Setting the Bar high

There is no gainsaying the fact that attorneys, as court officers, are key players in the country’s growth.

The legal profession has always fascinated me. Studying the rudiments of law and how these affect people’s lives and liberty is not a walk in the park. It entails a lot of money, patience, risks, and sacrifices to complete a degree.

Without the law, chaos will reign in society; there will be no peace and order day and night, no settlements of disputes, and accountability for criminals who will freely roam the streets with no law enforcement officers to stop them.

Lawyers, like doctors, are arguably held in higher esteem and standards than other professions. They are feared for reasons only known to men. Their sartorial elegance and eloquence often hold us in shock and awe, delighting ordinary mortals. No wonder many children dream of becoming lawyers when they grow up, only to be checked by the realities of life.

There is no gainsaying that attorneys, as court officers, are key players in the country’s growth; that is why every Bar examination is a significant occasion and a step forward in attaining a just and peaceful society.

This year’s Bar examinations will be held on September 17, 20, and 24 in 14 local testing centers nationwide, covering six core subjects. The Supreme Court said there will be 10,816 examinees — 5,832 first-time Bar takers and 4,984 retakers. The Manila Police District is deploying around 500 security personnel to check the peace near the testing centers, with some announcing a suspension of classes and resorting to home study in anticipation of the heavy traffic.

Corporations offer a much higher pay scale for lawyers. Win or lose, lawyers always get paid in court cases, as being one usually guarantees financial success unless one chooses to offer his expertise pro bono.

Due to the high cost and stake of the law profession and maintaining the prestige and lifestyle that go with it, many people, except the moneyed ones, are “allergic” to lawyers because they charge exorbitant fees, and the fact that the wheels of justice in the Philippines grind exceedingly slow, the opposite of which is legal fees running faster than taxi meters.

The legal profession is studded with both intellectuals and rotten eggs; sometimes, the good and the bad can be molded into one. Lawyers can uniquely present the truth in different sizes, forms, and shades. These lines in a movie aptly describe it: “Mayaman sila, kaya nilang kumuha ng mahusay na abogado. Kaya nilang baluktutin ang tuwid at ituwid ang baluktot (They are rich, they can afford a good lawyer. They can twist the truth and straighten the crooked).”

Despite the high pay, respect, and other perks, the lawyers’ population has dwindled since the first Philippine Bar Examinations in 1901. The decline is alarming. Consider this: There are only 84,236 lawyers reflected in the Supreme Court of the Philippines’ Roll of Attorneys as of 30 November 2022 — a minuscule number in the country’s estimated population of 117,337,368 at mid-year. And what’s the catch? The number of non-practicing lawyers exceeds that of active lawyers.

Which brings us to this fundamental question: Why do we need lawyers? Let me dwell on the bright side. We need lawyers to check the imbalances and inequalities in life. We need lawyers to help fix things when these go rough, regardless of the cost. We need lawyers to give people experiencing poverty a fighting chance to preserve life, liberty, and property instead of simply walking to jail. As then-President Ramon Magsaysay said, “Those who have less in life should have more in law.”

I have no quarrels with lawyers. In fact, I admire them, and I have some of them as friends. There were lawyers every step of the way during my stint in government — some of them good, some not really good.

Considering the clout they wield, lawyers can be good influencers in modern-day society by helping illuminate a dark and dreary world. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I would still gamble on hiring a good lawyer to clear my path.

As a parent, I wish all this year’s Bar examinees well. May the deserving, particularly the brave hearts, succeed.

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