Professional examination for the suitability of lawyers

I am motivated to write this message by the excellent attitude of the Panamanian people regarding the recent decision of a government body that lowered the score to promote doctors.

On Thursday, August 9, 2012, this same prestigious newspaper, La Estrella de Panamá, published an article for me entitled “In Panama a lawyer’s degree and a glass of water are not denied to anyone.” This article is framed and adorns my office and many ask me why.

Piero Calamandrei, teacher of teachers, wrote a work, published in 1920, 100 years ago, called “Too many lawyers”.

Calamandrei was amazed that in Italy at that time there were 48 lawyers for every 100,000 inhabitants. Imagine Panama today, 30,000 lawyers for 4.5 million inhabitants.

The lawyer’s function is eminently public; therefore, its activity must be regulated, its function is necessary to the State.

Calamandrei in his work studies the causes that seduce so many to study Law. But there, since that time, aspiring lawyers had to take a double test, one of an academic nature to graduate with a degree and another of a practical nature to enter forensic colleges, that is, to become lawyers.

Currently, we are reaching 30 thousand Panamanians with the suitability to practice law. That is, 30,000 lawyers. Really the problem, for some, would be the number, but for me it is not the number, but the quality and academic demands of some universities that are granting degrees in Law.

In September 2015, together with the Supreme Court of Justice, by the legislative initiative that the Court has, we presented a draft law which, among other things, contemplated: 1) professional examination; 2) continuing legal education; and, 3) give initiative to the Court of Honor and Discipline of the Bar Association to initiate actions without the need for a complaint.

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Let us begin by analyzing the granting of initiative to the Court of Honor and Discipline of the College to initiate proceedings for lack of ethics. Nowadays, many people ask “what does the school do?” When, in their opinion, a lawyer has committed a lack of ethics.

However, the Court of Honor of the College can do nothing if a complaint is not filed. He cannot act under “notitia criminis”.

Let’s see an example, what happens daily, and several times a day. One of the most serious breaches of Professional Ethics is for a lawyer to take their cases to the social media. On a daily basis, and by different means, colleagues are observed, seen, heard or read, airing their cases. That is a very serious lack of Ethics. And the College can do nothing, because those affected do not report the fact, perhaps because they do not know that it is a serious offense and that the Court of Honor has the obligation to investigate. The litigation moves from the courtroom to the television screens, newsprint or radio microphones.

As for the professional examination, let us start by stating that there are universities that have changed the modules and parameters of law teaching. They have gone from semester grades and face-to-face classes to modules and monthly qualifications and the almost zero requirement for face-to-face classes. Today, new lawyers are not required to write a graduation paper or thesis. It is long to list the current deficiencies in the teaching of law.

To correct, as much as possible, and as it exists in many other countries, the National Bar Association of Panama, under my presidency, and together with the Supreme Court of Justice, we presented the aforementioned bill. This examination, which is compulsory in a large number of countries in the world and which is regulated, in those countries, by the Bar Association; in Panama, the College gave that right to the University of Panama.

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In Panama, from 2010 to 2020, 12,731 law graduates have graduated. This is 3.49 attorneys per day, regardless of whether it is Shrove Tuesday, Christmas, or New Years.

Let’s see:

ISAE: 2020, 196; 2019, 444; 2018, 330.

Panama: 2020, 116; 2019, 439; 2018, 286.

USMA: 2020, 86; 2019, 119; 2018, 101.

Latina: 2020, 61; 2019, 112; 2018,134.

Isthmus: 2020, 55; 2019, 63; 2018, 83.

Americana: 2020, 45; 2019, 99; 2018, 99.

As you can see, the ISAE is graduating many more law graduates than the University of Panama.

Today, there are a total of 20 universities that can issue the degree of Bachelor of Law and Political Science.

The professional examination serves for the student to demonstrate that he has sufficient legal knowledge to serve the citizen as a lawyer.

When a citizen puts his liberty or jail in the hands of the lawyer; his assets, legal orientation, he does so thinking that the universities have sufficiently prepared the lawyer and that the case is not going to be lost due to lack of legal knowledge.

On the other hand, continuing Legal Education allows lawyers to update themselves. For example, when I studied Law, the user-IRHE relationship was an administrative law relationship, today it is commercial. The law evolves and lawyers must be up-to-date. So since the current law on the bar does not have this requirement, a new law on the bar should require it.



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