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Addressing Challenges in an Articling Placement

  • Candidate Leaves of Absence
    If your candidate requests or requires a leave of absence, special consideration must be given to how this affects both the candidate’s fulfillment of the articling placement and the business needs of your practice. The Law Society is pleased to discuss your administrative obligations and options, as well as practical suggestions to help resolve any issues, but cannot provide legal advice or opinions.

    To ensure that your candidate receives full credit for his or her time in service under articles, you must keep accurate records of their dates of absence. If your candidate’s return date is uncertain, you and your candidate should file end of articling placement documents (the Certificate of Service under Articles and the Record of Experiential Training) at the time your candidate goes on leave. If and when your candidate returns to their articling placement, a new Articles of Clerkship may be filed on that date. If, however, you have a clear idea of when your candidate will return to the articling placement, you may continue under the Articles of Clerkship form that was originally filed and, at the ultimate conclusion of the articling placement, note on the Certificate of Service under Articles the amount of time that the candidate was absent from the articling placement. You may need to extend the end date of the articling placement to accommodate an extended absence.
     
  • Improving Candidate Performance
    Performance issues may arise in articling placements for a variety of reasons. In accordance with performance management best practices, a performance issue is best addressed with clear communication and feedback. When providing feedback and addressing a performance issue with a candidate, the following tips are recommended:
     
    • Fully explain the performance issue (for example: missed deadlines, inaccurate materials, or incomplete research) and how it affects your organization, staff, and/or clients. Context can be very helpful for candidates, who lack the experience of practicing law in Ontario.
    • Use neutral language to minimize deflection and defensiveness. For example, you may wish to use such language as: “When you provide a draft late, this means the staff have to work overtime, which is costly for us and draining for them,” instead of telling them, “This late draft reflects a level of incompetence that cannot be tolerated at this firm.”
    • Address the problem at hand, rather than any perceived deficient attributes of your candidate. In other words, focus on the problem, not the person.
    • Ask the candidate for input on what they think is contributing to the problem and generate options together to improve performance.
    • Emphasize your candidate’s strengths and the aspects of their work that they have been doing well. Consider whether the candidate contributes to a positive work environment, and/or demonstrates a consistent desire for self-improvement? Research into performance management reveals that providing fair and accurate feedback and emphasizing performance strengths are two of the most powerful factors in generating high performance.
    • Seek out your candidate’s point of view and ask them to propose strategies for how the issue could be avoided in the future.
    • Listen carefully to your candidate’s perspective and keep an eye out for any underlying sources of problems.
    • When assigning future tasks, ask your candidate to confirm your instructions by repeating them to you. Asking, “Do you understand,” is often insufficient. Candidates will sometimes say yes just to avoid negative judgment. Instead, ask, “Can you tell me what you are going to do to complete this assignment?”
  • Termination of an Articling Placement
    Either you, your candidate or both may decide to end the placement before the anticipated articling end date. The obligations and protocols around this circumstance are set out in Part X of the Lawyer Licensing Process Policies.

    If you are contemplating terminating an articling placement, you may contact the Law Society in advance to discuss your administrative obligations and options, as well as practical suggestions to help resolve any issues. However, please note that the Law Society cannot provide legal advice or opinions. You may access the Law Society Referral Service to be referred to a lawyer.

    Where an articling placement is terminated, the onus is on the candidate to find another articling placement to complete his/her articling term.

    Within 10 days of a placement being terminated, both the candidate and the principal must provide to the Law Society written notice that includes the effective date of the termination, and the principal must file the required Certificate of Service under Articles completed by both the candidate and the principal.
  • Withdrawal of an Articling Commitment
    If you commit to providing an articling placement to a candidate, and are subsequently unable to fulfill that commitment due to a change in your practice circumstances, membership status or other related factors, you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that an appropriate alternative articling placement is found for the candidate. For example, you should assist the candidate in obtaining interviews with other firms, make administrative services available to the candidate, and provide the candidate with a letter that clearly states that the candidate is without an articling placement through no fault of their own.