Articling vs. Law Practice Program: Which is right for you in Ontario, part two

By Virginia Ng

Law360 Canada (October 30, 2023, 10:21 AM EDT) --
Virginia Ng
Virginia Ng
In part one of this series, we looked at the options licensing candidates that didn’t attend a school with an Integrated Practice Curriculum (IPC) have to complete their experiential training including the structures and benefits to the articling structure and Law Practice Program (LPP) structure. In this second part, we will further discuss considerations including financial considerations, how I personally came to my decision to select the LPP and about my own experience with the LPP.

Program fees, financial considerations

Both articling and the LPP involve financial considerations. The experiential training component fee for both programs is $2,800.

Articling fees

The $2,800 fee is required for the articling program’s experiential training to be recognized by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO). However, candidates are typically compensated for their work during articling, although the amount may vary. Some law firms may also cover the cost of licensing fees and professional development programs. Depending on the articling placement, the firm may also cover the $2,800 fee.

LPP fees

Although the fee is the same as articling, the work placement period for the LPP is only four months. The first four months of the program are unpaid. The experiential training fee covers the cost of training, mentorship and administrative expenses associated with the program. There are no additional fees; however, you must pay the $2,800, and you must find a workaround for attending the four-month training segment with no income. Candidates considering the LPP should carefully evaluate the program fees and financial implications before making their decision.

My personal choice, experience: LPP

I returned to Canada from Australia having received my NCA certificate in November 2017 and was about to study for the bar exams. I had a meeting with someone in the field whom I admired and reached out for an articling position, but she wasn’t hiring. After conversation, she advised that I go to a larger law firm and gain exposure to various areas of law to discover what area of law I wanted to practise. I figured the LPP would give me that exposure, and it did.

It wasn’t long after I elected to take the LPP at Metropolitan University of Toronto (Ryerson University at the time) on my LSO licensing candidate portal I received my welcome email and an introductory research assessment. I realized I needed to brush up on my research skills from this exercise, as I learned using the search bar for everything was not a good way to research.

As the first week approached, I realized I had several things to do to prepare beforehand. There were three in-person weeks during the LPP, and they were intense. We had to prepare a research memo for a research workshop, conduct a client interview and a negotiation and read and prepare examination-in-chief questions for the advocacy workshop. We were assigned a virtual firm number, which grouped us with two to four other LPP candidates. I had three others in my group, and we were LPP Firm 21. It was great getting to meet people going through different walks of life. We were given a worksheet to work on together, and from that moment on and through the rest of the LPP, we were practically inseparable. We exchanged contact information and created a WhatsApp group chat called “Firm 21.” Every time a new assignment or meeting popped up, one of us would immediately message in the group letting everyone else know something had come in.

Personally, I had a heavy-duty physical agenda; I wrote in each assignment and client meeting two to three times, as I would put the due dates and the meetings into the calendar, the daily task section and the timed schedule. Then I would message Firm 21 every couple of days with the list of things to do and when they were due as a reminder for all of us to stay on track and prioritize. As the program continued, the work picked up, and it felt like it never slowed down. We got better at doing things, however, as our skills continued to get better. We were no longer nervous about conducting client meetings; it became the easiest thing by the end.

There were two “Snapper Research Days,” which entailed researching to find answers quickly. The first Snapper Research Day was a half day. We would get a question every two hours and had about an hour and 45 minutes to email the answer, including how we got the answer and our sources. The second Snapper Research Day was a full day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. involving firing off answers to questions within 45 minutes. This simulated a potential in-house counsel day. After countless research workshops and research memos, and after having our Snapper Days, researching quickly wasn’t so difficult anymore.

The three in-person weeks were probably the most intense. Every day was jam-packed with assessments or workshops, and we weren’t given time during the day to prepare for the assessments. We had to spend our evenings preparing for the next day and lunches or right after the end of the day, I would meet up with my firm generally to prepare for firm assessments. However, these weeks were also some of the best weeks to get to know people, including other LPP candidates and practising lawyers aiding in the workshops, mentoring, or assessing.  

In terms of placements, the LPP has an internal job board where it advertises potential placements. Potential placements include in government departments, private firms of all sizes including big law firms in Toronto and Ottawa and sole practitioners, non-profit legal clinics and in-house legal departments for corporations. The LPP job board had a large release of maybe 50-60 positions in the summer, and then around the fall again about 50-60 positions. After this, there would be fewer postings with only a few postings every week as they came in. The LPP encourages you to also look outside the job board for a potential placement and if you have someone qualified to supervise you, you can fill in a form for the LPP work placement team to look at to see if it is a suitable placement.

In my own experience, I remember applying for work placements from the moment they released postings in the summer on the internal job board until the last week of the training course week in December. I often worked on cover letters and editing my resumé on the weekends to apply during the training component. I was one of the last remaining candidates to confirm a placement. As with articling positions, it can be competitive.

In the end, I am glad I participated in the LPP, as I learned a lot. We were prepared to “hit the ground running” in our placements, and I met many people, including my fellow firm mates and other colleagues — especially as we mingled with the other 200 candidates during the in-person weeks. I also gained valuable insight from the highly experienced mentors and assessors.

Would I recommend the LPP? If you are looking for broad experience and structured training and can afford to complete the training part with no income whilst paying for the experiential training fee — remembering all the pros and cons above — then yes, I would.

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

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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