How can we improve Articling and PLTC?
Being a Bencher is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. It requires way more unbillable (and sometimes thankless) time than you could ever, in your wildest dreams, imagine. But it’s rewarding, and somebody has to do it. Much of the heavy lifting in this job is done in the Hearing Panels we’re all involved in, and in the Committee work. In my case, as Chair of Lawyer Education Advisory Committee, we’re tasked, as part of our strategic plan, with reviewing the Admissions Program, which is comprised of the Professional Legal Training Course (PLTC) and articling. As part of that exercise, we’re undertaking a poll of second and third year calls and asking them specific questions with respect to their experience in PLTC.
What I’d like to do here is to open up a dialogue with everyone in the profession who has an opinion on articling and PLTC.
Although there are articling programs throughout Canada, skills training and “Bar admission” is done differently in each jurisdiction. For example, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a Bar admission program called the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education Program (CPLED), which is mostly completed online during the students’ articles.
On the other hand, Ontario has three streams: absolutely no skills training (or any Bar admission program whatsoever) for those with traditional articles (but with rigorous exams that apparently scare the willies out of most people); a partially online skills training program and subsequent co-op placement regime called Law Practice Program (LPP) for those who weren’t able to secure traditional articles; and Lakehead’s integrated articling-during-law-school approach.
BC’s PLTC is a bit unique because it’s a live, in-person, 10-week program conducted from the Law Society’s building in Vancouver three times a year, and in Victoria and Kamloops once a year for students in the Victoria area or the interior, respectively. PLTC is 31 years old, although the curriculum and teaching methodology is regularly updated.
So here’s what I want to know from anyone who reads my columns.
Do you think there is still a role for articling in British Columbia? Should we keep it or scrap it? Is there anything we could do to reform it to make it better?
What did you think of PLTC, even if you took it decades ago? Was it a valuable transition to practice? What did you learn that was the most useful and why? Was there anything that ought to have been taught at PLTC that wasn’t? Is there anything that you would change and why?
Knowing that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have an online skills training program that is conducted during articles, would you prefer to replace PLTC with an online program like CPLED? If so, why would you replace a live skills training program with an online one?
Appreciating that an online program would likely be held concurrently with articles, would your students have enough time, while articling at your firm, to commit to the equivalent of a 10-week program online? And will you tell your students that the online PLTC is a priority during articles? Without trying to bias my little survey here, how will students be able to complete a new online program if they’re always expected to be working?
For those small firms that don’t like losing their students halfway through the year to PLTC, is there another way that we could make your lives easier within the traditional PLTC model?
Should PLTC be integrated within the curriculum of the law schools?
Should articling be reduced for those who have completed clinical programs like UVic’s Law Centre?
And finally, how prevalent is unpaid articles?
Anyway, these are the sorts of things I’d like to know. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts. Maybe… just maybe… we have the best admission program in Canada and nothing needs to be changed at all.
The views expressed herein are strictly those of Tony Wilson and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members.