Welcome to the new attorneys With Due Respect
On May 2, the new lawyers who passed the 2022 Bar exams — 3,992 out of 9,183 or 43.47 percent — took their oath before the Supreme Court and may now use the title “Atty.” Due to the COVID pandemic, no exam was held in 2020. Instead, the candidates for that year took their exam together with those in 2021. For these two years, 8,241 out of 11,402, or 72.28 percent passed — the highest in history.
THE ANCIENTS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION, like me, were totally surprised, some even flabbergasted at these gigantic passing percentages given that the usual average in the prior years was about 25 percent only. Moreover, the 2020-2021 results did away with the entrenched tradition of announcing the topnotchers, which, to our relief, was restored in 2022.
With due respect, I believe the doors to the legal profession should swing on reluctant hinges. Other than the pandemic, I do not know of any event or reason why the doors would swing wide open. I do not know that the law schools have improved so enormously as to justify a tsunami of entrants. Neither am I aware that the graduates in those years have, in general, surpassed the knowledge and preparations of those in the prior years.
Having posted my abbreviated “Separate Opinion,” I still yield to and obey the decision of the Court and dutifully welcome our new compañeros and compañeras, with my fervent hope and prayer that they would fulfill my search—stated in my “Vision-Mission Statement” when I was chief justice (and up to now) — for “competent and ethical lawyers who are responsible, dependable, and morally upright; who courageously uphold truth and justice above everything else;” and who “safeguard the liberty and nurture the prosperity of our people.” I asked past exam “Numero Uno” to greet their new brethren and to advise the 2023 aspirants.
JOAN DE VENECIA-FABUL (2005, UP, now first vice president and deputy chief legal counsel, PLDT, and 2022 Bar examiner for Civil Law II):
“When ordinary Filipinos think of lawyers, they think of those with money, influence, and power … But this by-product of lawyering is not the reason we went to law school. I have been a lawyer for 17 years now, and taking my lawyer’s oath seriously means that while I work hard to achieve a comfortable life for my family, I take care not to do anything that will subvert the cause of justice or tarnish the legal profession. This means walking away from situations that will require me to sacrifice my dignity and integrity because I absolutely need to be able to face myself and my children at every end of every day with a clear conscience. This means not taking shortcuts to get ahead, or arrogantly brandishing the lawyer card to oppress my fellow Filipinos. This means, most importantly, always working, even in small ways, towards furthering the rule of law, in the communities I am in, in my work, and in any other interaction. It is true that the burden is immense, but I assure you that the rewards are immeasurable.
“To the 3,992 new lawyers, congratulations and welcome to the legal profession! As the new lawyer’s oath foregrounds, the paramount duty of a lawyer is to work for justice. During these challenging times, this will not be easy. In treading your own path as a lawyer, your commitment, dedication, and devotion to the rule of law will be regularly tested by corruption, fear of criticism, and by the different evils of society. When this happens, always choose to do good and act with justice. When impunity becomes the norm, cling to your ideals and wear a badge of incorruptibility. When facts are suppressed, seek and speak for the truth. When the law is weaponized against those who have less in life, help to achieve justice. More than aiming for success, seek to become a good lawyer—one who pursues truth and justice with the heart and kindness for the oppressed.”
ARLENE M. MANEJA (2002, UST, now a partner, SyCip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan): “To all new lawyers, congratulations and warmest welcome to you! Narito na ang exciting part! May you always stand for the rule of law and be fierce warriors for justice and truth. We may not always win but know that there is honor and meaning in fighting the good fight.
“To those who are taking this year’s Bar exam, be kind. The journey will be long and challenging so craft a reasonable study plan and take care of yourself—eat well to nourish your body, manage your sleep so you are alert during the day, and give yourself ample time to rest. Decide early on the materials you will need to finish and keep them to a minimum so you will have a sense of accomplishment when you are through. Design it so you are doing less as you near the examination dates; this will help boost your composure and confidence. Lastly, enjoy the experience because, God willing, this would be the only time you’ll ever need to take the Bar.”
REINIER R. YEBRA (2009, San Beda U, now undersecretary, Department of Transportation): “For our new colleagues in the profession, remember that the circumstances in which you were born will eventually become immaterial. What you do with your gifts will define who you are …”