During the course of my presidency, I’ve had occasion to speak with a number of lawyers at bar meetings around the province. At one such meeting of the North Shore Bar Association, one lawyer told me he had received 32 applications for one articling position. As we talked about the fierce competition to obtain articles, the conversation turned toward our admission program, and why it’s currently under review.
Here in BC, we have more law schools graduating more potential candidates than ever before. There are also more foreign students, accredited through the Federation’s National Accreditation process, who then enter our admission program. Last year, the Law Society called 500 new lawyers to the bar and it’s reasonable to assume we’ll continue to have as many applicants in years to come. That puts pressure on our admission program to accommodate those applicants.
In addition to a growing number of new graduates and foreign arrivals, interprovincial mobility effectively means that immediately after admission to the bar in one province, a newly-called lawyer can transfer to another province. That puts the onus on each province's admission program to provide a certain threshold of entry level competency.
As we all know, admission programs differ from province to province. Some have a traditional principal/student program with some level of seminars (these tend to be smaller jurisdictions). The prairie provinces combine articling and a mostly online program (CPLED) with a big distance-learning component. Ontario is experimenting with a three-pronged approach that permits either traditional articles, a post-law school admission program requiring four months of skills training plus another four months of on the job training, or graduation from Lakehead University’s Integrated Practice Curriculum, which integrates substantive legal knowledge with skills taught progressively in small classes and placements within the three year degree.
While we can learn from other law societies, nobody else can do the work for us. Our current admissions program in BC was designed in the 1980s, at a time when nobody could have foreseen recent changes in the profession or the very different ways that people learn today. While the program has provided excellent training for most of the profession practising today, after 30 years it’s important to reflect upon the current program and whether it currently meets the needs of practice today. That’s why one of my first priorities when I became president was to ask the Lawyer Education Advisory Committee (LEAC) to review our admissions program.
I had originally asked that the committee make its recommendations by December 31. It may take a little longer, but I’m confident that LEAC will be reporting back to the Benchers with recommendations for a program that will respond to the current needs of the profession in this province.
I’m always glad to hear from anyone with suggestions for improving our longstanding admission program, and I know you will be interested our committee’s recommendations when they are made.