Law Society program update

The Law Society operates more than 20 programs, grouped into six operational areas: Credentials and Education, Insurance, Policy and Legal Services, Professional Regulation, Executive Support and Corporate Services.

Throughout the year, department heads provide reports to the Benchers outlining program goals and key performance measures. In November, the Benchers heard from the Admission program. Below is a summary of the report.

Admission program

Lynn Burns“The Professional Legal Training Course’s key asset is its faculty,” the Law Society’s Director of Education and Practice, Alan Treleaven told the Benchers at their November meeting.

“One of the huge strengths of the PLTC program is that we have full-time teachers — some Law Society staff, some contractors — in the classroom and we are able to offer a strong program and give students personal support.”

The goal of the Admission Program, which consists of articling and PLTC, is that successful applicants for call and admission demonstrate entry level competence.

“We prepare students to recognize and deal with ethical and practice management issues and we ensure they understand current practice and procedure,” explained Lynn Burns, Deputy Director of PLTC. “Students are expected to learn the law in law school, so we focus on improving their skills.”

Students are assessed with four skills assessments and two practice and procedure examinations — one on solicitor’s topics and the other on barrister’s topics.

The current initial pass rate on the examinations and assessments is between 80-90 per cent. Students who fail one or two exams or skills assessments are permitted to rewrite, while those who fail three or more must get the permission of the Credentials Committee. The ultimate pass rate is approximately 99 per cent.

“Entry standards for Canadian law schools are very high and foreign-trained lawyers must write exams set by the National Committee on Accreditation before articling, so you would expect that most, if not all, students would be successful in the course,” Burns said.

She also said that while there is no clear statistical correlation between PLTC failure and course selection in law school, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that students should opt for a wide range of mainstream courses.

“Some students, in spite of a specialized selection of courses at law school, do very well in the course if they are academically strong. However, when we see failed students it is not unusual to look at their transcripts and see that they took a very narrow range of specialized courses. And, if they are also not strong students, they do struggle.”

The 10-week course, which began as a pilot program in 1983 and was fully operational in 1984, is held on the Law Society premises in Vancouver three times a year starting in February, May and September. There are five or six classes in each session with 18-22 students. Another session is held at the University of Victoria each May with two classes of 20-24 students each.

Burns explained that the May sessions are the most popular. Local graduates who are moving to another community to article want to finish PLTC before relocating. Large firms with summer students prefer their articled students to return to the firm after PLTC in the fall, when the summer students are gone and the firm is busy.

The booming BC economy and demand for lawyers is putting pressure on the PLTC program. Four years ago, just over 300 students were enrolled while 2007 saw 366 students. Program staff are receiving input and exploring options to ensure all students find a place at PLTC during their articling year, with their first or second choice of session.