LSO announces 150 candidates investigated for cheating on licensing exams

By Amanda Jerome

Law360 Canada (November 3, 2022, 4:12 PM EDT) -- The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) announced that 150 candidates were notified this summer regarding the investigation into “cheating on the law society’s November 2021 barrister and solicitor online licensing examinations.”

According to a press release, issued Nov. 3, the candidates were notified that, “based on the results and recommendations of a forensic analysis conducted by testing security experts, and other information and evidence obtained through the investigative process, there was strong support for the conclusion that they had engaged in prohibited actions regarding” the licensing examinations.

Diana Miles, the LSO’s chief executive officer, said “the law society has taken the appropriate action in the circumstances, given the gravity of the conduct and the evidence supporting its conclusions.”

Diana Miles, LSO chief executive officer

Diana Miles, LSO chief executive officer

“The law society must carry out its function, duties, and powers in a manner that protects the public interest. Critical to fulfilling our mandate is facilitating a licensing regime that is properly and effectively administered and that ensures good character and the entry-level competence of licensees,” she added in a statement.

According to the LSO, the 150 candidates were “advised that they could face a range of outcomes based on the law society’s mandate to protect the public interest and to maintain the integrity of the licensing process and the public confidence in the legal professions.” The candidates were also “provided with a further opportunity to respond to investigators, if they chose to do so.”

Throughout August and into October, 148 candidates were “notified that the Licensing and Accreditation Department of the Law Society had made a decision as to the appropriate administrative outcome on the basis of the available evidence, which included any new responses provided,” the LSO’s release explained.

The LSO provided a “summary of the administrative outcomes imposed,” noting that “those affected have been notified”:

  • “21 candidates were advised that their examination result(s) are void. These candidates received a ‘fail’ result for the void examination, which counts as an examination attempt.”
  • “126 candidates were advised that their exam result(s) are void and their registration in the licensing process is also void,” the release explained, noting that “individuals whose registration is void are no longer candidates in the law society’s licensing process; all previous examination attempts along with the completion of any form of experiential training, such as articling, are void” and individuals whose “registration is void are unable to re-apply to enter the licensing process for a period of one year.” The “rendering of this administrative decision must be disclosed should” an individual “apply at any point in the future, at which point they may be subject to an investigation concerning whether they are presently of good character.”
  • “One candidate was advised that neither their exam result nor registration were being voided, and no further steps were being taken in relation to the candidate’s examinations.”
  • Another “22 candidates under investigation have been advised that the investigation into their possible actions has been closed without any administrative action being taken.”

According to the release, candidates were “given the opportunity to request that the Executive Director, Professional Development and Competence review the outcome decision, and to submit additional information in support of that request.”

“The results of these reviews have now been communicated to most candidates. A small number of candidates are still within the period of time in which they could request a review,” the release added.

The investigation, which is “being conducted by an external investigator, continues with respect to a number of other individuals,” the release concluded.

As previously reported by The Lawyer’s Daily, the LSO announced in March the cancellation of the upcoming barrister and solicitor exams as the regulator received information “which strongly indicates that examination content has been improperly accessed by some candidates, compromising the integrity of the upcoming examination period.”

The following month, the regulator announced changes to the timeline and location for “licensing examinations for lawyers and paralegals for the 2022-2023 licensing cycle,” moving the examinations from June to July, pivoting to an in-person format in order to protect the integrity of the examination.

At that time, Miles noted that “continuing with online examinations in light of the ongoing investigation was not possible.”

“In-person delivery provides the necessary degree of security to ensure examination integrity and to protect the reputation of all those candidates who are in no way implicated in the investigation,” she added.

In May, the LSO announced that it had taken legal action against NCA Exam Guru and its principal, Aamer Chaudhry, as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged cheating on the barrister and solicitor exams.

The civil action alleged that NCA Exam Guru, “without authorization, has been obtaining and providing to those enrolled in its preparation courses documents containing questions from the licensing examinations.”

The impacts of the cheating investigation have not only impacted licensing candidates, but also the profession at large, as the LSO Convocation recently heard that moving to in-person examinations cost the regulator millions of dollars, leading to an increase in annual fees. 

“We took an unexpected hit on finances as a result of the improper access by some candidates to examination content, which forced us to pivot to in-person examination delivery to mitigate the impact on all other candidates and to protect the integrity of our license process,” said, Sidney Troister, chair of the Audit & Finance Committee, stressing that the financial “hit is projected to be about $3.8 million” that wasn’t budgeted for in 2022.

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