Impact of COVID-19 on Current and Future Students-at-Law
The following information is meant to address the impact of COVID-19 on current and future articling arrangements regulated by the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. We understand that many of you have questions and are facing issues that seemed unimaginable just weeks ago. Law firms and organizations are facing a new economic reality and some are wondering whether there will be sufficient work to provide to their students. Many are quickly pivoting to remote operation and have concerns regarding their ability to adequately supervise their students at a distance. We hope that some of the information contained herein will be helpful as we continue to chart our way through these uncertain waters.
Amendments to Requirements re Application for Admission
Current and potential students-at-law should be aware of the following temporary changes regarding their application for admission:
- passport-style photographs need not be provided;
- application documents need not be notarized;
- applicants may provide an unofficial transcript from their educational institutions in lieu of an official transcript, provided that they also supply correspondence from their educational institutions confirming the accuracy of the grades shown on the unofficial transcript; and
- in lieu of a copy of their law degree certificate, applicants may provide correspondence from their law school confirming that the applicant has met all the requirements of the law school that entitle the individual to graduate.
Where possible, documentation related to an Application for Admission should be sent via email to Andrea Mercer (email@example.com)
Any approval of an application for admission as a student-at-law shall be conditional upon the student subsequently fulfilling the ordinary requirements and providing all documentation required pursuant to the Law Society Rules as soon as circumstances permit.
Inability to Provide Sufficient Instruction / Experience
Where a principal does not believe that they are able to fulfill their obligation to provide such instruction and experience in the practice and profession of a solicitor, including exposure to the appropriate subjects and practice areas, the following options should be considered:
- a principal and student may agree to the student being temporarily supervised by another member of the Law Society, pursuant to Rule 6.06A(4).
- with the consent of the student, a principal may assign the Articles of Clerkship to another qualified principal, pursuant to Rule 6.05(9).
If, despite the principal’s best efforts, an alternative placement of the student is not possible, other alternatives may be explored. The Education Committee welcomes requests for certain allowances or accommodations, such as a part-time working arrangement, provided that the integrity of the articles is not compromised. Such requests will be considered contextually on an expedited basis.
In the event that alternate arrangements do not appear feasible, the student and the principal may request an extension to the period of articles, pursuant to Rule 6.06(4)(a), which, if approved by the Education Committee, would permit the student to retain their status as a student-at-law with the Law Society and resume their articles once circumstances permit.
Remote Supervision of Students-at-Law
By necessity, many firms and organizations have commenced remote working arrangements. Students-at-law can work remotely, provided that they are being properly supervised. Supervision of a student who is working remotely could take the form of daily telephone calls to check-in, videoconferencing, increased email communication, use of secure cloud-based sites/programs to review work product, etc.
Principals intending to supervise their students remotely must develop a plan that addresses how such supervision will occur and provide steps that a student can take where they need help and the principal is unavailable. To the latter point, principals should ensure that their students have contact information for another active member of the Law Society that a student can reach out to for assistance in the event a principal becomes ill or is not available. As long as supervision occurs (remote or otherwise) the student would still be considered to be articling.
Those interested in learning more about the steps you can take and the technology you can implement to operate a law practice remotely are strongly encouraged to watch the recent CLE seminar entitled “Business Continuity for Law Offices in the Face of Coronavirus”, which can be found here:
At this juncture, it is imperative to take steps to minimize the negative impact on students/principals and ensure that the integrity of articles remains intact.
If you are a principal that has committed to taking on an articling student, please reach out before making a decision to terminate the articling position. We are seeking feedback to learn about issues impacting firms and organizations in order to explore options so we can provide the flexibility needed to get through this crisis while still providing an appropriate articling experience to students.
For students that have concerns that they may be unable to complete their articling term, please contact us to discuss your options.
All inquiries related to the impact of COVID-19 on the articling program should be directed to the attention of Christian Hurley by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).