On June 15, 2019, the provisions of Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court were amended. Docketed as A.M. NO. 19-03-24-SC, Rule 138-A or the “Revised Law Student Practice Rule” provides:
Whereas, there is a need to amend the provisions of Rule 138-A to ensure access to justice of the marginalized sectors, to enhance learning opportunities of law students, to instill among them the value of legal professional social responsibility, and to prepare them for the practice of law;
Whereas, there is a need to institutionalize clinical legal education program in all law schools, enhance, improve, and streamline law student practice, and regulate their limited practice of law; and
Whereas, to produce practice-ready lawyers, the completion of clinical legal education courses must be a prerequisite to taking the bar examinations provided in Section 5 of Rule 138.
MSU College of Law In Action
Under this rule, the administration of the MSU College of Law did not fritter away time. It promptly made the necessary changes to incorporate the said mandate into its student curriculum. Under two levels of certification, the amended rule allows the students to engage in the limited practice of law once they have successfully applied. As further provided by Rule 138-A, the students may engage in appearances, drafting. Submission of pleadings and documents before trial and appellate courts and quasi-judicial and administrative bodies, assist in mediation and other alternative modes of dispute resolution, legal counseling and advice, and other activities covered by the Clinical Legal Education Program of the law school.
On January 13, 2021, 13 law students from the MSU College of Law Iligan campus successfully filed their Level 1 certification before Judge Silvestre Orejana Jr., Acting Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Lanao del Norte, at the Hall of Justice, RTC Branch 5, Iligan City. Some of the activities these students are authorized to do are interviewing and giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal documents, and representing eligible parties before quasi-judicial or administrative bodies, all under the mentorship of a supervising lawyer. As students become certified under Level 2, their area of practice will be expanded to include authority in assisting in the taking of depositions, preparing judicial affidavits of witnesses, appearing before any court, appearing on behalf of a government agency in the prosecution of criminal cases, and preparing the pleadings in appealed cases.
The Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic
Another milestone achieved by MSU College of Law was the launching of the Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic (SVLC) on February 18, 2021. It is an online legal platform manned by bonafide students of the college, most of whom are Level 1 certified, together with its supervising lawyers. In conformity with the Revised Student Practice Rule, Sarimanok aims to provide accessible justice to the marginalized clients in the region and provide legal literacy programs. Since its launch, the Sarimanok team has already catered to legal queries in every area of legal service that it offers to provide. The Legal Education Board (LEB), in its recent memorandum, even set the SVLC as a concrete example of how the Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP) can be implemented in the student curriculum.
Important Sections of Rule 138-A
Schools, supervising lawyers, and faculty, are bound to comply with the strict requirements of the amended Rule 138-A. Likewise, students also need to uphold the highest standards of morality while engaged in the limited practice of law like any lawyer must. Section 9 thereof provides for the duties of Law Schools, Section 10 for the qualification of Supervising Lawyers, Section 11 for the duties of Supervising Lawyers, Section 12 for the Clinical Faculty, and lastly, Section 13 provides for the sanctions for any unauthorized practice committed by a certified law student practitioner, grounds for revocation of their certification, and disqualification from taking the bar examination for a period to be determined by the Supreme Court.
Why is the Student Practice Rule Important?
In the coming 2023 Bar Examination, students who graduated from Academic Year 2020-2021, or the current second-year students, will need to have undergone a Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP) course before graduation. Thus, schools must integrate CLEP into their respective student curriculums. The Legal Education Board (LEB) has provided three avenues for its integration. Schools may either adopt a course-based integration, course substitution or offer it as a standalone after submitting their application to be approved by the Board. However, the approval of a school’s CLEP course is not a prerequisite for their students to apply as Certified Law Student Practitioners.
The implementation of Rule 138-A of the Revised Student Practice Rule will certainly change the landscape of the legal education system and how MSU Law brands its students. The traditional, purely theoretical learning has produced bar-centric students for the college, but it is inadequate in instilling one important material – practical skills. With an exposure to the actual practice of law, students can convert ideas into application and knowledge into experience. This paradigm shift in learning will mold the character of future lawyers as the concepts of actual lawyering and public service is ingrained in them. More than a prerequisite to the bar examination, clinical practice must be viewed as a prerequisite to the practice of law.
Gab is a second-year law student, a mental health advocate, and a registered nurse by profession. Although studying law is an odd path for a nurse, Gab believes that his years of experience in writing and speaking have equipped him to be in law school. He was an active member in their high school paper, and even as a student nurse, he took part-time writing jobs in his free time. In fact, his first job after getting his license was writing for a digital marketing company and training aspiring customer service representatives. Eventually, he became part of the company’s hiring body, selecting competent applicants and interviewing them alongside their HR personnel. Now, he is a certified law student practitioner (LSP), an active member and one of the editors-in-chief of MSU’s Sarimanok Virtual Law Clinic (SVLC), and a new member of Nexus.