Once more, the Ateneo Law School is raising the bar higher in Philippine legal education with the impending enhancements in both its Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs.
After holding a series of consultations with faculty members and students, Dean Sedfrey M. Candelaria has officially announced the rollout of the Tracking System for the J.D. program starting with A.Y. 2015-2016. The decision was reached after a survey yielded positive results, with members of the ALS community generally supportive of the Dean’s latest endeavor.
Primarily, the Tracking System is meant to streamline the elective courses taken by the J.D. students. The program offers students the opportunity to specialize in an area of law according to their own interests.
The initial proposed tracks are as follows: (1) International Corporate and Business Law – Finance, (2) International Corporate and Business Law – Corporate Litigation and Dispute Management, (3) Environmental Law, (4) Intellectual Property Law, (5) International Economic Law, (6) International Human Rights Law, (7) International Law, and (8) Litigation and Dispute Resolution.
The proposed system will classify the different elective courses as “tracked electives,” i.e., the foundational electives in a given track, or “free electives,” which are courses outside the track. Under the tracking system, the students are guaranteed the first priority to obtain the electives classified under their chosen area of specialism, as compared to those which do not belong to that track.
Students will be required to take a minimum of 12 units of “tracked electives” from their chosen track. The remaining six units may be devoted to taking up “free electives,” and such electives need not be thematic. Also, the thesis of the student will also have to conform and be in line with the chosen track.
J.D. candidates must choose their track at the end of their sophomore year. The program is proposed to be implemented within the structure of the existing course offerings and the block system. Pre-enlistment of incoming junior and senior students was conducted last 15-17 December 2014.
In order to increase productivity in view of the long summer break resulting from the shift in Ateneo’s academic calendar, tracked electives may be taken during the transition period from June-July 2015—before the start of the first semester in August. Students who opt to take their electives in advance will have the benefit of freeing up their regular semester of the corresponding number of electives taken.
Pioneering J.D. program
The J.D. program of the ALS—the first one of such kind in the country—has contributed its boon to the legal education in the Philippines, ever since its introduction in 1991. Evolving from the traditional Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree, the J.D. program requires students to take the traditional bar subjects, and 18 elective units during their junior and senior years. The elective subjects are offered to supplement the core subjects, by granting room to choose a field of law that the J.D. student is interested in—examples of which are courses ranging from International Commercial Arbitration, International Human Rights Law, European Business Law, up to electives discussing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to name a few.
J.D. students are also required to write at least a 13,000-word thesis (excluding footnotes) on a novel and relevant legal issue. In addition, J.D. students are further required to undertake a 240-hour apprenticeship program with law firms, government agencies, or an accredited legal resource organization.
Currently, students are free to take any electives they are interested in. As long as the students complete ten units of electives during their junior year, and eight units during their senior year, in addition to other requirements, they will be eligible to obtain a J.D. degree.
Dual J.D. / LL.M. degree
In addition to the J.D. program, the ALS also offers the Master of Laws (LL.M.) program to interested students, either from Philippine or international law schools. The LL.M. program offers 4 general areas of specialization: (1) International Corporate and Business Law, (2) International Economic Law, (3) International Human Rights Law and (4) Intellectual Property Law.
The existing program requires students to complete 36 units, in addition to six units of the LL.M. Thesis. The program is to be completed in one year, divided into two semesters—and maybe taken on a part-time basis, with a maximum residency of five years. LL.M. candidates must write and defend a thesis containing at least 25,000 words (excluding footnotes) on a novel subject of law, with extensive discussions on legal principles and cases relevant to the thesis proposal.
To complement the Tracking System, a ladderized program towards a dual degree of J.D. and LL.M. is also proposed, dubbed as the “LL.M. Pathway.” The Graduate Legal Studies Institute (GLSI), headed by Atty. Amparita Sta. Maria, is developing an option for J.D. candidates to obtain both a J.D. and LL.M. degree at the same time, provided that the following requirements are attained: (1) selection of a track at the end of their sophomore year, (2) completion of the requirements under the chosen track and (3) J.D. students must convert all cognate and elective courses in their track, which currently have two credit units under the J.D. program, to three credit units each, to comply with the requirements under the LL.M program.
The increase to three units will also result to an increase in the academic output required of the student availing the LL.M Pathway. The students will be expected, including but not limited, to furnish additional papers, or longer, substantial and in-depth research work.
Once the student graduates and obtains a J.D. degree, he/she is deemed to have completed one semester of the LL.M. program. The subsequent semester can be completed either in the Ateneo Law School, or a partner institution or law school abroad. Currently, the ALS is corresponding with universities in Japan, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America. Towards this end, Dean Candelaria, Atty. Sta. Maria, and Atty. Edzyl Magante have been conducting meetings with various law schools abroad to increase the number of the ALS partner institutions.
Subject to the rules to be formulated, an LL.M. degree will be granted after the completion of the the semester to be spent either in ALS or the partner institution abroad. The LL.M. pathway will treat the tracked elective subjects during the junior and senior years to be equivalent to one semester of credits under the LL.M. program.
In the near future, the LL.M. Pathway will be simultaneously implemented with the J.D. Tracking System. Dean Candelaria believes that this will further the level of academic standards of the ALS and will make its students more globally competitive. Also, the shift in the academic calendar is advantageous for the program, as this it makes easier for the Law School to partner with leading international universities. P