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The Articling Placement Program (the program) is a Law Society program in place to assist articling students who are in unsafe or untenable articles due to harassment or discrimination. The program supports the articling student with exiting their current position and continuing their articles with a new firm/organization.
Articling students have the right to be free from harassing and discriminatory behaviour and have the right to report their circumstances without fear of reprisal or negative impacts. While coming forward about these issues will always be difficult, the program is intended to reassure articling students that reporting their issues will not lead to the loss of articles. The program’s default position is that articling students’ experiences are believed.
The program is not an avenue for students who are unhappy in their articling positions due to other reasons or who are unable to find an articling position. It is intended as a “911” response to those facing discrimination or harassment.
- The articling student contacts the Law Society’s Equity Ombudsperson for an initial, confidential conversation to discuss their experience of harassment or discrimination. During these confidential conversations, the articling student can ask questions, discuss their concerns and gather information on possible next steps. The Articling Placement Program may be raised as an option available to the student.
- The Equity Ombudsperson will determine whether the criteria for establishing harassment or discrimination have been met given the information provided by the articling student.
- Once the student agrees to enter the program, , the Equity Ombudsperson will work with the student to terminate their articles and find replacement articles at one of the available roster firms/organizations.
- The Equity Ombudsperson will advise the respective roster firm/organization that the articling student has met the eligibility criteria of the program without providing any identifying information about the student. Once the roster firm/organization confirms they can provide replacement articles, the roster firm/organization will be provided with information about the student including what the student has accomplished so far in their articles. The roster firm/organization will not be provided with any detailed information about what occurred during the student’s previous articles.
- After a student has been placed in new articles, the Equity Ombudsperson will check in with the articling student and the new principal, to offer support, see how the student is faring and provide opportunities for feedback.
- Throughout the term of the placement, the Equity Ombudsperson will remain available as a resource for students and principals participating in the program.
Firms/organizations who meet the eligibility requirements of a roster firm/organization and are willing to offer replacement articles to articling students on short notice are encouraged to apply to become a roster firm/organization. View a full list of the participating roster firms.
If you are an articling student wanting to find out more about whether your circumstances qualify for the Articling Placement Program, please reach out to our Equity Ombudsperson for an initial, confidential conversation.
- Phone: 587.391.6596
Frequently Asked Questions
The Articling Placement Program assists articling students who are in untenable or unsafe articles due to harassment or discrimination with exiting their current position and finding replacement articles.
The program is not an avenue for students who are unhappy in their articling positions due to other reasons or who are unable to find an articling position. It is intended as a “911” response to those facing discrimination or harassment. If you are an articling student wanting to find out more about whether your circumstances qualify for the program, please reach out to the Law Society’s Equity Ombudsperson for an initial, confidential conversation.
The program was developed in response to the results of the 2019 articling survey, which revealed that approximately one-third of respondents reported experiencing harassment and/or discrimination during recruitment and/or articling.
However, many of these articling students do not report the behaviour and continue in their articling positions because of:
- a perceived lack of support in the firm/organization;
- no safe reporting structure in the firm/organization;
- a fear that raising these issues or formally reporting them within the firm/organization may negatively impact their reputation;
- the power imbalance between lawyers and articling students; and/or
- the potential loss of the articling position and future call to the bar.
Articling students have the right to be free from harassing and discriminatory behaviour and have the right to report their circumstances without fear of reprisal. While coming forward about these issues will always be difficult, the program is intended to reassure articling students that reporting their issues will not lead to the loss of articles.
An articling student or anyone seeking information about the program can contact the Equity Ombudsperson at the Law Society for an initial, confidential conversation to discuss their experience of harassment or discrimination, or the program.
The Equity Ombudsperson may be contacted at:
Yes, initial conversations with the Equity Ombudsperson are confidential. During these confidential conversations, the articling student can ask questions, discuss their concerns and gather information on possible next steps. It is an opportunity for an articling student to understand the resources and supports that are available to them, as well as assess their options.
The articling student’s principal will not be contacted at this stage.
Will my previous principal be contacted?
The articling student’s previous principal will not be contacted unless the student indicates that they would like the Law Society to do so, or the Law Society proceeds with a complaint. The circumstances which would lead to the principal being contacted include:
- The student indicates they want the Law Society to terminate their articles on their behalf;
- The Principal has not certified the articles for the time the student spent at their firm, and the student would like the Law Society to intervene; or
- The Law Society proceeds with a complaint against the previous principal or requires the previous principal to engage in additional training or education.
Under any of the above circumstances the student would be contacted to notify them of the next steps being taken by the Law Society, including the Law Society’s decision to proceed with a complaint or require the previous principal to engage in additional training or education.
Where the student has asked the Law Society to terminate their articles, contact with the previous principal would not occur until it is determined that their experience has met the program criteria and the student has agreed to participate in the program.
By engaging the program, the articling student consents to the Equity Ombudsperson sharing information about their experience with other necessary Law Society staff. This also protects the articling student from having to re-tell their story multiple times.
Once the articling student decides to engage the program, the Equity Ombudsperson will request any outstanding information from the student and begin searching for replacement articles at one of the roster firms/organizations.
The Articling Placement Program process includes coordination with our Membership department and roster firms/organizations. There may be times where the student won’t hear from the Equity Ombudsperson for a few days and at times the process may move rather quickly.
We understand that this might be an uncertain time for the student as they await responses from our office. During this time placing the student with one of our roster firms/organizations remains a top priority for us and the Equity Ombudsperson will keep the student updated as they are able.
There is no guaranteed timeline for placement; however, the Equity Ombudsperson and roster firms do work as quickly as possible to accommodate students awaiting placement.
The Model Code of Professional Conduct, developed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, includes definitions of harassment and discrimination. Recently, the Federation has shared proposed amendments to these definitions. Our program is using these amended definitions as the basis for establishing whether harassment or discrimination has occurred.
While the criteria reference the behaviour of the principal, the program includes other lawyers at the firm/organization as well.
The criteria for establishing harassment include:
- the principal displayed an improper and offensive behaviour;
- the principal’s behaviour was directed at the articling student;
- the principal’s behaviour, while not directed at the articling student, created an environment for the articling student that was untenable or unsafe;
- the articling student was offended or harmed, including the feeling of being demeaned, belittled, personally humiliated or embarrassed, intimidated or threatened;
- the behaviour occurred in the workplace or at any location or any event related to work, or through communications; and
- there was a series of incidents or one severe incident that had a lasting, negative impact on the articling student.
The criteria for establishing discrimination include:
- the articling student has a personal characteristic that is listed as a prohibited ground of discrimination under human rights legislation;
- the articling student was treated differently than others in the firm/organization, or if the articling student was treated the same way as others, the treatment of the articling student put that student in a different position or had a different impact on that student because of their personal characteristic;
- the treatment had a negative impact on the articling student (or put them at a disadvantage compared to others); and
- there is evidence to show a link between the treatment or the impact that the articling student experienced and their personal characteristic.
If our Equity Ombudsperson concludes that the articling student’s experience has met the criteria, the Law Society will work with the student to end their current articles.
The student is not required to continue in their current articles until replacement articles are confirmed; however, the student is encouraged to contact the Equity Ombudsperson before leaving their articles.
This will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If you believe you were in an unsafe or untenable articling position and have already terminated your employment, you are encouraged to reach out to the Equity Ombudsperson for a consultation as soon as possible.
An articling student reporting the behaviour of their principal or of another lawyer to the Law Society is taking a difficult step and we do not take that lightly. Importantly, the default position of the program is that articling students are believed.
In many instances, the articling student may not have objective proof of the harassment or discrimination they experienced. In these situations, the Equity Ombudsperson will make reasonable inferences and conclusions from the information provided.
The Equity Ombudsperson has experience dealing with issues involving articling students and principals or other lawyers. They bring considerable expertise to the program.
If the Equity Ombudsperson concludes that a student does not meet the requirements of the program, they will work with the student to connect them with resources and supports to address their current concerns. Where the articling student is amenable, the option to address these matters through mediation efforts to help preserve the principal-student relationship may be made available. Whether mediation is an appropriate option will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The Law Society may determine that the previous principal is unable to have future articling students until they take and complete training or education to address the underlying issues.
If the situation warrants the involvement of the conduct process, the Law Society will carefully review all the information provided by the articling student to determine the appropriate next steps. The Law Society may determine that it is necessary to proceed with a complaint against the principal and/or the other lawyer, either at the articling student’s or the Law Society’s initiative. This may occur:
- to prevent harm to future articling students;
- when there is a potential risk to the public; and
- when the principal’s and/or the other lawyer’s behaviour is of such a nature that it harms the standing of the legal profession.
Before a complaint is opened the Equity Ombudsperson will connect with the student to identify if they would like to be involved in the complaints process. The student’s wishes will be considered.
Roster firms/organizations are law firms/organizations that meet specific eligibility criteria and are willing to offer replacement articles to articling students through the program. View the list of roster firms/organizations.
If your law firm or organization is interested in being added to the roster, you can apply or reach out to the Equity Ombudsperson for more information.
To be included as a roster firm/organization, they must meet specific eligibility criteria including:
- can offer replacement articles on short or little notice.
- must provide a principal who can fully meet the duties required by the Law Society.
- relies on the Law Society’s conclusion that the articling student has met the program’s eligibility criteria.
- must pay the articling student’s salary for the duration of the articles with the firm/organization. The salary must be commensurate with the salary paid to the firm/organization’s other articling students, if applicable. Please note that the replacement firm/organization is only responsible for salary once the articling student begins their employment with them. The Law Society does not pay the articling student’s salary.
- must pay the articling student’s CPLED fees if:
- The student has not taken PREP (the bar admission course) but will during their articles with the roster firm/organization.
- The student has begun PREP (the bar admission course) and paid the course fees out-of-pocket but the student has not completed the course and will be continuing to take the course or completing the course during their articles with the roster firm/organization.
- The student has begun PREP (the bar admission course) and their former firm is seeking reimbursement for all or part of the course fees but the student has not completed the course and will be continuing to take the course or completing the course during their articles with the roster firm/organization.
Note: All of the above is only applicable if the roster firm/organization pays the CPLED fees for the firm/organization’s other articling students. If the student is completing composite articles at the roster firm/organization, the roster firm/organization is only responsible for the fees incurred for the portion of PREP that is completed by the student during their composite articles at the roster firm/organization. The Law Society does not pay the articling student’s CPLED fees.
The Equity Ombudsperson will work with the articling student to identify:
- where they are located; and
- what area(s) of law they have experience in or are interested in.
The Equity Ombudsperson will use this information to identify available roster firms that align with the students experience and interests. If there are certain area(s) of law or work environments the student is not interested in, they are encouraged to discuss that with the Equity Ombudsperson.
Where the student is placed is dependant on the firms that are available at the time the student requires articles. As a result, we can not guarantee placement at a specific firm. The Equity Ombudsperson will do their best to find a firm that best aligns with the students experience and interests.
All placements through the program will be subject to conflicts checks between the student’s previous firm and the roster firm/organization. Students must identify whether they are aware of any existing or possible conflicts with firms/organizations on the roster and indicate this to the Equity Ombudsperson as soon as possible.
Will information about my experience in my previous articles be shared with my new replacement firm/organization?
The Law Society will advise the roster firm/organization that the articling student has met the eligibility criteria of the program but will not provide any detailed information about what occurred during the student’s previous articles. The Law Society will provide the roster firm/organization with information regarding what has been accomplished so far in the student’s articles and a copy of the student’s resume. The roster firm/organization will require the name of the student’s former firm in order to check conflicts.
The replacement firm/organization is prohibited from asking questions related to the harassing or discriminatory behaviour in the articling student’s previous firm/organization.
It is up to the articling student to decide whether they or the Law Society provides any information to the roster firm/organization regarding their experience during their previous articles.
An articling student may contact Assist for information and related resources. Articling students have access to Assist’s programs and peer support and can contact the organization to learn what mental health and other supports are available to them at any time.
An articling student is encouraged to contact the Equity Ombudsperson at anytime during their articles if they are experiencing discrimination or harassment. The Articling Placement program is only one of many supports that the Equity Ombudsperson offers. The Equity Ombudsperson is available for confidential advice and will work with the student to identify any supports or resources that may help them navigate their concerns.
Articling students are welcome to contact Assist for information and resources. ASSIST provides lawyers and articling students with a variety of resources around well-being including counselling services and peer support. You can read more about their offerings on their website Counselling and Support for Alberta Lawyers 24/7 ASSIST. They can also be reached by phone at the following numbers: