22 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 1 JANUARY 2020
Law and the principal in question (together, the “Firm”) to terminate the articles
of a student four months into her articling year, report her to the Law
Society for alleged misconduct and commence a Supreme Court action
against her for what the Firm classified as “notional” damages resulting from
her alleged malfeasance.2 Specifically, the Firm alleged that the student had
breached her professional obligations and committed professional and legal
misconduct based on her social interactions with fellow members of the
Firm, her conduct in her day-to-day practice obligations and her alleged theft
of what can perhaps best be described as the intellectual property of the
Firm through publication of that information in a separate blog she was
alleged to have created outside of her employment with the Firm. The student
counterclaimed for wrongful dismissal and represented herself.
Notably, the student was formally served the notice of civil claim and termination
papers during her first week of PLTC and in front of her classmates.
In the end, after seven days of evidence, the court dismissed the Firm’s
claim in its entirety, and the student was successful in her counterclaim;
she was found to have been wrongfully terminated by the Firm. Notably, in
addition to the damages arising from lost wages, the court concluded that
the student was entitled to “a substantial award of aggravated damages”, as
she had been “the victim of unfair bullying, bad faith conduct by the Firm
and had suffered substantial and prolonged emotional distress because of
that conduct”.3 The court awarded her $50,000 for aggravated damages and
about $19,000 in ordinary damages for lost earnings.
The Acumen decision inspired the authors to canvas senior members of
the criminal bar to opine on the significance of becoming a principal to an
articled student. While Acumen is an example of what not to do, this article
sets out some principles to consider before taking on such a significant role
in someone else‘s career.
LEGAL BASIS FOR THE PRINCIPAL–ARTICLED STUDENT RELATIONSHIP
Four foundational documents inform the principal–articled student relationship:
the Legal Profession Act,4 the Law Society Rules,5 the Code of Professional
Conduct for British Columbia6 and the Articling Guidelines.7
The Legal Profession Act is the enabling statute that allows the Law Society
to create its own rules and enforce them. As such, it has little to say
about the specifics of the articling relationship and roles. However, one
point of interest is s. 19, which provides a standard for being enrolled as an
articled student, called and admitted or reinstated as a member of the Law
Society: a prospective candidate must be “of good character and repute and
… fit to become a barrister and a solicitor”.