Transforming the Education and Training of Canada’s Lawyers

The Futures report provides a framework for ideas and approaches to help the Canadian legal profession adapt to a period of significant change.  Its recommendations in the areas of education and training are based on the recognition that in a generation, the practice of law will look different in many respects than it has over the past two generations.  Legal education and training should be conceptualized as life-long processes without particular set avenues, since there will be no one way to become a lawyer in the future.  As such, the Futures report finds that legal educators should be empowered to innovate in order to provide more flexibility and choice in the way that new lawyers are educated and trained.

The Futures report asks us to consider what we are training new and young lawyers to become.  It predicts the emergence of new practice areas in Canada, citing as an example the resurgence of Indigenous legal traditions as an area in which lawyers may be called to re-conceptualize the law entirely.  The Futures report also describes the emergence of new legal disciplines, ranging from legal process and data analysts, to online dispute resolution, to legal risk managers, amongst others, and indicates that these new disciplines provide opportunities for legal educators. 

Articling in its current form may disappear or undergo radical change, which means that stakeholders need to experiment on new methods to share the knowledge and skills training required for admission to the Bar.  Yet such experimentation should result in a structured, rigorous, and consistent approach, so as to ensure that all new lawyers have the skills and knowledge required to practice safely and efficiently.

In the future, legal services will be delivered more often in teams with lawyers, other professionals, and other service providers.  The Futures report endorses that lawyers be able to practice in business structures that permit fee-sharing, multidisciplinary practice, and ownership, management, and investment by persons other than lawyers or other regulated legal professionals.  Any iteration of this recommendation requires lawyers to develop a new culture towards working in teams, which in turn requires the legal profession to collaborate with, and learn from, others.

Finally, the Futures report states as a key proposition that diversity will become the context within which all contemplated changes can be effectuated.  The demographics of the legal profession have changed dramatically, and are about to change even more.  Reform will not reach its full potential unless lawyers are able to change the very fiber of their profession, and also become more inclusive to the communities within and around the legal profession.  This responsibility is shared by all stakeholders, and requires more transparency and action by all.