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Law Practice Program not fully understood by profession, benchers

More education and feedback is needed around the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Law Practice Program (LPP) before convocation votes to get rid of the pilot program, says Toronto business lawyer Inga Andriessen.

As the Globe and Mail reports, controversy over the LPP has some calling for an end to the program and it will be put to a vote at the law society’s November convocation.

The LPP began in 2014 as a response to the increasing number of new law school graduates who were not able to find articling positions. Currently, Ryerson University and the University of Ottawa offer the program.

“Students in the LPP spend four months in a ‘virtual’ law office where they take on a variety of cases, and then participate in a four-month work placement,” the Globe reports.

Peter Wardle, chair of the Professional Development and Competence Committee, told the Globe while the quality of the program is not in question, “there is a perception among candidates and some articling principals that the LPP is viewed as second-tier transitional experiential training with stigma attached to those who complete it.”

Andriessen, principal of Andriessen & Associates and a mentor lawyer who has been involved with the LPP since its inception, says she believe the LPP is not fully understood by members of the profession.

“I believe it’s producing better lawyers because the intensive program is more consistently evaluated,” she tells

As a mentor, Andriessen has five candidates she meets with once a week to go through specific professionalism and competency topics, such as client communication and the Rules of Professional Conduct.

“Candidates have a bunch of material they have to read, there are quizzes and we also talk through the issues. We’re discussing these topics within the context of real-life situations," she says. "Every week we have a firm meeting and I also meet biweekly with each candidate one-on-one to discuss their work and how their placement search is going as well as any concerns they may have.”

She notes mentors aren’t the only people reviewing the work of candidates.

“Certain assignments are marked by other lawyers who are brought in so candidates have a different perspective on it. They have three in-person weeks where they are doing a lot of verbal assignments and face-to-face client meetings, and those are assessed by different lawyers.”

Halfway through the program, candidates switch mentors, Andriessen adds.

“If you have a candidate who you think isn’t doing well, as a mentor you can be brutally honest and say this person is not ready to be called to the bar,” she says. “At the end of the day, the LPP will have all of this input and be able to determine whether that candidate is ready to be a lawyer or not.”

She says while some articling students have fabulous experiences at their placement firms, she has encountered too many articling principals who are using their students inappropriately — who aren’t supervising or teaching professionalism — and students who are learning little more than photocopying and writing memos.

“Frankly, I think the LLP is a much more consistent program,” Andriessen says. “Before the subcommittee released its report, myself and others involved with the LPP reached out to benchers. I basically described what I do as a mentor and I received several emails back from benchers who had no idea how active and involved the role is.

“How is convocation going to make a decision on a program they don’t understand?” she adds.

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