PLTC’s busiest session
by Lynn Burns
BarTalk interviewed Lynn Burns, a Deputy Director of The Law Society of B.C., and head of the Professional Legal Training Course, about what’s happening at PLTC.
- Is PLTC any different now than when the Law Society took over five years ago?
There have been many changes at PLTC. One significant change is that PLTC’s numbers are way up, putting pressure on PLTC resources particularly during the summer session. The profession is now very mobile, within Canada and internationally. Due to the mobility rules, lawyers from other provinces no longer attend PLTC. Some foreign lawyers are also exempt from attendance. Nevertheless, PLTC enrolment has grown substantially. The province is booming. PLTC did not anticipate such high enrolment and they are not sure if it will continue. PLTC analysis now shows that more students come from other provinces and the greatest single increase is international. This makes for wonderfully diverse classrooms, but no predictability.
- Some firms have been unable to enroll their students in the PLTC session of their choice. Why does PLTC place restrictions on student enrolment?
PLTC has no restrictions on when students can enroll, but PLTC does have registration deadlines and limited capacity. Annually, over three sessions, (spring, summer and fall), PLTC can take approximately 400 students. Although PLTC’s numbers have increased, registration is still below that figure. However, the summer is hot! It is the most popular session by far. PLTC add two extra classes May-July, but there are still more applicants than PLTC can accommodate. Meanwhile, there’s room in the other sessions. As a result, some applicants are required to attend the next session, and that is not their preference. In the past, it was easier for local firms that take multiple students to spread their PLTC attendance equally over the three sessions. There were fewer students, some took the summer off, and the firm training rotation meant it didn’t matter which session a student attended. Now, there are more students and few take the summer off, but they’re not needed in the firms where student offices are filled with second year law students. Increasingly, firms want their new articled students to attend PLTC in the summer. Together these factors have increased demand for the PLTC summer session.
- What can be done to alleviate the pressure?
While PLTC ask all firms to spread their students over two or three PLTC sessions, it is clear PLTC need to look at PLTC’s own policies and procedures to see how they can take more local students in the summer. Some suggestions that have been made are not workable for a variety of reasons. PLTC have full time premises and excellent teaching staff year round. Their contribution is generously supplemented by volunteers willing to share their expertise and experience with the students. Some options PLTC are currently exploring include; an additional class, increased class size, and/or changes to PLTC’s enrolment procedures and priorities. None of these are without serious problems, including cost, tuition fees, premises, staffing, recruitment of volunteers in the summer, and the impact greater numbers would have on the PLTC schedule and content. Of course, it is extremely important that PLTC do not compromise the effectiveness and quality of the course and its reputation for excellence.
Lynn Burns, Deputy Director, Professional Legal Training Course, LSBC
This article was published in the August 2007 issue of BarTalk. © 2007 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.