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What is an Articling Student in Alberta?

Read this blog to find out what an articling student is, how it's different from a student-at-law and what it means to article at a law firm.

If you’re in law school, you’ve probably heard the term “articling student” before. And if you haven’t, trust me, you soon will. But if you’re a recent 0L or 1L, you might not be familiar with what that term means exactly like I wasn’t when I first got accepted into law school so I’m here to help you out with that. Before we get into what an articling student is though, first you have to understand what “articling” means in law

What Does “Articling” Mean in Law?

In law, an article is one of the biggest requirements to become a lawyer in Alberta. It’s when a law student works under the supervision of what’s called a “Principal” (typically a lawyer approved by the Law Society who meets the requirements to be a Principal but could also be a Judge or Justice) to gain the skills and practical experience necessary to succeed in a career in law. The process of completing an article is often referred to as “articling” which, in simple terms, is a kind of on-the-job training for law graduates. It usually lasts for twelve months and is done after law school so you need to have obtained your law school degree (JD or LLB).

What is an Articling Student and How is it Different from a Student-at-Law?

Once you know what articling is, it’s pretty easy to infer what it means to be an “articling student.” Basically, someone who is currently in the process of completing their article. But what can sometimes get confusing is how an articling student is different from a student-at-law. Before articling, a law student and/or graduate must apply to the law society to become a “student-at-law” (and no, this is not just another way of saying law student). Student-at-law is a specific status given to an articling student which is essentially what allows them to practice law and provide legal services. The terms articling student and student-at-law are often used interchangeably.

What does an Articling Student or Student-at-Law do?

An articling student or student-at-law can do most things that a lawyer can (e.g. make court appearances, provide legal opinion, etc.), subject only to some exceptions. That said, in practice, an articling student’s tasks might depend on several factors including their assigned principal and the size and/or practice area of the firm they are articling at. For example, an articling student at a larger firm with a lot of resources and lawyers might take on a more supportive role doing document review and drafting memos compared to an articling student at a smaller firm with fewer lawyers who might have the opportunity to be more involved in a file or even get to manage a file of their own.

To learn more about what a student-at-law can do, check out this article by The Law Society of Alberta.

Related: How to Become a Lawyer in Alberta and Is There a Bar Exam in Alberta?