Differences Between Philippine and Indian Bar Requirements
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This article is intended to provide an in-depth comparison of the requirements needed to becoming a lawyer in the Philippines and India.
The Competitive Edge of Philippine Lawyers
While the Philippines and India (since 2011) both require that attorneys pass a bar examination before practicing law, the educational requirements and testing standards vary significantly between the two countries.
Philippine Bar Admission
To practice law in the Philippines, one must successfully pass the Philippine Bar Examination. It is arguably the most difficult licensure exam in the country. In fact, in recent years the annual national passing rate has ranged from 20% to30%. In 2017,, 6,748 law graduates completed the bar exam, but only 1,724 passed.
While all other types of professional licensure exams in the Philippines are regulated by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), the Philippine Bar Examination is regulated by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Supreme Court was vested with the sole authority to promulgate rules concerning admission to the practice of law. The Bar Exams Committee administers the rules governing admission to the Philippine Bar.
Section 2 of Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court specify that to be considered, a Bar applicant must be: 1) a Filipino citizen; 2) at least 21 years old; 3) of good moral character; and 4) a resident of the Philippines.
Good Moral Character
Bar applicants must be able to provide satisfactory evidence to the Supreme Court demonstrating their good moral character. When submitting an application to the Office of the Bar Confidant – Supreme Court,applicants must submit two (2) “Testimonials of Good Moral Character” provided by members of the Philippine Bar, and a “Certificate of no Derogatory Record” from the law school.
Applicants must also state under oath that they are not the subject of any filed or pending charges involving moral turpitude in any court in the Philippines. In the event that charges have been filed against them, applicants must provide documentation confirming the status or outcome of such charges.
Because the legal profession is seen as noble and involves public trust, Rule 1.01 of the Philippine Code of Professional Responsibility states that lawyers “shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct and must at all times conduct themselves in their professional and private dealings with honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach.” Thus, continued possession of Good Moral Character is required for an attorney to remain in the practice of law.
The Revised Rules of Court also provide strict academic requirements for applicants who seek to take the Bar examination. Imposing rigid curricular criteria serves as a preliminary screening tool to ensure that, even prior to entry into the practice of law, applicants have truly received a comprehensive education. This requirement is designed to create more well-rounded Bar hopefuls and serves to promote and improve the legal profession.
Applicants must be able to furnish proof of their education, including documentation that they have met the following five requirements:
1) Completion of a four-year high school course;
2) Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in arts or sciences from a duly recognized university or college;
3) Applicants must have accumulated 18 units of English, 6 units of mathematics, and 18 units of social science during their college years;
4) Passing a nationwide and uniform Philippine Law School Admission Test; and
5) Obtaining a law degree from an approved and recognized law school.
Preparing for the Bar Exam
Given the level of difficulty of the Philippine Bar Exam, candidates undergo a rigorous review process immediately after graduating from law school. This generally involves enrollment in specialized review classes conducted by law school professors and experts for a period of approximately five (5) months leading up to the examination. Because the Philippine Bar is among the most challenging nationwide licensure exams, exam takers must be willing to sacrifice for nearly half a year in addition to their formal legal education in order to prepare sufficiently for the exam.
The Bar Exam Format and Results
The Philippine Bar Examination is a written exam. Unlike other countries’ bar exams, it is written in English and conducted only once a year. Bar examinees must endure four lengthy test sessions in November, during which they are tested on their knowledge of Political Law, Labor Law, Taxation, Mercantile Law, Civil Law, Criminal Law, Remedial Law, Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises. Bar examinees are required to obtain a general average of 75% in all bar subjects. and no grade may be below 50% in any particular subject.
Examination results are usually released in March or April of the following year, further testing bar examinees’ patience and resolve. After passing the bar exam, applicants become Philippine attorneys upon taking an oath and signing their name in the Roll of Attorneys.
Philippine attorneys also have rigorous ongoing education requirements. They must complete at least 36 hours of continuing legal education every three years to maintain good standing as members of the Bar. Failure to do so will result in the attorneys being listed as delinquent members, and they shall not be permitted to practice law. They must also maintain the legal ethics of the profession, while keeping abreast of laws and jurisprudence over the course of their careers.
If applicants do not pass the Bar Exam, they are allowed to retake it as many times as necessary. However, Bar candidates who have failed three examinations must take a refresher course and are ineligible to take the Bar Exam again until they can provide proof of enrollment and successful completion of fourth-year law review classes and proof of attendance at a pre-bar review course conducted by an accredited school of law.
Maintaining Stricter Standards
Maintaining strict criteria for admission to the Philippine Bar safeguards the integrity and exclusivity of the legal profession. The Philippine Bar Admission process enhances mental, emotional and academic preparedness, provides exposure to a broader pool of knowledge, and demands the utmost excellence and precision from successful Bar candidates.
Indian Bar Admission
Admission to the Bar and the practice of law is governed by the Bar Council of India. The first Indian bar examination was held on March 6, 2011; before that date, India had no bar requirement. The Bar Council of India promulgated a resolution requiring that lawyers, referred to in India as “advocates,” pass the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) as a prerequisite for admission to the Bar. That examination is held twice each year and its requirements are less elaborate than those in the Philippines.
Section 24 and 24a of the Advocates Act of 1961 sets forth the general requirements for those who wish to become advocates. It provides that candidates must: 1) be citizens of India; 2) be at least 21 years old; 3) not have been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude; 4) not have been convicted of an offence under the provisions of the Untouchability (Offences) Act of 1955 (22 of 1955); and 5) not have been dismissed or removed from employment or office under the State on any charge involving moral turpitude.
In contrast to the comprehensive pre-law education and law school requirements in the Philippines, aspiring advocates in India must simply complete a “law degree.” This is an undergraduate degree pursued after primary and secondary education. Candidates have the option of a three-year college course in order to obtain a Bachelor of Law (LL.B. or B.L.) degree or an “Honours Law Degree,” which consists of five years of undergraduate studies.
The Bar Exam Format and Results
Unlike the Philippines bar exam, the AIBE does not need to be taken in English. There are nine exam languages for candidates to select from and the examination is open-book and multiple choice.
The AIBE lasts a maximum of 3.5 hours; successful candidates must score at least 40% (40 out of 100). Should examinees fail the AIBE, they may retest repeatedly, with no limit on the number of times they may retake the exam.
In addition to passing the All India Bar Examination, candidates must also enroll in the Roll of Advocates of any State Bar Council. State Bar Councils are localized bodies under the general supervision of the Bar Council of India. Although continuing legal education is not mandatory, it is recommended to help improve the standards of the law profession.
|Required: 8 years undergraduate / graduate law school|
(Similar to United States)
|Required: 5-year integrated program (BA/LLB)|
Optional: 3-year post-BA program (LLB)
|Most eligible to take U.S. bar exam (NY/CA) without obtaining a U.S. L.L.M. degree||Must obtain L.L.M. degree in U.S. before eligible to take U.S. bar exam (NY/CA).|
|> 4-day bar exam required.|
> Current exam is a mix of legal writing and multiple-choice questions based on the NY bar exam.
|> No bar exam before 2011.|
> 3.5-hour open book exam – composed of 100 multiple-choice questions (no legal writing) instituted in 2011 for new graduates only.
|Exam conducted in English.||Exam does not need to be taken in English.|
|Overall average score of 75% with no grade falling below 50% in any single subject.||Minimum required score is 40% (40 out of 100).|
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- Section 5 (5), Art. VIII, The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines [1987 Philippine Constitution].
- PCGG v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 151809-12, 12 April 2005.
- People v. Tuanda, 181 SCRA 682 (1990).
- Sections 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 14, and 16 of Rule 138, Revised Rules of Court.
- LEB Memorandum Order No. 7-2016, 29 December 2016.
- Section 1, Rule 1; Section 2, Rule 2, and Section 2 Rule 12, Bar Matter No. 850, 2 October 2001.
- Sections 17, 24 and 24a, The Advocates Act, 1961.