The investigation into the Law Society's licensing examinations is complex and evolving quickly. There are strong indications that examination content has been improperly accessed through cheating, in contravention of the Examination Rules and Protocol, compromising the integrity of the upcoming examination period. Evidence indicates the potential involvement of third parties in this activity.
This week, the external investigation team hired by the Law Society issued letters to individuals who may be involved in the cheating scenario. Those impacted have been advised that they will be subject to investigation through the regulatory process as a result of conduct related to the licensing examinations.
The letters also request that all documentation and information relevant to the investigation be provided to investigators. This is an important step that allows us to advance the investigative process.
"The Law Society must ensure that examinations support a valid and defensible assessment process that will support the licensure efforts of the many candidates who are not under investigation and have not engaged in cheating," said Diana Miles, Chief Executive Officer. "Continuing with online examinations in light of the ongoing investigation was not possible. In-person delivery provides the necessary degree of security to ensure examination integrity and to protect the reputation of all those candidates who are in no way implicated in the investigation."
As announced on April 7, the barrister and solicitor summer examination sitting has been shifted from June to July. The four-week shift is necessary to safely and effectively deliver in-person examinations in five cities across the province. In-person exam delivery includes booking venues with sufficient space, implementing security and invigilation measures, developing and implementing COVID-19 safety protocols, and ensuring there are specific plans in place for candidates who require accommodations on Human Rights grounds.
All licensing examinations for the 2022 – 2023 licensing cycle will take place in-person. Online examinations will not be offered. Study materials and the competencies that will be examined remain unchanged. These updates are necessary to ensure a defensible licensing examination process.
The Law Society has taken steps to try to alleviate some of the challenges faced by licensing candidates by extending the deadline for examination deferrals and providing financial assistance through the Repayable Allowance Program. The Law Society will continue to offer accommodations on the established examination dates for the grounds outlined in the Human Rights Code.
"I acknowledge the stress and anxiety caused by the changes to the current examinations cycle. To protect the entire licensing process, and to avoid outright cancellation of the examinations, we made the difficult decision to move from online examinations in June to in-person examinations in July," said Teresa Donnelly, Treasurer, Law Society of Ontario. "Regardless of our efforts, we know that this decision has affected many candidates — their career plans, their plans to recharge after finishing law school, or their plans to travel with family or loved ones. I am truly sorry for those that are experiencing these impacts. It is important that candidates dealing with the negative effects of this decision reach out to the Member Assistance Program for confidential access to counselling, coaching, online resources and peer volunteers, should they need it."
Information concerning investigations about specific individuals by the Law Society of Ontario are confidential, until or unless they result in regulatory proceedings, which would be public.
The Law Society is committed to ensuring a process that is fair, just and in the public interest. Updates will be provided as available.
The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a mandate to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario, and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.