Passing the torch: Justice Leonen, other law veterans welcome new blood

April 26, 2018 - 1:38 PM
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Bar hopefuls and members of the media wait outside the Supreme Court building in Manila on April 26, 2018 for the announcement of results of the bar exams conducted in 2017. (Philstar.com/Erwin Cagadas)

The release of the Philippine Bar Exam results every year marks not just the addition of thousands of new lawyers to the esteemed Roll of Attorneys, but also the passing of the torch from the masters of the legal field to those who will one day take their place.

As such, messages of congratulations and guidance from legal luminaries mark Bar Results Day every year.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen was the first from the highest tribunal in the land to greet the examinees from last year’s bar exams, posting his message early on Thursday morning hours before the results were even released.

The Twitter-savvy magistrate advised bar takers to be patient and compassionate, have a sense of humor, and serve the people. Leonen prior to his appointment to the high court was involved in legal education, having sat as the dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay also sent words of guidance and wisdom to bar examinees. In a tweet, he told bar takers to “pass or fail, defend the constitution.”

Hilbay, who placed first in the 2000 bar exam with a score of 88.5 percent, related in an interview with The Philippine Star the same year that he initially did not want to take up law, and only applied to his alma mater UP Law after being egged on by his classmates.

Another law professor meanwhile called for divine intervention to help his students make the list. He went on to secure a legal victory for the Philippines as part of the team that defended its jurisdiction over waters in the disputed South China Sea before an international tribunal.

Laywer Antonio La Viña on his Facebook account offered up a prayer to St. Jude for the many schools where he has taught law.

Known for his work in environmental and human rights law, La Viña juggles teaching at several law schools around the country. He has also previously served as an undersecretary for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and is currently director of the Manila Observatory.

He finished third in the 1989 Bar Examinations, the top of ten which included two other stellar names: future defense secretary and presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro and the future Persida Rueda-Acosta of the Public Attorney’s Office.

Stories from young lawyers 

With the stress and anxiety of exam season still fresh in their memory, recent bar passers also shared some words of advice to those stilling waiting for the Supreme Court’s great reveal.

One young lawyer reminded bar takers to be grateful for the opportunity to take up law, regardless of the results. He also gave some heartfelt thanks to the parents who supported him.

Members of the close-knit law school Twitter community, which comprise of both lawyers and aspiring lawyers, have also shared words of wisdom and guidance to those waiting to see their name on the list of new lawyers.

Trouble in the legal field

The legal profession is often called the “most noble profession” not just by those with the license to practice law. According to most lawyers, survival in law school and success in the bar exam requires synthesizing a mastery of countless codal provisions and a critical appreciation of hundreds of pages of jurisprudence to analyze legal problems.

It comes to no surprise that lawyers have commonly held the highest power in the land: Quezon, Laurel, Osmeña, Roxas, Quirino, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Duterte also sat in the Malacañang years after getting their law degrees.

Some lawyers involved in politics and governance have found themselves dealing with the precarity of balancing their duties with safekeeping their law license.

One of the country’s most prominent topnotchers, Sen. Leila de Lima is facing disbarment charges following the criminal charges slapped on her.

Larry Gadon, the outspoken accuser in the impeachment case against another prominent lawyer, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, is facing a slew of disbarment charges after he was caught on video showing the finger and cussing at a number of Sereno supporters at the quo warranto proceedings earlier this month.

Unapologetic for the gesture, Gadon during an interview on ANC has spoken about filing a petition to disbar himself.