The illegal in the legal profession

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Ma. Isabel Ongpin

WHEN will our law schools, professional lawyers’ associations, law students and the rest of the citizenry stop countenancing the brutish hazing activities that they tolerate? Aside from being murderous as proven by so many deaths and injuries these activities harken to tribalism, exclusion, discrimination, cultish activities that have no part in education, the acceptance of the universal world and the ability to live according to the law and its civilized rules.

If these so-called “rites of passage” copied from erstwhile foreign fraternities and cults result in death and damage, why are they being imitated or done to the extreme? Or, if originally decent and comradely, why have they deteriorated to violence, cruelty, deaths that are then subject of cover-ups bringing on more crimes?

Unfortunately, such tribal organizations both local and foreign, are no longer social assets to the general public or themselves or to the schools from which they originate but embarrassing reminders of the failure of education, the bankruptcy of moral values and the drive to succeed no matter what the cost to others and to society. That they are still allowed to exist in this fashion is a bad reflection on the society that condones them
As understood by us non-lawyers who when we dare question lawyer-type bad mores for which we are quickly put down as having no right to do so because we are “not lawyers,” where is the honor in these activities? What is their positive contribution to our society?

The existence of brutal hazing over decades of tragedy and criticism is an indication that in this society the lawyers and would-be lawyers think they are a cut above the rest. That they deserve tolerance for the impunity in which they operate in their fraternities and such other organizations that are purely for them and their so-called goals.

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What really is the attraction that encourages recruits to seek membership in these despicable associations where cruelty, punishment, mental and physical torture, supposedly demonstrate honor and manhood? What we hear is otherwise—that these tribal societies promise help in the bar exams whether legitimate or not, career boosts whether deserved or not from senior fraternity members or well-placed ones in positions of power. And finally, likely cover-ups and complete defense for whatever infraction or crime that such a fraternity member commits along the way, including hazing brutalities. These are some of the reasons, maybe not all the reasons. Butwhat we see are all dishonorable. Merit and hard work are not primodial, just connections and exclusivity. Are these the right reasons for risking what is finally one’s life as shown over and over again over the years? Is this the way one prepares for the practice of law? I am sure the fraternity brothers do not quite put it that way as they lure candidates to join. They tempt the candidates with promises of undeserved and unearned help as long as one becomes one of them. This is either the beginning or continuation of dishonorable intentions and actions.
Sorry but to the rest of the world, the excluded shall we say, the above does not make sense, does not deserve admiration or emulation but the very opposite. There is no honor here.

How is it that the law which should be implemented by men and women of the law will be at the discretion of they who have broken the law, vied for advancement at the expense of the rest, used legal maneuvers to cover up? Obviously, the law and society right here are being shortchanged.

We may have one of the largest numbers of lawyers in proportion to our population, either graduated, practicing, or studying, but we also have an unconscionably large number of cases for disbarment, and many cases worthy of expulsion from law school or suspension from law practice. And there are many more dishonorable actions waiting in the wings. Malpractice of the law is common. Justices, judges, practicing lawyers have crossed the line over and over again. Our justice system composed of our judiciary and the legal field is not known for honesty, fearlessness of the powerful, scrupulous obedience to the norms that lawyers take their oath to follow. What have the law schools wrought here? This looks like a serious crisis. Or, will these parties claim indifference or shirk responsibility? From the outside it looks like a system of bad transactions, immoral moves.

Indeed, this is a sweeping generalization but it holds more of its share of the truth than falsehood.

The worst of the lot are the law schools and their instructors who turn a blind eye to fraternity hazing, allow those cutting corners to pass the bar and encourage the exclusivity that covers a multitude of infractions. Finally, the general public too is at fault as it puts the legal profession on the side of the angels when it is not. It is a myth that one who passes the bar will practice the law in a grand manner. Only a tiny minority do.

Lawyers are supposed to practice the law in that grand manner of bringing justice, defending the weak, fighting for right, following the law. But what do we see, lawyers intimidating people, covering up crimes, being driven by lust for money, finding loopholes in the law for their guilty clients. And look at the practices of their fraternities! Have I said anything that is not in the public mind from repeated public observation of the behavior of people connected with the law, from law schools and their officials, to fraternities and their leaders, to the unthinking public adulation of them?

When will change for the better come? When will real moral values prevail? When will members of this profession look at themselves honestly in the mirror?

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