Articling vs. Law Practice Program: Which is right for you in Ontario?

By Virginia Ng

Law360 Canada (October 26, 2023, 10:23 AM EDT) --
Virginia Ng
Virginia Ng
The lawyer licensing process in Ontario includes gaining practical experience through an approved experiential training program.

In Ontario, unless you went to a law school with an integrated practice curriculum (IPC) such as at Lakehead University or Toronto Metropolitan University, you can choose between two programs: the articling program and the law practice program (LPP). In the first part of a two-part series, we will explore the structures and requirements for each program, including recent changes to articling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, options for articling and the pros and cons of each. In part two, we’ll look at financial considerations and I will discuss my own experience with the LPP and how I came up with my decision, and hopefully this will help those having to choose.

Articling: What is articling?

In Ontario, articling is the traditional path to becoming a lawyer. Candidates must work under a principal lawyer for 10 months to receive credit. Due to COVID-19, the minimum required length is now eight months for placements between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2025. This temporary measure has been put into practice to accommodate the impact of the pandemic on legal education and training.

The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) offers resources such as the Articling Mentorship Program and the Articling Registry to assist candidates in finding suitable placements.

The Articling Registry is a job board of available articling placements for Ontario articling candidates. The Mentorship Program pairs candidates with lawyers who will advise and give encouragement during their search. You can apply for both on the LSO website.

What is Law Pactice Program?

The Law Practice Program (LPP) is an approved alternative to articling in Ontario. It offers simulated, virtual training with a hands-on work term. The LPP, offered by Toronto Metropolitan University and the University of Ottawa, focuses on developing the skills and competencies future lawyers need for success in their legal practice and careers.

Toronto Metropolitan University’s Law Practice Program 

The LPP at Toronto Metropolitan University is an eight-month program that typically runs from late August to the end of April. It consists of a four-month training course followed by a four-month work placement and focuses on developing practical skills through simulated online work experience, workshops and mentorship.

University of Ottawas Programme de Pratique du droit (PPD)

The Programme de Pratique du droit (PPD) at the University of Ottawa is the French equivalent of the LPP. It also spans eight months, from August to April. Candidates must be fluent in French to maximize their success in the program. Candidates who have not studied law in French must complete a language ability examination administered by the University of Ottawa.

LPP structure, duration

Let’s break down the structure and duration of the LPP:

1. Training course: The LPP begins with a four-month training course, typically from late August to December. During this period, candidates participate in simulated online work experience, workshops and mentorship programs. The course focuses on developing essential legal skills, including legal research, client management, negotiation and advocacy.

2. Work placement: Following the training course, candidates embark on a four-month work placement, starting in early January and ending in April of the following year. The work placement lets candidates apply the skills learned during the training course in a real-world legal environment. Candidates may be placed with law firms, government agencies, in-house legal departments, or legal clinics.

Articling training, skills development

Articling provides candidates with on-the-job training and exposure to various legal tasks and responsibilities. Candidates learn by observing and assisting experienced lawyers in their daily work. They gain practical experience in legal research, drafting legal documents, client communication and courtroom advocacy. The specific tasks and areas of law covered during articling depend on the placement and the supervising lawyer or law firm.

LPP training, skills development

The LPP takes a more structured and immersive approach to training and skills development. The program combines simulated online work experience, workshops, mentorship and practical assignments to equip candidates with the skills to practise law. The training course focuses on developing essential legal skills, such as legal research, client management, negotiation and advocacy. Candidates also receive guidance from experienced mentors and subject matter experts throughout the program.

The LPP’s simulated work experience lets candidates work on files with actors in a simulated law firm, providing a realistic environment to practise and refine their skills. The work placement component further enhances these skills by providing candidates with hands-on experience in a real legal setting.

Benefits of articling

Here are some key advantages of choosing the articling path:

1. Specialized/broad exposure: Articling lets candidates choose their exposure through their placement. If you accept a placement at a boutique general law firm or at a larger law firm that rotates different departments, you can gain exposure to various areas of law, helping you to discover your interests and areas of specialization. If you know what area you want to practise or an area you are keen on exploring, you will get greater exposure to that area at a law firm that caters to those legal matters. For example, if a candidate wishes to practise corporate law, articling at an exclusive corporate law firm is ideal.

2. Networking opportunities: Candidates have the opportunity to build professional relationships and expand their network within the legal community through their placements.

3. Mentorship: Working closely with licensed lawyers provides candidates with valuable mentorship and guidance throughout their articling period.

4. In-depth learning: Articling provides a deep dive into legal practice, letting candidates apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios.

5. Tailored work experience: This can be aligned with specific career goals.

Benefits of LPP

The LPP offers unique advantages for law school graduates considering an alternative to articling. Here are some key benefits of choosing the LPP:

1. Broad exposure to common practice areas: During the LPP training, you will get various work assignments, such as business law, refugee law, civil litigation, criminal law, family law and estate law, and you will have messages and webinars with “Senior Partners” for each area. This is great if you’re curious about different areas and can help you narrow down or discover the areas you want to focus on in your legal career.

2. Hands-on training: The LPP combines simulated online work experience with real-world work placements, providing candidates with practical training in a controlled environment. You will receive the training necessary to develop your legal skills, and when it comes time for work placements, you will be ready to “hit the ground running.”

3. Skill development: The program’s comprehensive training provides a strong foundation of essential legal skills, such as legal research, client management, negotiation and advocacy through a structured training course and mentorship programs.

4. Experiential learning: The LPP lets candidates apply their skills and knowledge in a real legal setting during the work placement to gain valuable experience and build confidence.

5. Networking, support: Candidates in the LPP have access to a network of experienced mentors, subject matter experts, and industry professionals who provide guidance and support.

Both articling and the LPP are pathways to lawyer licensing in Ontario. Articling offers hands-on experience and exposure to different areas of law, while the LPP provides structured training with simulated work experience and real-world placements. Candidates should carefully evaluate the advantages and considerations of each program before choosing their path. In part two, we will discuss financial considerations, my personal decision-making process for choosing the LPP, and some of the details of my experience with the LPP.

This is the first half of a two-part article. Read the second article: Articling vs. Law Practice Program: Which is right for you in Ontario, part two.

Virginia Ng, a.k.a., “Ginny”, is a lawyer, blogger and the creator of Ginny Law Blogs, a blog that not only explores various interesting legal topics but is also a blog that discusses the journey of navigating the legal professional world as a young female lawyer, giving insight, motivation and tips to other upcoming or aspiring legal professionals.She can be reached on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.   

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