Lawyer or Student-at-Law or Law Student or What?



We’re going to be joined today by Brian Jalonen, our Student-at-Law.”

This has been the standard introduction to each client of Patriot Law Group that I have met over the past year as a “student-at-law”. He looks old for a student, I imagine the client thinks. Old for a student, yet he appears wise and capable, I hope the client thinks. And ruggedly handsome.

More likely, the client thinks something like, What’s a student-at-law? Why not just say “law student”?

A “law student” is still a student at law school, such as the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. Before they will admit a new student, most law schools require the student to have completed an undergraduate degree and to have earned high marks on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) relative to his or her peers. Law school is where a student learns the academic basics of Canadian law and develops the analytical mindset necessary to approach legal issues. It is also where the law student amasses crippling student debt. A law student has no professional standing within the legal profession. A law student cannot provide legal advice.

A “student-at-law” is a defined term within the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta (the “LSA”), which is the legal profession’s governing body in Alberta. After a law student graduates, he or she can apply to be admitted into the LSA as a “student-at-law”. A student-at-law is admitted into the LSA as part of the year-long apprenticeship period or “articles”, where he or she learns the practical application of his or her legal education by working in a law firm under the direct supervision of a senior lawyer. It is also where the student-at law learns to use the photocopier and coffee maker and subsequently questions the series of decisions that brought him or her to such a low station in life. A student-at-law has professional standing within the legal profession and is authorized to provide a broad array of legal services that are specified in the LSA’s Rules. A student-at-law has a complete legal education, often has limited experience (both in law and life), but can provide some legal advice.

After the articling year is completed, the student-at-law can then apply to the Court to be admitted into the LSA as a lawyer. The ceremony for admission to the LSA as a lawyer is known as being “called to the bar.” After being “called”, the new lawyer is entitled to provide the full range of legal services described in the LSA’s Rules. It is also when the new lawyer starts peppering his or her speech with Latin phrases, ad nauseam.  An experienced lawyer has a complete legal education, can train new lawyers and can provide comprehensive legal advice.

In short, a law student is just a university student and a student-at-law is a lawyer in training. So when you need a lawyer, get a lawyer.

Posted by Brian


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