Monday, September 23, 2019

Neri: Opening worlds

YOU take PhiLSAT and enter law school to become lawyers. Your expectation is a life of suspended animation that is consumed by reading black and white text with pedantic formalities in between a barrage of recitations that leave your knees weak. You grow a relationship with booze and self-hate.

But these stereotypes compare nothing to what truly lies ahead – an adventure across time. This profession sprawled at the dawn of civilization, and would remain relevant in our inter-stellar future.

From securing royal edicts to drafting multilateral treaties, it evolved with our understanding of justice and the demands of complexity. But today, let us first try to unpack why this profession remains to be viable in three roles.

Lawyers are technicians. This is the baseline expectation. Their tool box is the law. A provision can be a saw, a hammer, or a nail. They utilize these tools in seemingly limitless arrangements of factual circumstances.

When a search conducted by a police officer fails to show a prior probable cause, then a constitutional provision against unreasonable searches can be hammered to crush all seized items and sweep them out of evidence. When a car is the proximate cause of an accident, then the provision on quasi-delicts can nail liability to the driver and owner.

When psychological incapacity is established, the provision of nullity of marriage can sever the marital bonds as if nothing existed before.

Lawyers are engineers. They do not just use tools, they build things – particularly, they build institutions. The language of institutions is the law. When lawyers negotiate and write a contract, they build the framework of obligations that serves as the governing force among parties. When they forge laws and implementing rules, they essentially channel how the awesome power of the state gets to be deployed in your daily life. When they assist in writing a will, they do not only give voice to the dead, but they layout the blueprint of who gets what. From drafting traffic codes to contracts, lawyers engineer institutions that persist across time and this has tremendous impact in the way we lead our lives.

Lawyers are social healers. Ultimately, these tools should make things and people whole again. People approach law offices when they are pushed in a corner. When a disaster victim cannot get new documents due to lack of legal identification, lawyers, with their dry seal, come in. When informal settlers receive an eviction notice, lawyers trigger an intricate process of relocation which also obliges government agencies to assist. When a political prisoner remains in detention without charges, a writ of habeas corpus frees him. The opportunity to enter into the lives of the vulnerable, and remedy it through the law, makes this profession a vocation of healing.

Futurists predict that five hundred years from now, many jobs are lost to intelligent robots. Surely contract review and due diligence are all surrendered to AI. But conscience and commitment to justice cannot be replaced by algorithms. This human consciousness guides the evolution of the law. And wouldn’t it be a deeply fascinating enterprise to be at the thick of it? To help sharpen the tools, to guide its evolution, and to draw a canvas of a reimagined future for greater justice, those are the adventures waiting for you.


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