In 2001, the Comission on Highr Education (CHEd) issued en banc Resolution 038-2001 which provides the degree of Bachelor of Laws with corresponding Bar eligibility as equivalent to a relevant Master’s Degree.
In this recently issued Resolution 2019-406 by the Legal Education Board dated Jan. 9, 2019, it asserts its authority as the proper agency to administer the legal education system in the country pursuant to law, including the authority to determine the academic degree equivalency of the basic law degree.
It is now resolved by the LEB, that the Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B or J.D.) has the academic equivalency to that of a doctoral degree.
But it obviously omitted the Bar eligibility requirement under CHEd Resolution 038-2001 when it previously conferred law degree the equivalency of a master’s degree.
In its Resolution, the LEB explained that the Bar eligibility is “misplaced since the degree is earned upon graduation or conferment by a higher education institution, not when the professional license is issued by the Professional Regulations Commission.”
I beg to disagree with the observation of the LEB in its justification of the removal of the Bar eligibility requirement. There is a reason why, the Bar exam of a Law graduate is administered by the Supreme Court and not the PRC as the case for all degree holders required to take a licensure exam for their respective chosen profession. In law, education and practice should align; we cannot totally isolate the academic requirements of the law and the right to practice as determined by the Bar exam.
The proper analogy is that it is akin to any master’s degree or doctoral degree which requires for its conferment both the completion of academic requirements and non-academic requirement requirements, e.g., thesis. Thus, I do not see anything “misplaced” in requiring the admission to the Bar before a bachelor of laws degree holder be considered a holder of a doctoral degree. A graduate of bachelor of laws without Bar eligibility may be deemed to have completed all the academic requirements leading to a doctoral degree equivalency, and its full conferment happening only upon hurdling the Bar exam.
Removing the Bar eligibility requirement is not consistent with the nature of the practice of law even as the Resolution provides that the academic equivalency is only for non-law disciplines for purposes of appointment/employment, ranking and compensation.
When a lawyer pursues employment or assumes a position, even in non-law position, agencies or entities, he or she is not stripped of his or her status as a lawyer. Whatever he does in his or her employment or position is deemed practice of law. Now that the authorities are giving the academic equivalency of a doctoral degree to lawyers, why are we elevating the status of the law graduates to the same status of lawyers by giving them the same equivalency that affects their employment, appointment, ranking, and compensation? Isn’t this unfair to lawyers and the law profession?
The academic equivalency of a bachelor of laws degree (LL.B or J.D) to that of a doctoral degree without Bar eligibility should not affect appointment, employment, ranking and compensation.
In other words, without Bar eligibility, it should remain as it is — ACADEMIC.
The author is the Corporate Secretary and Legal Counsel of The Manila Times, and the Managing Partner of Estrada & Aquino Law, Co. He is also the Legal Counsel of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), Phil. Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAPSCU), Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges, & Universities (PAASCU), and the Asian Association of School HRMD Practitioners Inc. (AASHPI).