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Senator Angara: ‘Superman-lawyer’ doesn’t fly anymore

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02:02 AM February 5th, 2012

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February 5th, 2012 02:02 AM

The age of the all-knowing, expert “superman-lawyer” is over, according to Sen. Edgardo J. Angara.

Specialization, aggravated by globalization, “has pushed the great generalists to the side,” said Angara in a talk about the future of the teaching of law at the University of the Philippines College of Law on Friday.

UP Law, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, must adapt to the rapidly changing trends in the legal profession, most notably the shift toward specialization, Angara said in a lecture titled “Examining the Role of UP Law.”

Like doctors and engineers, more and more lawyers are being hired for their expertise in chosen fields rather than for being jacks-of-all-trades who try to master everything, said the senator, who chairs the UP Law Centennial Commission.

He quoted the 2010 Financial Times Global Education Report, which said: “In today’s world, the superman-lawyer—one who knows everything about anything (or at least claims to)—is viewed with skepticism and disregarded in favor of the specialist.”

“Those who know more about a narrower field, indeed, offer a tremendous advantage to business in legal conflicts. And if a business in legal trouble wants to cover its flanks, it should hire specialists in other fields,” Angara said.

“It is like that in warfare, and business is war,” he added.

For UP Law to continue producing graduates of the caliber of its distinguished alumni would largely depend on the college’s ability to “evolve its teaching methods to meet the changing and mounting challenges facing the practice of the profession,” Angara said.

UP Law counts among its graduates four presidents—Manuel Roxas, Jose P. Laurel, Elpidio Quirino and Ferdinand Marcos—three vice presidents, including the incumbent Jejomar Binay, and 12 chief justices of the Supreme Court. Eight incumbent senators, including Angara, are also alumni of the college.

Global law schools

Another challenge, the worst one facing the legal profession, has been the economic crisis of 2008 whose effects linger to this day, Angara said.

When the crisis hit, the first to go in corporate spending programs, after advertising, was the legal budget, he said.

“Frankly, it has always been like that. When a lawyer wins a case, the client thinks he was always right anyway. When a lawyer loses a case, it’s the lawyer’s fault for losing a winning cause,” he said, drawing chuckles from the audience that included legal luminaries, professors and law students.

As a result of advances in computer technology, law education is also “vulnerable to computerization,” he said, attributing this to the fact that “the law, by its nature, is and should be routine and repetitive.”

“Soon fields of legal learning and practice can be packaged and sold like movies on DVD or, worse, pirated versions,” he said.

The senator said there was no way to fight this trend but to go with it.

Angara pointed out that the Harvard Law School emphasizes its ability to offer joint degree programs, which allow students to earn another degree from any of its other professional schools, similar to the strategy of Yale Law School, which boasts an interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of law.

“This is the age of global law schools. Opportunities to study abroad are no longer a part of a grant but a component of the mainstream curriculum,” he said, citing Harvard Law’s exchange programs with schools in Tokyo, Geneva and Shanghai, among other places.

PH fears competition

Unfortunately, the Philippines remains untouched by this trend, Angara said.

“Philippine teaching and practice of law remain impervious to it. Our profession firmly discourages foreign entanglements. Foreign legal scholars may not teach credited courses in Philippine law schools, let alone practice before our courts,” he said.

“You can go, if you want, to take your master’s abroad, but it will have a negligible, if any, effect on your practice back home. You can take the bar in New York but not in Manila. The Philippine legal profession, despite its evident talents, fears international competition,” he said.

Angara challenged UP Law to adopt such novel approaches to the teaching of law. “I believe that this time, the UP College of Law can lead, rather than follow, in meeting these challenges,” he said.

To protect good men

He concluded his lecture with a reminder: “Law schools are not established to create great men for great moments, but to make excellent everyday lawyers to protect good men in the ordinary course of the law.”

“Those who, from that everyday but necessary vocation, rise to greatness will owe their eminence not to the school they attended, but to the conscience, values and wisdom they acquired on their own,” Angara said.

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