For the past 8 years, the Toronto Lawyers Association has presented its Head Start educational program for articling students and licensing candidates. Having recently completed another successful session of practical advice and community-building, TLA Library Director Joan Rataic-Lang and Library Manager Erin Wescott shared their thoughts on teaching future lawyers. LexisNexis Canada is a proud supporter of the TLA and the Head Start program.
As summer fades into fall, we at the TLA turn our focus toward teaching future lawyers. Each September we offer a series of programs tailored specifically to articling students: Masters Motions, Head Start, and Writing a Legal Memo. Our goal is to give them the relevant, practical information they need at the beginning of their articles, under the guidance of masters and senior lawyers.
Volumes have been written on the subject of dealing with Millennials and Generation Z, with the unfortunate emphasis on “dealing with.” That condescending approach goes against the principles of adult learning, one of which is that adult learners want to be respected as such. Articling students are coming to us at the end of their law school curriculum, often with an earlier degree already in hand. They’re not uneducated, just new to the profession.
This is clear in the feedback that we receive. They don’t want to be talked down to. They don’t want to have a lot of filler thrown at them, they want practical answers to the questions they have about working in the profession. They want to know where to go, what to do, and they enjoy hearing about the learning experiences of others as long as they can be applied broadly. They will not tolerate out-dated attitudes and jokes in this area will offend. A little fun and humour is okay, however as adult learners they want the focus to be on the goal. Their goal is to succeed at their year of articling and launch their legal career. Anything cutesy that distracts from that isn’t relevant to them.
Every year we take what we’ve heard and apply it to improve the programs for the following year. An important takeaway from this year was about how we frame the discussion about appropriate court attire. We get a lot of feedback from judiciary of all genders about the apparel that articling students are wearing into the courtroom, so we do think there is value in talking about it. In particular, we try to emphasize the importance of dressing to match the level of professionalism their principals are held to in the courtroom. However, anything that puts the focus on the behaviour of one gender versus others should be avoided and that’s something we want to be conscious of moving forward.
One aspect of our programs never changes, our commitment to providing articling students with the resources they need to successfully navigate their last challenge before being called to the bar.
-Joan Rataic-Lang, Library Director, and Erin Wescott, Library Manager, Toronto Lawyers Association
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