Brooke Mackenzie: What was articling like back in your day?
Gavin Mackenzie: I articled in the Paleozoic era, circa 1975. It was after the time when getting an articling job depended on whether your father was an executive of a corporate client, but before there were on-campus interviews and rules about when you could interview candidates. The firm got my name and address from my law school, and wrote to invite me to come in for a visit. It didn’t have a rotation system, and since I wanted to be a courtroom lawyer I latched on to the two partners in the litigation department, Claude Thomson and John Morin, from whom I learned more about being a lawyer than I learned in three years of law school. After articling for 12 months, I attended the Law Society’s bar admission course for six. The quality of the lectures and seminars was uneven, but if you had good articles and went to the classes you came out ready to practise. Ontario has since shortened the articling term and done away with the bar admission course, though students who go into the Law Practice Program rather than article have four months of in-class skills training. Regardless, I expect that students today aren’t as well prepared to practise as they were in the Paleozoic era.
BM: I imagine you’re right— although your experience likely can’t scale to today’s reality of national firms and many more law graduates. I articled in 2012, after securing a job through the strictly regulated Toronto OCI process in 2010. Much to my delight, I effectively circumvented my firm’s formal rotation system after a litigation partner asked me to assist with a long commercial trial. This trial was the highlight of my articles — attending court every day, researching points of law, preparing witnesses and briefs, and drafting portions of the closing argument.
There were many reasons why the United Kingdom ended lawyer independence from government regulation under the Legal Services Act, 2007. As both a representative and a regulatory body for lawyers, the Law Society invited criticism that it protected lawyers’ interests rather than clients’. Response to public complaints was too often untimely and ineffective. Different regulators were responsible for solicitors, barristers, legal executives, and conveyancers, leading to public confusion and inconsistencies in regulatory standards and enforcement.
But the most important reason for the loss was the profession’s resistance to change — specifically, to allowing law firms to adopt mainstream business structures. Proposed innovations such as multidisciplinary practice structures were vilified. The profession’s resistance was considered protectionist, and the government intervened.
In Canada, we have been careful to separate representative and regulatory roles: the Canadian Bar Association and other bodies advance lawyers’ interests, while law societies govern in the public interest. The same regulator governs barristers and solicitors.
We have also been open to at least one form of alternative business structure: law societies in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have permitted lawyers to form multidisciplinary practices. Lawyers may be partners with, for instance, patent agents, registered planners, and human resources professionals, provided that lawyers retain control of the firm and non-lawyer practitioners abide by lawyers’ rules of conduct as well as rules applicable to their own professions.
Gavin MacKenzie is a partner at DLA Piper in Toronto. His daughter, Brooke, is an associate at
Gavin MacKenzie est associé à DLA Piper à Toronto. Sa fille, Brooke, est avocate à McCarthy Tétrault.