Legal education in the country will now be focused on “practice-readiness” by law students instead of concentration on passing the bar examinations.
This modernized legal education was discussed by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo during the online launch last Thursday, Oct. 14, by the Legal Education Board (LEB) of its website on the Revised Model Law Curriculum (RMLC) and its Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP).
The LEB, created under Republic Act No. 7662 in 1993, “is an independent government agency responsible for the regulation of the legal education in the Philippines.”
Among the key changes in the RMLC are the “reduction of the total minimum academic load required of law students, rationalization of mandated courses which removes the emphasis on bar review and focuses instead on ensuring that bar candidates are given updates and ample amount of coaching, introduction of procedural law subjects in the First Year Law curriculum, and full integration of clinical legal education in the curriculum.
Chief Justice Gesmundo lauded as “historic” the launch of the RMLC and CLEP website.
He said: “Our duty is not only to graduate law students, not just to ensure they pass the bar examination, certainly not just to populate the courts with more lawyers. Our duty is to foster an environment during law studies which will spawn the next generation of lawyers who are not only practice-ready, but who are equally prepared to assume the role of servant leaders in our country.”
He lamented that the “bar-centricity,” or the focus on passing the bar instead of on practice-readiness, has been the root of the problem of “the terrible attrition rates in the Philippine Bar Examinations.”
“Today we break this cycle,” Gesmundo declared.
“The Revised Model Curriculum that we are formally launching today is a decisive step away from bar-centricity… I hope that everyone in the legal education community understands the significance of the adoption of the Revised Model Curriculum: this is the Philippine legal education community taking a stand and sending an unequivocal message that, henceforth, legal education will be primarily student- and society-centered, as it should be,” he said.
“Passing the bar examination will be THE RESULT of implementing the Revised Model Curriculum, rather than THE OBJECT,” he stressed.
He paid tribute to “the tremendous effort of the Curriculum Revision Committee to re-think the best possible formulation, combination and sequencing of courses and credits, as well as the introduction of new subjects to reflect the developments in society, locally and internationally.”
“I am particularly elated to note that a course entitled ‘Judicial Mind’ has been included in the list of suggested electives in the Model Curriculum, hopefully as a first step to the introduction of a full Judiciary Track in law schools,” he said.
The Chief Justice reiterated his commitment to push for the revision of Rule 138, particularly Section 5, which prescribes the completion of certain mandatory courses for applicants to the bar examination.
He said that these courses need to be revisited in view of the ever-changing needs and the evolving definition of law practice, for which the law curriculum is the vehicle for preparedness.
Citing an example, the Chief Justice said: “We must finally address the question of whether Taxation should be a mandatory course and a stand-alone bar subject.”
He also lauded the launch of the CLEP website, a portal for all relevant information and resource materials on CLEP and the Revised Rule 138-A or the Revised Law Student Practice Rule.
With CLEP, he said law students are exposed early “to hands on and experiential learning in an effort not only to develop their skills, but purposively to stimulate and enhance their social consciousness.”
Since the adoption of CLEP, 49 Legal Clinics have been established nationwide. Also, 25 law schools have received their certifications, while 10 law schools have pending applications.
Gesmundo said the CLEP website “will now provide a platform to showcase model law clinics and CLEP best practices that will assuredly provide guidance and inspiration to those of us who are still in the infancy of our clinical legal education journey.”
“Legal education is a pillar that, together with judicial education, holds up the very firmament of the Philippine legal system. Needless to say, the Supreme Court is highly invested in elevating the standards of legal education in our country,” he said.
On the part of LEB, Chairperson Anna Marie Melanie Bacani Trinidad said that the country owes present and future law students a “program of study responsive to rapidly changing times and adaptable to their ever-increasing curiosity.”
Country Representative of The Asia Foundation Mr. Sam Chittick said the RMLC will “help push the modernization of legal education” as it “attempts to achieve that balance which is so essential between academic freedom and government supervision of the legal education for the public interest so that we have quality education in developing excellent, ethical, and innovative legal professionals committed to the Rule of Law.”
Director of the International Narcotics and Law enforcement Affairs Office Ms. Kelia Cummins said that “students can now benefit from hands on experience and expand their professional networks.”
Also present during the online launch were LEB Commissioners Josefe Sorrera-Ty, Lorenzo Regellana Reyes, Abelardo T. Domondon, and Alexander Diamla Dumpa; lawyer Leonardo Roy A. Cervantes for retired Chief Justice Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, retired Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, and Court of Appeals Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh.
Former LEB Commissioner and Justice Zenaida Elepaño, Integrated Bar of the Philippines President Burt Estrada, Dean Gemy Lito Festin as president of the Philippine Association and the association’s Chairperson Dean Maria Soledad Deriquito-Mawis, and Kenneth Bayudan as president of the Association of Law Students of the Philippines, and other deans and professors of the legal education community also participated during the online launch.