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Seeking FLSC help in compiling data about articles

National survey of articling students could create a baseline of data for the legal profession.

Silhouette of people standing on mirror to illustrate lack of data about articling students

Canadian law students article for a year as part of the requirements to be called to the bar. It’s a mandatory rite of passage where they spend long hours learning (ideally) the kind of hands-on business of law that isn’t taught in law school.

In Ontario, one in five also learn about on-the-job harassment and face discriminatory comments or conduct based on gender, race, sexual orientation, citizenship, disability, or other personal characteristics.

We know that because in June 2017 the Law Society of Ontario reported on their survey of articling students in the province about their experience. But the LSO information is rare – in this as in many other areas of the legal profession, there is a dearth of data that makes knowing anything about the experience of lawyers or legal professionals impossible to measure.

That’s why the CBA’s Law Students and Young Lawyers Sections have written to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada asking it to take a leadership role in promoting similar surveys across the country, in order to monitor and improve the experience of articling students. Late last year the Sections asked CBA Branches across the country to recommend this action to their respective law societies as well.

“The CBA Sections are concerned by the results of the Ontario Survey,” they write. “We believe a positive articling experience has the potential to offer a strong foundation for practice-ready, ethical and competent practitioners.”

A cross-country survey would present the chance to compile important demographic information, the Sections say. They recommend expanding the original Ontario survey to create a standardized questionnaire that includes information about the respondents’ age, gender identity, sexual orientation and ethnicity, as well as the location and setting of their articles, their salary (if any) law school and status as an NCA student and the amount and type of debt they carry.

“Creating one survey for use across the country would increase the chances of even distribution and result in the most useful, comparative data set,” the Sections say. “This initiative has the potential to create a pool of invaluable data about the legal profession and those seeking to enter it.”