Last month, The Law Society of British Columbia adopted a resolution to incorporate provisions of the Employment Standards Act into its code of professional conduct. They include provisions relate to minimum wage, breaks, sick leave, and overtime pay for articled students.
Large firms have the resources to pay articled students a competitive market wage and should have no problem meeting the provisions. Lawyers who work in social justice, legal aid practices, and small or rural communities as sole practitioners, on the other hand, do not necessarily have the ability to shoulder this added burden. Lawyers such as these work on razor thin margins. The added costs will undoubtedly discourage firms from taking on articled students which could lead to fewer opportunities overall.
If the Law Society intends to make this happen, it must ensure that jobs are not lost. It should and must do more than just implement the Employment Standards Act provisions. That’s why I have called publicly for a subsidy for small, solo, rural and legal aid practices to allow them to keep articled students.
A subsidy is necessary to support sole practitioners, rural or remote lawyers, legal aid lawyers as well and social justice and public interest practitioners taking on articled students.
As a Bencher, I would act to ensure the Law Society creates a subsidy. To ensure the changes are implemented as smoothly as possible, it’s crucial that the subsidy comes into effect at the same time. Any measure that would reduce articling positions, discourage firms from taking on students or generate disparity in the legal community should be avoided. That’s why, if I’m elected, I will work within the Law Society’s framework to ensure a fund is set up to subsidize the implementation of the Employment Standards Act provisions.