The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the organisation which administers the articling program, has justified this fee hike by pointing to costs of the recently introduced Law Practice Program, a new lawyer licencing pathway which involves a four-month training course and a four months work placement rather than the traditional ten month articling program with law firms. This program has been introduced to provide an alternative to law school graduates who do not secure articling positions (which has recently risen to anywhere from 10 to 15% of law school graduates.
This article argues that increasing articling fees will push “students off the paths that deal with every-day legal problems and encourage them to pursue high-paying careers that have little impact on the access to justice crisis.”
I disagree. Here’s why:
1. On a broader level, LSUC is attempting to accommodate a greater supply of lawyers, which will potentially improve the access-to-justice crisis.
LSUC has found a creative way to loosen the restrictions on having access to a highly regulated profession, potentially leading to an increase in the number of lawyers who will be called to the bar in the future. Increasing the supply of lawyers, according to traditional economic rules, will drive prices down, potentially improving access to justice over the long run.
2. Students who are dedicated to social justice will not be deterred by a fee hike that represents a fraction of the cost of legal education in Ontario.
I am not defending how much it costs to become a lawyer – the exorbitant costs of a legal education lead to all sorts of issues with, for example, the class and racial diversity of the bar. I just don’t believe that a few thousand dollars would deter someone from working in social justice if the cost of law school did not do that already. Perhaps I should only speak for myself though, and this is definitely my case.
While I may not completely agree with how the financial burden of this new program is only being placed on future lawyers, I do see the broader issues at play, and I applaud LSUC for taking a step towards deregulation in a profession that is overly protective.