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4. Appearance of non-lawyers

a. Law student practice

1) Limited practice of law

The limited practice of law covers appearances, drafting and submission of pleadings and documents before trial and appellate courts and quasi-judicial and administrative bodies, assistance in mediation and other alternative modes of dispute resolution, legal counselling and advice, and such other activities that may be covered by the Clinical Legal Education Program of the law school as herein provided. (Section 1, Rule 138-A, Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 19-03-23-SC)

a) Clinical Legal Education Program

Clinical Legal Education Program is an experiential, interactive and reflective credit-earning teaching course with the objectives of providing law students with practical know ledge, skills and values necessary for the application of the law, delivery of legal services and promotion of social justice and public interest, especially to the marginalized, while inculcating in the students the values of ethical lawyering and public service. It consists of learning activities covered by this Rule undertaken in either al) law clinic or an 2) extemship, which shall incorporate the teaching of legal theory and doctrines, practical skills, as well as legal ethics. (Section 2[a], Ibid.)

b) Externship

Externship is part of the clinical legal educational program if:

1) It allows students to engage in legal work for the marginalized sectors or for the promotion of social justice and public interest, and,

2) It is undertaken with any of the following:

a) the courts, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), government offices; and,

b) law school-recognized non-governmental organizations (NGOs). (Section 2[b], Ibid.)

c) Law Clinic

Law Clinic refers to an office or center which is a component of the law school’s clinical legal education program that renders legal assistance and services as herein provided to eligible persons, groups, and/or communities. (Section 2[c], Ibid.)

d) Law Student Practitioner

Law Student Practitioner is a law student certified under Rule 138-A. (Section 2[d], Ibid.)

e) Eligibility Requirements of Law Student Practitioners

No law student shall be permitted to engage in any of the activities under the Clinical Legal Education Program of a law school unless the law student has applied for and secured the following certifications:

1) Level 1 certification, for law students who have successfully completed their first-year law courses; and/or

2) Level 2 certification, for law students currently enrolled for the second semester of their third-year law courses: Provided however, where a student fails to complete all their third-year law courses, the Level 2 certification shall be deemed automatically revoked. (Paragraph 1, Section 3, Ibid.)

The certification issued shall be valid until the student has completed the required number of courses in the clinical legal education program to complete the law degree, unless sooner revoked for grounds stated herein. (Paragraph 2, Section 3, Ibid.)

f) Practice Areas of Law Student Practitioners

For Level 1 Certification:

1) Interview prospective clients;

2) Give legal advice to the client;

3) Negotiate for and on behalf of the client;

4) Draft legal documents such as affidavits, compromise agreements, contracts, demand letter, position papers, and the like;

5) Represent eligible parties before quasi-judicial or administrative bodies;

6) Provide public legal orientation; and

7) Assist in public interest advocacies for policy formulation and implementation. (Section 4, Ibid.)

For Level 2 Certification:

1) Perform all activities under Level 1 Certification;

2) Assist in the taking of depositions and/or preparing judicial affidavits of witnesses;

3) Appear on behalf of the client at any stage of the proceedings or trial, before any court, quasi-judicial or administrative body;

4) In criminal cases, subject to the provisions of Section 5, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court, to appear on behalf of a government agency in the prosecution of criminal actions; and

5) In appealed cases, to prepare the pleadings required in the case. (Ibid.)

g) Certification Application Requirements

The law student must submit a duly-accomplished application form under oath in three (3) copies, accompanied by proof of payment of the necessary legal and filing fees. (Paragraph 1, Section 5, Ibid.)

The law school, through the dean or the authorized representative, shall submit to the Office of the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) having jurisdiction over the territory where the law school is located, the duly-accomplished application form together with an endorsement under oath. (Paragraph 2, Section 5, Ibid.)

h) Duties of Law Student Practitioners

Acting under a certification, the law student practitioner shall:

1) Observe the provisions of Section 24 (b), Rule 130 of the Rules of Court;

2) Be prohibited from using information acquired in one’s capacity as a law student practitioner for personal or commercial gain;

3) Perform the duties and responsibilities to the best of one’s abilities as a law student practitioner; and,

4) Strictly observe the Canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility. (Section 6, Ibid.)

i) Use of Law Student Practitioner’s Name

A law student practitioner may sign briefs, pleadings, letters, and other similar documents which the student has produced under the direction of the supervising lawyer, indicating the law student practitioner’s certificate number as required under Rule 138-A. (Section 7, Ibid.)

j) Law Student Practitioner’s Oath/Affirmation

A law student who has been issued a certificate under this Rule must, before performing the activities allowed herein, take an oath in the following form:

“I, ( name ), having been granted a certificate of law student practice by the Supreme Court under Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, I will support the Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a certified law student practitioner according to the best of my knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to the parties I represent; and I impose upon myself these voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.” (Section 8, Ibid.)

2) Duties of Law Schools

The law school, through its dean or authorized representative, must:

1) Develop and adopt a Clinical Legal Education Program;

2) Develop and establish at least one law clinic in its school;

3) Endorse qualified students for certification as law student practitioner under this Rule. Such endorsement shall constitute as a certification that the dean or authorized representative knows that the applicant is a student enrolled in the Clinical Legal Education course, possesses good moral character, and has met the requirements of Section 3 of this Rule; and

4) Ensure compliance by law student practitioners and supervising lawyers with the Code of Professional Responsibility. (Section 9, Ibid.)

3) Supervising Lawyer

Supervising Lawyer refers to a member of the Philippine Bar in good standing who is authorized by the law school to supervise the law student practitioner. (Section 2[e], Ibid.)

a) Qualification of Supervising Lawyers

A supervising lawyer under this Rule shall be a member of the bar in good standing. (Section 10, Ibid.)

b) Duties of Supervising Lawyers

The following are the duties of a supervising lawyer:

1) Supervise such number of certified law student practitioners as far as practicable;

2) Personally appear with the law student practitioner in all cases pending before the second-level courts and in all other cases the supervising lawyer determines that his or her presence is required; 

3) Assume personal professional responsibility for any work performed by the certified law student practitioner while under his or her supervision;

4) Assist and advise the certified law student practitioner in the activities authorized by these rules and review such activities with the certified law student practitioner, all to the extent required for the proper practical training of the certified law student practitioner and the protection of the client;

5) Read, approve, and personally sign any pleadings, briefs or other similar documents prepared by the certified law student practitioner prior to the filing thereof, and read and approve any documents which shall be prepared by the certified law student practitioner for execution by the eligible party; and

6) Provide the level of supervision to the certified law student practitioner required by these rules. (Section 11, Ibid.)

c) Clinical Faculty

Law schools shall have such number of faculty members to teach clinical legal education courses as may be necessary to comply with this Rule. (Section 12, Ibid.)

d) Sanctions

Without prejudice to existing laws, rules, regulations, and circulars, the following shall be considered as unauthorized practice of law by a certified law student practitioner –

1) Engaging in any of the acts provided in Section 4 of this Rule without the necessary certification or without the consent and supervision of the supervising lawyer;

2) Making false representations in the application for certification;

3) Using an expired certification to engage in the limited practice of law under this Rule;

4) Rendering legal services outside the scope of the practice areas allowed under Section 4 of this Rule;

5) Asking for or receiving payment or compensation for services rendered under the Clinical Legal Education Program as provided in this Rule; and

6) Such other analogous circumstances. (Paragraph 1, Section 13[a], Ibid.)

Unauthorized practice of law shall be a ground for revocation of the law student practitioner’s certification and/or disqualification for a law student from taking the bar examination for a period to be determined by the Supreme Court. (Paragraph 2, Section 13[a], Ibid.)

The above provisions notwithstanding, any act constituting a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility shall subject the supervising lawyer, Clinical Legal Education Program Head, and/or law school dean to disciplinary action, as the circumstances may warrant. (Section 13[b], Ibid.)

b. Non-lawyers in courts

1) When non-lawyers may appear in court:

GENERAL RULE: Those licensed to practice law are only those allowed to appear in court.


1) Self-representation or litigation in person

2) Law student practice

3) MTC / MeTC / MTCC

4) Other Regular Courts

5) When appointed or designated in accordance with law to appear for the Government or any of its officials. (Section 33, Rule 138, Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 19-03-23-SC)

2) Self-representation

a) Civil cases: self-representation is generally allowed.

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. (Section 34, Ibid.)

The law allows persons who are not lawyers by profession to litigate their own case in court. The right of an individual to litigate her case personally cannot be taken away from her. Her being an employee of the judiciary does not remove from her the right to proceedings in propria persona or to self-representation. To be sure, the lawful exercise of a right cannot make one administratively liable. (Maderada v. Mediodea, supra.)

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. (Ibid.)

b) Criminal cases: self-representation is limited; court’s discretion

The court, considering the gravity of the offense and the difficulty of the questions that may arise, shall appoint as counsel de officio only such members of the bar in good standing who, by reason of their experience and ability, can competently defend the accused. (Section 7, Rule 116, Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 19-03-23-SC)

But in localities where such members of the bar are not available, the court may appoint any person, resident of the province and of good repute for probity and ability, to defend the accused. (Ibid.)

Upon motion, the accused may be allowed to defend himself in person when it sufficiently appears to the court that he can properly protect his right without the assistance of counsel. (Section 1[c], Rule 115, Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 19-03-23-SC)

c. Non-lawyers in administrative tribunals and labor tribunals

1) When non-lawyers may appear in administrative tribunals and labor tribunals:

1) Law student practice

2) National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC)

3) Cadastral Court

4) Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB)

5) When appointed or designated in accordance with law to appear for the Government or any of its officials (Section 33, Rule 138, Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 19-03-23-SC)

d. Proceedings where lawyers are prohibited from appearing

1) Prohibited appearances

1) Katarungang Pambarangay (Section 415, Local Government Code)

2) Single Entry Approach at DOLE/NLRC (Section 3, SEnA Rules)

3) Mediation at Court-Annexed Mediation (CAM) (Part II, A.M. No. 11-1-6-SC-PHILJA)

4) Small Claims Case (Section 8, Small Claims Cases Rules)

NB: In the above enumeration, lawyers are prohibited from appearing and representing a party. However, lawyers may appear on their behalf if they are a party to the case. Similarly, a lawyer may be present to advice a party of his rights, but the lawyer should not appear and represent party to the extent of talking for and/on behalf of a party.

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