You are on page 1of 3


In his article entitled, The Flunker: The Bar Examinations and the Miseducation of the Filipino Lawyer, Florin T. Hilbay presents two specific proposals to reform the bar examinations in our country: first, the abolition of the bar topnotcher tradition; and second, the substantial reduction of the number of bar examination subjects. He justifies such proposals with the following observations and contentions: First, the number of bar examination subjects is staggering that it only results to students' superficial grasp of the constellation of legal materials through the memorization of trite canons, thereby inhibiting them the study of the political consequences of legal materials, and making them unaware of what they imbibe connects to larger patterns in the movements of ideas. The law schools, on the other hand, are left with no choice but to rigidly follow a list of subjects required to pass the licensure examination, leaving little space for standard of scholarliness. Second, the crowding out by bar examination subjects of other possible course offerings explains to a large extent the continuing atheoritical and un-empirical nature of the legal profession in the Philippines. Legal education in the Philippines has retained the vestiges of its Spanish colonial heritage doctrinal, memory-based, and hierarchical. Third, the structure of the bar examinations assumes an overwhelming bias in favor of a specific kind of competence the jack of all trade, master of none, doctrinal lawyer. And, Fourth, the bar topnotcher tradition is responsible for pervasive public misconception that the bar performance is a, if not the, polestar of legal excellence. Hilbay's contention that the topnotcher tradition creates a misconception on legal excellence is baseless. It is not different from an academic honor given to a student who deserves it. It cannot be impractical because it may serve as an inspiration for those in line to strive harder. It may not also be taken as discriminatory against those who just merely passed the bar because it is not taken against them by people who may need their legal assistance.

Hilbay's proposals, particularly the reduction of the bar examination subjects, though worthy of the contemplation by the Supreme Court, are largely grounded on assumptions and generalizations. Maybe scholarly, but they are devoid of scientific, or at least, statistical data lifted from Philippine experience to back them up. From a human experience perspective, he may have been correct to say that due to staggering number of examination subjects, law schools are constructively obliged to rigidly follow a uniform law curriculum design, but as to its effect to the faculty or intelligence of students and teachers, that remains to be proven. Hilbay fails to present in a concrete manner the supposed effect of the absence or presence of elective subjects to the intellectual dynamism of the study of law. And considering the drastic changes he offers, one cannot help but to be very strict in construing his generalizations and assumptions. These are proposals that could transform in astronomic way the ecology of law and its practice in the Philippines, hence definitely affective to the interest of the Filipino people who will be subjects to the success or failure of such change. One generalization that is so rebuttable in terms of conclusiveness is his statement that: The present rule mandating study of so many bar examination subjects effectively transforms intelligent young Filipinos into zombie walking along the corridors of law schools memorizing voluminous texts in order to pass bar examination subjects. Such observation may be partially true, but not totally. Law students, yes, are pushed by circumstances of being as such, to memorize voluminuous texts, but that does not make them zombies, because in studying law, memorizing without understanding is detrimental to passing the bar. Passing the bar, or simply passing a law subject for that matter, is not just all about memorization. Memorization, in fact, is not one of the tools needed to hurdle the bar. What is needed are: language, analysis or logic, and law. To imbibe law may need memorization, but it is just part and parcel of the whole package. It is not the tool itself; nor it is where the rivers meet. Our legal education may have retained the imprints of Spanish colonial heritage, however, that generalization again is inconclusive, giving no correlative value to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of law education. He is not able to prove in scientific manner that a doctrinal, memory-based, hierarchical legal education is obsolete and antithesis to growth. Systems are products of social, economic, cultural, and political milieu, including the standards, rules and regulations set by the Supreme Court, and as to whether or not such system is still working is a question so complicated to answer. Pros and cons have to be weighed, with scientific data supposedly on grasp. Until such data are collected and presented, so-called proposals by Hilbay would remain as theories. Some theorists, including Hilbay, may insist that the concept of jack of all trade is already irrelevant in this modern world. Studies may prove that the generalist

approach is a bygone and that the specialist approach of doing things is already the international trend, but how ready is the Philippine society for it? Is it ready for a lawyer who masters the civil laws, but cannot be relied on to handle criminal laws? That is a question that Hilbay ought to answer. What is so commendable about the article of Hilbay, however, is its out-of-thebox way of looking at things. It can make one rethink or revisit something that is supposedly at his nose-point. But there really are things that cannot be transformed radically, and legal education is one. It is in the nature of such field of expertise to be handled with care. Legal education is a class of its own and it rests on substantial distinction. The Constitutional mandate to put the practice of law under the province of the judiciary is with intent and purpose, and with clear implication that indeed it is different from the rest. Hence, if academic freedom can easily be invoked for other fields of study, in the realm of study of law, such freedom may be subject to regulation. It may not be intellectually fulfilling, or socially relevant in the eyes of Hilbay, but legal education lies with distinction that only the wisdom of the Supreme Court can alter or modify in its own time.