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Law students concerned as firm posts articling job covering a transit pass

|Written By Tali Folkins

With one law firm offering an unpaid articling job that covers the student’s transit pass, Ontario law students are growing increasingly concerned about an apparent trend toward unpaid positions, the head of a student group says.

‘I just really struggle to understand how a firm that is presumably billing work for an articling student’s time is not able to offer them anything other than a Metropass,’ says Renatta Austin.

“Anecdotally, we have seen the number of unpaid articling positions on the rise,” says Ryan Robski, president of the Law Students’ Society of Ontario.

Statistics are hard to come by, he notes, because the Law Society of Upper Canada doesn’t require firms to report whether or not they’re offering paid articling positions. Because the career development offices at law schools refuse to post unpaid positions, the problem may also be more widespread than many students realize, he adds.

The Durham Community Legal Clinic attracted some controversy in late 2014 after advertising for an unpaid articling position. More recently, an ad for an articling position in Toronto posted on the Law Job Exchange Group web site last week noted the unpaid job would cover the cost of the student’s transit pass.

Many students suspect employers are simply trying to take advantage of their desperation to get their licences, says Robski.

“Articling is the final hurdle. Employers know that graduates are anxious to get licensed and that when faced with the choice of unpaid articles and the uncertainty of the [Law Practice Program], some students may be forced to work for free.”

Government and private loans enter repayment soon after students graduate, he says. In addition, licensing candidates pay fees to the law society that have nearly doubled in the last few years.

Renatta Austin, a sole practitioner who ran in the law society recent bencher elections partly on a platform to place student issues higher on the agenda, says Ontario and Canada generally have a “huge problem” with respect to unpaid student work. When running for bencher and talking to students, she says, she got the impression that expecting students to article for free was becoming more and more common.

“When I was going out and talking to people, this was one of the issues that was raised quite a lot,” she says.

Austin blames the problem on current laws and regulations.

“If you have rules that permit this type of predatory behaviour, you’re going to get it,” she says. The province needs to reform the Employment Standards Act to include articling students and the law society needs to create rules specifying that firms must compensate articling students if they’re profiting from them, according to Austin.

Austin says she found the recent ad “particularly upsetting” because of its “bold and upfront” statement about not paying the student. Even assuming a 40-hour work week, she says, reimbursing the cost of a transit pass in Toronto every month would work out to less than 90 cents per hour.

“I just really struggle to understand how a firm that is presumably billing work for an articling student’s time is not able to offer them anything other than a Metropass,” she says.

“It might be legal, but, in my opinion, it’s unethical.”

But Shelley Levine, founding partner at the firm offering the unpaid position, Levine Associates, says economics don’t allow the firm to pay articling students. The firm deals mostly with refugee work with many of its services paid through legal aid, he says.

“When you run that kind of a practice, you simply don’t have the luxury of the economics working for you that would allow you to hire students,” he says.

“We simply continue not to have the financial means to hire students.”

The firm first began to take on articling students on an unpaid basis four or five years ago, he says, in response to requests from the students themselves.

“We were getting unsolicited applications from students who had been unable to find paid positions, and often they were coming to us after they had been unable to find articles for a few months after they should have begun,” he says.

“Initially, I was a little bit reluctant to get involved but I was certainly persuaded by a few of the people that I spoke with . . . that it would be mutually beneficial, that they were in a hard spot,” he adds.

About two years ago, the firm decided to advertise unpaid positions and has done so about three or four times, he notes.

Levine says he also has the impression unpaid articling positions are becoming increasingly common in Ontario. Either law schools are creating too many graduates or firms are less willing to take on articling students, leading to a situation where there are more people on the market than it can support, he says. Whatever the cause, the scarcity of paid positions in Ontario is a problem that the profession needs to address, he suggests.

Levine strongly suspects his own firm differs from many others in that it clearly states up front in its ad that it’s offering an unpaid position. In many situations, he says, students probably find out only at the interview stage that they’d be working for free.

Since compensation for articling is a matter between the firm and the candidate, the law society doesn’t keep statistics on paid or unpaid positions, says LSUC spokeswoman Denise McCourtie. But according to McCourtie, “the vast majority of articling placements are paid and the law society strongly encourages firms to pay candidates.

“The law society’s primary objective is to establish high-quality positions that provide appropriate training for candidates.”

 The law society does, however, track the percentage of paid placements in the Law Practice Program, a number that’s about 70 per cent, says McCourtie.

For more, see "Clinic's unpaid articling job creates a stir."

  • Free labour over here!

    Gered Ed
    I have a friend who articled for free at Levine Associates. They billed her out for all her work yet she didn't get a dime. Considering she was billed out she could have gotten at least min wage. The law society needs to take care of this problem and fast.
  • David Dickinson
    I'm amazed that it is even possible for "articling students" to not be paid. I guess if they're not taking work away from junior lawyers and/or legal assistants, it would be okay. That's what you go to law school for, right, to pick up your supervisor's dry cleaning and drive his or her kids to hockey practice. This wouldn't be legal in BC. No way. How can articling students enter into a contract with a law firm that does this when there's no consideration? And when the client gets the bill, is the articling student's billable hour rate $0???
  • Bradley Wright
    Katie, Further, a B is now a slightly below average mark. In Ontario, about 38% of the undergrad marks handed out are As (which is nonsense). Toss in the B plusses and a B cannot be better than average or a bit below. Law schools should not be the repository of barely average undergrads, nor should they be fatuously claiming that they admit only brilliant students. 38% of the undergraduate class are not brilliant. About a third of the law school graduates being tsunamied at the profession have no business being there, and would not be but for government negligence and law school rapacity. Pardon me for placing the blame squarely where it belongs.
  • Bradley Wright
    Katie, I have not noticed too many complaints about foreign educated Ontario call applicants in the blog, but there is a legitimate concern. You say that foreign applicants go through the same articling and bar ad exam process. That leaves out that the bar exams are seen as an inappropriate point at which to cut students off at the knees. But that means that even students who obtained their law degrees at low standard law schools can still get called in Ontario. E.g., U of Leicester in England trolls extensively in Canada and elsewhere for students and they require only a B average and no LSAT. In other words, they take very average undergrads with no demonstrated legal aptitude. Then, they, like law schools everywhere, do not fail anyone. Thus, students pour into Ontario will relatively substandard academic backgrounds but with high levels of entitlement. Thanks mostly to the law schools and the government, the system is a complete mess. How would you fix it?
  • Miss

    Joan E
    @Bradley Wright, who are you and what are your qualifications? Have you ever travelled outside the shores of Canada to school? Why do you have all these (false) presumptions about "everything? Where did you get your training from? Is that what you were taught? To presume (and quite erroneously I must say)? Your comments are just exacerbating, to say the least.
  • Hamoody Hassan
    Just hire an articling student. Do yourself the same favour your principal did for themselves when they hired you as a student. The money comes and the money goes - leave a lasting legacy of a well founded professional relationship. This goes back hundreds of years in English Common Law.
  • Jerry H.
    The law society is only interested in maintaining their bureaucracy, same for the schools, so they pump out as many lawyers as possible. We hence have a flood of Canadian-born NCA and foreign trained students who have purchased a degree abroad because they can't get into a Canadian Law School. The lsuc should only be admitting Canadian law school grads. Way to many lawyers and the professionalism and reputation is going down, and it will continue to do so in the long run.
  • katie M
    Why are Canadian graduates so threatened by foreign graduates or NCA students. If our degrees are so worthless and we are not good enough to practice law in Canada, why do we get hired over the 'perfect canadian graduate'? We go through the same licensing process, same BAR exams and the same interview process for Articling. Stop blaming the NCAs and focus on improving your insecurities.
  • Bradley Wright
    John, the profession is sensibly absorbing about 1,300+ students a year, giving them excellent articles and practical training and hiring almost all of them into firms after their calls. What you are asking the profession to do is guarantee employment for several hundred more students who are demonstrably not needed in the profession, whose salaries cannot be justified on any rational business analysis, and who are being flung at us by institutions upstream thanks to their own self-serving agendas or negligence.

    What do you do for a living John? Whatever it is, to use your argument, I suggest that you be compelled to hire employees you do not need, cannot afford and cannot justify simply because someone you have no legislative control over has decided to foist upon you and your profession hundreds of unnecessary and often under-qualified (regardless of the piece of paper) employees, expenses and liabilities. Does that make any sense?
  • Bob Smith
    "If there is no room for lawyers, then stop admissions. And it may not be the LSUC's fault but the LSUC should GOVERN and limit the amount of people that each law school can admit by way of statute."

    Apart from the fact that the LSUC clearly lacks the authority to regulate law schools (and the possibility that graduates of Ontario law schools may be interested in working in other jurisdictions, why is it the responsibility of the LSUC to prevent students from making bad decisions? How does that relate to the protection fo the public or the practice of law in Ontario? Students have to protect themselves by doing their due diligence before dropping $100K on a law school degree.
  • John Smith
    The fact as it right now is that the LSUC does not have the authority but how about giving them the actual power to regulate the profession.

    I have to say, it's not surprising to see many narrow responses. If any of you are lawyers, I suppose now that you're licensed you have forgotten the pathway you took. What if people were as callous to you as you're being to the future lawyers? This is about the profession not individuals and if I'm not mistaken, as licensees, we all have a duty to not let the profession fall into disrepute - and let me tell you that hanging future lawyers out to dry because students affect your bottom line IS bringing the profession into disrepute.
  • Jason Cherniak
    limiting the number of law students in Ontario or even Canada won't make much of a difference. My experience as a principal is that the vast majority of students without jobs have degrees from over seas. Maybe it's the equivalency tests that aren't good enough. Another option is to require a BA in addition to a law degree for anybody who wants to take the equivalency tests (although I think that would only slow down a small number of the overseas students). In doing this, LSUC would have to be careful to avoid punishing immigrants who might not have had a fair chance to be admitted to a Canadian law school in the first place. The intention, I would hope, would be to tell prospective lawyers from Ontario that if they can't get into a Canadian law school, they will have a very tough time being licensed. Similarly, It would also warn students who can get into Ontario schools that they should not believe the advertising of overseas schools that claim to be equal.
  • Bradley Wright
    John, you say let's not mince words this is all about money. It is, namely, a waste of scarce government education money, and the desire of the universities with law schools to get as much money as they can, to hell with what happens downstream.

    It is hardly fair to cut off admissions at the point of the call. Far better to do it in first year, but that is the point at which the law schools, with the neglect of the government, have self-servingly abandoned their responsibilities.

    The Law Society could announce that, starting in 2019, only 1,200 (or some number that is actuarially supportable) law school graduates will be called to the private practice of law and that the other graduates will have to find other uses for their law degrees. Better yet would be for the LS to work with the government on a rational legal education policy that would then be imposed on the law schools in the public interest. I favour the latter path.
  • John Smith
    (I never advocated for cutting off admissions at the time of call) and I agree cut it off at the time of admission to Law School - Each law school is allocated a certain amount of spots based on a previously established commitment from law firms to take on students. However every law firm MUST commit to a minimum amount of students as it's evident that some firms won't even take on a student that is also neither fair nor in the interest of the profession.

    My only point is that the LSUC has a duty to ensure that if there are no articling spots - then limit the number of admission. The uni's won't do it as they only care about tuition and attendance....again teh duty to regulate the profession at ALL levels not just practicing lawyers.
  • Bradley Wright
    John, Again, how is it the responsibility of the Law Society to provide licenses to everyone who, ahem, "qualifies"? 38% of all undergraduate marks are now As. It is not the Law Society's fault that the law schools, with the neglect of the government, are spewing out lawyers like no tomorrow. Would you say it was still the responsibility of the Law School to provide licenses to everyone if the law schools, for reasons entirely their own, all decided to double in size? Should all law schools do what Ottawa U did which was to double in size due to a computer glitch?

    As for your first option, would you like it if I compelled you to spend money that you had no business reason to spend? If so, let me compel you to send me $10,000 by Friday, no strings attached. I am entitled to your money as of right. Yes?
  • John Smith
    Who do you pay licensing fees to? Who governs the profession? I pay my fees to the if they are going to create an implausible licensing scheme then they are the ones who need to ensure that if they are actually regulating the profession. If not then stop charging me a fortune to practice. If there is no room for lawyers, then stop admissions. And it may not be the LSUC's fault but the LSUC should GOVERN and limit the amount of people that each law school can admit by way of statute. Why continue to drive membership when people are paying a fortune and have no hope of getting a license due to a lack of firms willing to take on students. If articling is mandated by the LSUC as a condition of getting a license then they have to ensure that there is a feasible and plausible pathway to attain said licence. As members of the LSUC we have a duty to the profession not just the bottom line.
  • John Smith
    Iin my opinion, the obligation is on the profession to ensure that those who qualify, are able to secure a license. One option is to compel law firms to allocate a set number of resources to articling students. No debate and with a salary commensurate. If there are insufficient articling positions available, then it is up to the LSUC to restrict the level of admissions to Law Schools. Let's not mince words this is all about money. Licensing fees, tuition and insurance. So if there are too many lawyers, then let's stop producing lawyers; regardless of what people want to do - if there is NO room in the marketplace for people to secure a license, then simply cut off admission, but this must come from the LSUC as the Universities are only concerned with Tuition and attendance, not the preservation of the profession.
  • Bradley Wright
    Bob, no injustice to would-be students intended (see below), but if students who are better qualified for law school self-select not to apply, that does leave the door open to less qualified applicants.

    The reason there is no injustice intended is that I believe that law school is not the be-all and end-all of post-secondary education. We all have different skills and abilities, some of which bode well for someone interested in law, some of which do not. Many people who do not qualify for law school go on to great careers in other fields for which they are better suited and for which many law students would be poorly suited.

    Further, the situation is different in the US because the costs of obtaining a law degree there are typically much higher than in Canada. In other words, it is more likely that US law schools would shrink in size from a dearth of applicants than Canadian ones would, at least for a good while.
  • Bob Smith
    If people want to pursue a career without jobs, that's their choice. But I think you do an injustice to would-be law students. Certainly the experience in the US (where the job market is even worse, but information is much more readily available) is that law school enrolment has plumetted and many of the weaker law schools have had to reduce their size or even close down, while others are being starting to refund the tuition to their less successful graduates. No reason to think that won't happen in Canada.
  • Bradley Wright
    Bob, I would simply add that the legal marketplace is going to a miserable one for generations unless the government fashions a sound education policy concerning it. I am not holding my breath. Requiring law schools to publish information may be helpful, but is unlikely to cause them to return enrolments to smaller, justifiable sizes. Those students who opt out of a legal education based on the information will simply be replaced by others who, despite being lower down on the applicant ladder, will hold fast to the belief that legal unemployment or under-employment won't happen to them. The result would be an even weaker pool of graduates. For the good of the public and to lower the government's costs of the judges, staff and infrastructure of the litigation maelstrom (not to mention the costs of reduced productivity and higher health care demands of the stressed out litigants), law school enrolments need to be cut literally in half. Even then, it will takes years to re-balance.
  • Bob Smith

    I think the issue is less the government/lsuc and more law schools and students. That the legal marketplace is tight right now isn't exactly a secret. Students should be taking that into account in deciding whether they want to invest $100K+ in a legal education. If they want to take that risk, great, but it's their risk and they have to live with the consequences of it.

    Where I think law schools do have some responsibility is informing students about the nature of that risk. If you want to see $500 in mutual fund units in Ontario, you need to prepare a prospectus with detailled information about the risks and rewards of that investment. No such requirement applies to law school education. At least we shoud (a) collect and (b) public (or require law schools to publish) information about the employment prospects of law school graduates (as they do in the US.
  • E Winston Tennant
    I have been principal for four articling students over the last dozen years. We always pay minimum wage. We have a mixed general practice and approximately three-quarters of the work is solicitor's work for which we must quote flat fees. There is no opportunity to bill a student's time on solicitor's work.

    We get no net financial benefit from a student. The financial incentive is to teach someone to do a general practice so we can take a student back in a year as an associate. It is only then that we get a financial return.
  • Bradley Wright
    Bob, that is harsh but reality-based and therefore good advice. It throws into sharper relief the lack of a sound education policy by our well-intentioned but distracted government. If law students take jobs in other sectors, they will not be using many of the skills they were educated for (not trained for, educated for). That, for the most part, will constitute a waste or misallocation of Ontario's human resources. To the extent they bump others out of jobs, that probably constitutes yet more waste or misallocation. Ontario needs a sound, forward thinking education policy. It is not hard to set up with the right motivation. The Law Society could play a crucial role in helping the government to make this happen where legal education, services and resources are concerned, but, so far, the LS has not done so. Instead, we have wasted more than two years dancing with the horrendously costly and deleterious devil of ABS. Let us hope that the LS soon changes its focus.
  • Bob Smith
    The fundemental problem here is that we're producing more lawyers than the market can handle. Law students are, mostly, smart intelligent people. If they can't get jobs in the legal profession that pay them a decent wage than they can do what people do IN EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY FACING THE SAME PROBLEM get a job in a different sector. I mean, geeze, just because you have a law degree doesn't mean that you can only e a lawyer.
  • Bradley Wright
    John, the LSUC may be made up of lawyers, but the benchers are obligated by law and inclination to regulate the delivery of legal services in the public interest. Articling has proven benefits in a system where most law schools delight in announcing that they are not in the business of preparing students for private practice. But that does not mean that the LS is in any way responsible for the irresponsibility of the government and the law schools. The LS should not make a worsening system even worse.

    The LSUC is watched by the government, the public and various members of the commentariat to ensure that it fulfills its mandate (and, if complaints by lawyers who say that the LS bends over backwards to make life hard on lawyers are to be given credence, it does).
  • Bradley Wright
    Sofia, the Law Society could cut admissions by failing students at the bar ad stage, but it has long been believed that it is unfair to the students to cut them off at the knees so late in the process after they have put in six+ years of post-secondary and incurred a huge student loan. The last step before the call is not the most humane point at which to optimize numbers in the public interest. For decades, the culling was done by Christmas of first year law school; that remains the best time to weed out those who should be weeded out. The responsibility for not weeding out at a humane stage and for not determining how many lawyers per capita are needed lies upstream from the Law Society - the gov and the law schools (or, more accurately, the universities with law schools as it was the central administration offices that imposed the No Fail regime on the law faculties partly, in the early 90s to make up for medical student tuitions and grants lost under the NDP).
  • Bradley Wright
    As for using this to promote ABS, nothing is more insupportable (with all due respect).

    The fact that there are 1,300 articling jobs but not 2,000 of them is not because lawyers are not business people. Instead, it is due to the application by lawyers running firms of very sensible business acumen - you do not hire people to do work that does not exist and cannot legitimately be engendered.

    Besides, under ABS, the giant companies that would take over the profession would be interested in one thing only - maximizing returns to themselves. One way to do that would be to reduce the number of lawyers as much as possible. ABS would result in fewer jobs for lawyers, not more.

    Repeat after me: ABS is the worst idea to hit the profession in centuries. To cite but one of endless reasons to oppose ABS, to the extent you give up ownership, you give up independence - something that cannot long be protected by "walls" against the battering ram of money.
  • Alex MacIntyre
    What's wrong with ABS? Lawyers want to hire students to work for a transit pass. I don't consider that respectable, so why should I care if ABS threatens those lawyers' bottom line? A big corporation that constantly works at delivering a high-quality and low-cost product seems great for society.

    If there are fewer jobs for lawyers, it doesn't matter. Many lawyers aren't likable and respectable people anyway. They want people to study for minimum 7 years and then work for $141 per month. I don't mean to single out this firm; many lawyers are in a similar position in terms of what they can offer. It isn't respectable. The successful Bay Street types who actually have something to offer will probably get great positions as managers at the corporations. But even many of the big firms will succumb to the corporations.
  • Bradley Wright
    I don't anyone should work for free. My point is that there are not enough jobs, not because the profession is nefarious, but because the system has turned a fire hose of graduates on us and there are not enough towels. That is not the fault of the profession but of the institutions upstream from us. Why not double the number of graduates again, and then double it again. Should the profession continue to be vilified for not hiring absolutely everyone the upstreamers fire at us??

    Let us place the blame where it belongs, not on those who did not create the problem but who are being asked on unreasonable grounds to save the upstreamers and the students from any consequences of the problem those others created.
  • James Lowry
    I had to move to Manitoba, from Ontario, for an articling position. Bottom line - the profession in Ontario's largest cities are flooded and combine this with...

    1. 1,600 students who obtain their legal degrees off shore every year.
    2. The Law Schools enrolling too many students per year.

    This has to stop or the problem will just get worse.
  • Guy Farrell
    Law schools are operating as businesses and pumping through far more students than the market requires. Many young people seem to think that a law degree is a ticket to affluence without having any idea of the reality. The law schools which take the obscene tuition fees need to be held responsible for their unemployed spawn.
  • sofia dubis
    but lsuc is permitting the increse in class size knowing that the number of graduates should not increase... again, lsuc is to blame. it's their job to reg the profession
  • Anne V
    [quote name="sofia dubis"... lsuc is to blame. it's their job to reg the profession[/quote]

    Talk to your law school... They will tell you that universities are not legal professionals, There is nothing in legislation that gives LSUC any power to regulate university class sizes.
  • John Smith
    who watches the watchers? Remember that the LSUC is made up of lawyers.
  • John Smith
    This is a great case for ABS initiatives...why? Because lawyers are lawyers not business people. Develop the alternate business structures initiatives
  • Bradley Wright
    Alice, I agree with you that "it should be about investment in the future of your profession for which these young people will be a part of". The reality is that the profession is investing in well over a 1,000 new lawyers every year; it is the extra, bloated, unculled-by-Christmas-of-first-year 600-800 that the profession is reluctant to invest in because there is not the work to justify investing in an unnecessary extra 600-800.

    And I agree with Hamoody that a positive articling experience pays dividends for everyone. The good news is that there are well over 1,000 positive such experiences every year.

    The answer is not to do away with articling - that is just applying an American mistake to the American blunder of allowing far too many lawyers per capita in the first place - a blunder we in Canada were too stupid not to copy. The answer is to follow the lead of the dentists, figure out an optimum, balanced number, and adjust law school enrolments accordingly.
  • Mr Tickles
    Law school cost too much for what I got out of it. Not being an extroverted hockey fan and without connections I didn't get the downtown jobs. As in, the only place it's economical to pay stupidly high law school tuition. Now I'm working stupid hours semi-self employed for crap pay. Man, if only I had my mom or dad as a partner of a big firm, that's pretty much how *all* of my classmates got jobs.

    My articles were with an incompetent liar who told me I was hired back at an okay wage with okay benefits, then three weeks before I was to start as an associate, he tells me to hit the road. Hires some other student to clear out my desk before my term is even up.

    A year later I'm self-employed for shit pay with the other choice being starvation and I'm being asked to pay back a mortgage worth of student debt. And as I am self employed I get to enjoy paying for my own dental and mental. Horray.
  • Bradley Wright
    Alice, how is the far greater cost of getting a law degree the fault of the existing members of the bar? Isn't that the fault of the government and the law schools? Should a lawyer be forced by regulation under pain of professional misconduct to hire someone they don't need and don't want? Students may have student loans but most proprietors of law firms (75% of which have 5 or fewer lawyers) have (to a much greater extent than students) mortgages, kids to pay for, payrolls to meet, overhead to cover. They do not make the money that the public (and law students) think they make. They do not have money to throw away on student employees they have no need for, and that are being thrown at them in tsunami-like waves by an educational system that does not give two hoots about what happens to the students after they have paid their last tuition installment.

    No one is "entitled" to a job. You may want one, but you are not entitled to one. I hope, however, that you get one.
  • Jason Cherniak
    Nobody is forcing anybody to hire a student for free. The point (for me at least) is that if a student is replacing a person to whom you would otherwise pay a salary, or if you are making money off the student in other ways, then you are not really doing a favour for somebody who offers nothing the market wants - you are actually taking advantage of a loophole in employment laws and making money off the student and taxpayer investment in the education itself. Only those who legitimately don't need a person and just give the student research for the sake of research can honestly claim to be unable to pay. All the arguments that I've seen so far as the same arguments that any employer could make against a minimum wage and that's a ship that sailed generations ago.
  • Bradley Wright
    Jason, the American legal profession and system have proven that when economic survival is at stake, ethics take a secondary seat. Yet, the fact that files take longer is only partly driven by lack of ethics; the system encourages extending the time it takes to resolve a case, and the whole bar is in the same boat. It is not evil intent so much as it systemic. Except in exceptional cases, get rid of mandatory mediations and pre-trials. Shorten discoveries. When you file your Claim, the court should give you a trial date not more than 90 to 180 days away and, if you have not settled the case before then, be prepared to face a disgruntled judge. Most of us can analyse within the first month, week or hour how most cases should turn out. Why does it take three years??

    Btw, the hourly rate is not really much of a problem. The billing target is the problem. More on that later.
  • Bradley Wright
    Hamoody, you are clearly bright and articulate and should do well, but note that (1) the explosion in SRLs and (2) the ramping up of barrister rates (real estate & wills lawyers make less per file against inflation than 20 years ago) have occurred in lock-step with the increasing number of lawyers per capita (though the proponents of yet more lawyers per capita are blind to that). These phenomena are causally inter-related. The increasing procedural complexity and delays (including the difficulty in getting off the record) mean that it is better for a barrister to have fewer clients but bill each of them more (by taking advantage of the complexities and delays where the barrister on the other side is in the same boat) than to have more clients, resolve the case earlier and bill each client less. These problems can be fixed by a wise and committed government, but they do not seem interested. The Law Society could do a lot to help and to encourage the government, but so far has not.
  • Jason Cherniak
    Yes, some lawyers do that Bradley. However, that's a problem of ethics and not economics.
  • Bradley Wright
    The law schools' decisions in the early 90's and beyond to admit many more students and to stop failing virtually any of them has led to a huge increase in the number of lawyers per capita. The market and the profession are not responsible for government negligence and law school self-service. The gov and the schools do not care what happens downstream from them, and they did little or nothing to warn applicants (who probably would no have listened anyway). As a result, hundreds of calls per year have (a) no jobs to fill and (b) frankly no business being called. Harsh but true. On the other hand, yes there are shortages in some remote or rural areas, so go there. You will be pleasantly surprised at the high quality of life and, in the modern world, you will still be well-connected to the Jays, the opera etc.

    Most firms do not do legal aid, so not too many extra jobs can be found among the firms that do.
  • Marco Sciarra
    "[Legal Aid] economics don't allow the firm to pay for Articling students" is inaccurate. In fact, while LAO is deficient in many ways, it's model is built in contemplation of students being able to assist at a lesser rate than counsel but for three times the amount of time as an incentive. For instance, if LAO authorizes 30 lawyer hours on a file, and the lawyer gives 10 hours to a student, the student is permitted to bill 3 students hours for every 1 lawyer hour authorized as per the tariff manual. So, the student will then bill 30 hours at the student rate of approximately $60/hr. If the lawyer keeps those 10 hours, the lawyer can bill the 10 hours at lawyer rates of approximately $120/hr. By using a student, the lawyer actually makes $600 more for those very same hours authorized, certainly enough to pay for the student. Students in legal aid economics are profitable and helpful because they can help with the proper prep of a file within the LAO guidelines, hence the incentive.
  • Hamoody Hassan
    The prior comments are simply uninformed. 1. shortage of lawyers in remote, rural areas and county towns. 2. lawyers won't take on articling students. 3. Legal aid pays a student rate = bill 3 hours =1 lawyer hour. 4. Levine work a few extra hours - a student must help him. 5. student generates about $1,000 to $1,200 per week on legal aid minimum. 6. bill with student time on the dockets& bill around 140 hours per mo =1,400 hours in 10 months. 7. nothing to do with the market or too many lawyers. It is short-sighted greedy and clenched fistedness. 8. self reps in court. 9. In 20 years lawyer hourly rates have quadrupled -lawyers can afford students. To pay nothing is just disgraceful. I am appalled it is not considered unprofessional conduct.
  • Jason Cherniak
    The real issue is that the big firms aren't pulling their weight. If sole practitioners can pay articling students, why do large firms with hundreds of lawyers only take 10 or 20? I understand that some small firms can't afford to pay a salary, but in those scenarios they should offer a percentage of what they can bill for the student. Meanwhile, big firms should consider paying less and hirng more. Smart regulation by the law society could be effective.
  • Hamoody Hassan
    Jason, my comment sent at 21:15 was not in relation to your post - your post was not up. I agree with you totally. The LSUC should either make it unethical to not pay students. If lawyers can't or won't hire then LSUC must end articling requirements and replace with bar ads only. Just hire students -fully expense these costs - costs you nothing in reality. a positive articling relationship pays long term dividends - all that has value is counted as nothing now!
  • Bradley Wright
    Part of the problem is the reduction in the articling term from 12 mos. to 10 making it less justifiable for many firms to hire students. The major causes are (1) the government's negligent misallocation of scarce education resources (pouring money into an over-supplied area while under-funding under-supplied areas), (2) the bloating of law schools, and (3) their money-driven panic to pass everyone. The economy cannot absorb all these graduates, augmented by foreign-schooled applicants. Nor does hugely increasing the number of lawyers per capita help the public as too many lawyers then have to make their livings from a much reduced number of clients per lawyer, livings that for the large majority mean retiring on average at 75 in less comfort and security than an elementary school teacher.

    In less than 20 years we have doubled the number of lawyers per capita - a disaster for the public and for a large percentage of the calls. We learned nothing from the US blunders.
  • Bill Ale
    Well said
  • Will White
    If articling must be paid, there will be less articling positions. Despite this, students are complaining that there should be more articling positions that pay more.

    The sense of entitlement in graduating students is staggering. If you don't have skills that someone is willing to pay for, then why should you be paid?

    The market will dictate how much the profession will be paid. An increase in the number of law grads without a corresponding increase in demand for legal services means less income per lawyer. It's pretty basic economics.
  • John Smith
    You're kidding right? So you think it's OK for a firm that KNOWS that a student must article to secure their license to force someone to article for free.

    this is the very reason why lawyers have a negative image as heartless, callous and cold people.

    Time for some reform to the licensing scheme from the LSUC.
  • Preston Smythe
    Well said Will. Its simple economics at play. The supply of law students is simply too high compared to the demand for legal services. Simply having a degree does not entitle one to a job. But rather in the competitive market, it is those students who are the best, brightest, and most hard working who will get the jobs.

    The sense of entitlement amongst the newer generations of lawyers and law students is staggering.
  • slynham

    MS Lynham
    With the greatest of respect, Mr. Symthe, I simply cannot agree that law school performance is any complete guarantee of who will be the brightest and the best lawyers into the future so why should it be the only criterion for a paid articling position? Haven't you yet noticed that the real world is much different from law school?Some of the best lawyers I have met were middle of the pack or lower, but they had outstanding people skills and a better understanding of how the law actually works in the real world.
    There has always been a shortage of articling positions, but ONLY when one looks at the positions in Toronto, particularly and in some other large cities.
    But unpaid positions, just to be in the cities? Ridiculous
    Hundreds of small town lawyers across Canada are looking for articling students and 1st and 2nd year calls to help them deal with an increase in work and eventually retire. Relocation, anyone?
  • lisa fe
    It is not a sense of entitlement to think that you should paid for your work.

    It's a basic right.

    Why is it that students should be expected to work for free after being saddled with thousands of dollars of debt.

    Law firms (perhaps not Levine) need to realize that they cannot take advantage of the desperation of students and the only way they will realize that is if they're regulated!
  • follow the

    yellow brick road
    [quote name="lisa fe"]

    Why is it that students should be expected to work for free after being saddled with thousands of dollars of debt.


    Because they should have verified the process to qualification before embarking on this field of study and work.

    Just because you are a student does not mean you are exempt from basic cost benefit analysis of your future. Anyone with have a brain will weigh their options. Who chooses this path thinking it will be easy? Spoiled Canadian law students.
  • Anne V.
    Certainly there is a problem with people's feeling of entitlement... whether that's students who feel they ought to be paid for their work, or employers who feel they ought to be allowed to exploit student labour, is a question that no one seems to be examining.

    Law students aren't the first (or likely the last) groups of students to face employer's expectations of free labour: internships, clinical hours, and work placements are common in other fields as well. All require students to work without pay. The only differences I see are that:

    1) if clinical hours or work placement time is part of a diploma or degree, students can collect OSAP while working without pay ... oh, and paying the school a year's tuition for the privilege of being monitored to make sure they do the full number of hours; and,

    2) Law students know that some of their peers *are* being paid during articling, which may make being unpaid feel even more unfair.
  • sofia dubis
    it is wrong to exploit students who are $100,000.00 + in debt bc the current job climate in law is saturated. we are talking about highly skilled individual w various degrees in addition to a law degree working for free. it has nothing to do w entitlement- feudal system ought be thing of past. i have worked in firms where a good % of staff are dinosaurs... in no way competent enough to practice. lsuc needs to address that issue more seriously. ppl are not retiring bc of lost $ from recession but they are not capable of doing a thorough joba any longer.
  • sofia dubis
    also, to justify unpaid int then it should resemble education more than work.... articling, from my exp, is work. firm makes $75+ hr based on students' work. firms arent billing for students' educative exp but for the actual work they produce. therefore they ought to be able to share in those profits... otherwise it looks like indentured servitude
  • David Dickinson
    But from the point of view of the paying client, it looks more like fraud!
  • Will White
    Again the relevant question is: if you don't have skills that someone is willing to pay for, then why should you be paid?

    The market will dictate the appropriate amount to pay articling students. If there are too many law grads in proportion to the legal work available, then there will less money for articling students. When the market expands, there will be more money for articling students. Firms will always have to pay more to get more desirable law grads. ( I am making the assumption that an industry wide conspiracy that all firms refuse to pay articling students is not possible as the benefits of deviating from this agreement would be too great)

    There is nothing unfair about people being paid more than others. We work in an industry undergoing great changes. Arguing that it's not fair that a law degree is not the golden ticket it was 30 years ago is about a productive as the Luddites arguing that it wasn't fair that the power loom was invented.
  • Alice Knight
    I would agree with you except the cost of getting that degree is 100x more expensive than it was 30 years ago.
    If someone is doing work for you they should be paid, full stop. Otherwise your simply privileging people who can afford not to get paid for doing work.
    It shouldn't just be about the market it should be about investment in the future of your profession for which these young people will be a part of. I am sick to death of people quoting the bottom line, talk about a sense of entitlement.
  • slynham

    MS Lynham
    Ms. Knight, 100x more expensive than 30 years ago?Please check your figures.
    My call was 1981, more than 30 years ago. Student debt? $11,000.00 (saved $7,000.00 as a result of loan remission by Ont. gov't. program). Articling wage? $1000.00/mo. Highest articling wage? $1750.00
    1st year call wage? $2000.00/mo. 2nd year call wage? $2500.00
    Certainly, dollar figures have inflated but never think it wasn't a real struggle for lawyers before you to pay off their student loans.
    Of course articling students should be paid but remember that your cost to a law firm is not simply what they pay you. Senior lawyer assistance and feedback means the firm loses that time that could be billable time. Secretarial time is also expensive. Your mistakes can be costly, not only wrt time spent fixing them but also to client confidence in the firm.
  • David Dickinson
    The "market? LOL. There's no free market in a regulated profession! Using Will White's line of argument, there's nothing unfair about deregulating the legal profession and allowing those with minimal skills, such as articling students, legal assistants, and foreign-trained lawyers from directly competing with law society lawyers, right?Let the market set the wages. Arguing that this scenario is unfair "is about as productive as the Luddites arguing that it wasn't fair that the power loom was invented." You work in an industry undergoing great changes. Watch what you wish for!

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