Law School, The Bar Exams, and Beyond

Ever since way back then, I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. I guess I was drawn into an idea of being in a position of making a difference in the lives of people in a personal level. I guess all those aspiring to be a lawyer have some sort of idealism in them that will always be there. It all sounded so grand and exciting to me too… Upholding the law and defending the weak, kind of like being a superhero. So I never wavered in my quest to being one. There was no question in my mind that this is what I wanted to be no matter what.

During my High School days, I developed a knack of getting into arguments and trying to win every one of them till the last breath. I’d do debates, formally and informally, among my peers. I don’t know what they thought about me back then but boy did I enjoy those times. Naturally that joy carried over when I started College. I thought to myself “Hey, I’ll take Political Science since it sounds so fitting as a pre-law course” even though I didn’t know what the hell it was at first. Little did I know that more than half of it was a history lecture. lol. But during those days I was still locked in on my goal of becoming a lawyer. I was still doing debates since that all I ever did as far as I can remember which had anything to do with training myself to be a lawyer, other than studying of course… which I did little of. I developed a certain complacency towards myself and loss of study habit due to my slacking off during College and that was something that I would kind of regret later on.

Then came law school. It was a whole new level that was so different from college that only those that have experienced it can really explain what it’s all about. The teachers were meaner and the studying was a lot heavier. Now I wasn’t as shocked as some of the others during the transition to law school mainly because I had this “I didn’t care” attitude. It was a change of school culture really. Gone were the days of easy topics and kindergarten chit chat. We were in the big leagues now and you had to prepare for the game every single day or else you’d be cut from the team. My dad use to keep on repeating to me “The Bar exams starts during the first day of law school”. I knew what he meant but I didn’t really know how profound those words would be later on. During my law school days I relied so heavily on my logical prowess that I thought I could just skate by and pass along without a hitch. I studied only when I needed to but I never really got into the whole drowning-myself-in-law-books-mode that a lot of law students do. I watched my classmates and the other law students spend countless hours in the law school library and in coffee shops to study and prepare for the daily grind while I was either daydreaming or going out with my friends and enjoying myself. I didn’t really cared that much back then.

I’d go into class having only read a little bit about cases that were assigned by the professors and I’d try to pass recitation by using logic instead of what I studied. Let me tell you, that was a BAD idea. Recitation was a disaster most of the time for lack of studying and I barely passed my tests and exams. Yup.. Good times. I didn’t really know why I never developed a study habit during law school itself. Maybe it was my intellectual arrogance in the way or something. I was so smug about the whole thing that when I look back on it, it was quite concerning actually. A little bit of advice to all the law students out there, don’t think that you’re smarter than anybody else in law school. Remember that those people are there because they have what it takes to be lawyers just the same as you and are just as smart as you or they actually ARE lawyers trying to teach you a thing or two. Always respect your professors because no matter how mean they are or how much you hate them, they’ve actually been in your shoes before and they are trying their best to prepare you for the challenges of the future. I can say without a doubt that if it weren’t for my law school professors and their teachings, I wouldn’t have passed the bar exams.

What made me really enjoy my time in law school were my classmates. I had lucked out when it came to having the best classmates around. As far as I can remember, law students were always a competitive bunch that wanted to best each other intellectually. With our class though, it was a little bit different. My classmates were so supportive of each other that my only conclusion is that these were really good people at heart. They had this whole attitude of “No one gets left behind” in our batch and the others would do everything to help that one person if he or she was getting behind. This was true especially on my part. My classmates would text me or call me up when I was absent for class and they’d ask if I was coming or not even though I was actually with my friends somewhere else. It was quite refreshing actually to see and feel how friendly these people were. Every time I’d be absent, photocopies of notes from class were always there for me because they knew I’d need them. I guess if I can attribute this to any one person it would be Steph. Shout out to you “Pay”. God Bless her innocent soul, our baby of the batch, rofl.

But, the one thing in law school which I consider to be my best experience was by far my time with the moot court team. First of all let me tell you what “mooting” is since a lot of folks don’t understand what it is at first when they hear the word. It is not debating in the concept of what a lot of us are used to. Rather than a form of formal argumentation, it is actually a persuasion of theories and ideas that one has built up to be presented before an esteemed panel of judges. You truly act out the part of a lawyer before a group of judges ready to hear the arguments of both sides. Your enemy is not the other team on the other side of the room but the judges that sit in front of you and the only way that you can win is by seducing them into submission with your smooth-talking skills and your intellectual attraction. It is the rawest form of intellectual swordsmanship and oh, how fun it was for me. I was never the type to shy away from a good fight and this was one arena where I could hone my skills to be a better lawyer while I was in law school. Now that I think about it, I actually spent more time mooting and studying to prepare for competitions during my first three years in law school rather than spending time to prepare for actual class. I didn’t think it was a waste of time though. I was in one of the best moot teams in the country and I was pretty happy about it. I’d never felt the same kind of adrenaline rush that I got from mooting compared to anywhere else. Not even my times during high school and college of speaking in front of hundreds of people during public speaking contests can compare to my experience with the moot team. Even though it was just you and a few people in a classroom about to persuade the judges in front of you, I was hyped. I think hyped might be and understatement actually… You knew you were good, you knew your opponents were good and you knew the judges were going to grill you for sure. They were going to test your mettle and I loved every minute of it. I had a lot of ups and downs during my mooting days but I always bounced back and was ready for the next one. I actually attribute a lot of my mental preparation for the bar exams to my training experience with mooting. I’m sure my fellow mooters will agree.

After actually graduating from law school, I now had to face my biggest challenge of all before I could achieve my dream… The Bar Exams, the dreaded exam that all students fear. One month of intense exams given on four Sundays with two subjects for every Sunday. Eight grueling hours of grinding and mental torture for each day and only half a year to prepare for it. It really is one of the most difficult exams any person will every take in his life. To prepare myself for the Bar, I decided I would review in what some consider to be one, if not, the best law school in the country, Ateneo. So I packed my bags, moved into an apartment and cut my ties from the real world for 6 months deep in study hibernation to prepare for the bar exams…. is what I’d like to say. In reality, I made a different approach for the bar exams compared to the norm of what past bar takers would suggest. The most important thing for me was to regain the study habit that I used to have way back before college which I finally found during the review. A lot of people also told me to sleep early and wake up early so that my body could adjust to it in time for the bar. I myself didn’t develop this habit because I knew that my brain was the most active during the night and I couldn’t trade that in for anything else. I also didn’t do any repetitive readings of the materials I studied like what other law students do because I knew that I was already so far behind in terms of what I studied that the only way I could catch up is to do one good reading for every material that I had in time to take the bar exams. I guess you could say that I wasn’t the best role model when it came to what a good law student would do during review. However, what I did worked for me. I also tried my best not to stress out during the review period because I knew that getting all worked up about it would only bring negativity which I always stay away from.

The review for the bar exams was life-changing but not in the way that you would think. During those days, I learned how to cook, how to do the laundry, how to wash dishes, how to clean the house and how to take care of myself in general. I realized that there is more to life than just studying and that I should do try to enjoy the simple things in life. I’d go to the movies during the weekends and wander around sight-seeing during my free time. I was actually living life normally and I think that getting out of the house and choosing to study away from my friends and family was for the best because it helped me find who I was and how I could mature myself on my own. The review materials from the review weren’t all that different with what we researched in class or what other law schools gave too. I truly believe now that any law student can pass the bar exam and that the law school you come from is not really a factor in passing the Bar. Sure the top law schools all have the best professors and facilities but it all really comes down to the person that’s going to take the bar. Now this is where the whole “Bar exams start at the first day of law school” really came back to haunt me. The studying I had done was only to catch up to where others were already at and I wasn’t too happy about that. I’m just glad that the Big Guy up there chose to let me pass the Bar Exams. When the day the exams came up, I wasn’t really that scared at all because I knew that I had done my best and that I still had my logic to back me up when all else failed. I was nervous, but never scared. The trick was to overcome the nervousness in time when you had to put your pen onto the test booklet and start writing. I think that the way I am as a person also played a role in how I handled the bar exams. I had a good mentality and a I reached my peak in time for the exams and I knew that somehow, I’d be fine.

Looking back, I’d say that I had one of the best experiences in law school that any law student can say. I passed and at the same time, I enjoyed myself to the fullest. I think it wasn’t luck but rather, The Big Guy up there planned this all along. All I have to do now is pay it back by doing my best and upholding this special duty that’s been given to me. My journey towards becoming a lawyer has changed me for the good. I guess every law student will have to make their own path towards achieving their dreams. I won’t say that you can follow in my footsteps because you shouldn’t. I was lazy, careless and oblivious to the real world up until I had to review for the bar. However, what I did was that I stuck to everything that would work for me. I guess all I can give as an advice to any law student aspiring to be a lawyer is to do your best, no matter what it may be. Never settle for good enough and you’ll be fine.

Now I’m in a phase where I’m trying to learn everything I can with every real life experience that I’m getting as a lawyer. It’s back to zero after the Bar exams because the real world of legal practice is totally different from what law students experience. But that’s alright. Such is the nature of a student of law, with or without a title to back it up. I’m just glad that the getting the title part is over for me. If I can do it, you can too. Forgive the silly image posted and that idiot wearing blue on the far side not following instructions. 🙂 Til’ the next one.

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