The Future of Lawyer Licensing: In Defense of an LPP-Like Program for Articling

Knowledge is fundamentally what the professions offer. As we transform from a print-based society to a technology-based Internet society, the role of the profession will change.

In “The Future of the Professions”, Richard and Daniel Suskind define knowledge as having particular characteristics. Its use by one does not diminish what is left for others. It can be turned into machine-processable bits. It is difficult to prevent non-payers from using it. For now knowledge resides in the heads of professionals, in books, in systems of their institutions. However, this is at odds with how knowledge is shared in a technology-Internet based society.

Susskind argues that we are currently in the the transitionary phase between a print-based society and a technology-Internet based society. Consequently, driving professional work from being provided by human experts as a craft towards practical expertise being available in a variety of ways, on an online basis.

Once we enter a completely technology-Internet based society, “traditional professionals will no longer be the dominant interface between lay people and the expertise that they need.” Susskind states:

We may value the these human crafts, but while so many people in our world are deprived of access to affordable legal advice… preferences for craft is trumped by the need for an improvement in outcomes… the luxury of protecting a craft for its own sake without regard for the outcomes it secures is an indulgence we cannot afford. The professions must remain, for now, a means to an end and not an end in themselves.

An LPP-like program can help address the change that our profession is undergoing. As we change from a print-based society to a technology-Internet based society, improvement in outcomes must trump craft.

Further, the art of the craft is not always protected in the traditional articling program. The traditional articling program is based on the good-will of articling principals. There is very little oversight over articling principals. Making it hard to control the quality of an articling term. As law firms exert pressure for profits per partner, the value of the articling program may be overlooked by firms. As a result, some candidates receive a high-quality legal education and others do not. However, each person is deemed fit to qualify as a lawyer at the end of the program regardless of the quality of the articling experience.

The standardization of knowledge in a technology-based society requires us to rethink legal education. The traditional articling program has not changed in many decades. It is not equipped to respond to the impending changes in our profession. A standardized program with more oversight can help train lawyers for the new legal work ahead.

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)


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