By: Jordan Furlong, Canadian Legal Sector Analyst, Forecaster, Speaker, and Consultant
In a previous post, I discussed how the Law Society of British Columbia (the regulator of lawyers and legal services in the province of B.C.) asked me to suggest reforms to its lawyer licensing system. In my 82-page report submitted in May 2022, I recommended that B.C. create a competence framework for entry-level fitness to practice law and design a competence-based licensing system based on that framework. In September 2022, the Law Society accepted that recommendation.
In my report, I was reluctant to give the Law Society my opinion on the proper constituent elements of entry-level competence in their province. That decision has to be made by experts with much more experience and proficiency than me, in consultation with a very wide group of stakeholders.
But I was invited to consider that there would be value in suggesting a sort of “starter kit” of competencies in a suggested framework, in order to guide the earliest stages of the consultation process and give the directors a sense of what such a framework might look like. After extensive research and reflection, I came up with the following:
- Knowledge of the Law
- Administrative law and procedure
- Business and corporate law and procedure
- Civil litigation, procedure, and remedies
- Contract law and drafting
- Constitutional law
- Criminal law, procedure, and sentencing
- Family law and procedure
- Legislative, regulatory, and judicial systems
- Property and tenancy law and procedure
- Wills, estates, and trust law and procedure
- Understanding of a Lawyer’s Professional Responsibilities
- Client confidentiality
- Client trust accounts
- Conflicts of interest
- Fiduciary duties
- Select other aspects of the Code of Professional Conduct
- The Skills of a Lawyer
- Gather relevant facts through interviews and research
- Carry out legal research
- Conduct due diligence
- Draft essential legal documents
- Solve problems using legal knowledge and analysis
- Help negotiate solutions and resolve disputes
- Advocate for a client’s position
- Provide legal advice to clients
- Use law practice technology
- Fulfill the basic business and professional requirements of a private law practice
- The Skills of a Professional
- Establish, maintain, and conclude a client relationship
- Establish and maintain respectful and collaborative relationships with colleagues and others
- Communicate accurately and concisely, verbally and in writing, to different audiences
- Understand and use information management systems effectively
- Understand and use financial management systems effectively
- Manage projects and responsibilities to ensure they are completed efficiently, on time, and to an appropriate professional standard
- Organize one’s time and activities to ensure the prompt and successful fulfilment of one’s obligations.
This starter kit can serve as a useful tool for regulators in Canada and, hopefully, the United States, as well as law schools across the continents, in determining what competencies every first-year lawyer should possess.
For an example of what a competence framework for lawyer development and licensing might look like, check out the Building a Better Bar project at the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, and of course, the Roadmap for Employment at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Also, Professors Neil Hamilton and Jerry Organ have done extensive and fantastic work on professional competence development and professional identity formation.
If you have any questions or comments about this post, then please email me at email@example.com.