Established in 2009, the DLSU College of Law (COL) stands relatively young compared to other prominent law schools in the Philippines. Nonetheless, the college has made significant gains in the past eight years, and is continuing to grow as it takes in more aspiring lawyers into its fold.
Thus far, three batches from DLSU COL have taken the bar exam. The most notable of which was last 2014, wherein the college achieved a 56.5 percent passing rate for its first ever batch of bar examinees.
Just last year, the college moved its operations from the Taft campus to the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) campus, while implementing a semestral system to cope with the curriculum’s demands.
DLSU Commercial Law Department Chair Atty. Antonio Ligon claims that, just like any other law school, exceeding the passing percentage of the bar exam is one of the main challenges, and that the college would gain more mileage if it surpasses the 2014 bar record.
He raises the need to determine which path the school wants its graduates to take. “If it is human rights advocacy then we need to strengthen more the inculcation of the subject matter to our students. I have no doubt the dean is doing his best on this,” he says.
On the other hand, DLSU Professor and former Commissioner in the Legal Education Board Atty. Justin De Jesus Sucgang asserts that the screening process provided by the DLSU Institutional Testing and Evaluation Office does not match the competencies needed in a law school, particularly on the new breed of aspiring DLSU lawyers coming in. He further raises the issue among students who place more value on gaining higher grades through certain professors rather than actual learning.
In terms of the faculty, Atty. Sucgang suggests that the college should provide incentives for junior faculty to attain graduate education and specializations, as well as provide benefits to attract more full-time professors. Furthermore, he asserts that the current facilities are appropriate for the needs of a business school, but inadequate for the purposes of a legal academic institution. There is also a lack of facilities for legal research, and the number of law students and faculty have exceeded the capacity of the BGC campus.
Lastly, Atty. Sucgang maintains that there is a lack of institutionalized rules and procedures regarding the administration. “I believe many issues are being dealt with on a case-to-case basis, because rules have not yet been institutionalized,” he explains.
DLSU COL and the lean years
DLSU has already entered the so-called “lean years,” wherein less undergraduate students are expected to enroll due to the additional years required under Senior High School in the K-12 program. Atty. Ligon, however, discloses that although he is unsure of the enrollment projections at DLSU COL, “it is safe to say that we need more professors than students.”
In a related study conducted by Atty. Sucgang, he describes that 36.31 percent of the students in law school are fresh graduates while almost 30 percent of the students waited for one to two years before enrolling in law school. “While the lean years may result in lesser number of fresh graduates, we may expect a spillover from those who are still mulling to enroll in law school,” he comments.
With regard the move to the BGC campus, Atty. Sucgang says it is too early to say what the effect is on the performance levels of students and professors. He describes that the environment has become more professional as there is less noise and commotion in the corridors, but also shares that they have experienced numerous technical and physical inadequacies in the past semester.
The student experience
Carsa Carandang (II-JD) praises the application process for DLSU COL, saying that it was simple and accommodating in his experience. He states, “Every step that an applicant needs to take is already laid out in the DLSU COL website.”
According to Carandang, the experience itself is a whole new learning experience not just in terms of academics, but also in terms of personal growth. He narrates, “The DLSU COL has molded me into a student I never thought I could become. As a joke, I even tell my peers that I’ve read more in law school than I ever had in my entire life. Even though it is a joke, I believe some of us can’t help but think it’s true.”
Meanwhile, Atty. Dino De Leon, who graduated from DLSU COL in 2014, shares that being part of the first batch was a great experience, though it came with some challenges, such as the fact that no one knew how to look at Supreme Court Reports Annotated, and there were no upper batches they could ask for help from.
Atty. De Leon shares that opportunities after college were not difficult to find, as many top firms were willing to hire the first Lasallian lawyers. Although familiarity with people in the workplace was an issue, De Leon raises that the quality of education and training received from DLSU “was very much competitive.”
Carandang shares that the college is not divided by fraternities and sororities, as is commonly seen in other law schools. “In the DLSU COL, the whole college is your family,” he adds. “Everyone knows and helps each other out without hesitation.” Rather than forming fraternities and sororities, student groups like Juan de La Salle, the Law Debate and Moot Society, and the Law Student Government support the students while maintaining a united culture.
Looking forward a
Atty. Sucgang suggests that although bar results are important and serve as the most common metric of success, the law school should focus on developing its educational standards.
“Alongside with preparing students for the exam, the law school must also revisit its curriculum and redesign it to make it appropriate to the needs of the times. There should be a specialization track for law students for DLSU to truly make a mark in [country’s] legal education. An equal amount of resources must be spent for faculty development and facilities. Looking forward, I think a new campus will be needed in three to five years,” Atty. Sucgang explains.
Similarly, Carandang observes that the college has been constantly adjusting their methods of teaching depending on the results of the bar exams, since there have only been three batches so far that have gone through it. Furthermore, he foresees that more students would be coming in due to the growing popularity of the college.
On the other hand, De Leon suggests that DLSU COL should aspire to have a human rights enforcement center and an environmental law center, to provide Masters of Law programs, and to engage in more research. Considering that the college is still at its infancy stage, there is still plenty of room to grow in the upcoming years.