Lawyer Jordan Furlong: “No profession devours its young quite like the law.” 1,163 BC lawyers vote *against* bare minimum standards for articling students. No wonder so many in the legal industry treat their paying clients like shit.

The legal industry claims it serves the public interest? Any stats on how many lawyers violate regulator rules, abuse their paying clients (that are serving the public interest), quit with no notice, lie, refuse to release fully paid for case files and work to run out lawsuit clocks to destroy their clients’ cases after hundreds of thousands of life-long saved dollars are wasted like spent cocaine and booze down the toilet?

Resolution on job protections for articled students in B.C. shows profession wants change: lawyer by Ian Burns, Jan 4, 2021, The Lawyers Daily

As an ever-widening spotlight is being put on issues of mental health and wellness amongst lawyers it has also been noted that articled students face similar pressures, but may not have the same options to deal with job pressures as their more experienced colleagues do. And as the Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) brings students under the protection of provincial legislation on employment standards, one of the issue’s main proponents says she hopes it will be a stepping-stone to a broader conversation on the overall treatment of students in the legal profession.

At its annual general meeting (AGM) in 2020, law society members passed a resolution which would require Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) benchers to amend its rules and code of professional conduct to require articled student agreements provide “at least” the rights and protections offered under the provincial Employment Standards Act’s provisions on minimum wage, hours of work and recognition of statutory holidays. Sickening that the students were not already protected with the bare minimum but typical of the greed in the legal industry that ensures “justice” remains inaccessible for most Canadians. It’s no surprise to me after watching my lawsuit being used by the Supreme Court of Canada to damage our Charter (7/9 of the top judges that heard my case were appointed by the Charter-hating Harper Klan), and experiencing being betrayed by my “public interest” lawyers, Cory Wanless and Murray Klippenstein. As rotten as how the oil and gas industry abuses its workers. Some worker contracts are longer than 80 pages, include gag orders (just to have a job) and take ownership of worker brains and creativity – even off the job.

The resolution, which was approved by a vote of 1,567-1,163, with 187 abstentions, also requires the law society to ensure articled students can seek financial redress for practices which may contravene the amended rules. Benchers now have until October 2021 to implement the resolution.

Robert Russo, University of British Columbia Chase Blair, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, said he decided to bring it forward “because I realized the vulnerable position articled students are in, both economically and politically.”

“They often do not want to raise concerns about their working conditions out of fear of losing a reference or negatively impacting their reputation,” said Blair, who is currently in his first year of practice. “This is especially the case for first-generation lawyers, who often have few contacts in the legal profession. Articled students also lack any political power as they cannot vote for benchers, who have the ability to regulate the conditions of articled. So, someone admitted into the profession needed to stand up for those who lack a voice.”

Law society members are exempt from the provisions of the Act, and this exemption is extended to articled students because they are considered to be doing something which would be substantially similar to what a practising lawyer would do. But Robert Russo, who teaches labour and employment law at the University of British Columbia, said that exemption doesn’t consider some of the changes the law society itself has been trying to make in terms of mental health and substance abuse in the profession.

“And there is this concern the exemption was affecting articled students really negatively in the sense they are working really crazy hours but don’t have the power to complain about it as other lawyers would because they are afraid,” he said. “Once your articled term has ended, they don’t have to hire you on, so articled students would be concerned that they may get less than a positive reference. So, by bringing them under the Act it is trying to address the concern that they don’t have that equal bargaining power that lawyers may have.”

Sonja Luck, criminal defence lawyer Vancouver-based criminal defence lawyer Sonja Luck, who co-sponsored the motion after Blair contacted her about it, said for her supporting it was about “challenging and shifting a certain perspective that articled students are undeserving of a minimum wage.

“It’s my hope that through this resolution we can change that mindset and create a regulatory framework within the law society, which represents an ethos of fairness and decency for the most vulnerable in our profession,” said Luck, who graduated from Thompson Rivers University (TRU)’s faculty of law alongside Blair in 2019. “When you’re an articled student, with a mountain of debt, accumulating interest, and dealing with a high cost of living, receiving a minimum wage would provide the financial breathing room you need to survive. The real-life stress of making ends meet invariably impacts a person’s mental health.”

Minimum wage, overtime and holiday pay are basic protections and not radical standards, said Blair, noting Alberta requires legal employers pay their articled students a minimum wage.

“I believe all workers should be compensated for each hour of their labour. Unlike lawyers, articled students cannot start their own practices, choose their clients, or decide their file load,” he said. “Until they are able to do so, protections need to be put in place. Leaving an articled position is rarely a viable option, whether for economic or reputational reasons.”

And Russo noted the standards under the Act are minimal ones.

“The collective bargaining provisions now in B.C. take that as a baseline, but articled students could form a union and get more than this if they wanted to in the future,” he said. “As lawyers you are supposed to be upholding the laws many of these people work under, so I don’t think it is too much to ask for them to extend these protections for students who may not have that kind of bargaining power.”

Both Luck and Blair said the response from younger cohorts in the profession has been positive. Luck noted the student leadership from all three law schools in B.C. (TRU, UBC and the University of Victoria) wrote an open letter of support for the resolution.

“In casual conversations with lawyers during my day-to-day life, I’ve also noticed an overall acknowledgement that having articled students paid below minimum wage or no wage at all is wrong and that something needs to be done to ameliorate the fact that the most vulnerable individuals in our profession — articled students — can be exploited,” she said. “The resolution provides a much needed stepping-stone in starting a broader conversation on the treatment and regulation of articled students. It is an indication that a considerable portion of the membership want to see meaningful change implemented.”

LSBC communications officer Vinnie Yuen said benchers have been seeking the views of law firms and current and recent articled students through two online surveys.

“The surveys ask firms and students about compensation and hours of work. The results are expected to assist the benchers in considering the resolution,” he said. “No decision has been made yet by the benchers on amending the rules to provide for the suggested amendment to the articling agreement.”

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact Ian Burns at email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 905-415-5906.

Colin S. Levy@Clevy_Law Replying to @jordan_law21 and @JoanHowarth1

A truly sad state of affairs.


About Jordan Furlong

Refer also to:

Edmonton lawyer disbarred for lying: “The code of professional conduct prohibits lawyers from misleading others, either intentionally or accidentally,” while nine Supreme Court of Canada judges get away with intentionally publishing a lie in Ernst vs AER.

2019 Profile of the Legal Profession [in USA] Report; article on it:

… The Report also reveals what most of us would have assumed: public service lawyers are grossly underpaid with civil legal aid lawyers being paid on average the least of the least. Its no wonder we have an access to justice problem.

… 21% of lawyers report problem drinking; 32% of lawyers under 30 report problem drinking. This compares to 6.4% of the general population. 25-35% do lawyers facing disciplinary proceedings report some mental illness or addiction issue.

The Rule of Law: One for the rich and or ‘well connected’ (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and another for the average ‘Joe’. Edmonton lawyer Shane Stevenson facing drunk driving causing death charges at centre of major lawsuit against him and Dentons Law Firm. Lawyers working drunk is common. How many judges work drunk? What’s the relationship between ordering gags (to cover-up crimes by the rich) and addiction?

To learn how the oil and gas industry uses gag orders to get regulators off their back to pollute again “down the street,” listen to AER’s outside counsel Glenn Solomon giving legal advice to a frac-harmed family by Ponoka, Alberta.

“Klippenstein, admittedly, ‘would not be the person’ he is ‘without freedom of thought and expression,’ so where’s his outrage at the legal suppressing of those freedoms – aka gag orders? And who would he be then, with his mouth legally taped shut?” Comment to Andrew Nikiforuk’s article in The Tyee on Klippenstein & Wanless quitting

Legal scholar Joshua Sealy-Harrington “totally eviscerates” Murray Klippenstein’s arguments. It revolts me that my public interest lawsuit is being destroyed by Klippenstein pissing on Law Society Rule 2.09 to enable racism. After abruptly quitting my lawsuit 838 days ago, he *still* has not sent me my case files, as required under the rules. What tune would Klippenstein sing if all the bias/prejudice was directed at Mennonite lawyers?

Snap from Law Society of Ontario Rule 2.09

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