the student will be able to act ethically and professionally in accordance with the standard set by the Law Society of Alberta Code of Conduct.
- Practice Management
At the end of the articling term, the student will be able to effectively manage time, files, finances, and professional responsibilities, as well as being able to delegate tasks and provide appropriate supervision.
- Client Relationship Management
At the end of the articling term, the student will be able to effectively manage client relationships.
- Conducting Matters
At the end of the articling term, the student will be able to conduct a range of matters handled by lawyers on a regular basis.
- Adjudication/Alternative Dispute Resolution
At the end of the articling term, the student will be able to identify core elements of a dispute and resolve disputes through use of alternative dispute resolution or adjudication.
The article notes the Law Society’s complaint history contributed to development of the new plan:
While substantive areas are important, our complaint history indicates that the biggest risk to lawyers venturing out on their own is a weakness in practice management, client relationships and ethics and professionalism. The new education plan emphasizes these competencies.
(And in this regard, I’m recalling Dan Pinnington’s recent Slaw post about the Ontario experience of complaints relating to communications breakdowns.)
Important from the perspective of both access to legal services and access to articling positions, the new plan is expected to improve availability of composite articles, secondments, and shorter-duration hires for firms. The article quotes Cori Ghitter, the Law Society’s Director of Professionalism and Access: ““Another part of it is a cultural change to say to lawyers, who never thought of themselves as being qualified to offer either a full or partial article, that you have something to teach and can take on a student.”
Further details about the new plan are available in a question and answer brief emailed June 1, along with posting of the new forms, and in a video outlining the new plan and process for principals and students.