He asked me why I’m not a panelist anymore during thesis defense season in our law school. I told him simply no one’s been calling me to duty.
Then he started telling me why…
It appears that our jobs as thesis panelists have been given to first year lawyers like a reward or a prize. These are young inexperienced lawyers fresh from passing the bar. He was not (or I am not) belittling their abilities, mind you. But he said these new panelists could not even express themselves, much less formulate questions to the thesis proponents. He even said to one of them in disgust, “Why don’t you just ask your question in Filipino?”
That’s a darn shame. No wonder our top-ten bar performance is low this year.
A theory came to my mind why these tyros have become unexpected panelists. The thesis proponents may have chosen these first year lawyers to ensure a high grade. These tyros are probably their friends (they may have been schoolmates at one time) and hence, will give a grade that will cancel out whatever bad grade the other two veteran (or faculty) panelist give them. Well, that’s cheating in my book and they are only cheating themselves in the process.
I believe the reason why law school standards (even in my school) are diminishing is in-breeding. For me, a truly successful law school is a “part time” law school, where not all the faculty are full academicians. Most of the teachers (and even panelists), but not all, should be full-blooded practicing lawyers:
1. These part timers can easily relate their lessons to practical situations. This brings the lessons closer to home and the students can better visualize and grasp the subject at hand.
2. These people are sharp. To be good in this profession you have to practice (and I mean this both in the “let’s practice speaking” and the “I have a good law practice” senses). As in any art or profession, you get better the more you practice. To paraphrase something I learned from one of my teachers (the one detained by the Senate for contempt…), “When you practice law you do not read books and study how to practice law. You get out, you practice, you fall down, and you get up again.” Good advise not only to law students but also to would-be practitioners.
3. They also bring excitement to the law profession with their “adventures.” This inspires the students to move forward and try to join our ranks.
4. These people teach because they want to teach. They want to contribute their share in the formation of good lawyers (besides the revenge factor, for all they’ve been through as law students, heheheh!). What these people earn from teaching is just enough gas money. That perspective give a different spin to how they impart knowledge to their students.
Of course I’m not belittling the pure academicians as they contribute to the law and its study in an immense way. But a law school should strike a good balance between full-time and part-time faculty.
And putting first year lawyers in thesis defense panels is utterly preposterous. But as my friend tells me, it’s being done. There may come a time when the thesis proponent is more articulate than the panelist. And that would be a sad time, indeed.
This may be a sign for me to teach. Of course, I will not give up my practice. I will still keep my day job…