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Law Student Rule

Problem Areas in Legal Ethics

RULE 138-A
LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE
SC Circular No. 19, prom. Dec. 19, 1986

SECTION 1. Conditions for Student Practice. A law


student who has successfully completed his 3rd year of
the regular four-year prescribed law curriculum and is
enrolled in a recognized law school's clinical legal
education program approved by the Supreme Court,
may appear without compensation in any civil,
criminal or administrative case before any trial
court, tribunal, board or officer, to present any
indigent clients accepted by the legal clinic of the
law school.

LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE

Sec. 2. Appearance. The appearance of the law student


authorized by this rule, shall be under the direct
supervision and control of a member of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines duly accredited by the law
school. Any and all pleadings, motions, briefs, memoranda
or other papers to be filed, must be signed by the
supervising attorney for and in behalf of the legal clinic.
The phrase "direct supervision and control" requires no
less than the physical presence of the supervising
lawyer during the hearing.
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LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE

Sec. 3. Privileged communications. The Rules


safeguarding privileged communications between
attorney and client shall apply to similar
communications made to or received by the law student,
acting for the legal clinic.

LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE

Sec. 4. Standards of conduct and supervision. The law


student shall comply with the standards of
professional conduct governing members of the Bar.
Failure of an attorney to provide adequate
supervision of student practice may be a ground for
disciplinary action.

Rule 138 (RRC) Sec. 34


Rule 138 (RRC) Sec. 34. By whom litigation conducted. In the court of a justice of the peace a party may
conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an
agent or friend appointed by him for that purpose, or
with the aid of an attorney.
In any other court, a party may conduct his litigation
personally or by aid of an attorney, and his appearance
must be either personal or by a duly authorized
member of the bar.

The phraseIn the court of a justice of


the peacemeans:
The phrase In the court of a justice of the peace in Bar
Matter No. 730 is subsequently changed to In the court of a
municipality as it now appears in Section 34 of Rule 138, thus:
SEC. 34.
By whom litigation is conducted. In the Court
of a municipality a party may conduct his litigation in
person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for
that purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In any other court,
a party may conduct his litigation personally or by aid of an
attorney and his appearance must be either personal or by a
duly authorized member of the bar.

The term "Municipal Trial Courts" as


used in these Rules shall include:
1. Metropolitan Trial Courts,
2. Municipal Trial Courts in Cities,
3. Municipal Trial Courts, and
4. Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

Reconciling the 2 rules


There is really no problem as to the application of Section
34 of Rule 138 and Rule 138-A. In the former, the
appearance of a non-lawyer, as an agent or friend of a
party litigant, is expressly allowed, while the latter rule
provides for conditions when a law student, not as an
agent or a friend of a party litigant, may appear before the
courts. - Cruz v. Mina GR no. 154207 April 27, 2007

BAR MATTER NO.730


June 13, 1997
For the guidance of the bench and bar, we hold that
a law student appearing before the Regional Trial
Court under Rule 138-A should at all times be
accompanied by a supervising lawyer.

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Law student can appear without


supervision of a lawyer
The rule, however, is different if the law student appears
before an inferior court, where the issues and
procedure are relatively simple. In inferior courts, a
law student may appear in his personal capacity without
the supervision of a lawyer.
Thus, a law student may appear before an inferior court
as an agent or friend of a party without the
supervision of a member of the bar.

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Caution when one act


as his own attorney
This provision means that in a litigation, parties may
personally do everything during its progress -- from its
commencement to its termination. When they, however, act
as their own attorneys, they are restricted to the same
rules of evidence and procedure as those qualified to
practice law; otherwise, ignorance would be unjustifiably
rewarded. Individuals have long been permitted to manage,
prosecute and defend their own actions; and when they do
so, they are not considered to be in the practice of law.
"One does not practice law by acting for himself any more
than he practices medicine by rendering first aid to
himself. Maderada v. Judge Mediodea, A.M. No. MTJ-021459. October 14, 2003
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Appearing as his own attorney is not


practice of law
Clearly, in appearing for herself, complainant was not
customarily or habitually holding herself out to the
public as a lawyer. Neither was she demanding payment
for such services. Hence, she cannot be said to be in the
practice of law. - Maderada v. Judge Mediodea, A.M. No.
MTJ-02-1459. October 14, 2003
The law allows persons who are not lawyers by
profession to litigate their own case in court. The
right of complainant to litigate her case personally
cannot be taken away from her. - Maderada v. Judge
Mediodea, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1459. October 14, 2003

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UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW


CANON 9 - A LAWYER SHALL NOT, DIRECTLY OR
INDIRECTLY, ASSIST IN THE UNAUTHORIZED
PRACTICE OF LAW.

Rule 9.01 - A lawyer shall not delegate to any


unqualified person the performance of any task which
by law may only be performed by a member of the bar in
good standing.

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Threefold rationale behind the Law


Student Practice Rule
1. to ensure that there will be no miscarriage of justice as a
result of incompetence or inexperience of law students,
who, not having as yet passed the test of professional
competence, are presumably not fully equipped to act a
counsels on their own;
2. to provide a mechanism by which the accredited law
school clinic may be able to protect itself from any potential
vicarious liability arising from some culpable action by their
law students; and
3. to ensure consistency with the fundamental principle that
no person is allowed to practice a particular profession
without possessing the qualifications, particularly a license,
as required by law.
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Presiding judge has no discretion


The matter of allowing a law student to appear before the
court unaccompanied by a supervising lawyer cannot be
left to the discretion of the presiding judge. The rule
clearly states that the appearance of the law student shall
be under the direct control and supervision of a member
of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines duly accredited
by law schools. The rule must be strictly construed
because public policy demands that legal work should be
entrusted only to those who possess tested qualifications,
are sworn to observe the rules and ethics of the legal
profession and subject to judicial disciplinary control. BAR MATTER NO. 730 June 13, 1997

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Appearance of a law student in inferior


courts does not require supervision of
lawyer
For relatively simple litigation before municipal courts, the
Rules still allow a more educated or capable person in
behalf of a litigant who cannot get a lawyer. - Bulacan v.
Torcino, G.R. No. L-44388 January 30, 1985
The rule, however, is different if the law student appears
before an inferior court, where the issues and procedure are
relatively simple. In inferior courts, a law student may
appear in his personal capacity without the supervision of a
lawyer. - BAR MATTER NO. 730 June 13, 1997
A law student may appear before an inferior court as an agent
or friend of a party without the supervision of a member of
the bar. - BAR MATTER NO. 730 June 13, 1997
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The respondent alleges that the complaint is irregular as it


was signed not by the plaintiff but by one who was not a
member of the bar and who designated himself merely as
"Friend counsel for the Plaintiff." The appellants argue that
the municipal court did not acquire jurisdiction over the
case.
They invoke Section 5, Rule 7 which states that [SEC. 5.
Signature and address] [e]very pleading of a party represented
by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of
record in his individual name, whose address shall be stated.
A party who is not represented by an attorney shall sign his
pleading and state his address.
DECIDE.

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Held:
Under the facts of this case, however, the applicable
provision is Section 34, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court
which states:
SEC. 34. By whom litigation is conducted. In the Court of
a municipality a party may conduct his litigation in
person with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by
him for that purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In
any other court, a party may conduct his litigation
personally or by aid of an attorney and his appearance
must be either personal or by a duly authorized member
of the bar.

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Supervising lawyer should be the one


to sign the pleadings
Rule 7 (RRC) Section 3. Signature and address. Every
pleading must be signed by the party or counsel
representing him, stating in either case his address
which should not be a post office box.

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Signing amounts to certification of


lawyer
Rule 7 (RRC) Section 3. xxx The signature of counsel
constitutes a certificate by him that he has read the
pleading; that to the best of his knowledge, information,
and belief there is good ground to support it; and that
it is not interposed for delay.

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Effect of unsigned pleadings


Rule 7 (RRC) Section 3. An unsigned pleading produces
no legal effect. However, the court may, in its discretion,
allow such deficiency to be remedied if it shall appear
that the same was due to mere inadvertence and not
intended for delay. Counsel who deliberately files an
unsigned pleading,xxx, shall be subject to
appropriate disciplinary action.

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Can a third year law student appear as private


prosecutor in a criminal case and within the
jurisdiction of the inferior court?
The petitioner, describing himself as a third year law student,
justifies his appearance as private prosecutor on the bases
of Section 34 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.
The petitioner furthermore avers that his appearance was with
the prior conformity of the public prosecutor and a written
authority of Mariano Cruz appointing him to be his agent in
the prosecution of the said criminal case.
The MeTC denied permission for petitioner to appear as
private prosecutor on the ground that Circular No. 19 (1997)
governing limited law student practice in conjunction
with Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court (Law Student Practice
Rule) should take precedence over the ruling of the Court
laid down in Cantimbuhan (1983).
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Held:
Petitioner expressly anchored his appearance on Section 34 of
Rule 138. The court a quo must have been confused by the fact
that petitioner referred to himself as a law student in his entry
of appearance. Rule 138-A should not have been used by
the courts a quo in denying permission to act as private
prosecutor against petitioner for the simple reason that Rule
138-A is not the basis for the petitioners appearance.
Section 34, Rule 138 is clear that appearance before the inferior
courts by a non-lawyer is allowed, irrespective of whether or
not he is a law student. As succinctly clarified in Bar Matter
No. 730, by virtue of Section 34, Rule 138, a law student may
appear, as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, without
the supervision of a lawyer before inferior courts.

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Thanks for your listening!

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