Published 17 August 2020, The Daily Tribune

Amid the drudgery and forced isolation brought by the pandemic, a recent phenomenon became a potent cause of resounding celebration across the country.

To many Filipino communities, it represents the springboard for a life of material success. To many parents, it represents the hard-won fruit of years of hard work and earnest aspiration for their children. To all law students, it is a veritable rite of passage, for it determines whether they can make a living out of the field of study to which they have devoted at least four years of rigorous preparation. To some law graduates, it may be an inadvertent test of resilience, the momentous turning point that gets them to answer the question, “How well can you rise above disappointment for the sake of a dream?”

I am, of course, talking about the release of the Bar exam results and the recent oath taking of the new lawyers. Ten of them, in fact, are from our law firm.

Filipinos have a particularly overstated way of raising much fanfare about it. Even when one is not trying, one cannot help but be aware that the results have been released to the public, simply by the sheer inflow of joyous greetings. Occasionally, there is raised a tarpaulin bearing the likeness of the successful candidate and attendant salutations meant to celebrate the family’s new “attorney.”

But does passing the Bar, by itself, make one an attorney? Strictly speaking, the answer is No.

The process is a little more layered than that.

The journey to becoming an attorney-at-law, as far as our rules are concerned, does not start and end with passing the Bar.

The journey begins far more early on, when one takes and finishes a four-year pre-law course. The Supreme Court is vested by our Constitution with the power to prescribe rules governing admission to the Philippine Bar (Section 5[5], Article VIII, 1987 Constitution).

In the exercise of this power, the Supreme Court has promulgated Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. Section 6 of the said Rules provides that every applicant for admission to the Bar examination must first present a certificate showing that he has satisfied the Secretary of Education (now, the Legal Education Board) that, before he began the study of law, he had pursued and satisfactorily completed in an authorized and recognized university or college, requiring for admission thereto the completion of a four-year high school course, the course of study prescribed therein for 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. (To be continued)

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