Paralegal as a professional

The Manila Times Editorial (Sunday, June 17, 2006) MOST Filipinos are familiar with the paramedic or the paramilitary but not with the paralegal. The reason is that the paralegal or pa­ralegal service is a new addition to the Philippine dictionary of occupational titles. But with a modest ceremony yesterday in Manila, the paralegal as professional has arrived.

The first graduates of The Manila Times Institute for Paralegal Studies yesterday received their certificates of completion in simple rites at the Manila Hotel. Thirty-eight men and women who finished a rigorous six-month training at the institute stepped up to receive their certificates that marked them as pioneers in an exciting and rewarding field of service.

The Institute is the option for challenge-hungry Filipinos who cannot pursue a formal law degree but who wish to have a basic understanding of the legal system. The six-month course offers them a chance to know the nuances of the law and its application to their work. More important, the program enables them to relate their work to the public, especially those with legal problems needing advice, help and referral.

In practical terms, the Institute teaches the participants the basics of dispute settlement through arbitration, mediation and conciliation. They get an insight into the practices, procedures and processes of judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative offices. They get a better understanding of human, family, property and contractual relations.

In the process, the participants learn the basics of good research, evidence gathering and investigative work. At the same time, they learn correct spoken and written English. The six-month course is designed to develop a paralegal who could provide basic legal help, certainly a useful resource in the office and the community.

The paralegal will not replace the full-fledged lawyer. But he will make a good assistant, researcher or even representative in cases where his superiors feel he can make a contribution. The underprivileged will have great use for his service. His advice is grounded on learning and practice.

In time, a good paralegal could become a great asset to a law firm, a government office, the legal profession and the community. At the very least, a paralegal improves himself, is able to enhance his work or business, and becomes a better informed citizen.

Dr. Dante A. Ang founded the Institute for Paralegal Studies to expand the possibilities of legal service, open doors to individuals interested in the law and help in the efforts to establish a speedy, nonlitigious and inexpensive system of dispute settlement. We wish him well.

The paralegal is a welcome addition to the justice system and to the practice of law. He can help fill in the gap in public service at a time when many government offices are starving for lawyers. We envision him doing pro bono work for inmates and destitute persons. Society will be served by the experienced and purposeful paralegal, the new professional in the administration of justice.



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