Blog Lecture No. 31: Admission to the Bar

Ok class! You may have been enticed by Ally McBeal, The Practice or Philly enough to consider a career in law (in the Philippines, of course).

So do you want to become one of us?

I want to join your club. What the requirements so I can apply?

Every applicant for admission as a member of the bar must be

1. A citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-one years of age,
2. Of good moral character,
3. Resident of the Philippines;
4. Must produce before the Supreme Court satisfactory evidence of good moral character, and that no charges against him, involving moral turpitude, have been filed or are pending in any court in the Philippines.

What about the law school?

Hmmm. Of course there is pre-law first.

According to Section 6, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court:

Sec. 6. Pre-Law. No applicant for admission to the bar examination shall be admitted unless he presents a certificate that he has satisfied the Secretary of Education that, before he began the study of law, he had pursued and satisfactorily completed in an authorized and recognized university or college, requiring for admission thereto the completion of a four-year high school course, the course of study prescribed therein for a bachelor’s degree in arts or sciences with any of the following subjects as major or field of concentration: political science, logic, english, spanish, history and economics.

This rule, however, has been relaxed to include any standard four-year course. You actually have to secure a clearance to study law from the Department of Education.

Then, law school (which can be the subject of numerous blogs).

According to Section 5 of the same rules:

All applicants for admission other than those referred to in the two preceding sections shall, before being admitted to the examination, satisfactorily show that they have regularly studied law for four years, and successfully completed all prescribed courses, in a law school or university, officially approved and recognized by the Secretary of Education. The affidavit of the candidate, accompanied by a certificate from the university or school of law, shall be filed as evidence of such facts, and further evidence may be required by the court.

No applicant shall be admitted to the bar examinations unless he has satisfactorily completed the following courses in a law school or university duly recognized by the government: civil law, commercial law, remedial law, criminal law, public and private international law, political law, labor and social legislation, medical jurisprudence, taxation and legal ethics.

Law proper (be it a Bachelor’s Degree in Law [Ll.B.] or a Juris Doctor [J.D.] is another four year course. As long as the school is recognised by the Department of Education and contains the bar exam subjects, as seen in the above quotation.

Now what about… shudder… the bar exams?

First to the bar reviewees, you have a little over a month before that hell-month of September…

According to the rules:

Sec. 9. Examination; subjects. Applicants, not otherwise provided for in sections 3 and 4 of this rule, shall be subjected to examinations in the following subjects: Civil Law; Labor and Social Legislation; Mercantile Law; Criminal Law; Political Law (Constitutional Law, Public Corporations, and Public Officers); International Law (Private and Public); Taxation; Remedial Law (Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence); Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises (in Pleading and Conveyancing).

Sec. 10. Bar examination, by questions and answers, and in writing. Persons taking the examination shall not bring papers, books or notes into the examination rooms. The questions shall be the same for all examinees and a copy thereof, in English or Spanish, shall be given to each examinee. Examinees shall answer the questions personally without help from anyone.
Upon verified application made by an examinee stating that his penmanship is so poor that it will be difficult to read his answers without much loss of time, the Supreme Court may allow such examinee to use a typewriter in answering the questions. Only noiseless typewriters shall be allowed to be used.

The committee of bar examiners shall take such precautions as are necessary to prevent the substitution of papers or commission of other frauds. Examinees shall not place their names on the examination papers. No oral examination shall be given.

Sec. 11. Annual examination. Examinations for admission to the bar of the Philippines shall take place annually in the City of Manila. They shall be held in four days to be designated by the chairman of the committee on bar examiners. The subjects shall be distributed as follows: First day: Political and International Law (morning) and Labor and Social Legislation (afternoon); Second day: Civil Law (morning) and Taxation (afternoon); Third day: Mercantile Law (morning) and Criminal Law (afternoon); Fourth day: Remedial Law (morning) and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises (afternoon).

Sec. 14. Passing average. In order that a candidate may be deemed to have passed his examinations successfully, he must have obtained a general average of 75 per cent in all subjects, without falling below 50 per cent in any subject. In determining the average, the subjects in the examination shall be given the following relative weights: Civil Law, 15 per cent; Labor and Social Legislation, 10 per cent; Mercantile Law, 15 per cent; Criminal Law; 10 per cent; Political and International Law, 15 per cent; Taxation, 10 per cent; Remedial Law, 20 per cent; Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises, 5 per cent.

Hey, that’s too long for me! How about breaking it down?

Sure. But if you can’t handle that, can you handle law?

Briefly, the bar exams are held for four Sundays of September. This is the schedule

First Sunday: Political Law (4 hours, a.m.)
Labor Law and Social Legislation (3 hours, p.m.)

Second Sunday: Civil Law (4 hours, a.m.)
Taxation (3 hours, p.m.)

Third Sunday: Mercantile Law (4 hours, a.m.)
Criminal Law (3 hours, p.m.)

Fourth Sunday: Remedial Law (4 hours, a.m.)
Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises (3 hours, p.m.)

The bar exam is always essay type. For those who have bad handwriting (like me), you can petition the Supreme Court to type your answers, but I have not heard of anyone who has tried and actually typed his or her answers.

This is a very grueling exam in all aspects: be it physical, emotional, intellectual and psychological. In law school, final exams are usually one hour long and still very tiring.

Imagine taking two exams for the whole day, four hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. Then imagine doing the same thing for four times in September.

To pass the bar, you have to get an weighted average grade of 75 with no exam lower than 50.

So what if I fail the bar exams?

According to the new rules, you can only take the bar exams five times (the new “Five Strikes, you’re out” rule). Before, you can take the bar exams as many times as you want provided you follow this rule:

Sec. 16. Failing candidates to take review course. Candidates who have failed the bar examinations for three times shall be disqualified from taking another examination unless they show to the satisfaction of the court that they have enrolled in and passed regular fourth year review classes as well as attended a pre-bar review course in a recognized law school.

The professors of the individual review subjects attended by the candidates under this rule shall certify under oath that the candidates have regularly attended classes and passed the subjects under the same conditions as ordinary students and the ratings obtained by them in the particular subject.

So now, you still have to go through a review course after failing three times and still be subject to the five strikes rule.

So what if I pass?


Sec. 17. Admission and oath of successful applicants. An applicant who has passed the required examination, or has been otherwise found to be entitled to admission to the bar, shall take and subscribe before the Supreme Court the corresponding oath of office.

Oath taking is technically your first appearance as a lawyer. It is is technically a Supreme Court hearing and we actually rent togas (because you appear before the Supreme Court in togas).

Sometimes, I wish we could wear wigs there… but I digress.

Then, you have the right to put “Atty.” in front of your name…

There you have it, class! So do you still want to become one of us?

Take a break first before you decide…



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2 responses to “Blog Lecture No. 31: Admission to the Bar

  1. Dear Punzi, I read with fascination your Pinoy equivalent of our (Malaysia’s) exam hell for the CLP (Certificate of Legal Practice examinations conducted annually in July by the Legal Qualifying Board, a body enacted by the Legal Profession Act, 1971, to assess and qualify graduates in law from the British Commonwealth countries. I just wrote the last “board exams” using a term popular in the USA (where I did some of my training in Public Health) and finally made it through this (second) time! Your PRC’s equivalent seemed much worst than the CLP. Another Blogger “fatcatskinnydog”.

  2. crosswired

    inquery: for those who have not taken the Bar Exam even once, ten years after their Law graduation, are they qualified to take the Bar Exam without the one year refreshing course/study?

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