The Law Society of Upper Canada has passed a motion to extend Ryerson’s Law Practice Program for another two years. Last week, it was decided that the LPP will continue operation to allow for more innovative training for future lawyers, according to the program’s executive director, Chris Bentley.
“We’re delighted that we will have a couple of more years to develop this program and position it where it should be positioned —as a great destination for people who want to develop excellent skills,” said Bentley.
The LPP was created in 2012 as an alternative to articling, a mandatory placement for Canadian lawyers. Ryerson hosts the English version of the program while the University of Ottawa offers it in French. Since its approval in 2013, the LPP has faced a lot of skepticism from the law community. The Law Society of Upper Canada initially wanted to end the program before reversing its position on Oct. 27.
Lawyer Joseph Groia, who was one of the benchers that voted against the LPP extension, said that he was “disappointed” with the Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision.
“The law society should not be spending its money and the money of other lawyers to bring into the profession more candidates who are going to have the worst (job) prospects of everyone,” said Groia.
According to Groia, LPP graduates are seen by the legal profession as second tier compared to articling students. He said that this, combined with an oversupply of lawyers and not enough jobs, hurts the profession and law students.
“I don’t think it’s a question of whether LPP is a good program or a bad program,” said Groia. “The focus of my concern is the LPP people need to tell us what they’re going to do and make useful suggestions about what we can do to change the perception that their candidates are second tier.”
According to lawyer and bencher Michael Lerner, the Law Society of Upper Canada also needs to figure out the best way to license competent lawyers whether it’s through the LPP, articling process or more rigorous exams.
He voted against the LPP back in 2012 but has supported the motion to extend it. He said it is premature to scrap the program right now.
“I don’t think the law society has any obligation to guarantee students or applicants the job but I do think that we are required to provide everybody with an opportunity,” said Lerner, “so long as they have an opportunity than they can either rise or fall on their own merit.”