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Alberta law society makes changes to articling requirements due to COVID-19

Tuesday, April 07, 2020 @ 11:55 AM | By Ian Burns

In direct response to concerns from both students and the wider profession related to the economic and logistical challenges that are resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Law Society of Alberta (LSA) has made changes to the articling requirements and has increased the practice readiness education program (PREP) subsidy to add flexibility for firms and organizations as they navigate the articling period.

According to the LSA’s press release, effective April 6, the articling term in Alberta changes to a minimum of eight months and a maximum of 12 months for any student-at-law enrolled after Jan. 1, 2019. Students clerking with the courts also have more flexibility in the term of articles.

Prior to April 6, students-at-law clerking with the courts would complete a 10-month term and then an additional five months with an active member of the law society. With the changes to articling requirements, these students can now spend a minimum of eight months to a maximum of 10 months at the courts, and then complete a minimum of three months to a maximum of five months with an active member of the law society.

These changes directly impact current students-at-law who are in the middle of their 2019-2020 articling term and students scheduled to commence their 2020-2021 articling term this spring or summer.

The law society’s board says it has committed to reviewing these changes to the articling requirements before the end of 2021 once it has a full understanding of the impact of the change on the profession.

In another effort to help alleviate financial stress, the law society has increased the subsidy provided to the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education’s PREP students by $1,000, thereby reducing the tuition payable by the student or their firm from $3,600 per student to $2,600 per student for students who commence PREP in 2020. This additional subsidy is for one year only.

The law society’s rules have also been amended to allow official transcripts from Canadian universities and certificates of qualification from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, respectively, to be provided through secure electronic means, which eliminates the need for paper copies of transcripts to be mailed.

If students are seconded, rule changes have been implemented to clarify the supervision requirements for secondment of students if lasting longer than one week. While students retain their designated principal during secondments, the supervisor at the secondment must meet the same prerequisites of a principal.

The law society is also reminding the profession that articling students are subject to Alberta’s employment standards regulation and must be paid. More information can be found here.