Legal Education and Law Teachers

Manila Bulletin, July 3, 2019 | Go to article overview

Legal Education and Law Teachers


THE LEGAL FRONT

By JUSTICE ART. D. BRION (RET.)

Some lawyers who read my column last week (Legal Educaltion Problems and Issues) were dismayed when I attributed our dismal Bar exam results to problems traceable to both law students and law teachers. They ask how and why their colleagues can be blamed when they all passed the Bar exam and should therefore qualify as teachers of law.

Their questions apparently misunderstand the role of the Bar exam in relation to the law teaching profession. The Bar exam's focus is on qualifying candidates for the practice of law, not for the teaching of law. Teaching law is an altogether different discipline; it requires its own set of professional skills that are not tested through the Bar exam.

To effectively teach law, a teacher must ideally have knowledge beyond the general knowledge of law that entry-level law practice requires. He must be able to command attention in his classroom, communicate and impart knowledge, and inspire his students to learn.

As an example, Constitutional Law - a subject that touches our lives as citizens - must be handled by a teacher whose knowledge has been enriched by specialized studies, hands-on practice,

and real world experience.

He should have a good command, not only of black-letter constitutional law, but also of jurisprudential developments and their nuances. He must be able to guide law students through the legal analysis needed by situations deviating from the cut-and-dried examples that textbooks offer. All these, the teacher must masterfully impart and communicate to induce students to learn.

Lawyers do not generally acquire this level of expertise by simply passing the Bar exam. Deeper knowledge of the law is usually acquired through graduate studies degree in law, through experience in relevant law-related positions, or through years of teaching experience.

These realities perhaps led the Legal Education Board (LEB) to require that law deans must at least have a masteral degree in law, while teachers of law should ideally have either a graduate degree, 10 years of teaching experience, or professional expertise due to their work or as book authors.

I observe in this regard, however. that law graduate programs, even those taught by reputable graduate schools (yes, there are fly-by-night graduate schools and programs out there), may not be enough to raise the level of teaching competence since their focus is largely on the law; they seldom deal with the instructional methods that teachers need to effectively discharge their educational responsibilities.

Thus, if a masteral student learns about the craft of teaching at all, the knowledge arises from the instructional methods that he saw, used, or imbibed during his masteral studies; that he read and researched on, on his own; or that he learned by actual experience.

Significantly, not many law schools engage in faculty development or in assisting teachers develop their fullest potentials as educators.

As a result, teachers in some law schools simply plow through their assigned textbooks, adding nothing of their own to what these books facially say. Some come to class without any teaching plan or personally prepared syllabus. Many teachers do not at all expose their students to the analysis of law that these students would later need in the real world.

Not many law schools, too, stress the need for the continuous updating that the dynamic character of the law requires, nor provide the basic research and teaching materials that students and their teachers need. …

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