Articling Students: Paid Employees Under Employment Standards

April 6, 2020

In August 2000, in a publication sent to the profession, the Law Society announced a key legislative change: “Minimum wage now applies to students at law”. Effective July 1, 2000, Alberta’s employment standards regulation no longer exempted articling students (and lawyers) from its application.

Twenty years later, the Practice Advisors continue to be asked whether articling students must be paid. The answer is YES. The current preamble to the Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9 articulates the underlying principles:

“RECOGNIZING that a mutually effective relationship between
employees and employers is critical to the capacity of Albertans to
prosper in the competitive world-wide market economy of which
Alberta is a part;

ACKNOWLEDGING that it is fitting that the worth and dignity of
all Albertans be recognized by the Legislature of Alberta through
legislation that encourages fair and equitable resolution of matters
arising over terms and conditions of employment;

REALIZING that the employee-employer relationship is based on
a common interest in the success of the employing organization,
best recognized through open and honest communication between
affected parties;”

Section 2 then states that the Code “applies to all employers and employees” except as exempted. Under neither the Code nor the accompanying Regulation are lawyers or articling students exempted from the minimum employment standards, including minimum wage.

Some key steps can help to ensure that the firm/organization is doing what it can to make students contributions more profitable. These include:

  • Making it a priority, as soon as a student starts, to teach them the organization’s billing processes and procedures.
  • Teaching the student to be efficient in their time keeping. If you usually bill monthly, ensure the student has their time recorded before that date. Wherever possible, ensure that students are billing “live” and not entering their time after the fact.
  • Effective mentoring may allow students to become immediate and efficient contributors to the bottom line. While it may seem like overseeing your student’s work is time lost, if your student has effective instruction, they will learn more quickly and will become increasingly independent.