Law schools’ dismal showing hit

There is a need to address the dismal performance of law schools in providing legal education in the country, according to a magistrate of the Supreme Court.

In a speech during the oathtaking of 1,731 Bar passers at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City Thursday, Associate Justice Arturo Brion lamented the unsatisfactory performance of law schools in the 2015 Bar examinations.

Brion said of the 130 law schools nationwide that fielded graduates for the 2015 Bar exams, only three had passing rates of 70 percent and above, while 28 had zero passing rates and another 28 registered a passing rate of 10 percent or less.   

The SC magistrate admitted that of the 130 participating law schools, 56 or 43 percent had passing rates of 10 percent.

New lawyers. Bar examination topnotcher Rachel Angeli Miranda (leftmost) of the  University of the Philippines leads the oathtaking of 1,731 new lawyers during the Supreme Court special session at the PICC in Pasay City on Thursday. DANNY PATA
Brion said in the best performers bracket, only three law schools had passing rates of 70 percent and above, and only 10 law schools fell within the 50 percent to 69 percent category.

Because of this, the SC justice stressed that of the 130 participating law schools in the 2015 Bar exams, only 13 law schools or 10 percent can say that half of their Bar candidates passed.

There are 140 law schools in the country, but only 130 have graduates taking up the 2015 Bar examinations.   

“Can we call this law school performance satisfactory? What should the concerned agencies do with these non-performing law schools?” Brion told the new lawyers.   

The SC justice, however, did not call for the immediate closure of these non-performing law schools, saying that such move is a matter solely for the Legal Education Board (LEB) which is under the Executive Department to tackle.   

“Lest I be misunderstood, I do not suggest, by these questions and by citing these statistics, the immediate closure of law schools with a poor showing. This is a matter solely for the LEB to consider.     

But at the very least, a close inquiry into this matter should publicly be undertaken so that the public would be aware and concrete and holistic actions can be taken,” he stressed.   

Earlier, the high court said 6,605 law graduates took the 2015 Bar, but only 1,731 or 26.21 percent passed the examinations.   

In 2014, 1,126 of the 5,984 examinees managed to passed the Bar. The SC said the passing rate is the 6th highest since 2001.   

The highest was in 2001 with 32.89 percent, followed by 31.95 percent in 2011, 31.61 percent in 2004, 30. 60 percent in 2006 and 27.22 percent in 2005.   

The passing rate for the 2015 Bar exams is higher than the 18.82 percent who passed the 2014 examinations.      

University of the Philippines College of Law graduate Rachel Angeli Miranda  topped the 2015 Bar exams with a rating of 87. 40 percent, followed by Athena Plaza of the University of San Carlos with a rating of 87.25 and Jayson Aguilar of the UP College of Law with 86.75. 

In fourth place  was  Reginald Arceo of Ateneo de Manila University with a rating of 86.70, while Mandy Therese Anderson, also of Ateneo de Manila, came in at fifth place with a rating of 86.15.   

In sixth place was Giselle Hernandez of the UP College of Law with a rating of 86.10, followed by Darniel Bustamante of San Beda College-Manila with a rating of 85.90.   

In eight place were Jecca Jacildo of the University of San Carlos, Soraya Laut of Xavier University and Jericho Tiu of Ateneo de Manila with a rating of 85.85.

In ninth place was Jedd Brian Hernandez of the UP College of Law with a rating of 85.80 while Ronel Buenaventura of the Bulacan State University and Lara Carmela Fernando of San Beda College-Manila placed 10th with a rating of 85.75.   

Nonetheless, Brion challenged the SC and the LEB to do something about the problem, suggesting that law schools with low passing rates should be published so that parents and prospective law students would know the schools that they should enroll in.   

“For example and at the very least, the law school passing rates should be given the widest publication so that the public can at least be informed that enrolling in a given law school poses an 80 percent, 90 percent even a 100 percent hazard of failing the Bar exams. I challenge the Court and the LEB to start now with the 2015 Bar exams. And once we have arrived at a national consensus on solutions and approaches, then let us apply the agreed measures with an unwavering will,” he pointed out.   

Brion also cited  the need to raise the competence of lawyers in the country to keep up with the regional and international standards of law practice, especially now that integration is becoming the norm even in education.   

“Law practice has to live with the reality that the standards for our lawyers will no longer be simply national but international. Regional integration of economic life, including law practice, is almost upon us in the ASEAN Region. This means, in plainer terms, that our lawyers may soon have to contend with lawyers from the Asean region both in our own and in foreign lands,” he said.   

At the same time, Brion said the SC is already taking steps to mitigate the effects of particularly difficult or controversial questions.   

Among these measures, he said is the convening of a committee of law deans who meet after the Bar exams to review and recommend their own answers. 

”Bar examiners accordingly adjust their mode of correction to allow for the committee recommendations,” he added.   

Brion also noted that many Bar examinees cannot write passable English, and that this deficiency “rises to disastrous levels” when coupled with the lack of competence in law.   

“A reality in correction issues that we cannot close our eyes to, is the almost universal observation among Bar examiners that many examinees cannot write passable English - the medium of communication in the courts and the medium in our international relations. I was a Bar examiner myself and I had a passing rate of almost 40 percent in my assigned subject, but I also had to contend with the question - how can I give significant points, even if I am inclined to, for answers that can hardly be understood because of poor English and poor writing ability? These deficiencies rise to disastrous levels when coupled with the worst defect of all - lack of competence in law,” he said.

He also reminded the Bar passers to observe legal ethics and always consult the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Topics: Law schools , dismal performance , legal education , Supreme Court , oathtaking of Bar passers , 2015 Bar examinations
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