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2021 Bar exams localized, faces reforms

By Deogracia William Bemida January 25, 2021

Supreme Court Associate Justice Hon. Marvic M.V.F. Leonen discussed this year’s reformations for digitalized and localized bar examinations together with the different law schools in the country.

Hon. Leonen, the chairman of the 2021 bar examination, was invited to be the guest speaker during a  zoom conference hosted by the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development last Friday, Jan. 22.

He shared his thoughts on the reforms in the law school curriculum to aid bar takers in preparing for the challenges and developments ahead towards the coming bar examinations.

To reduce the expenses of the bar applicants, Leonen said they are going to localize the upcoming bar exams as they attempt to produce many testing centers as the system can bear.

The 2021 bar chairman expressed hope that Silliman University (SU) will be one of the testing centers. If SU offers and succeeds to be one, it will receive a plaque for its participation in the first-ever digitalized and localized bar exams.

 With the digitalized exams, Leonen said he recruited experts from the regions as bar examiners. “It will no longer be a monopoly of experts in Metro Manila. Who knows, maybe some of your professors right now are actually bar examiners?”

Photo courtesy of Shanielle Qim Cañeda

Currently, the Supreme Court (SC) is testing an application used by the United States and other countries like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Saudi Arabia, and parts of Australia, for this year’s bar. 

“We are in the process of actually solving every nook and cranny of the technical issues and logistical issues. That is why we are doing a pilot mock bar on January 31,” Leonen added. The pilot exam will be a way of testing the system.

The bar applications will also be digitalized. Thus, applicants will be given a link where they can send all the required documents in digital format. Application fees will be deposited in a Landbank branch, and the deposit slip will be submitted to the Supreme Court via the said link. 

Leonen added a “bring your own device system” will be implemented during the bar exams. Proctoring will also include the physical deployment of proctors in the local centers and the placement of surveillance cameras in all testing centers.  

In addition, the bar chair convinces the Supreme Court to change the evaluation system. He proposes a new system where excellent passers can be recognized as high pass. 

“I am trying to get that kind of evaluation in order that the bar does not privilege competition, but it privileges your [bar examinees’] capability to show to the court not only that you’re brilliant, but that you are competent enough to practice law,” said Leonen.

The bar chair seeks to recognize and rank law schools’ performances by category: with less than 50 applicants, with 50-100 applicants, and with more than 100 applicants. 

Jim Gara, a 2021 bar examinee and alumnus of SU College of Law, said, “By introducing more testing centers other than UST, and bringing the examinations closer to the so-called provincial law schools, the reforms attempt to level the playing field at least in the aspect of test-taking for future lawyers.” 

“I welcome the reforms introduced by Justice Leonen as it will reduce the inequities that were inherent in the traditional conduct of the bar examinations,” he added.

 The  2020-2021 bar examination is set for November 2021 following its postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SC will announce the examination’s venue and schedule in a separate bulletin. 


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