Law & behold
The participants in a special training course for paralegals.

Law & behold

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Atty. Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - February 9, 2021 - 12:00am

A legal professional that is not a lawyer that, in essence, is the perception, albeit erroneous, of a paralegal.

According to one dictionary, a paralegal is “someone who helps lawyers with their work but is not yet completely qualified as a lawyer.” This is most often the case when one has graduated with a law degree and is doing legal work but has not yet taken the Bar or is just awaiting the Bar results.

Not all paralegals, though, are law graduates. It is in this sense that the American Bar Association (ABA) definition is more relevant; that a paralegal is “a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”

There are some instances when legal service is required but members of the Philippine Bar are not readily available, particularly in remote communities or in government agencies where staffers need a modicum of legal knowledge to deal with day-to-day concerns.

Prof. Concepcion Jardeleza.

It is in this regard that the University of the Philippines College of Law established its Paralegal Training Program. It is an extension service and training program of the UP Law Center, which aims to lay the foundation for the development and professionalization of paralegal work in the country.

According to the Law Center, the Paralegal Training Program was designed to provide its participants with basic and practical knowledge of substantial legal concepts pertaining to government; the judicial system; civil, criminal and quasi-judicial procedure; jurisdiction of local government units; ethical standards of judges, lawyers, and civil servants; and the rules, regulations, and procedures of various administrative agencies.

At the end of the program, the participants are expected to have developed the following abilities: to identify, analyze, and evaluate common conflict areas in paralegal work; to recommend law-based resolutions; and to process common legal transactions with trial courts and government agencies.

The Paralegal Training Program was launched on Jan. 7, 2014 with 52 accepted trainees out of 98 applicants. Each participant is expected to complete 26 three-hour sessions that cover a period of three months.

The program is the first step in a ladder of specialized training programs of the UP Law Center for the development of the paralegal profession in the Philippines. This activity of the UP Law Center is true to its mandate as an institution dedicated to teaching, research, training, and legal extension services.

The UP Law Center Paralegal Training Committee is composed of lawyers Elizabeth R. Pulumbarit as the chairperson, with Prof. Eduardo A. Labitag, Marwil N. Llasos, Hosanna T. Ayson. Paul Kenneth B. Davis, and Jaqueline Veloria-Mejia as committee members. They are all recognized and distinguished legal luminaries.

Lawyer Elizabeth R. Pulumbarit.

To date, the program has trained 1,426 paralegals from both government and the private sector. It has also conducted special training courses for the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Bureau of Treasury, among others.

I had the privilege of being invited as guest of honor and speaker to the conclusion and completion of the implementation of the Certificate Course of 59 trainees from the different regional offices of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and I thank the members of the Training Committee, headed by lawyer Liz Pulumbarit, for the invitation.

I would be hard-pressed to say “no” to such an invitation from my dear alma mater, because I am at its beck and call whenever the need arises. It is my small way of giving back to the university that has educated me on the fine rudiments of the law.

In my talk, I stressed the pandemic that we are in; there is no escaping this fact. But from crisis also comes opportunity, and this I emphasized to the trainees as I explained how corporations, particularly those under the MVP Group of Companies, reacted and responded under the community quarantine.

There was a recent article in international publications about how Pope Francis gave his blessing to a council for inclusive capitalism, a coalition of large investors, companies, unions and foundations whose members must commit to measurable action to create a more equitable and trusted economic system.

Lawyer Marwil N. Llasos.

This was a very significant development as it marked “an embrace of big business and finance” by the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis had said that a fair, trustworthy economic system that could address humanity’s biggest challenges was “urgently needed” and that this group had taken on the challenge of making capitalism “a more inclusive instrument for integral human wellbeing.”

Paralegals have a vital role to play in this emerging new economic system, this incipient new world order during and after the pandemic. They will be relied upon to work beside or in the absence of lawyers, for example, in advising and protecting the legal rights and interests of stakeholders.

Under the “new normal,” we see the paralegal deal more with the day-to-day necessities of the application of law while both lawyers and judges deal with mapping out pathways such as in trial practice and litigation.

My congratulations to the UP College of Law, the UP Law Center, and our hardworking Dean Fides Cordero Tan for the success of their Paralegal Training Program and to all those who have successfully completed their training.

May their efforts bear much fruit that will remain.

And to my dear classmate, lawyer Jake Mejia, my heartfelt thanks for your very kind introduction.

Lawyer Jaqueline Veloria-Mejia.
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