The Law Society of Alberta (LSA) approved a training course for all practicum directors in response to a recent survey which showed that the practicum relationship did not meet the expectations of many participants.
In 2019, the Law Society conducted surveys of interns, new lawyers, principals and mentors to better understand how the internship system works in the province. The results raised concerns about the inconsistency in mentorship received by students, with 51 percent of new lawyers saying they lacked self-confidence and did not feel well prepared for entry-level practice. Only a third of students and new lawyers reported using a learning plan during their internship.
LSA President Darlene Scott
LSA President Darlene Scott said in an email that while the reasons for the inconsistency in the internship experience are complex, one of the issues highlighted in the survey was the inconsistent quality of mentorship and comments from directors.
“The question has been raised both from the point of view of trainees who do not feel they are being adequately supervised and school directors who do not know what is expected of them in their role” , she said. “Principals and mentors cited a lack of time, resources and training as the main challenges in mentoring articling students.
To this end, the counselors approved the development of a training course for all principals at their June board meeting, which will establish a baseline for consistency and assurance of quality in mentoring and training new lawyers.
When the course launches in 2022, attendance will be mandatory for all principals, regardless of previous experience. Further details on the parameters and framework of the core training, including time commitment, format and continuing professional development (CPD) considerations, will be provided as the course is developed and finalizing other decisions. This includes any rule changes necessary to support decisions.
“While many principals do a good job supervising and mentoring interns, the survey results show there is room for improvement,” Scott said. “Historically, about a third of principals each year are taking on this role for the first time and often do so without a clear understanding of what is expected of them and the internship experience. For the record, we have heard that other lawyers would like to become principals but hesitate to do so without support. “
The bar also approved a one-year extension of its pilot project to conduct virtually all bar hearings, which was originally set up to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott said it was prudent to allow the hearings to run virtually for another year given that there are still health concerns surrounding the pandemic.
“While the move to virtual hearings was a necessity due to the pandemic, we believe the experience generally exceeded expectations,” she said. “The Law Society will continue to seek input from Law Society committees, lawyers, attorneys and lawyers over the next year. We believe it is important to continue to collect data around the virtual audiences to support the board discussions that will take place at the end of the extended pilot. The court registry will also continue to monitor the resources and operational implications of virtual hearings for the bar and the public interest.
The next meeting of the LSA Board of Directors is scheduled for September 30 and October 1.
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