Opening UP Philippine Legal PROFESSION

Article excerpt

LAST week, I visited Davao City to keynote the 14th National Lawyers' Convention and 40th Founding Anniversary of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

There, I underscored that major changes are posing challenges - as well as providing new opportunities - in the realms of law practice and legal education today.

For one, ICT is transforming many aspects of the legal profession. Research can now be more collaborative, with information easily available over the Internet. Legal libraries are no longer large physical venues lined with books, but digital spaces packed with gigabytes of information.

Many legal services are also being outsourced, instead of conducted in-house. Firms relegate the work of researchers, paralegals, and other legal professionals to external providers - at times, oceans away from the home-country.

The online revolution is also making legal work more mobile. Lawyers no longer meet face-to-face with their clients, but do so via online means like Skype. Some have even resorted to social media like Twitter and Facebook to reach their clients.

Financial uncertainty around the globe has also made clients more conscious of the fees they pay to law firms. To keep up, firms will have to make their workflows more efficient and their compensation models more attuned to their client's demands.

This drive for efficiency has also pushed lawyers to innovation and specialization. With law becoming more interdisciplinary, legal professionals are tasked with creating new models to serve their client's needs.

Legal advice is no longer about referring back to antiquated, static libraries of information, but finding innovative interpretations of a dynamic and ever-changing body of knowledge.

So many things are happening - new ways of communicating, new ways of charging fees on clients, new ways of expediting trial and litigation. Those things will never catch on unless we open up the Philippine legal profession.

For starters, we must update and revise our legal education programs. …