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Legal education in the Philippines

Legal education in the Philippines is developed and offered by Philippine law schools, supervised by the Legal Education Board. Previously, the Commission on Higher Education supervises the legal education in the Philippines but was replaced by the Legal Education Board since 1993 after the enactment of Republic Act No. 7662 or the Legal Education Reform Act of 1993.[1]



The legal education in the Philippines was first introduced during the Spanish occupation when, in 1734, the University of Santo Tomas established the Faculty of Civil Law.[2] After the Malolos Constitution was ratified, the Universidad Literaria de Filipinas was established by Joaquin Gonzales in 1899; the said institution offered several courses including law. However, the Literaria's existence was short lived as a result of the eruption of the Filipino-American conflict.[3] During the American occupation, specifically in 1911, the University of the Philippines College of Law was established, through the vision and efforts of George Malcolm. The said law institution continues to be the one of the oldest state college of law in the country.[2]

The ratification of the 1935 Constitution paved the way for the establishment of law programs in various private colleges and universities in Manila (schools, at that time, were required to acquire license to operate from the Department of Public Instruction). At that time, there was hardly any kind of supervision of law schools, especially for private institutions. The Faculty of Civil Law of the University of Santo Tomas, the University of the Philippines–College of Law, the former Colegio de Ateneo de Manila and the Philippine Law School were the leading law institutions during those period. After World War II and in the contemporary time, more law schools were then established.[2]

Legal Education BoardEdit

The Legal Education Board supervises all law schools and continuing legal education providers in the Philippines.[4] The Board is headed by a Chairman who is a retired justice of a collegiate court (i.e., Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals, etc.). Regular members of the Board include a representative from each of the following:[4]

  • Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
  • Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS)
  • Philippine Association of Law Professors (PALP)
  • active law practitioners
  • bona fide law students

The Board has made legal reforms which include—the stricter selection of law students and law professors; improvements in quality of instruction and facilities of law schools; provisions for legal apprenticeship of law students; and the requirement of attendance to continuing legal education seminars for practicing attorneys.[4]

Mandatory Continuing Legal EducationEdit

Lawyers with names appearing in the Rolls of Attorneys of the Supreme Court, unless disbarred, are all members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).[5] However, to be IBP members of good standing, lawyers are required to complete, every three years, at least thirty-six hours of continuing legal education seminars approved by the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Committee (MCLE). Members who fail to comply shall pay a non-compliance fee, and shall be listed as a delinquent member.[6]

The Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Office, established by the Supreme Court, is the official government agency tasked to implement compliance with the MCLE requirement.[6] The MCLE Office is headed by former Supreme Court Justice Carolina C. Grino-Aquino, widow of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Ramon Aquino. Its office is located at the fourth floor of the IBP Building in Ortigas Center.

Legal systemsEdit

The Philippine legal system is an amalgamation of the world's major systems. These systems include Roman civil law which was inherited from Spain; the Anglo-American common law which were derived from the laws of the United States; and Islamic law, otherwise known as the Sharia law, of the Muslim world. Private law and legal codes are substantially patterned after the civil law of Spain, while public law, including political law, is based on the Anglo-American legal system.

Law degree programsEdit

Law degree programs are considered professional/post-baccalaureate programs in the Philippines. As such, admission to law schools requires the completion of a bachelor's degree, with a sufficient number of credits or units in certain subject areas. Completion of a required course from a Philippine law school constitutes the primary eligibility requirement in order to take the Philippine Bar Examination, the national licensure examination as precursor to admission to the practice of law in the country.

Legal education in the Philippines normally proceeds along the following route:

  • Undergraduate education (usually 4 years)
  • Passing the Philippine Law School Admission Test or PhilSAT[7]
  • Law school (usually 4 years)
  • Admission to the bar (usually by taking a Philippine bar exam)
  • Legal practice and mandatory continuing legal education

Law degrees in the Philippines may be classified into three types—professional, graduate level and honorary.

Professional law degreesEdit

In order to be eligible to take the bar examinations, one must complete the Juris Doctor (J.D.) program, which may be either the non-thesis or thesis course. Advanced degrees are offered by some law schools, but are not requirements for admission to the practice of law in the Philippines.

  • Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) – The LL.B. was the most common law degree offered and conferred by Philippine law schools. It was a standard four-year law program covering all bar exam subjects. Almost all law schools followed a standard LL.B. curriculum, wherein students are exposed to the required bar subjects. Other schools, like the University of the Philippines College of Law, allow students to substitute electives for bar review subjects offered in the fourth year of study.[8] In December 2018, as mandated by LEB, the LL.B. program was phased out and was migrated to the J.D. non-thesis program; such migration applied retroactively to LL.B. degree holders, meaning all LL.B. degree holders were also conferred of the new migrated degree.
  • Juris Doctor (J.D.) - The J.D. degree was developed and first conferred in the Philippines by the Ateneo Law School in 1991. The J.D. program is a four-year law program. Like the standard LL.B. program, the J.D. curriculum covers the core subjects required for the bar examinations. Unlike the LL.B., the Ateneo J.D. program requires students to finish the core bar subjects in 21/2 years, take elective subjects, undergo an apprenticeship, and prepare and defend a thesis.[9] Currently, the program may be taken either with thesis or that with non-thesis.

Graduate law degreesEdit

Beyond the J.D. or LL.B., members of the Philippine bar have the option of pursuing graduate degrees in law.

Honorary law degreesEdit

Some Philippine universities also confer the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree. It is given to famous individuals who, in the discretion of the awarding institution, were found to have made significant contributions to a certain field, or to the improvement of society or development of the conditions of mankind in general.

Ecclesiastical law degreesEdit

A few Roman Catholic seminaries and graduate schools offer degree programs in canon law, an ecclesiastical program that is not required in the Philippine Bar Examinations.The University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Canon Law runs the oldest academic programs of this kind. Its Licentiate of Canon Law (J.C.L.) and Doctor of Canon Law (J.C.D.) programs are open to priests, nuns, theologians, and even to lay people (i.e., trial court judges, law deans, family lawyers etc.). Judges of the Roman Catholic Marriage Tribunal typically hold academic degrees in the field.[12] Degrees in canon law, strictly speaking, are not considered law degrees in the Philippines.


There is a move among members of the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) to convert their LL.B. programs into J.D. curricula.[9] There are currently two possible directions for the change: First, the conversion of LL.B. programs through adopting a model substantially similar to the J.D. curriculum introduced by the Ateneo de Manila Law School (the J.D. Programs of the FEU-La Salle consortium and the University of Batangas Law School are of this mold), and second, simply changing the name of the degree conferred from "LL.B." to "J.D." while essentially retaining the same course offerings as those in the DECS Model Law Curriculum (DECS Order No. 27, series of 1989).[9]

Admission to the practice of lawEdit

The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines has given the Supreme Court the sole power to admit individuals to the practice of law in the Philippines.[13] This power is exercised through a Bar Examination Committee, an ad hoc academic group tasked to formulate questions, administer proceedings, grade examinations, rank candidates, and release the results of the Philippine Bar Examination.

To be eligible to take the national bar exam, a candidate must be a Filipino citizen, at least twenty-one years of age, and holder of a bachelor's degree and a law degree obtained from a government recognized law school in the Philippines. Graduates of law schools from other countries must obtain a law degree from the Philippines to qualify for the Philippine Bar.[14] In March 2010 the Supreme court issued Bar matter 1153 allowing Filipino who are foreign law graduates to take the Bar exam provided that applicant complies with the following conditions:

  1. completion of all courses leading to the degree of Bachelor of Laws or its equivalent degree;
  2. recognition or accreditation of the law school by the proper authority;
  3. completion of all fourth year subjects in the Bachelor of Laws academic program in a law school duly recognized by the Philippine Government; and
  4. must have completed a separate bachelor's degree."

Bar examinationsEdit

The Philippine Bar Examinations is the national licensure exam for admission to the practice of law. It is conducted during the four Sundays of September, or October, or November of every year. It is arguably the hardest and the most media-covered of all government licensure examinations in the country.[15] It is also reputedly one of the hardest bar examinations in the world.[16]

For candidates intending to practice Islamic law in the Philippines, the Special Bar Exams for Shari'a Court Lawyers is given every two years. The Supreme Court Bar Office conducts the exam while the Office of Muslim Affairs determines the qualification and eligibility of candidates to the exams.[17]


To be a full-fledged lawyer in the Philippines and be eligible to use the title Attorney, a candidate must graduate from a Philippine law school, take and pass the Philippine Bar Examinations, the candidate who passed the bar examinations is entitled to take and subscribe before the Supreme Court special en banc session the corresponding Attorney's Oath, as follows:

The certificate to practice law will be granted by the Supreme Court after the lawyer sign his name in the Rolls of Attorneys of the Supreme Court.[18] The full names of lawyers are found in the Rolls of Attorneys of the Supreme Court, and in a similar list included in a Supreme Court publication entitled Law List.[19]

Philippine law schoolsEdit

Starting from 2017, the Legal Education Board had started implementing the Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhilSAT); the failure to pass such admission test prohibits a person from enrolling to any law schools in the Philippines. It is a one-day aptitude test intended to measure the academic potential of an examinee who wishes to pursue the study of law.[20]

As of 2017, there are 108 law schools[21][22] legitimately operating throughout the Philippines. These include independent law schools.[23] Satellite campuses are omitted as they are considered part of a larger higher education institution.

Top performing schoolsEdit

The following schools are the top performing law schools in the Philippines. Such ranking was based upon the cumulative performance from the recent results of the bar examinations from 2012 to 2014. In the list, 4 out 10 law schools are outside Metro Manila:[24]

  1. University of the Philippines (73.71%)
  2. Ateneo de Manila University (67.55%)
  3. San Beda College-Manila (67.13%)
  4. University of San Carlos (58.00%)
  5. Ateneo de Davao University (53.02%)
  6. University of Santo Tomas (43.98%)
  7. University of Cebu (41.49%)
  8. San Beda College-Alabang (39.10%)
  9. Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (35.80%)
  10. Xavier University–Ateneo de Cagayan (32.20%)


  1. ^ a b c Magsalin, Mariano Jr. (July 2003). "The State of Philippine Legal Education Revisited" (PDF) (PDF). Arellano University School of Law. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  2. ^ Halili, M. c (2004). Philippine History. Rex Bookstore, Inc. ISBN 9789712339349.
  3. ^ a b c "REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7662: Legal Education Reform Act of 1993". December 23, 1993. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER No. 113-2003 : ESTABLISHING THE MANDATORY CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION OFFICE". Chan Robles Law Net. August 5, 2003. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  6. ^ LEB Memorandum Order 7, series of 2016
  7. ^ a b c Curriculum models, Philippine Association of Law Schools, 2006.
  8. ^ a b c Villanueva, Cesar L. (September 27, 2007). "Philippine Leadership Crisis and the J.D. Program". Ateneo Law School. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Official Prospectus, Law Department, University of Santo Tomas Graduate School, 2006.
  10. ^ List of programs, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of the City of Manila), 2007.
  11. ^ Official prospectus, University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Canon Law, 2006.
  12. ^ Section 5, Article VIII, The Philippine Constitution, 1987.
  13. ^ Section 2, 5-6; Rule 138, Revised Rules of Court.
  14. ^ Alexander L. Lacson. "A Nation Under Lawyers." The Practice: Business and Leisure Magazine for Lawyers. August–September 2004 Issue.
  15. ^ Reports made by members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, September 2005.
  16. ^ Court En Banc Resolution, Supreme Court of the Philippines, September 20, 1983.
  17. ^ The Legal Profession, a lecture delivered by Associate Justice Edgardo F. Sundiam of the Philippine Court of Appeals, Ateneo School of Law, June 2006.
  18. ^ "Law List". Supreme Court of the Philippines. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  19. ^ "PhilSAT: Entrance exam for aspiring law students starts this year". ABS-CBN News. February 3, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  20. ^ Milagros Santos-Ong, Office of the Director of Library Services, Supreme Court of the Philippines. May 2006.
  21. ^ Milagros Santos-Ong, Philippine Legal Research, Central Professional Books, 2007.
  22. ^ Directory of Members, Philippine Association of Law Schools, June 2007.
  23. ^ "Top 10 best performing law schools in the Philippines". ABS-CBN News. December 12, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2017.