Lately, we have heard arguments suggesting that there are too many law students graduating and that’s why there’s an articling crisis. Indeed, that’s the justification that the Ontario government gave just this week when it rejected funding for Ryerson’s proposed law school. But how could there be too many law students when there are not enough lawyers and when there is an access-to-justice crisis? Here’s an idea.
Maybe, it’s not the number of law students that’s out of control. Maybe the problem is the burden faced by new lawyers — skyrocketing tuition fees, creeping licensing fees and crippling debt for new licensees. To this end, I would like to suggest that the way forward is increasingly to move toward placing experiential learning within law schools with a view to getting rid of articling altogether.
By incorporating articling into law schools, we could help solve the articling crisis. We could also be responding to the access-to-justice crisis by helping to educate and train more lawyers capable of responding to chronically underserviced, remote and marginalized communities.
Interestingly, the ongoing LSO Dialogue on Licensing has suggested various options for licensing models/approaches, but none has sought to either rely upon law schools to provide experiential learning or fold articling into law schools. This notable absence epitomizes the legal academic-professional golden handshake that has orphaned articling to be left to the whim of market forces.
At a recent debate at the University of Ottawa responding to the LSO’s Dialogue on Licensing where I participated as a discussant, one of the really hot button topics of the afternoon was the suggestion that experiential learning could happen within law schools. One law school dean categorically insisted that it was not the mandate of the law school to create practice-ready lawyers.
Technically, I agree that the law schools don’t have that role currently, but I wonder whether it is the responsibility of law schools — in collaboration with the law society and the private bar — to dedicate themselves to the task. Here, I have three thoughts for you to consider.
Firstly, law schools are already set up for this. Some law schools […]