Metro Manila · The Philippine Bar Exam
The University of Santo Tomas in Manila is a busy place on this October's Sundays. Thousands of mostly young and ambitious graduates from Philippine law schools are taking their bar exam, the licensure exam for lawyers.
“The bar” is a comprehensive exam, covering political and labor law, civil law and taxation, commercial and criminal law, remedial law and legal ethics. The future lawyers are tested on four Sundays in a row: four hours on one subject in the morning, two hours of lunch break, then another four hours for the second subject.
All candidates prepare intensively for at least half a year, attending bar review programs at universities, held by professors and professional lecturers as well as justices and high-ranking public officials. This preparation period means studying around the clock with hardly any leisure time, because much is at stake for the examinees. The passing grade usually varies between 20 and 30 percent. In 2012, a mere 17.76 percent passed the bar exam, 949 out of 5,343 people. Because of last year's poor result, the so-called “Five Strike Rule”, which prohibited candidates to take the bar more than five times, has recently been lifted.
After the bar exam, the candidates have to endure a long waiting period. The Committee of Bar Examiners, appointed by the Supreme Court, needs roughly half a year to grade all examination papers, as 80 percent of the questions are essay-style. But whoever passes the bar exam in the end can look forward to a promising career. This is true in particular for the top-notchers: supreme court justices and the lawyers among the Philippine presidents – such as Roxas, Quezon, and Marcos - had all made one of the first places in the bar exam.