Invitation to a forum on the new PLTC entrance examination

August 20, 1999

Attention: Lawyers, law students, law faculty and PLTC faculty and staff
From: The Credentials Committee
Date: Friday, September 17, 1999 (9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.)
Where: The Law Society office, 845 Cambie Street, Vancouver

Agenda: The following topics will be discussed:

  • content of the exam
  • form of the exam
  • process and timeline for developing, revising and introducing the exam
  • materials to support the exam
  • timing of the exam
  • policy on failures/deferrals/accommodations
  • cost of the exam
  • administration of the exam
If you plan to attend, please RSVP to:

Melanie Gushue
The Law Society of British Columbia
845 Cambie Street
Vancouver, B.C. V6B 4Z9
Telephone: (604) 605-5332; toll-free within B.C. 1-800-903-5300
Telefax: (604) 646-5902

A light lunch will be served.

Background information

Late last year the Law Society agreed to introduce an entrance examination for the Professional Legal Training Course (PLTC) in 2001. The exam will be written by students after they have completed law school and before they attend PLTC.

Why a new examination?

The Law Society provides a general practice licence to B.C. lawyers and, as a professional regulatory body, has a responsibility to protect the public by ensuring that lawyers have certain minimum qualifications to offer a broad range of services. Because of this, and because so many areas of law interrelate, lawyers need a substantial base of legal knowledge on entry into the profession, even though many will at some point choose to limit their practice.

The Credentials Committee proposed a PLTC entrance examination as a way of ensuring that students possess the necessary substantive and procedural knowledge for practice, and to do so earlier in the process than is now the case. Currently, PLTC students write a qualification examination designed to test their legal knowledge at the end of PLTC, and students focus considerable effort on preparing for that exam during PLTC. The proposal to introduce an entrance exam, and to phase out the qualification exam, should allow PLTC faculty and students to better focus on skills training, which is the main reason for PLTC.

A PLTC entrance exam is also intended to:

  • shift some of the responsibility for learning from the providers of PLTC to the students;

  • allow PLTC to plan and teach on the basis that all students have a common body of knowledge;

  • clarify the Law Society’s expectations of law students; and

  • preserve the autonomy of law schools.

By the Law Society clarifying its expectations, law students should be better able to structure their law school education in a way that best prepares them for entry into the program and the practice of law. The Credentials Committee and staff expect that the qualification exam would be phased out and replaced with skills and transactions assessments.

What will the examination test?

The entrance examination will test the ability of students to identify basic legal issues and apply the relevant law, engage in a reasoned analysis of the issues, and arrive at a logical and ethical solution. Details will be developed over the coming months.

The standard required for admission to the Law Society will be no higher, but it will be clearer. Students will gain the benefit of taking the examination before making an investment in PLTC and, in most cases, articles.

Although the Society will continue consultations in deciding the subject areas to be examined, the following are anticipated: commercial law, company law, criminal procedure, family law, real estate law, wills and estates law, civil litigation, administrative law, ethics/professional responsibility (integrated aspects), and tax law (integrated aspects).

This list of courses was developed after consideration of the following:

  • the areas in which newly called lawyers practise during their first five years;

  • the skills and knowledge that lawyers are expected to need in the future;

  • results of a 1994 Law Society survey of newly called lawyers;

  • the subject areas that are currently tested in the qualification examinations;

  • the PLTC practice materials, which are now available to support the examination;

  • courses currently available to LL.B. students during law school;

  • initial input from law students, law faculty and PLTC faculty; and

  • those courses that other Canadian law societies now require in law school.

The Credentials Committee will consider whether the Society should make specific recommendations to law students about what law school courses would best prepare them for the entrance exam.

How will the examination be developed?

The content and form of the entrance examination will be developed by the Law Society in consultation with lawyers, professional legal trainers, students, academics and assessment experts. The Credentials Committee hopes that the examination will provide a model for other provinces.

When will the examination be introduced?

After initial consultations with law faculties across Canada, the Credentials Committee and staff have concluded that the faculties and students will need some lead time to adjust their curriculum and course selection. The Committee anticipates introducing the PLTC entrance exam in two years, with the first sitting in 2001.

What about supporting materials?

Before the new examination is introduced, the Law Society will prepare study materials or outlines, with the assistance of lawyers and academics. It is anticipated that the materials will cover all examinable material in a self-study format. The volumes of PLTC practice materials that students currently use to prepare for the qualification exam will serve as the starting point for developing the new materials.

What about students who do not pass?

The Credentials Committee will consider what options, such as a remedial track, will be developed for students who do not pass one or more components of the entrance examination.

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If you would like to attend the information forum, please RSVP to Melanie Gushue at the Law Society office (contact information on page 1).