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Ryerson LPP boosts career opportunities for alumni

Alumni from the third year of Ryerson University’s Law Practice Program (LPP) enjoy a law and law-related employment rate of 90 per cent one year after completing the program, says André Bacchus, assistant director of the LPP’s work placement program.

Now winding up its fifth year as a pilot project and embarking on a sixth as a confirmed pathway to bar admission in Ontario, the LPP has gone from strength to strength, Bacchus tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The one-year-out legal employment rate rose from 75 per cent for the first-year cohort to 84 per cent in the second year and 90 per cent in the third year, and while the numbers are still being compiled, year four is tracking to be even better, he says.

Bacchus says a large part of the program’s success is due to its ability to equip candidates with the skills that will be necessary for the future. For example, at least 30 per cent of alumni have landed in-house counsel work placements, an area of practice that has previously been difficult to break into for students and new lawyers.

In-house legal teams typically don’t have the resources to train new lawyers, and many are afraid they might offer a student a very limited experience, Bacchus says, but the LPP has partnered with them to create "in-house counsel intensives" to support the employer and candidate.

“Our training component exposes our candidates to seven areas of law (now eight with the recent introduction of an Indigenous law file), plus intensive trial advocacy, the business of law, the in-house intensive, and a negotiation module as well, so they’re getting someone who can actually add value as soon as they join their team. That has been phenomenal for us, we’re very proud of it,” Bacchus says.

LPP candidates have been hired into full-time in-house counsel roles at BMO, Infrastructure Ontario, Aecon Group and others, he says.

The LPP has now trained more than 1,100 bar-admission candidates, and the annual cohorts have remained remarkably steady at between 220 to 230, Bacchus says. Many are now out in the work world and finding new opportunity there, he adds.

“When we look at the compliance roles — contract specialist, anti-money laundering, risk, privacy and operations — these are all relatively new roles for new lawyers to be getting into,” Bacchus says.

Increased regulation is also opening up new opportunities for legal professionals, he says.

Because candidates coming through the LPP receive such well-rounded training, they are able to land these sorts of opportunities, Bacchus says.

For the past five years, the composition of the candidate pool has also remained consistent, he says, noting it’s been a 50-50 split of graduates from Canadian law schools and grads who studied law abroad — U.S., the U.K. or Australia to name a few — and are now returning home to Ontario or emigrating to Canada.

”It gives us a great diversity of candidates to work with, and we can see the results of that as they move forward. They bring different skill sets to the table, as well as work experience in other professions. The diversity lends itself to creating a really accurate picture of the work world and the environment they will be moving into,” Bacchus says.

Each year, the LPP leadership team reviews the program to find improvements, he says.

“Since the start, we have added a trial-advocacy intensive, a real-time negotiation module and, this last year, an Indigenous file to ensure candidates are discussing and dealing with reconciliation issues,” Bacchus says.

Year six starts in August and the review process is already underway, he says.

“We’re looking at a couple of things, they’re still in negotiation, but they’ll add to the skill sets we want candidates to have in the marketplace when it comes to the business of law and ensuring they are appreciating the myriad of opportunities we have as professionals to be able to serve society and legal consumers,” Bacchus says.

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