lawyering, the law, and the law intern

picture this: you are a lawyer for an accused. your client confesses to committing another crime for which another person has been charged. but you are covered by the lawyer-client privilege, hence, you cannot speak about it. what would you do?

would you allow the innocent man to be sentenced to a possible death penalty just to honor the privilege with your client? or would you risk losing your job to prevent an injustice?

hypothetical? nope, it happened in real life. and the innocent man has been languishing in jail for the past 26 years. it's only now that the real culprit is dead that his lawyers are speaking up. (read full story.)

i wondered how these two lawyers managed to live their lives knowing fully well that they're partly responsible for what happened to the poor guy. and what kind of legal ethics allows you to keep quiet while an innocent person rots in jail?

oh well, as prof. te shared during our office of legal aid orientation: conscience is a disease of the brain, fatal for lawyers, but thankfully rare in the profession.

makes you think twice about the profession you're getting into.


it's disappointing to read about cases like these, just when the summer ola has somehow renewed my "interest" in the study of the law. (fyi, the office of legal aid is a required course in the law curriculum where students get to appear in court, write pleadings and handle actual cases. sounds exciting? it sure is, except that it's 2000 units hehe.)

a few months back, during the first sem, i was complaining about the seeming futility of what we were doing, i.e., studying like there's no tomorrow, barely in touch with the world. if you've been reading this blog, you would probably have sensed my desire to pursue another profession.

but i decided to stay, if only to finish it and pass the bar. after that, i'll be free to do what i want.

summer ola changed all that.

last thursday, while i was checking some files in the office, i happened to overhear a conversation between another law intern and a client. the client wanted to inquire about his case but since he had no means of contacting the intern, he decided to go to the office. he would've gone home empty-handed, advised to return another day, had i not recognized the title of the case that had just been turned over to me the previous day. i butted in immediately, that's my case!

good thing i had a good sense of hearing because as it turned out, the client came all the way from Montalban, Rizal, on board his bike! and this is the second time it happened, having gone to malcolm hall two weeks back only to find the office closed. to think that earlier, i was complaining at the back of my mind how i'll ever get to an 8am hearing in montalban on time, when i can barely make it to school at 8am! well, the client just did the seemingly impossible. the case must really matter to him a lot, and i'll be doing him a disservice if i don't give it as much attention.

i must agree with len, a graduating law student, and her take on ola: "i had a feeling of satisfaction that I never got from reading cases, doing well in exams and recits, etc..." this early, i'm saying the same thing, because finally, studying the law will not just be about myself and passing the bar, but it will be about another person, with a face, a name and a cause to fight for.


wish me luck. i'm handling 30 cases this summer and i'm attending my first hearing tomorrow. pre-trial! good thing it's not a criminal case, so no one goes to jail if i mess up!


ozy said...

Wow, that's a freaky story.

But you do have to consider, if the lawyers then lose their license, what will they do after?

I guess the "hypothetical" situation was one that people didn't see coming. Perhaps there shall be some amendments to the code that lawyers practice.

jobert said...

you're quite right ozy, but i agree with what the poor guy said: is a job worth more than an individual's life?

lawyering is just one of the things that a lawyer can do. there's so much more. i guess people have to go beyond the mindset that just because you're a lawyer already, any other job or profession is not worth your time.

the_geek said...

Good luck on your pre-trial. :)
(BTW, I live in Montalban, but I still don't know where the courtroom is here).
Linked you. :)