The Bora Laskin Law School’s Integrated Practice Curriculum

Ontario’s newest law school faces challenges with its unique curriculum

By Brady Coyle, Staff Writer

dean-angelique-eaglewomanLakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law has its first crop of graduates out in the workforce; however, some are finding unanticipated barriers to employment.

Ontario’s newest law school has adopted what is called the Integrated Practice Curriculum (IPC), which involves a practice placement in the third year of the program. The practice placement is designed to eliminate the requirement of articling.

Articling, an apprenticeship to an experienced lawyer, is a tradition in the field of law and is a requirement for new law graduates prior to becoming an associate lawyer. The challenge for the Bora Laskin is that firms, whether intentional or not, are not recognizing the practice placement as an equivalent.

“We’re replacing articling,” says Angelique EagleWoman, Dean of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law. “So it is a little disappointing when they go out into the workforce after they graduate and take the bar exam and then they are told, ‘Well, we will hire you if you article’.”

Incorporating a practical placement within law school to replace articling has great merit. It means students are immediately prepared to become associate lawyers upon graduation and offers students work experience prior to becoming employed.

The challenging part for the Bora Laskin is that trying to change old habits is not easy, particularly when it has to do with tradition.

“[In] all the other law schools in Canada, after a student has completed their three years of law school, they apply for articling positions,” explains Dean EagleWoman. “They article for ten months and then after that they take the bar exams”

Bora Laskin graduates are eligible to take the bar exams immediately upon graduating. While some may feel this avoids the tradition of articling after law school, both the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Upper Canada Law Society have approved this curriculum.

Despite being qualified as associate lawyers, some Bora Laskin graduates have decided to article anyways as it is a requirement for certain firms, regardless of the applicant’s alma mater. In fact, 26 percent of students from the inaugural graduating class are currently working in articling positions.

The fact that firms are presenting articling as an obligation for Bora Laskin graduates is a point of frustration for both students and faculty of the law school.

“They are ready to hit the ground,” says Dean EagleWoman, “so then to tell them, ‘Here is an additional requirement,’ doesn’t meet our expectations of how our graduates should be welcomed into the workforce in the legal profession.”

Dean EagleWoman has meetings throughout the month lined up with both the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Upper Canada Law Society in order to clarify the expectation Bora Laskin graduates have when entering the workforce.

Let’s hope that firms gain some clarity of the expectations and qualifications of Bora Laskin graduates, so this case can be settled, once and for all.