A CEBU law dean has downplayed the “top-performing law school notion” in the country, saying law schools should not be benchmarked on bar results alone.

Joan Largo, law dean of the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu, said law schools should focus on preparing students for the ethical and competent practice of law.

“The problem with ranking law schools on some unclear guidelines and only on the basis of bar performance alone is that it will reinforce the notion that a law school should be fixated with the bar exams,” Largo said in an email to the Varsitarian.

Four students of USC landed in the top 10 list of examinees, with its own graduate Karen Calam besting 6,344 bar passers with a grade of 89.05 percent.

Other bar topnotchers were graduates from Siliman University, Andres Bonifacio College, University of San Agustin, Ateneo de Davao University, Northwestern University and University of Batangas.

With no Manila-based law schools securing a spot in the top 2016 bar exam passers, Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina said the best bar reviewers in Manila could have helped regional law schools excel in the bar exams.

“Many of the [best] bar reviewers I know have lectured for [UST] and have conducted lectures in the province so that might be one of the reasons why no Manila school topped the bar exam,” Divina told the Varsitarian.

Despite falling short in securing a spot in the top 10, UST achieved the highest bar passing rate “in recent memory.” UST recorded a 96.25-passing rate with 77 Thomasians passing the exam out of 80 first-time Thomasian bar examinees.

UST’s last bar topnotcher was Christian Louie Gonzales who placed fifth with a score of 84.09 percent in 2011.

Divina said bar examinees were provided with cases from the bar examination committee chairman, Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.

“They were bombarded with cases to read. Fortunately, many of those phoenicia were asked in the bar. We were very lucky that the materials we prepared became the basis of some bar examinations which helped the bar examinees tremendously,” Divina said.

‘English proficiency’
English professors urged law students to take additional courses in English to boost their performance in bar exams.

Camilla Vizconde, head of the UST English Department, said a course offering called “English for Lawyers” was developed in 2015 to equip law students in the University with linguistic and communication skills.

“We have always considered providing a course in developing the proficiency of the law students in English,” Vizconde said.

Vizconde said other factors must also be considered, such as the contents and the types of tests of the bar exams.

Rachel Lintao, who initiated the English for Lawyers course, described it as an “interconnection between language and law.”

“Language seems to create the law and it is through language that lawyers themselves argue about the law,” said Lintao, a faculty member in the English Department.


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