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How to qualify as a lawyer in the Philippines
The Philippines’ legal system is a blend of civil law and common law systems, in which the practice of law is regulated exclusively by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. No distinction exists between lawyers who give legal advice (e.g., solicitors) and those who provide legal representation in court (e.g., barristers), as anybody who wishes to practice law must meet the requirements provided in the Rules of Court.
While admission to the practice of law is the sole prerogative of the Supreme Court, the accreditation of law schools falls within the competence of the Legal Education Board. However, the Legal Education Board, which was established in 1993, only began operating in late 2009, and has yet to prescribe the basic curriculum for the study of law.
In any case, to be able to take up law, one must first complete “a bachelor’s degree in arts or sciences with any of the following subjects as major or field of concentration: political science, logic, English, Spanish, history and economics.”These majors are, however, merely directory and not mandatory, as one can gain admission to a duly accredited law school, provided his or her bachelor’s degree meets the minimum requirements of the admitting law school.
To be eligible to take the bar examinations, a candidate must complete courses in “civil law, commercial law, remedial law, criminal law, public and private international law, political law, labor and social legislation, medical jurisprudence, taxation and legal ethics”.
|Admission To The Practice Of Law|
After successfully completing the requisite number of course units towards the awarding of a law degree, a candidate can file an application to take the bar examinations, provided he or she is“a citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-one years of age, of good moral character, and a resident of the Philippines”.
The bar examinations are held once a year in the City of Manila, over a period of four (4) days, with the first day being devoted to Political and International Law (morning) and Labor and Social Legislation (afternoon); the second day, to Civil Law (morning) and Taxation (afternoon); the third day, to Mercantile Law (morning) and Criminal Law (afternoon); and the fourth day, to Remedial Law (morning) and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises (afternoon). For the first three days, the relative weight of each morning subject is 15 per cent, while that of each afternoon subject is 10 per cent; on the last day, the relative weights of the morning and afternoon subjects are 20 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively.
To pass the bar examinations, a candidate must obtain “a general average of 75 per cent in all subjects, without falling below 50 per cent in any subject.” The successful candidate is entitled to take the oath of office, receive his or her certificate of membership to the Philippine Bar, and, finally, sign the roll of attorneys admitted to practice. Only then does the passer of the bar examinations officially become a lawyer and can use the title of “Attorney”.
Once admitted to the practice of law, a lawyer must remain in good standing in order to maintain such practice. This includes being a member of and paying the yearly dues to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines(“IBP”), evidence of which is reflected in the IBP official receipt number which must be stated in all pleadings, motions and papers signed and filed by lawyers before Philippine courts.The consequences of using an outdated IBP official number include the court not acting upon said pleading, motion or paper and disciplining the non-complying lawyer.In extreme cases, the use of an expired IBP official receipt number can lead to the dismissal of a case.
Besides maintaining membership in the IBP, a practicing lawyer must also comply with the requirements on Mandatory Continuing Legal Education(“MCLE”), which entails completing “every three (3) years at least thirty-six (36) hours of continuing legal education activities approved by the MCLE Committee”,unless exempt.As with the IBP official receipt number, practicing members of the bar are required to indicate the number and date of issue of their MCLE Certificate of Compliance “in all pleadings filed before the courts or quasi-judicial bodies”.
The practice of law is reserved exclusively to Philippine citizenswho have completed the requisite coursework at a duly accredited Philippine law school,and have passed the bar examinations.
There were two exceptions to the citizenship and education requirement, but due to the passage of time, these may no longer apply. Under the first exception, United States citizens who, before July 4, 1946, were licensed to practice before Philippine courts, are able to continue such practice.
Under the second exception, Philippine citizens who were “enrolled attorneys in good standing in the Supreme Court of the United States or in any circuit court of appeals or district court therein, or in the highest court of any State or Territory of the United States”, having practiced at least five years in any of said courts prior to July 4, 1946, could be admitted without examination,even if they completed their legal studies overseas.
Consequently, foreign lawyers cannot engage in the practice of law in the Philippines, and must be represented by a member of the Philippine Bar in all matters connected with such practice.
The rules, regulations and bar examination application forms are available on the official website of the Supreme Court:sc.judiciary.gov.ph.
The rules on MCLE and the discipline of attorneys are available on the official website of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines:www.ibp.ph.
Admission requirements of the University of the Philippines College of Law: http://law.upd.edu.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=36&Itemid=56.
Note that the Legal Education Board has no official website yet.
Written by Banuar Falcon
RULES OF COURT, Rule 138, § 6.
RULES OFCOURT, Rule 138, §5.
RULESOFCOURT, Rule 139-A, §9.
Supreme Court Circular No. 10 (July 24, 1985).
Bar Matter No. 287 (September 26, 2000), reiterated in Bar Matter No. 1132 (April 1, 2003)
See, e.g., Gaas v. Mitumug, G.R. No. 165776, Dec. 14, 2004.
SeeBar Matter No. 850 (Aug.22, 2000).
Id.Rule 2, §2.
Id.Rule 7, §1.
See RULESOFCOURT, Rule 138, § 2. See also PHIL. CONST., art. XII, §14 (on the practice of professions being reserved exclusively to Filipino citizens).
RULESOFCOURT, Rule 138, §5.
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