First, let us field all the lawyers.
At least we are kinder than the Bard of Avon, who proposed dealing with them “with extreme
By requiring new lawyers to render free legal service, it is hoped that they can be ethically
or morally steeled when they finally practice their profession full time.
By doing so, it can also be said that early in their careers, they have paid their dues to
And whatever they do later could be forgivable?
The Supreme Court ordered incoming lawyers to provide 120 hours of "pro bono" legal work for
poor litigants as part of its efforts to champion the constitutional guarantee to “free access to the
courts and quasi-judicial bodies”.
The SC en banc, in a 14-page decision dated Oct. 10, passed a new rule on Community Legal Aid
Service, stating that “the legal profession is imbued with public interest”.
“As such, lawyers are charged with the duty to give meaning to the guarantee of access to
adequate legal assistance under Article III, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution,” it said. “As a way
to discharge this constitutional duty, lawyers are obliged to render pro bono services to those who
otherwise would be denied access to adequate legal services.”
The magistrates said lawyers must ensure people’s access to legal services “in an efficient and
convenient manner compatible with the independence, integrity and effectiveness of the profession.”
The new rule, signed by 15 magistrates, tasked the Office of the Bar Confidant and the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the country’s biggest lawyers’ group, to oversee the compliance of
the new lawyers with its order, entitled “Community Legal Aid Service Rule”.
Under the rule, rookie lawyers are given one year after signing the roll of attorneys to
complete the required 120-hour free legal services in criminal, civil and administrative cases.
Aside from indigent litigants, also entitled to pro bono legal aid are groups, individuals and
organizations that cannot get the services of the Public Attorney’s Office due to conflict of interest.
The new lawyers may also render their professional services for public interest cases and legal
issues that affect the society.
The tribunal said the rule does not intend to prevent the successful bar passers from using
their profession for their own pecuniary interests.
“This rule is not intended to impair the private practice or employment of covered lawyers.
Barring any conflict of interest or any other violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
covered lawyers can engage in private practice and accept paid clients or be employed in the government
or in the private sector within the 12-month period for compliance,” it stated.
The rule will be implemented starting with the successful barristers who are set to take this
year’s bar exams, which will be held during the four Sundays of November.