I wrote recently about the more than 2,000 sole practitioners in BC, and how they represent a relatively untapped potential for articling positions. I pointed out that the demands of time and money related to having an articling student in a small firm might not be as onerous as lawyers think.
One thing I didn’t mention is another reason that I’ve heard why lawyers may be reluctant to hire a student. Some say that sending a student away for ten weeks of PLTC is disruptive for a small firm.
There is a way around this. It’s not a big inconvenience if the student attends PLTC before starting articles. Going directly from graduation to PLTC means the student then has nine months of uninterrupted articling. However, those summer sessions are popular and a spot isn’t guaranteed.
Bigger firms typically have dedicated support staff who ensure they hire next year’s student before the December application deadline for a spot in the May PLTC session. A solo lawyer or small firm can do the same by planning early. If you hire next year’s articled student the fall before, it’s easy to meet the PLTC application deadlines.
Occasionally I still hear concerns from small firms outside Metro Vancouver that travelling to Vancouver for PLTC is a hardship for some students. Again, this doesn’t have to be a barrier to hiring a student. PLTC summer sessions are also offered in Kamloops and Victoria. Graduates from those cities’ law schools or students articling elsewhere in BC are more likely to be given priority registration in those sessions.
The number of spots is limited in all PLTC sessions, and demand is particularly high for summer sessions. The Law Society does try to accommodate students whose circumstances make it difficult to attend in a particular location or at a specific time. If the applicant supplies as much detail as possible with the application, the Law Society will try to help.
The Law Society also offers small grants to students who have to move to attend PLTC, through the PLTC Travel and Accommodation Grant Program. Students currently enrolled in PLTC can find details by signing in on the Law Society website’s “lawyer login” page, then following links to the student portal. Others can contact email@example.com for information.
Sole practitioners have the potential to play a big part in guiding the next generation of lawyers. The required student attendance at PLTC should not stop you from providing that guidance.