How to become a licensed Philippine lawyer?

In the Philippines, under the 1987 Constitution (there are 2 other former Constitutions: the 1935 and the 1971), the qualifications of all wishing to become a member of the bar are defined by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. (Read more: Adelaimar C. Arias-Jose (2020). How can you become a lawyer in the Philippines?
  1. Citizenship. A person who wishes to become a lawyer must be a citizen of the Philippines at the time he or she applied to take the Bar exams. The Bar candidate may be a natural-born Filipino (born of parents who are Filipino citizens), naturalized Filipino or a dual citizen.
  2. Age. A person who wishes to become a lawyer must be at least 21 years old at the time of taking the Bar exam. A birth certificate must be submitted as a supporting document to prove the candidate's age.
  3. College Education. A person wanting to take up studies in law must have graduated from a four-year course. The four-year course must include studies in Philippine history, culture, and language. Courses in Spanish are helpful as well because some cases decided by the Philippine Supreme Court which were decided in the 1900s were in Spanish. A transcript of academic records is also required to be submitted when applying to take the Bar exam.
  4. Law Education. A person wishing to become a member of the Philippine Bar must take up a four-year course in law at an educational institution (college or university) accredited by the Philippine Board of Legal Education. This education must cover all the basic branches or fields of law that will be tested on in the Bar Exams such as Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Labor Law, Taxation Law, Commercial Law, Civil Law, Remedial Law and Legal Ethics).
  5. Law Practicum. The Supreme Court also requires law students to enroll in a law practicum course which will include an internship where they will interview clients, observe Court proceedings and handle cases in court. This is necessary to familiarize students with practical tasks that they may face when they practice law. This is also necessary for them to answer questions in Legal Exercises in the Bar exam.
  6. Bar exam. The Philippine Bar exam is one of the toughest exams in the world. It is administered for four Sundays in the month of November (when I took the Bar, it was in the month of September). The exams begin at 8 am and go on until 12 noon, and then from 2 pm - 5 pm. It is largely an essay-type of examination and it is handwritten (no computers allowed, generally unless the computer is a reasonable accommodation and permission to use a computer has been requested and granted). It involves problem-solving type of questions (such as, determining what crime was committed, what defenses are available, what liabilities are incurred). There are also conceptual questions (explanations of concepts of law). The Bar Examinations are in English. From these requirements, it is easy to see how a candidate must be physically, intellectually and emotionally prepared for the Bar Exams. A Bar Exam candidate must also be morally fit. He must not have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude and he must submit a clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation, a clearance from the Metropolitan Trial Courts and the Regional Trial Courts that there are no pending criminal cases against the Bar candidate.
  7. Lawyers' Oath and the Roll of Attorneys. A person who has taken and passed the Bar exam must attend the Oath Taking ceremonies. The ceremonies are actually a session of the Supreme Court en banc. No cameras allowed.
  8. Membership in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. A person cannot be a lawyer in good standing to practice law unless he or she is a member in good standing of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. To be a member in good standing, a member must pay his or her yearly dues.
  9. Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE). Every three years, a lawyer must enroll and attend 36 hours of lectures on legal trends, updates, and new doctrines from new laws or new decisions of the Supreme Court.
  10. Good moral character. Persons admitted as lawyers must maintain their good moral character. This means that to stay as members of the Philippine they must not have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude and they must not be adjudged by the Office of the Bar Confidante as having violated the Lawyers' Oath, the Code of Professional Responsibility or the Canons of Judicial Ethics.

Every year, thousands of students apply for and are accepted into Legal Education programs in the country. Only a fraction of these students graduate law. An even smaller portion of those who finish law take and pass the Bar Exams. An average of about 2000 law graduates apply to take the Bar Exams every year and only about 1000 candidates succeed, pass the Bar Exams and are admitted into the practice of law.

Some people take up law studies so they can be promoted at work. They do not need to take or pass the Bar. For instance, police officers can be promoted to higher positions if they take legal studies. Students who take and pass the Bar do not need to take the qualifying Civil Service examination to work for the government.

In my time, Philippine universities conferred an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree and they also conferred ML (Master of Law) degrees. Nowadays, universities confer JD (Juris Doctor) degrees. (Read more: Adelaimar C. Arias-Jose (2020). How can you become a lawyer in the Philippines?