In April 2020, shortly after the initial declaration of a Public Health Emergency in Alberta due to COVID-19, the Benchers approved an amendment to the articling term. To provide greater flexibility for students and firms during the pandemic, this amendment changed the articling term in Alberta from 12 months to a range of between eight months and 12 months for students-at-law. Students clerking with the Courts were also provided more flexibility in their term of articles.
At that time, the Benchers committed to review the amendment to determine whether the change should be permanent. This review included consultation with students-at-law, principals and program administrators by way of feedback surveys, a roundtable discussion with key stakeholders and input from the Lawyer Competence Advisory Committee.
Throughout the consultation process, concerns were raised about the impact of shortening the articling timeline. These concerns included challenges with assessing competency, confusion over how the Practice Readiness Education Program (PREP) aligns with articling, determining drawbacks for firms, determining what is best for students-at-law and much more. The consultation also identified reasons to maintain the articling range and have a variety of options available to students-at-law, law firms or other articling settings.
In consideration of this review, at the September 2022 Board meeting, the Benchers approved the return to a 12-month articling term, or 15 months if clerking with the Court, that includes PREP within that term. This reverts the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta, Rule 56, to the pre-April 2020 version, effective Jan. 1, 2023.
This change affects all students-at-law who will begin articling after Jan. 1. Those who have status as a student-at-law before the end of the year are not impacted by this Rule change.
Returning to a 12-month articling term simplifies the process for articling students and principals. It also allows the Law Society to clarify that PREP is considered part of the articling term.
Students-at-law have the option of completing Regular PREP, the traditional 10-month program, or Accelerated PREP, a new 14-week intensive version of PREP.