Posted by: Elmer Brabante | August 25, 2009

To the Bar, to the Bar


Twelve more days, and we are off to Taft Avenue once again, to De La Salle University to be exact.  It is for the first of the four Sundays of the Bar examinations beginning on the 6th of September.  Thousands of students, lawyers, supporters and kibitzers will troop to the site to boost thousands of law graduates as they hurdle the most difficult examination there is in this part of the earth.  Banners of hundreds of law schools in the Philippines will fly along the avenue, of UP, Ateneo, San Beda, UST, lined up along with the most unknown.  The atmosphere will be a mix of enthusiasm, goodwill, hope, anxiety…. It will just be the start of the six ordealsome months of waiting for the examinees.  Four years (in my case, eight, altered) of studies in the law school (in my case, six law schools) – make that 1,460 days of literally burning the midnight oil –  were not enough proof of fitness to enter the legal profession.  The Bar Examinations is the final test to prove that one possesses all the qualifications to assist in the administration justice in the Philippines.  Of course, there are continuing protests among discontented persons, usually flunkers, questioning the Supreme Court’s prerogative to shut permanently those who failed the Bar five times from taking it further.  Most of these dissenters insist their “right” to be a lawyer despite the failing the exams several times.  They insist on the wrong premise.  That the legal profession is a matter of privilege and not a right is the basic reason for the regulation of entry into the profession through competitive examinations.  Some can only question the validity and integrity of the examiners’ grading system, but what better way to gauge a graduate’s general grasp of laws and competency?  Until  better alternatives are set, the Bar is indispensable.  

So you really want to study law and be a lawyer?

You should be very – and that’s very – serious.  And your decision must not be a latent one.  The idea must have been conceived years before you’d even been aware of it.  The truth is, you should have prepared enough for it, from day one – that is, from the first day you stepped in college, or better yet, in high school, or better yet….  What they say is true about the troubling difficulty and even futility of plunging yourself into the ocean and learning to swim just then.

Alright, am not an expert nor an exemplary law student, but to provide some “advice” to those who opt to take up law, here’s my brief checklist of what I call the Law School Kit.

1. English grammar and communications skills.  The language of the law, whether you’re patriotic or not, is English. That is because Philippine laws are written in English. Ergo, your first best weapon is your firm grasp of  Standard English.  A precaution: you should have at least eighteen (18) units of English in your pre-law curriculum; otherwise, most law schools require students to add English to their law subjects.  Does that sound odd? Ridiculous at most. Pardon my impertinence, but should law schools be really filling this big, crucial gap?  According to Bar examiners and law professors, most candidates did fail the Bar because of faulty English grammar, sentence construction,  reading comprehension.  You could just drop your jaw to hear students having difficulty in expressing themselves in English.  If there is difficulty in the basic communication skills, could they excel in higher skills of creative and critical reasoning?  Thus, the first book to grab is not any law book; rather, try to get a hold of an English Workbook.  Hurdle the English communication skills tests – of active reading, writing, speaking,  listening.

2.  Logic and reasoning abilities.  Laws are not constructed the way other disciplines are normally constructed. The meaning of words between legal provisions is not exactly the same as we ordinarily understand them to be.  Study of law demands correct reasoning ability.  No, it doesn’t mean we should learn how to debate or argue; it means finding the right reason for the answer to some questions however erronous the answer might be.  Question, answer, but justify the answer. It must be a sound answer, based on some principles or established rulings (call that precedents), or some accepted custom.  We train how to think properly in the same way that we must also train our brains to remember, and remember important provisions.  In the past, and as correctly provided in the Rules, the pre-law courses had been and should be Bachelor of Arts (AB) studies, since AB is designed to train the students to think and reason out properly. Now, for as long as he/she has completed four years of college, anyone can be admitted to the LlB program. [This challenges me to make a comparative study on the Law graduates’ performance in the Bar vis a vis their pre-law course; there must be an underlying connection somewhere].

3.  Good health and strict discipline. If you see that there are incoherence in this piece, the writer must be suffering from mental or physical fatigue due to myriad of factors.  But there are just no excuses once the recitations begin (which is the fixed call of each day).  When your name is called, don’t aim to touch nor glance at your book/notes – go to the classroom aisle with only the kilometric provisions, doctrines and principles and case laws stored in your brain as your ammunition.  Do not fidget nor be “onion-skinned” even if the “terror” professor hurls invectives for unsatisfactory answers, as being soaked to humiliations forms part of the training or admonitions for not doing what is expected.  Cadets and seminarians hurdle similar degrees of discipline-harnessing trainings and tests. So must law students.  To succeed in the jungles of  legal studies, the keys are always the basics: good health and strict discipline. One is not exaggerating when you hear him say he lives a regimented lifestyle.  That is, he divides 24 hours of his day into meaningful, productive endeavors and strictly following each task to the letter.  No cigarettes, no alcohol, no movies, no loud music, no gossips, even no relationships.  Say no to everything that will divide your attention. Remember: Lady Justice is a jealous mistress, and you should devote your commitment to her alone from the very moment you stepped into the study of law.  Also, make sure that you get eight hours of sleep each day – if this sounds impossible, then find ways to catch up on it.  Now that you get 8, devote at least six hours to reading each day.  For us working students, this is a tall order – of getting “enough” of quality reading hours each day.  What I do, I try to devote at least double the hours of the number of units in any subject.  For example, give a minimum of eight hours per week of active reading for a 4-unit subject.  Couple this with at least 30-minute of proper exercise each day, and a bunch of healthy food.  Don’t forget to attend to daily devotions – at least it relieves your soul, which in effect calms down tired muscles and weary nerves.

4.  Put up your own library.  Never rely on books from the school library alone.  What’s ideal is to stack a copy of each author for a given subject.  Call this a valued investment which will not depreciate even until you have become a lawyer.  While it’s good to have a laptop to store your database of laws and cases, it is still best to have hard copies of the basic documents. Books are indispensable, so invest on them. First list  would be: 

  • Legal Profession and Introduction to Law
  • Philippine Constitution Annotated
  • Revised Penal Code Annotated
  • Family Code of the Philippines Annotated
  • Civil Code of the Philippines, Book One Annotated
  • Statutory Construction
  • Legal Writing
  • Legal Research
  • Codal Provisions of Revised Penal Code, Philippine Constitution, Civil Code of the Philippines

 5.  (I reserve this for later discussions.  Better yet, let me hear from you.)




  1. Interesting words of wisdom


  2. This is very helpful. Thank you so much for this information. I have finished my undergrad course and planning to go to law school. Do you have any suggestions on what is the best work or career that will not interfere or better yet will help me in studying law. Your reply would be deeply appreciated. Thank you Sir!


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