Creating practice-ready, ethical and socially responsible lawyers | Rare Techy
Last Sunday, more than 9,000 examinees completed the 2022 bar exams. They are among the generations of future lawyers who have not only passed what is considered the “toughest licensure exam in the country,” but have taken the important and necessary step of becoming bona fide agents of peace and justice.
There will be another batch of bar takers for next year. Like many who have passed this way, they would have experienced the rigors of law school; But unlike others in the past, the 2023 bar exams will host a group of candidates who will have to go through experiences to practice what they learned in their classes, represent indigent clients in courts, and other law enforcement. Support services for communities. This is part of the modernization of legal education in the country through the Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP).
Three years ago, the Supreme Court (SC) expanded Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court (Revised Law Student Practice Rule). The court provided guidance on the limited legal practice of students certified under a law school’s Clinical Legal Education Program, or CLEP. Recognizing the need to ensure access to justice for the marginalized sector, increase educational opportunities for law students, and foster professional social responsibility for practice-ready lawyers, the revised statute institutionalized CLEP in law schools nationwide. Since its promulgation, key stakeholders of the revised Act have designed, developed and implemented their CLEP and established their legal clinics.
CLEP is now required for the 2023 bar exams. Students graduating in 2023 and taking the 2023 bar exams must have completed CLEP and provided legal aid services under their school’s law clinic or externship program to be eligible to sit for the bar exams.
The revised Rule 138-A was promulgated in July 2019, covering all 125 law schools nationwide.
The Legal Education Board (LEB), the government agency responsible for overseeing legal education in the Philippines, has implemented the full integration of clinical legal education through a revised model legal curriculum.
To support these reforms, the Asia Foundation, with support from the US Department of State – Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, implemented a five-year legal aid project entitled “Strengthening the Rule of Law through Legal Aid Clinics in the Philippines.” Engaged with its justice and legal education partners to develop and implement law schools’ clinical legal education program responsive to the needs of communities under the auspices of the Revised Law Student Practice Rule.
Besides the revised Rule 138-A and other CLEP enabling issues in the country, the program has supported the conduct of the first Legal Education Summit in 2019, the launch of pilot law clinics and other legal clinics in the country. As mandated by the revised law, at least 60% of all law schools nationwide are developing their CLEP and designing their legal clinics. This was done through training, mentorship, network building and assistance in various legal aid activities of legal clinics.
The reformed law is powerful in not only addressing the legal aid needs of communities, facilitating greater access to justice, but also in developing sound, ethical and innovative legal professionals committed to the rule of law.
The interaction between the Ignatian League, Ateneo de Naga University Legal Aid and the Clinical Legal Education Project is a shining example of how CLEP has not only opened up learning opportunities for law students, but has also given the underprivileged access to qualified legal services. Apostolate Office (ILAO) and the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, Syria. ILAO assisted the Philippines Embassy in assisting victims of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) in Syria, most of whom are Filipino migrant workers. Over four months, 24 ILAO Law Student Practitioners (LSPs) interviewed 13 TIP victims via face-to-face video conferencing and prepared their judicial affidavits. When the migrant workers returned home to the Philippines, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) was ready to use their affidavits to file cases against illegal recruiters and tippers. As of June 26, 2021, all TIP victims housed at the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) shelter of the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, Syria have now returned home to the Philippines.
Another success story is Mindanao State University’s (MSU SLVC) Sarimanoc Virtual Law Clinic. At the height of the pandemic and community quarantines, MSU’s visionary leaders and project partners developed the MSU SLVC – an online portal where members of their constituent communities (Iligan City, General Santos City, Marawi City) can access vital legal information. Contact law student practitioners for legal assistance despite restrictions on movement and face-to-face interactions. With the easing of restrictions, SLVC shifted to individual legal aid activities in places where people gather, such as malls, barangay centers, etc.
CLEP has opened channels for collaboration and integration – not just between organizations operating in the legal space, but across other members of the community who can complement the legal solutions a legal clinic traditionally provides to its clients. The University of San Carlos Center for Legal Aid Work (CLAW) assisted small and medium enterprises in developing brand designs and standards with the help of their School of Fine Arts and Design. Such assistance does not fall within the scope of how legal aid is understood, but it provides perspective for law student practitioners to understand that legal aid is only one aspect of fulfilling their clients.
These examples provide a preview of the enabling power of the revised law and CLEP as a transformative tool for society as much as for students. The training-readiness is not confined to the legal arsenal that law schools impart to their graduates, but more importantly it grows deep into the constitution of the lawyer who is ethically, socially responsible and inextricably linked to the public interest.
On December 1-3, the Board of Legal Education will hold the first Philippine Clinical Legal Education Summit in collaboration with the Supreme Court Oversight Committee on the Implementation of the Revised Law Student Practice Rule, Philippine Association of Law Schools and Association of Law Students. Philippines. The three-day conference, themed “Clip to the Front: Enabling Greater Access to Justice through Clinical Legal Education”, will discuss the legal aid needs and services of communities served by legal clinics in the country. The potential impact of the revised Law Student Practice Rule on addressing access to justice issues, as well as experiential theories and principles in clinical legal education, clinical pedagogy, professional ethics, and skill building for law student practitioners. The summit will serve as a forum for law students to share their experiences, challenges, and best practices in designing, developing, and implementing their CLEP in accordance with the requirements of the Revised Law Student Practice Rule. Legal Clinics in the Philippines. – Rappler.com
Commissioner Joseph Sorera-T has held various roles in clinical legal education. Before serving as one of the commissioners of the Legal Education Board, she was the dean of the Father Saturnino Urios University in Butuan City and one of the prime movers of the Urioan Legal Assistance Program. He played a leadership role in the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS), the country’s law deans’ organization. She is committed to addressing access to justice, promoting experiential learning, and ensuring that the clinical legal education program under the revised Law Student Practice Rule is effectively extended to law schools across the country.