The Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) is intended to make sure that lawyers in active practise are up to date when it comes to their knowledge of the recent laws, jurisprudence and rules. This is rooted in the principle that lawyers are not just professionals but most importantly officers of the court. They need to be competent in order to fulfill this duty and not just for the interest of their client. The intent makes sense since the legal landscape constantly changes. Hopefully it will also enhance the confidence of the general public on the profession. Indeed, if the lawyer has an updated knowledge of the law, jurisprudence, and rules, the client can rest easy with the thought that his or her right will be protected.
The reality is, attendance to MCLE seminars is almost always only for the sake of “compliance”. No lawyer can openly admit that their knowledge of the law is outdated. In the age of the internet, lawyers on active practise have an easy way of keeping themselves abreast of the new developments in the field of law. During the seminars, MCLE monitors are always present to check whether the attendees are indeed inside the venue and listening to the lecture. Some use the seminar as a way to escape from stressful work and even doze off from time to time. But in fairness there are some few things that can be picked up during the lectures which can indeed contribute to one’s practise. One thing that has to be considered by the Supreme Court is the length of the seminar. Since the compliance period is every 3 years, subjects are compacted in a four-day seminar which can last for 9 hours per day. This is already beyond the usual 8-hour period which is very taxing even for young lawyers. In the end, there tends to be information overload since much information is being fed to the poor lawyer during the four-day seminar. It is not healthy for the mind and even for the body. A solution to this may be for the subjects to be spread out in a yearly seminar instead of compacting it in a single seminar.
Indeed, the effort of the Supreme Court to make sure that lawyers are responsible and competent is highly commendable, but should the general public be involved also in this? Legal education should also be given to the general public for them to at least know the basics of law so they can protect their rights. It is only in complicated situations that they will have to consult lawyers. The perception of the people towards lawyers must also be corrected and this cannot only be done by penalizing erring lawyers. In today’s age, the Supreme Court must also make an effort to come out of its traditional shell and use the media to spread correct information to the public, especially with regard to simple principles of law. After all, legal education should not only be for lawyers, it should be for all.