Articling and practicing in B.C.’s smaller cities.
By Jasroop S. Grewal
As the population of British Columbia, The Best Place on Earth, continues to grow at a steady pace, so have opportunities for lawyers to gain experience outside of the traditional job markets. Students and associates alike have increasingly begun to seek articles and employment away from the larger cities in the Lower Mainland, citing the undiscovered beauty of B.C.’s growing interior and smaller coastal cities and towns, the perceived slower pace of life and the opportunities to establish oneself firmly in a smaller legal community, as motivating factors in shifting their focus for employment outside of the larger urban centres.
Founded in March 2009 and funded by the Law Foundation, the Rural Education and Access to Lawyers (REAL) initiative is a three-year program from the B.C. Branch of the Canadian Bar Association that sets out to help law students achieve just that. In 2010, 21 summer positions were filled through the REAL initiative, providing students with legal experience in various communities across British Columbia, from 100 Mile House to Summerland and beyond. At present, postings for second year law students were available through REAL in Quesnel, Powell River, Ucluelet and Salmon Arm, giving students seeking employment in British Columbia a chance to experience a part of the province they may have never contemplated working in. REAL’s mandate not only provides students with placements for summer jobs, but was also created to “address the current and projected shortage of lawyers practising in small communities and rural areas of British Columbia in order to ensure these communities continue to enjoy access to legal services” (www.realbc.org). As access to justice becomes a growing concern, the increase of junior associates practising in smaller communities has the potential to provide local populations with increased access to legal services, especially in those communities where established lawyers begin to retire from the practice of law.
With the growing trend of students and associates seeking articles and employment outside the Lower Mainland, it’s easy to see why Thompson Rivers University (TRU) was also chosen as the location for the first Canadian law school to open in more than 35 years. In September 2011, the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law will commence its first six-semester program in the city of Kamloops, population approximately 86,000. Founding Dean and former Attorney General of Saskatchewan, Chris Axworthy, QC, will build the program from the ground up in partnership with the University of Calgary. With a relatively central location, and a thriving legal community, Kamloops and TRU’s law school have the potential to attract even more young lawyers to the communities where access to legal services is needed. According to the Law School at Thompson Rivers University Backgrounder, “during the decade from 2011 to 2021, an average of approximately 290 lawyers each year in B.C. will reach the age of 65. During that period the population of B.C. will increase from 4.25 million to 5.1 million,” creating a need for services when senior lawyers begin to retire, especially in smaller communities.
“When searching for articles, Kelowna seemed like a natural choice,” said one junior associate currently practising in the Okanagan Valley, “Having visited Kelowna as a child, I had fond memories of the city, and had also heard great things about Interior B.C.’s legal community from practitioners I spoke to in Vancouver. The opportunity to go skiing, golfing, and boating all in the same day, and all in the same city, didn’t hurt either.”
Jasroop S. Grewal is a young lawyer practicing with the firm of Pihl Law Corporation in Kelowna and is the current Chair of the Young Lawyers – Okanagan Section. To contact Jasroop: email@example.com.
This article was published in the June 2011 issue of BarTalk. © 2011 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.