Guide for Articling Principals

This document is intended to provide guidance to Principals throughout the duration of an articling placement. It should be considered an overview reference resource, rather than a comprehensive outline of every policy or circumstance that may apply to Principals or to articling placements. For more information or to inquire about a specific issue, please visit http://lsuc.on.ca/articling/ or contact the Law Society’s Articling Program staff by email at articling@lsuc.on.ca, or by telephone at 416-947-3315 or 1-800-668-7380 ext. 3315.

Download a PDF Copy of the Guide for Articling Principals

How to Use this Guide

This document sets out key topics related to serving as a Principal, and outlines policies and procedures associated with them. You should use this document to gain a better understanding of your responsibilities and obligations as a Principal, to ensure that you deliver the most effective training experience your practice allows, and to best prepare your Lawyer Licensing Process candidate (articling student) for entry into the profession as a licensed lawyer, through teaching, mentoring, and delivering effective feedback.

Please review this document to find pertinent information about the following topics:

Principal Eligibility Criteria and Application Process

Principal Application Checklist

Flexibility within the Articling Program

Principal Obligations and Guidelines

Overview of General Principal Responsibilities

Experiential Training Obligations and Guidelines

Teaching and Mentoring Obligations and Guidelines

Filing and Reporting Obligations and Guidelines

Articling Placement Time Off and Study Days

Lawyer Licensing Process Candidates’ Rights to Appear before Courts and Tribunals

Supervision Agreements

Filing and Reporting Requirements Checklist

Addressing Challenges in Articling Placements

Principal Eligibility Criteria and Application Process

To serve as a Principal, you must meet certain eligibility criteria (based on the requirements set out in section 10 of the Law Society’s Lawyer Licensing Process Policies), and ensure that you have been approved by the Law Society in advance of the commencement of an articling placement. You should also review the experiential training competencies established by the Law Society and assess how your practice can provide an articling placement experience that supports these competencies.

A lawyer cannot serve as a Principal for more than two Lawyer Licensing Process candidates at any given time.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Experience: A Principal must have been actively engaged in the practice of law for three of the five years immediately preceding the commencement of the articling placement.
  • Competence and Ethical Standards: A Principal must be an exemplar of the profession, having regard to all circumstances including but not limited to the experience, competence, ethical standards and professional conduct record of the lawyer. All relevant information with respect to the lawyer, including all information and records in the possession of and maintained by the Law Society, including without limitation any claims, discipline history, investigations, trustee services and other applicable matters, may be considered in the approval or removal of a lawyer as a Principal.
  • Disqualifying Characteristics: A lawyer who is the subject of any of the following will not be eligible to serve as a Principal: a suspension of the lawyer’s licence; an open disciplinary proceeding being conducted by the Law Society, or ensuing court proceedings related thereto; an open investigation being conducted by the Law Society; or an open complaint to the Law Society containing allegations of harassment or discrimination. A discipline record may not necessarily preclude a lawyer from becoming a Principal. All of the circumstances of the discipline record, including without limitation the finding, the date and nature of the lawyer’s conduct, the lawyer’s conduct since the finding was made, and the sanction, will be taken into consideration.

Application Process:

Prospective Principals are required to file an Application to Serve as Articling Principal to be approved. If you have previously filed this form during or after 2009 and been approved as a Principal, and there have been no changes to your eligibility status as set out in the criteria immediately above, then you are not required to file a new application or any additional documentation. You may contact the Articling Program staff at any time to confirm your Principal status.

When filing an Application to Serve as Articling Principal, you must include a statement of your qualifications to serve as a Principal (you may use your curriculum vitae or professional profile page). Please also ensure that you have provided all relevant information in your application, including details of any disciplinary record. You may attach a separate sheet with details if necessary. Lawyers who have been found guilty of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a barrister and solicitor must disclose their discipline record.

After you have been approved, it is your responsibility as an active Principal to notify the Articling Program staff immediately if you become aware of any investigation into your conduct being commenced by the Law Society, or of any other information that could result in you becoming ineligible to serve as a Principal. Failure to immediately notify may adversely affect not only you, but also your candidate. The Law Society will not give credit for a candidate’s service in a placement under the supervision of an unapproved and/or ineligible Principal.

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Principal Application Checklist

  1. Carefully review the eligibility criteria to ensure that you are eligible to serve as a Principal.
  2. If eligible, complete an Application to Serve as Articling Principal and file it with the Law Society.
  3. Note: Please ensure that all pages of the Application to Serve as Articling Principal are included when you file your application.

  4. Await written confirmation from the Law Society of your approval as a Principal, which will be delivered to you by email.
  5. Note: The process for approval of your Application to Serve as Articling Principal takes approximately 10 business days, provided all required documentation is filed

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Flexibility within the Articling Program

There are many different arrangements and practice settings that can support an articling placement. The focus must always be on ensuring that the articling placement experience supports the experiential training competencies established by the Law Society. In addition to the traditional 10 month full-time articling placement in Ontario, the Law Society also permits, in appropriate circumstances, joint articling placements, part-time articling placements, national articling placements, and international articling placements.

Ontario Articling Placements:

An Ontario articling placement is served with a Principal who is providing the candidate with an experience that substantially deals with laws and practices applicable to the practice of law in Ontario. Articling placements may take place within a variety of practice settings, including law firms, sole practitioners, company or non-profit organization legal departments, government departments or ministries, and legal clinics.

Typically, an Ontario articling placement will take place in Ontario on a full-time basis for a continuous period of 10 months. However, as detailed below, various other arrangements are possible.

Joint Articling Placements:

A joint articling placement is served with two or more Principals who agree to share the services of a candidate during the 10 month articling placement. In addition to the typical articling placement filing requirements, a joint articling placement requires a schedule that is agreed upon in advance and signed by the candidate and all Principals, and submitted to the Law Society for approval.

Part-Time Articling Placements:

A part-time articling placement is served on a part-time basis for a continuous duration equivalent to 10 months. These placements are available to promote flexibility in accommodating individual circumstances or special needs of candidates. In addition to the typical articling placement filing requirements, a part-time articling placement requires a written request accompanied by a detailed schedule agreed upon in advance and signed by the candidate and Principal, and submitted to the Law Society for approval.

A part-time articling placement must be equivalent to 10 months of full-time articles, which may include up to 10 days of time off. The part-time articling placement should be continuous and only interrupted by the permissible time off.

National Articling Placements and International Articling Placements:

A national articling placement is served within Canada and is supervised by a lawyer who has been called to the bar in another Canadian jurisdiction and is in good standing in that jurisdiction, or by an approved Principal who will not be providing the candidate with an experience that substantially deals with the laws and practices applicable to the practice of law in Ontario. An international articling placement is served outside Canada and is subject to the same supervision criteria. 

In addition to the typical articling placement filing requirements, national and international articling placements require an application to be submitted in advance to the Law Society for approval. The application must include specific examples of the proposed legal experience to be provided, with descriptions that assist in demonstrating the candidate’s fulfillment of the experiential training competencies.

Abridgments based on Prior Legal Experience:

Lawyer Licensing Process candidates who have gained practice experience in another jurisdiction or other legal experience after their graduation from law school may be eligible for an abridgment of the length of their articling placement. Candidates who complete an abridged articling placement must still complete all other requirements of the Articling Program, including all filing and reporting requirements.

In some cases, candidates will approach prospective employers having already been approved for an abridged articling placement. Candidates may also begin their articling placement and subsequently apply for an abridgment. If your candidate is applying for an abridgment after their articling placement has commenced, you will be required to submit a letter indicating the start date of the articling placement and the amount of time off the candidate has taken up to the date of the abridgment application.

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Principal Obligations and Guidelines

Overview of General Principal Responsibilities:

Experiential training enables Lawyer Licensing Process candidates to apply their formal learning and develop their skills, professional abilities and judgment. The Law Society entrusts this training to those members who serve as Principals. Principals serve as exemplars of the profession, and play an integral role in ensuring the competence of new lawyers in Ontario. As a Principal, you are expected to act as a teacher, mentor, and role model for candidates. To offer an articling placement to a Lawyer Licensing Process candidate is to accept the trust placed you by the Law Society and by the candidate, and to commit time and effort to providing the candidate with as meaningful and varied an articling placement as is possible in your practice.

Section 6.2-2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct sets out the duties of a Principal. It states, “A lawyer acting as a principal to a student shall provide the student with meaningful training and exposure to and involvement in work that will provide the student with knowledge and experience of the practical aspects of the law, together with an appreciation of the traditions and ethics of the profession.”

You are expected to abide by the requirements and responsibilities set out in section 10 of the Lawyer Licensing Process Policies throughout the duration of an articling placement. Information about all of the procedures and policies related to the Articling Program can also be found online on the Procedures and Policies page.

It is very important that you keep current your contact information that is on file with the Law Society.

Experiential Training Obligations and Guidelines:

To the best of your ability, you must instruct your candidate in the practice and profession of law and provide an articling placement experience that supports the experiential training competencies as they apply to your practice. In addition to learning substantive law and procedure, candidates must receive training in the necessary skills, knowledge and tasks for entry into the profession. All tasks and activities are expected to be performed in a directly supervised capacity. 

Assigning routine professional duties to candidates is a tradition of articling that contributes to a candidate’s understanding of a lawyer’s work environment. The proportion of a candidate’s time committed to such matters must be kept within limits that are compatible with the educational and experiential training goals of articling.

Teaching and Mentoring Obligations and Guidelines:

Teaching in the context of an articling placement can often be on-the-go, by instruction and example, with interjected explanations and informal after-the-event discussions. It is most important that you provide regular and direct supervision of a candidate’s work, with appropriate constructive criticism and comment. Ensuring that expectations are clearly established when any given task is assigned is essential.

Timely, ongoing, and structured feedback is important to a candidate’s development and can also be beneficial to you. The most effective feedback is specific, descriptive, balanced, realistic, and easy to understand.

You may also allow your candidate to work with your colleagues within your firm or organization. While these arrangements can provide beneficial variation of the articling placement experience (e.g. a rotation to a different practice group within a law firm), it is important to recall that – except in circumstances where an Assignment of Articles form has been filed with the Law Society –  you remain at all times responsible for the actions of your candidate. It is also important for you to ensure that, in such situations, your colleagues assist in carrying out the educational and experiential training goals of articling.

Filing and Reporting Obligations and Guidelines:

As part of the Pathways to the Profession Pilot Project, the Law Society has enhanced the Articling Program to support an overall evaluation of the experiential training component of the Lawyer Licensing Process. These enhancements require, among other things, that Principals file an online Experiential Training Plan (“ETP”) at the beginning of the first articling placement being supervised by that Principal, using the Articling Program Reporting Tool. The purpose of the ETP is to ensure that the articling placement will provide the candidate(s) with a meaningful and valuable training experience. The preparation of these plans also helps to promote a level of consistency in applying skills competencies across articling placements. 

Your ETP will be used to support all future articling placements that you supervise as a Principal. Any subsequent candidates you supervise will receive access to your ETP upon the filing and approval of their Articles of Clerkship form. If you have two candidates beginning articling placements within the same Licensing Process year, you will still only file one ETP, which should address the experience expected to be provided to both candidates. If your practice can no longer support your existing ETP on file and revisions to your ETP are needed, you should contact the Law Society.

Toward the end of each articling placement, you are also required to report on your candidate’s experiences during the articling placement relating to the experiential training competencies, and on your candidate’s performance in each of the performance appraisal competencies. To do this, you must file the online Record of Experiential Training in Articling Program (“RET”), using the Articling Program Reporting Tool. Once you have filed the RET, your report on the performance appraisal competencies will be viewable by your candidate through his/her online Licensing Process account. 

Your candidate must also file an online RET toward the end of each articling placement, using his/her online Licensing Process account. Your candidate’s RET is a separate requirement independent of your own RET, and consists only of a report on his/her experiences during the articling placement relating to the experiential training competencies.

The ETP and RET can serve as reference tools for both you and your candidate(s) throughout the articling placement, to ensure the training remains relevant and continues to support fulfillment of the experiential training competencies. Principals and candidates are encouraged to review these tools often and to work together to identify tasks and activities from which the candidate could benefit. This may be to gain a higher level of experience with a certain competency area, to gain experience with a new competency area, or to develop skills. You are also encouraged to use the exercise of tracking and reporting on your candidate’s activities as an opportunity to provide your candidate with valued and sought-after feedback about his/her work.

Articling Placement Time Off and Study Days:

Candidates are entitled to take up to a total of 10 business days of Time Off from articling placement duties over the course of an articling placement that is 10 consecutive months in duration, to complete the Articling Program requirements. Pursuant to the Lawyer Licensing Process Policies, “Time Off” means any day on which a candidate does not perform articling placement duties, and includes, without limitation, Study Days, vacation days, sick days and personal days. In the case of an abridged articling placement, the amount of Time Off is prorated accordingly. 

Principals are not required to provide any minimum number of vacation days during the course of an articling placement. The provision of vacation days, sick days and personal days is a private matter to be agreed upon between a Principal and a candidate. These should be discussed when negotiating the terms of the articling placement employment.

Additional days of Time Off (beyond 10 business days) may also be taken by a candidate by agreement with his/her Principal, provided that corresponding additional days are added on to the end of the articling placement term. For example, if you agree to provide your candidate with 15 vacation days during an articling placement, and your candidate takes all 15 vacation days, then the term of the articling placement will need to be at least 10 months plus 5 business days.

If your candidate is taking his/her first attempt at writing the Solicitor Licensing Examination or the Barrister Licensing Examination during the articling placement, you must provide your candidate with up to a total of 7 Study Days free of articling placement duties per Licensing Examination, consisting of 5 days of uninterrupted study time, 1 day to write the Licensing Examination, and 1 free day. It is up to your candidate to request the number of Study Days he/she would like to take (up to seven per Licensing Examination). There is no such requirement to provide Study Days for the candidate’s subsequent attempt(s) at writing either licensing examination.

Any Study Days that a candidate takes during an articling placement for the purpose of writing a licensing examination must be either counted towards the candidate’s allowed amount of Time Off (10 business days) or added on to the end of the articling placement term, so that the candidate may still satisfy the requirement of serving for 10 full months. 

Lawyer Licensing Process Candidates’ Rights to Appear before Courts and Tribunals:

Lawyer Licensing Process candidates who are serving under Articles of Clerkship are entitled to appear before courts and tribunals in Ontario in certain circumstances. The rights of appearance are set out in detail online, and should be reviewed carefully before instructing your candidate to make any appearance. 

Most importantly, in all matters and at all times, you are responsible for ensuring that: (i) your attendance is not necessary in order to secure the client’s rights or assist the court or tribunal, or for any other reason; (ii) the matter is appropriate for your candidate’s training, experience, and ability; (iii) your candidate is properly prepared; and (iv) your candidate is adequately supervised. 

Your candidate must identify him/herself as a “student-at-law” or “articling student” when appearing before a court or tribunal. 

Supervision Agreements:

If your candidate has completed his/her articling placement and you would like him/her to continue to provide legal services under your direct supervision until his/her call to the bar, you and your candidate may complete a Supervision Agreement and file it with the Law Society for approval. Lawyer Licensing Process candidates who are serving under an approved Supervision Agreement are entitled to the same rights of appearance as candidates who are serving under Articles of Clerkship.

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Filing and Reporting Requirements Checklist

Before the Articling Placement Commences:

  • You must ensure that you are approved to serve as a Principal. All prospective Principals who have not previously filed during or after 2009 an Application to Serve as Articling Principal and been approved by the Law Society must do so in advance of the articling placement.

Within Ten Business Days after the Articling Placement Commences:

Within Ten Business Days after the End of the Articling Placement, OR, if your Candidate(s) intends to be called to the bar in June, by the Early Filing Deadline of April 1:

Important Notes:

  • You and your candidate must meet the above requirements to ensure that your candidate obtains full credit for his/her service under articles. Failure to meet these requirements may result in late fees, a delayed call to the bar, and/or unauthorized practice issues. Candidates will not necessarily receive credit for service in articling placements that have commenced more than ten business days prior to the date the Articles of Clerkship form is filed.
  • The above requirements apply to every articling placement that a candidate commences, regardless of its duration. If an articling placement is being assigned on a permanent basis to a new Principal, and/or the candidate is articling under more than one Principal, these requirements will apply in each articling placement.

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Addressing Challenges in Articling Placements

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 the 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 RET) at the time your candidate goes on leave. If and when your candidate returns to the 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:

  • It is often important to 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.
  • Using neutral language can help to minimize deflection and defensiveness. For example, consider the impact of explaining to a candidate, “When you provide a draft late, this means the staff have to work overtime, which is costly for us and draining for them,” versus telling them, “This late draft reflects a level of incompetence that cannot be tolerated at this firm.”
  • Focusing on accurately addressing the problem at hand, rather than on highlighting any perceived deficient attributes of your candidate, will tend to yield much better outcomes.
  • Try to emphasize your candidate’s strengths and the aspects of their work that they have been doing well. For some general examples, does he/she contribute to a positive work environment, and/or demonstrate 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.
  • It can often be helpful to seek out your candidate’s point of view. Consider asking your candidate to propose strategies for how the issue could be avoided in the future. Listening carefully to your candidate’s perspective can help you to identify any underlying sources of problems. 
  • When assigning future tasks, it is often be very effective to 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, consider asking, “Can you tell me what you are going to do to complete this assignment?” 

Termination of an Articling Placement:

An articling placement may be terminated prior to the end of the anticipated articling term by either a candidate or a Principal, or by mutual agreement. 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 in order to complete his/her articling term.

Within 10 days after a placement is 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:

The agreement between a Principal and a candidate to engage in an articling placement carries professional obligations over and above the normal contractual obligations. Where a Principal commits to provide an articling placement to a candidate and is subsequently unable to fulfill that commitment due to a change in the Principal’s practice circumstances, membership status or other related factors, the Principal should take all reasonable steps to ensure that an appropriate alternative articling placement is found for the candidate. Examples of such steps include assisting the candidate in obtaining interviews with other firms, making administrative services available to the candidate, and providing the candidate with a letter that clearly states that the candidate is without an articling placement through no fault of his/her own.


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Articling Program Contact Information

We would be pleased to assist you with any issues related to the Articling Program. Please contact:

Articling, Licensing Process
Licensing and Accreditation Department
The Law Society of Upper Canada
130 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5H 2N6
Tel: 416-947-3315 or 1-800-668-7380 ext. 3315
articling@lsuc.on.ca

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