Legal Education and the Bar Examinations

Manila Bulletin, October 31, 2017 | Go to article overview

Legal Education and the Bar Examinations


By J. Art D. Brion (RET.)

This year's quest for admission to the practice of law ends this month when candidates take the Bar examinations. Counted from today, the finishing line lies just beyond the bend. Four more weeks of intense efforts will determine who will qualify for admission and who will not.

The quest, like a marathon, is a test of endurance, of will and determination, of persistence, of carefully chosen approaches and of individual talent. As in any running race, the effort to gain entry to the exclusive club of lawyers is backed by a coaching team - the law schools and their teachers - whose guidance the aspirant can hardly do without.

Of the nine years that lead to the Bar exam, the first four are pre-law or preparatory years. They are inertia and stamina-building years, as well as years when the students' incipient mental talents are purposively incited and excited towards self-awareness, action, and growth.

Very wisely, law studies do not now require any specific preparatory program, only specific subjects deemed necessary to enable students to cope with the intellectual demands of legal studies. Law school is thus driven by the tailwinds of other disciplines - arts and the humanities, economics, mathematics and the sciences, and in some cases, even music and the fine arts.

The tempo set by college studies begins to change for the new law student as soon as he enters law school. The freshman year that greets him - with its faster academic pace, new focus and more rigid standards - is invariably a harrowing and disorienting experience.

Law and its various aspects become the center of the new law student's life. Jurisprudence, which entails research, detailed reading, analysis, and comparison, becomes his daily companion. Recitations, traditionally based on Socratic questioning, expose him to new approaches of inquiry and analysis. Writing, logic, and reasoning techniques assume greater importance as tools in understanding and appreciating the law.

The rigors and discipline that law studies force upon students, cannot but result in casualties. On their own, many students drop out of law school. Some others, unfortunately, are simply forced out, although this development may also be considered fortunate when it serves as a redirection to a proper and more fitting calling in life.

After enrollment, the law school becomes the student's community. Part of this community are the law teachers, the academics who have mastered the law they teach and who are well-known for their methods, wisdom and proven results in guiding students. Some teachers are not as well known as the older and more experienced ones, but they are also valued if they can instill discipline, awaken the spirit of learning, and masterfully impart the basics that the students would eventually need for Bar admission and the practice of law.

Conscientious and competent teachers, brought together with students ready for law school because of their college preparation, native talent, determination and will to succeed, serve as the ideal admixture towards success in the Bar examinations. Conversely, marginally prepared students who lack nurture and guidance from a fairly competent faculty, count as the dangerous combination that leads to Bar exam failures.

This coming Sunday (November 5, 2017), 7,237 Bar candidates from approximately 130 law schools and colleges in the country will take the annual Bar examinations. As in the past, some of these candidates possess talents honed to the ideal levels by rigorous pre-law and law school preparations. They are comfortable with the Constitution, the examinable statutes, general legal principles and jurisprudence, and can write and reason well, based on the guidance imparted by their teachers.

Bar history, however, shows that these well-prepared candidates belong to the minority; the greater majority are not as well prepared and are the candidates who usually fail to hurdle the Bar exams. …

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