What makes an outstanding Law school?
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B Jimenez (The Freeman) - June 25, 2019 - 12:00am

Should we call a Law school outstanding just because it produces Bar topnotchers every year? With due respect, I don't think so. Academic excellence without social relevance is just a selfish pursuit, if I may be permitted to say.

What relevance does being a topnotcher have to the mission of building our nation if Bar topnotchers would just join giant law firms in order to defend foreign conglomerates against the rights of our working class? Would that make his Law school outstanding?

If the Bar topnotchers refuse to take pro bono cases of the poor, powerless, and marginalized, what is the social relevance of topping the Bar? What value would the country derive out of excellent scholastic performance if the high achievers become exploiters of labor, union-busters, tax evaders, destroyers of our environment, and violators of labor laws?

Well, I have nothing against topping the Bar, or have any issue against Law schools focusing on producing graduates who excel in the Bar. I also applaud academic excellence. I admire students who collect ribbons, medals, awards, and trophies. But then again, scholastic achievements and academic credentials aren’t enough. They must translate into concrete contributions to nation-building. Young Filipinos should be taught how to contribute to the struggles of the people against poverty and social maladies. Young graduates shouldn’t merely enrich themselves and join Philippine society’s elite. They should look for ways to be socially relevant.

An outstanding Law school should have two main goals. The short-term goal is achieve high quality of legal education. And passing the Bar is the most popular standard of measuring its effectiveness. But each Law school should also have a long-term goal, and that is to make its students and graduates socially relevant.

For the first goal, there are four components of an outstanding Law school. First, an administration that invests money in a world-class Law library and classrooms; second, faculty members composed of 60% full-time and 40% part-time, who are excellently chosen and well-paid; third, students who are strictly screened in communication skills, logical thinking, and good moral character; and fourth, academic curriculum and standards enforced by a strict and highly professional dean.

The second goal means students should be tapped to do paralegal services, go out and help poor litigants in terms of advice and documentation. Socially relevant Law schools should put up a number of paralegal centers in coordination with the IBP chapters. Law students should be given credit for each hour they serve in such centers.

Graduates and Bar passers should also be required to serve the poor and work for at least a year with the Public Attorney's Office or private foundations offering free legal assistance. There are many other ways to serve our country and people. Whether a Bar passer got 95% or 75%, his ultimate test is how he makes a meaningful difference in the lives of the less privileged.

An outstanding Law school is one that achieves a passing percentage higher than the national rate, a school whose students and graduates have a continuing program of extending help to those needing legal assistance. It’s never enough to excel in the academic. Lawyers are all called to excel in the Bar of life.


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