Obiter Dicta Issue 6 - November 17, 2014 - Page 8

OPINION 8  Obiter Dicta How Bad is it Really? Giving Canada’s “Articling Crisis” Another Assessment marie park › arts & culture editor W e’ve heard it for years, we’ve given it a name now and talk about it incessantly - the “articling crisis” that haunts the halls of law schools across the nation, an unprecedented mountain the legal profession has not seen before. The worry is not as bad in first year, as everyone is just starting off fresh in building the resumes and experiences that will become the basis of hiring decisions in the summers to come. Come time for OCIs, the crisis begins to loom on a not-distant horizon, where the outcome of the second summer hires will become a critical factor in whether or not one can find shelter from the seemingly impending mass panic. For those who continue to be jobless into third year (and mind you, this is a large number), the nightmare is a real and persistent itch that never gets better until that elusive articling position is secured. This is a narrative that applies to many of us, perhaps much more acutely to third years who are still looking. We feel a sense of hopelessness as the weeks go by, combined with a lingering disdain for the unfortunate mix of factors that have catalyzed this situation in recent years. We try to be positive about it, but in the end keep asking - why us? I too have been in this negativity camp for a long while, until I began to try to see beyond my myopia. We can all acknowledge that law school is a bubble of its own, and the same goes for the legal profession. As an exchange student at Tokyo’s Waseda University Law School, I have recently been blessed with the opportunity to broaden my mind’s eye - not only have I learned a lot about the Japanese legal job market, I’ve come to better appreciate the “crisis” as a global situation, and not just our own. Waseda law students are among the top in Japan - consistently ranking high in the country for their bar exam pass rates, the Japanese method of ranking law schools. Initially, when I learned that Japan does not have the equivalent of our articling requirement, I thought maybe this would then make the path towards practice that much more painless. Apparently, though, Japanese law students do not have it any easier than we do. I would say the opposite - the bar exam pass rate has been historically reported to be the most abysmal in the world, with a rate of just 6% passing in 2010. Though the system has been given wholesale modifications in recent years, such as including the requirement of attending a law school (which was not, traditionally, a requirement), the pass rate is still at an incredible low of about 24%. Putting that into perspective, though LSUC does not publish its bar exam pass rates, it is well known that it is very high. The bar exam, for most of us, is more or less taken as a symbolic rite of passage, rather than an actual test of a candidate’s aptitude to practice. For us, the real test takes the form of the longer-term challenge to find and secure an articling placement, which is a significant factor that bars some from licensure - recently, the LSUC reported that up to 12.1% of Ontario law school graduates did not get hired for articles in 2010/2011. One may “. . . the ‘crisis’ is a global situation, and not just our own.” ê If you thought interviews on Bay Street were demoralizing, try battling the mean streets of Tokyo. ê Always remember that there is an entire world full of opportunites for those who choose to see them. argue, then, that the challenges for law students of various countries lie at different checkpoints, but that all countries are common in having a specific threshold mechanism. But that is not the end of this discussion - the global legal job market decline since the recession has added to the already arduous path towards becoming a lawyer in jurisdictions where the bar exam stands as the main selection process. My Japanese friends comment that even after passing the bar, the lack of jobs post-bar is yet another hurdle that has been thrown at the legal profession. From what I hear, the challenge to find employment as a lawyer in Japan may be much tougher than our articling “crisis,” as we so call it. The moral of this piece is that it is not so bad after all. It is all a matter of perspective. In the end, we too often only react to the perceived hardships that we ourselves are subjected to, as our own problems are the only real problems of importance to our narrow-minded selves. We forget to try to understand our challenges relative to the bigger picture, and in doing so, create the storms of our own gloom. Among the most lasting impressions the Japanese law students have had on me is their unrelenting optimism despite the bleaker future of the legal profession in Japan. People do not complain but rather transform that negativity towards a bubbly attitude that encourages each other to brave through the long endless days and nights of studying for the bar. This is something Canadians should learn to do - channel the worry into something good, to see beyond our woes, and bring the right kind of positive professionalism to the legal landscape.  u