The Philippine Bar Exam: Qualifications and Requirements

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Philippines’ population was 101,000,000 in August 2015. However, only an estimated 70,000 lawyers had been admitted to the Philippine Bar as of 2017, given the fact that the test is probably the most challenging in the country.

In addition, the Bar Exam is the only licensure exam that is not governed by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

The Supreme Court of the Philippines was given exclusive authority under the 1987 Philippine Constitution to promulgate the laws governing admission to the practice of law through the Bar Examinations Committee.

Qualifications for admission to take the Philippine Bar Exam

The conditions for entry to the Philippine Bar are outlined in Rule 138 of the Rules of Court of the Philippines, which was promulgated by the Supreme Court. Members of the bar must have the following qualifications:

1.   Applicants must be Filipino Citizens

According to the Philippine Constitution of 1987, “the practice in all occupations in the Philippines shall be exclusive to Filipino residents, except in situations prescribed by law.”

Despite the fact that Congress has already passed legislation enabling foreigners and international businesses to do business in the Philippines, the legal profession remains exclusively reserved for Filipino citizens, with the exception of medicine, radiologic and X-ray science, criminology, and forestry.

2.  Applicants must be at least 21 years of age

Applicants must send valid copies of their birth certificates issued by the National Statistics Office or the Local Civil Registrar to prove their age.

3.   Applicants must be of good moral character

Candidates shall send two testimonials of Good Moral Character executed by members of the Philippine Bar and a Certificate of No Derogatory Record from the law school as they file admissions with the Office of the Bar Confidant – Supreme Court.

Furthermore, they shall swear under oath that no cases concerning moral turpitude have been filed or are pending against them in any Philippine court. Where charges are lodged, claimants must have evidence of the disposition of these lawsuits, and whether the charges were dropped or are still pending.

4.   Applicants must be Philippine residents

In addition to citizenship, candidates to the Philippine Bar must reside in the Philippines.

Bar Exam Requirements Philippines

In addition to these fundamental qualifications, candidates must demonstrate that they have completed four years of high school, a four-year bachelor of arts or bachelor of sciences degree, and four years of law study as a postgraduate degree.

The Legal Education Board (LEB) also expects bar candidates to complete relevant college of law coursework as part of the bar requirements Philippines. During college, applicants must have completed at least 6 units of mathematics, 18 units of English, and 18 units of social science.

In an attempt to increase the quality of legal education, the LEB added new educational standards in 2016. Many seeking entries to any law school must first take and pass the Philippine Law School Admission Test, which is administered uniformly throughout the country. Furthermore, students may not be accepted to the Bar Exam until they have satisfactorily accomplished the following courses at a government-approved law school:

  • Civil Law
  • Commercial Law
  • Remedial Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Public And Private International Law
  • Political Law
  • Labor and Social Legislation
  • Medical Jurisprudence
  • Taxation
  • Legal Ethics

Prior to 2010, one unique qualification for being a Philippine lawyer was that candidates get a law degree from a school in the Philippines. The Supreme Court amended Rule 138 of the Rules of Court in March 2010 to encourage Filipino people who practiced law in another nation to take the Philippine Bar Exam if they met the following requirements for taking the Bar Exam Philippines:

  1. Completion of all classes leading to a Bachelor of Law or its equivalent;
  2. The law school has been recognized or accredited by the appropriate authority;
  3. Completion of all fourth-year subjects in a Philippine government-accredited law school; and
  4. Proof to having earned a separate bachelor’s degree.

All bar membership admissions must be filed with the Supreme Court via the Office of the Bar Confidant. The degrees of applicants, including high school, college, and law school, must be from formally accepted and accredited colleges, as certified by the Secretary of Education.

Applicants shall file affidavits attesting to that evidence, along with credentials from each university or law school. The court can request additional facts.

The Philippine Bar Exams

Unlike in other nations, the Philippine Bar Exams are written in English and only take place once a year. During the month of November, bar examinees must sit for four exhaustingly lengthy examination sessions in which they are checked for their understanding of Political Law, Remedial Law, Taxation, Labor Law, Civil Law, Mercantile Law, Legal Ethics, Criminal Law, and Practical Exercises.

The findings of the Bar Exam are normally published in March or April of the following year, putting examinees’ patience and determination to the test.

Unless the Supreme Court En Banc decides to lower the passage threshold for a specific year, bar examinees must achieve a cumulative average of 75% on all bar subjects. Furthermore, no grade can be lower than 50% in any subject. The overall passing rate for the Bar Exam over the last five years has been 28.81 percent.

Applicants become full-fledged Philippine lawyers after completing the Bar Exam, taking an oath, and signing their names in the Roll of Attorneys.

The Philippine Bar Exams for repeaters

Examinees who do not pass the Bar Exam can retake the exam as many times as they need to. Candidates who fail three bar exams must, however, demonstrate that they have participated in and completed standard fourth-year bar review courses as well as a pre-bar review course before they can retake the Bar Exam.