Bar exam flunkers deserve recognition too

No one can forget that night during sales law class when my classmate was told to stop attending law school because she was "too stupid to understand basic stuff." She was told to go back to the barrio and plant kamote (sweet potatoes) instead. She cried after that, as expected, and no one in law school is judged for crying after a painful recitation.

She's a lawyer now. Law school is not easy. It takes a law student to understand another.

Before one takes the bar, he has to go through a half-a-decade-long journey in law school and law schools are NOT at all the nicest places on earth, especially in the Philippines. In this jurisdiction, law school is the first phase of hazing to become a lawyer. The second and last phase is the bar examination.

Law students read every day. It is not uncommon to expect episodes of inability to answer questions from professors and bouts of humiliation. From their first year to their third year, they have to read AT LEAST 45 TEXTBOOKS in eight different bar examination subjects: civil law,  commercial law, criminal law, labor law, legal ethics, political law, remedial law and taxation.

In civil law, there are, depending on the school, around 15 subjects: law on agency, civil law jurisprudence, conflict of laws, human relations law, land title and deeds, lease law, obligations and contracts, partnership law, persons law, family law, law on prescription, property law, sales law, succession law, torts and damages and law on trusts.In commercial law, there are around nine subjects: banking laws, corporation law, insurance law, intellectual property law, negotiable instruments law, mercantile law jurisprudence, securities law, special commercial law and transportation law.

In criminal law, there are at least three subjects: general principles of criminal law (Book 1), crimes under the Revised Penal Code (Book 2) and special penal laws (also called Criminal Law 3).

In labor law, there are at least two (or three, depending on the law school) subjects: labor standards, labor relations and social legislation.

In legal ethics, typically, one book is enough but ethics professors normally assigned hundreds of administrative cases against lawyers and judges for students to read.

In political law, there are six or seven textbooks needed for the same or smaller number of subjects: administrative law, law on public officers and local government, constitutional law, election law, constitutional jurisprudence, political law (structure of government) and public international law.

In remedial law, there are at least five or six subjects: civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, remedial law jurisprudence and special proceedings.

In tax law, which has been considered as the most difficult subject in any bar examination, there are at least five subjects: general principles of taxation, income taxation, local taxation, tariff and customs law, tax remedies and jurisprudence and transfer and business taxes.

Aside from the textbooks for each subject, law students also have to read assigned pieces of jurisprudence (cases decided by the Supreme Court) that professors expect them to recite in capsule form during class recitation or write case briefs of them (case digests) or BOTH.

Imagine having to read nine to ten textbooks in one semester and also having to read 20 to 30 (in other schools, up to 150 or 300) cases each of which has an average of 30 pages. In short, at least 500 pages of a textbook plus at least 600 pages of jurisprudence in one subject multiplied by the number of enrolled subjects in a semester (normally nine). That amounts to an astonishing total of AT LEAST 9,900 PAGES within a period of five months.

As if the above facts are not shocking enough, in their fourth year, law students have to undergo "review subjects" in which they have to reread and review all the rules, provisions, principles and doctrines they have learned in their first three years in law school. After graduation, they have around eight months NOT to relax but to read "review textbooks" which summarize the contents of all the textbooks and all the thousands of cases they have read.

Basically, you have to read at least 60,000 pages in three years. Reread that in your fourth year and review that after graduation before the bar examination.

Then comes the BAR EXAMINATION. It is the culmination of all their sacrifices, sleepless nights, carpal and back pains, headaches, embarrassments and efforts. They have to take a month-long examination in the month of November. Each Sunday has two exam subjects: one in the morning and another in the afternoon. In between these Sundays, there is no time to relax; they read pre-week notes and attend pre-week lectures.

Later, a few pass. Many fail. Some celebrate. The rest cry and move on.

Law school is not easy. It takes a law student to understand another. The bar examination is even more difficult and, by many lengths, more nerve-wracking, not only because of its inherent hardship but also because of its huge effect on a law student's life. The bar examination decides his life's direction: for the better or back to normal.

We often forget to celebrate the efforts of those who have taken the bar examination and failed. The success of those who have passed is often overemphasized and overrated. This is normal and natural as we human beings are hardwired to see and remember only triumph. However, as the above tends to show, bar examination flunkers also deserve praise and recognition for their GREAT ATTEMPT and endeavor.

To rephrase Abraham Lincoln, they have resolutely determined to make a lawyer of themselves. It is half done already and all they have to do is to try again.

An inspiring quote by Theodore Roosevelt and an audio by the late Dean Willard Riano below can elaborate the point and surely inspire those whose lawyer's license has been delayed this year but are willing to try again next year.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."


Bar 2014. I was overconfident. I knew I was going to pass the Bar exams.

I did not.

I wailed but I didn't give myself enough time to grieve. I was too proud as I knew that I was smart and intelligent as what has been ingrained in my brain for being a graduate of the Philippine Science High School, Ateneo de Manila University, and San Beda Law. I also know that I wrote and spoke English well.

Preparing for the 2015 Bar exams, I resigned from my underbar associate job and studied a week after finding out that I failed. I got my hands on everything I had not read in the previous year’s bar review, thinking that I only lacked the ammunition. (FAST FACTS: Philippine Bar examination)

I blamed the 2010 Bar exam blast for making me one of its victims – how it derailed my law school curriculum and how, because of it, my foundation was shaky. In short, I tried to blame everything but my flawed strategy.

I went home to my province and lived a life in isolation from my law school batchmates. I studied 8 to 13 hours every day and I did not seek and receive help constructively. I punished myself and gave up the comforts (hot shower, makeup, TV, internet, iPhone) that I felt took away time meant for studying.

I only came back to Manila a month before the November 2015 Bar. I did not feel confident and, definitely, I was not emotionally stable. Deferring crossed my mind but my pride would never allow me to take that route. ‬FOR MORE: Camille Villasin. [OPINION] My 3-year Philippine Bar exam journey. Published 9:26 AM, May 01, 2018. Updated 9:35 AM, May 01, 2018.

PHOTO ABOVE HOT-LINKED FROM: Lian Buan @lianbuan. Published 5:21 PM, May 03, 2017. Updated 7:55 AM, May 04, 2017. 2016 Bar passers want to be in public service.