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Preparing for practice the right way

The CBA offers insights as it reviews the Federation of Law Societies of Canada's National Requirement.

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The Canadian Bar Association, in a letter signed by Policy Committee Chair Thomas Ullyett, asks the Federation of Law Societies to add family law to the National Requirement and shares with the federation feedback from recent calls and individuals pursuing the requirements to be called to the bar on whether the requirements reflect the skills needed to be successful in the profession.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is reviewing its National Requirement – the competencies and skills that graduates of Canadian law schools and internationally trained graduates and lawyers must have to enter the law society admission programs in the Canadian common law jurisdictions.

Family law

Pointing out that family law cases account for a full third of civil court cases in Canada (not counting the people who have family law issues outside the court system), the CBA letter says too many lawyers lack the adequate family law knowledge needed to practice law even as a lawyer in an entirely different area of expertise, given that family law has repercussions on many other areas of law, from corporate to fertility to wills and estates, real property and Indigenous law.

“Mandatory education in family law, including family violence, the effects of family breakup and the voice of children in family law cases has been excluded from the National Requirement,” the letter reads. It should be added.

Feedback from recently called lawyers and law students

“At the request of the Federation,” Ullyett writes, “we sought the views of those most closely touched by the National Requirement: recently called lawyers and law students.” This exercise took place through a collective intelligence tool called ThoughtExchange, and invitations were sent to all CBA members recently called to the bar, those who are articling students, law students and scholars. The exercise was available in English or French, at the choice of participants. In all, 261 legal professionals CBA members participated.

Among the key findings, participants asked that there be more emphasis on learning how to go to court and file documents, as well as how to communicate with clients and other lawyers. Also more courses on the practical side of practice management, such as how to bill and keep records, and how to handle legal technology. Better instruction on legal drafting is also mentioned, as well as the opinion that exams should be, like the practice of law itself, open book. “Whether you can remember the law off the top of your head is unimportant,” the summary reads. “Testing how fast students can answer legal questions does not tell us anything.”