Written by Stephanie Boomhour
Much has been written about the Law Practice Program at Ryerson. It is unfortunate that most of the articles seem to overlook the fact that an equivalent program in French, called the Programme de pratique du droit, is offered at the University of Ottawa. I am proud to say that I was a member of the first cohort of candidates to complete the PPD in its first year, starting in September 2014.
I admit I was initially unsure about my choice to pursue this alternative path to the profession. The $5,000 registration fee is prohibitive to many, particularly after dishing out tens of thousands of dollars in law school tuition fees. Unlike traditional articling students, I did not have the benefit of earning a salary during the first four months of my licensing process. Moreover, in my case, coming from the north, I had the additional burden of moving expenses and short-term rent in Ottawa in order to follow the in-person training from September to December. For these reasons, I had some major reservations about the PPD before starting.
However, it turned out to be an outstanding learning experience. Dealing with a much smaller pool of candidates, the PPD offers intensive in-person training to French-speaking candidates in a simulated law firm. Like in Ryerson’s LPP, we worked on simulated cases designed by subjectmatter experts. Through these cases, we learned the basis of seven core areas of law. We docketed our time and prepared invoices for clients. We drafted wills. We completed real estate transactions. We prepared and conducted a hearing. We prepared a motion record. We even took part in a mediation. This gave me a breadth of experience that few articling students, or even practicing lawyers, can claim to have. With every task we did, we received detailed and individualized feedback on our work from expert lawyers. Everyone involved in the PPD was there to help me learn so that I could become the most successful lawyer I could be.
When I began my placement at the Nipissing Community Legal Clinic, I was ready to hit the ground running. I felt comfortable meeting with clients, preparing them for hearings, and drafting legal documents. I knew how to organize a file and manage my time. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have been able to take on these challenges had it not been for the training I received at the PPD.
What is particularly unique about the PPD is that it has given itself an additional vocation of helping to promote access to justice in French. This objective permeates all aspects of the PPD. We learned about the Report on Access to Justice in French from Justice Rouleau himself. We were introduced to community partners, such as Action Logement or le Centre d’information juridique d’Ottawa, to whom we could refer our future clients to ensure they receive holistic and seamless services in French relating to their legal needs. Much of this vision can be attributed to the PPD’s advisory board, which is comprised of francophone lawyers and judges from all walks of the legal community, including the clinic system, small firms, in-house positions, and government, all of whom are deeply committed to their community and to the success of the candidates. It is not surprising that the francophone community embraced the PPD with so much enthusiasm. In total, more than 125 francophone lawyers contributed to creating and delivering the PPD. Many of these lawyers have now become my mentors, my references, my friends, and my allies in our shared goal of offering quality legal services to the franco-Ontarian community.
It is often said that it takes a community to raise a child. Having now successfully completed the PPD, I believe that the same can be said about training future lawyers. I started the PPD with the objective of gaining practical skills to help me successfully transition into the workplace. I left feeling as though I am now a member of a large family dedicated to the shared objectives of serving my community.