Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pre-Week Bar Tips

I really don’t know if I am of the authority to give these Bar tips and make all those who happen to read this follow and put the blame later on me for failing the exam. First of all, I am only doing this out of experience and on the basis that applying whatever method (sic) or perspective at that has seen me passing the bar, no sweat. I am not bragging about anything, please understand that such statement was made out of the afterthought that I came to the bar site and took the exam with only a fraction of legal concepts and jurisprudence in my memory and holy cow I passed. So without further ado, here are the practical, realistic and doable things you may want to consider to do before you take the exam, while taking it, and the days in between Sundays.

1. By now, most of you I know are cramming hehe. Most of you I am sure are bombarded ith different and varying assumptions and guesses and well, predictions on what the examiners will ask come the bar exam. Please shut your ears for a while to this hullabaloo. Listening to them will all the more distract you. What you need is focus! How to do this? Well, given the very very short time left for you to gather all what you studied in law school, your readings during the review, and the lectures and handouts if you attended a formal review program, the best thing to do is to find the perfect material to sum it all up. In my case, I find the San Beda Red Notes very, very helpful. It summarizes salient points, key concepts you can apply in every question imaginable on a particular subject. It is handy yet it allows you to be in the right perspective in order for you to answer every question on the topic/subject, if I my say, correctly or maybe close to that. Well, as you know for sure it doesn’t matter if your answer is right on the dot what really matters is that it makes sense to the examiner. San Beda Red Notes will allow you to do just that. UP Law Center Bar Review handouts are likewise a good choice. What I did is that with the voluminous handouts they give, I picked those which explain the fundamentals of a subject. Get down to the basics and you will never go wrong. It will be your salvation believe me!

2.Condition your physical, emotional, spiritual and what have you states. This is self-explanatory. However, how parsimonious the statement is it is rather quite difficult to accomplish. You know yourself better and I am limited to awakening you from whatever slumber you are in by telling you that the bar exam is here! Hey it’s here, wake up! Come on, the waiting period is over. In my case, a week before the exam I had this terrible stomach cramps caused by an overwhelming stress most of you have now. I temporarily got rid of this by taking Maalox. It eased the pain two days before the exam but it will always recur in the middle of the week. What I did was I prayed a lot. Hang on to whatever faith you have. When all else fails your spirituality really matters. We had this ritual of going to the Church of the Holy Sacrifice at UP Diliman every morning during Saturdays before the exam. It helped a lot because it gave me a boost and the reason to continue the battle. God will never leave you in distress if your intentions are true. Before taking the exam, ascertain to yourself that you will do your best whatever happens. Promise to yourself and to God that you will never give up and that you will finish the battle. Likewise, before taking the exams believe that you will pass. Tell yourself that you will pass it in a loud voice. Repeat it over and over. Clear your thoughts! What you have in mind right now should only be the bar and nothing else. Thinking of other problems or others’ problems is a no-no. Be positive even only for this period. If you’re already short on your finances call me and I will help you (just joking) don’t think much about it. Imagine that it will come by later through manna after you take the exam. If resources are really not at hand, pray for a miracle who knows the universe is really conspiring in your favor and will help you produce it, no sweat. By now, everything must be ready: IDs and permits, tech-pens (you know me and my friend who also passed the bar used blue Dong-a .5 tech-pens, you will never go wrong with blue especially when your penmanship is not that pleasing to the eyes), your clothes to wear (I don’t know if it helped me but I wore yellow during the four Sundays) be sure that you are comfortable with your clothes don’t dress up much because you’re not attending a party neither a formal event. You can wear slippers if you’re comfortable with it, your food during the exams and during lunch-breaks, having a chocolate bar while taking the exam is more than a sugar rush it maintained my focus and energy to answer the exam. Naku malaking tulong ito. Sinasabi ko sa inyo. Choco bar and Gatorade. Brain boosters! For lunch, our school provided a not so appetizing menu, but you know it helped because it didn’t make us full. You shouldn’t eat too much during lunch. Hwag nyong busugin masyado ang tyan nyo dahil makakatulog kayo sa hapon. I tell you, one of my seatmates literally slept in one of those afternoons without finishing the exam.

3. Me and my friend stayed in a hotel near the bar site. We managed to find a hotel along Malvar St. called Malvar Hostel. It is a three star hotel. The place is soooo conducive for studying a day before the exams and for having sufficient sleep. If you’re planning to stay in a hotel and you haven’t found one yet, I suggest you go to Malvar Hostel who knows it really gives luck to those who stay in it. Well, me and my friend were only the ones who stayed in the hotel who took the bar and we both passed. You wouldn’t go wrong there. Their rates are at Php 1,980 at that time, but you can haggle with the friendly manager that you will forego the free breakfast and have the rate slashed at Php 1,780. Me and my friend shared in the deluxe room upstairs so we only paid 800+ each for a night’s stay. We stayed at Room 204. Hehe

4. Be CONFIDENT during the exams. I told one friend that one of the things which helped me is that I am too, over, confident while taking the exams. If there’s a proper place, venue wherein you can go high with your pride it is during the bar exams and not during debates in law school. Pour all the pride you’ve got. You won’t believe me, but I always finish answering thirty minutes ahead the time. I tell you I am always the early bird in the exam room all throughout the four Sundays not because I know everything that are being asked and I am certain that what I answered are all correct but because of yabang. Hehe and of course of having the right perspective of doing all things I previously mentioned. Being mayabang during the bar is very appropriate if only to maintain your focus. Do it. I am sure you will pass.

5. How to answer? My answers are very direct and concise, ganun ba. If a question asks for a yes or no? I start my answer with a yes or no followed by the explanation which is rather based on a specific law/legal concept I remember or based on jurisprudence. My mastery of the fundamental laws really helped me answer the questions in a direct and concise manner. My answers are outlined in this manner. Yes or No – Legal Basis –Conclusion. If I am not really sure of the answer meaning the question is quite trivial to me, I think of a related law/legal concept related to the matter at issue and write my answer in the same vein. Yes-or-No- Legal basis – Conclusion. When I am confronted with a very very trivial question like what is a hard law or a soft law, I view it in the perspective of common knowledge and start from there. Hard meaning matigas. hehe. .How is hard usually interpreted in legal terms meaning strict or legalistic ang pagtingin yung ganun ba. When all else fails just answer what you know with all your heart and pray to God.

And now you’re ready. Slay the dragon. Dream, Believe and Survive as a popular TV contest properly puts it. The practice of law is just a stone’s throw away, IT IS waiting there at the other end. The promise of practicing law is knocking right at your doorstep and it is for you to open or have that door closed and wait for another point in time where it will be there knocking again but why wait when you can open the doors now. Di ba? Time is precious. Fear not the bar. Take it easy. Make the bar easy on yourself. Pretending may be inappropriate for you but it is rather an easy path to take, an easy option without having risks to take (because you’ve taken all the risks already and there’s no room for additional risks anymore hehe) when the bomb is about to explode. So try to pretend when the situation necessitates it won’t harm you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What's in a Holiday?

What’s in a holiday? Not so much except for frizzy hair and wet mattresses caused by a seemingly lethargic system getting more and more bored of life at the moment. The bed is as good as a deathbed for precious time and fertile thinking were it not for holidays which fragment this fledgling lawyer’s life like a forgotten page in a newspaper loosely drifting in a ghastly corner of a street.

No work means no life for me, sadly. No work means a sluggish life in this humid apartment only ventilated by a wall fan which punctured in its place an enormous picture of two felines looking straight at the other end of the room which happens to be large windows now covered thickly with dirt. No work means thinking many lugubrious thoughts and plans which will in the end ruin my day. No work is self-destructive.

The past few weeks have seen me less court appearances much of writing pleadings and legal opinions. This is punctuated by a brief meeting with a client at the close of the week consulting many trivial legal questions. Being wealthy really has its price and being in such kind of stature breeds a paradoxical animosity between same bloods. Being wealthy breeds greed and apathy and that’s how the Civil Code provisions on Wills and Succession and lawyers of course come in. Settling their disputes makes me feel awkward but at the same time makes me appreciate the beauty and wisdom of the law on heirship which I loathe back in law school.

My senior has this knack of illustrating their respective shares on the estate of the patriarch. On the whiteboard she draws a circle divides it into half further divides the half portion by thirteen and shades a piece then tells to the doe-eyed heir: “This will be your share.” My senior breathed an aura of resignation after an hour of talking and talking explaining all legal complications of not settling the estate among themselves. I know she wants to tell them one last thing in a high-pitched tone: “Why don’t you all agree with the darn estate and have your selves enjoy your share till you breath last!” She was able to say it of course but in a courteous manner what do I expect. Between truth and business existence, the latter is more potent in this practice so to speak but being candid sometimes in specific matter pays well. This is a golden rule. It expels the air of opportunism and insincerity and draws the woman sitting opposite to you (eye-to-eye) to inevitably tell with all her enthusiasm: “Ok, how much will it cost? What will be the arrangement? Should I sign papers now?” What a sheer power, made my eyes grow bigger in real time.

And so we got an extra with that deal, another annulment case this time. Keep the cases coming, rainmaker.

Holidays, another one coming next week but I have nowhere to spend it at this time. No way to spend it for one of the loneliest persons ever lived. Nowhere to spend but this room with all of its four corners, with a laptop, with black ants eating fallen crumbs, with a few old newspapers, with a bed, and with nobody. “Nobody, nobody, but you!” Yes, you. Who? Is it okay to plug my number here? Me so pathetic.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Speech, Undelivered

Last Wednesday night was the testimonial dinner for those who passed the bar in my law school. Sadly, wasn’t able to make it because I have a hearing on that same day in the morning. My client on that day was a Chinese lady in her late forties asking for an accounting of her loan with a big bank which already foreclosed her mortgaged property and had it sold to a SPAV.

I thought I am going to be very late on that hearing because I was not able to wake up early but fortunately with the help of traffic-less trains, except for the inconvenience of being neck to neck with people packed inside the coaches, I was only 10 minutes late and to top it all when I arrived together with my client the case being tried before us is not yet finished with the skinhead lawyers still arguing with each other about the case being archived as a result of an agreed settlement before the mediation center.

I can’t disclose more facts but the thing is what excites me in this case is that it has an element of novelty in many ways. I told my client after we had lunch in a Japanese restaurant that the law is on her side in this particular instance notwithstanding her good faith and correct reasoning that it is unjustified for the bank to still demand from her 80 percent of the principal sum despite of having paid more than 90 percent of it. As she correctly pointed out in her testimony, what the bank wants to tell her now is that she has paid less than 10 percent of the principal sum which is really really outrageous.

She has told me a lot of stories about her business and her previous legal concerns while dining but the only thing that stuck in my mind is her B.P. 22 case three years ago as I am very much focused on filling in my hungry stomach which hasn’t tasted breakfast for about three consecutive days already and this is quite bad for my health. So as for me not to appear to have lost my sense of etiquette when dealing with elite people like her, I nod my head every now and then to show my agreement to what she says although I don’t understand them. By the way, Mrs. China is very religious that every time she sends an SMS to me she does not forget to tell me God Bless and God have mercy.

We parted around past 12 noon which happened to have ruined my plans of travelling to Baguio and making it to the testimonial dinner. I remember sending an SMS to one of the organizers of the testimonial describing my current work after having passed the bar while I am in a bus on my way back to the office that was about 4:30 pm. The sky is beaming red while a thunderhead could be seen from afar. I imagine myself standing at the podium looking at people sitting among round tables in a banquet hall.

“Please lend me your ears for only a few minutes. I have some important things to tell. To those who will be taking the bar next year, I just want to tell you that the bar isn’t the bar you are thinking right now. I must tell you that you won’t be able to define what the bar is until you yourself have already experienced it. The bar is more than a journey, a right of passage that will test not only your knowledge about the law but also your emotional strength the latter being the true determinant if you will make it or not. The six-month review starting April is a hellish ride, to put it bluntly. There will be many times that you will ask yourself if you still have the might to continue the battle. In those moments when I begin to ask and question my own capabilities, I felt I was in a vacuum. I was experiencing an existential void. I have mustered law school while working full time in a job which also required a lot of effort from me letting me think and think more trying to rob a lot of precious time which I should have devoted to reading books and understanding the law. I graduated while doing a high-wire act. It’s a feat that should have tide me over in those six torturing months but, alas, it was not strong enough to shield me over a tempest that is the bar. Law school sucked but the bar sucked even more.

The bar exam is really uncalled for. I have seen many fought so hard just to be refused admission to the bar. I once told myself why can’t we just all pass for the hard work. But it is the reality you must face when it’s your turn to take the exam. A reality that should sink in deeply in your thoughts in order to awaken you from complacency I am sure most of you have now. You must prepare yourself for the battle even this early. The most basic question that you should ask yourself now is whether you’re emotionally ready. The bar is an emotionally charged experience even for the impassive.
I must say this to you: You will pass the bar if you think and believe so! You have studied for four years in law school just to be denied admission because of human frailty; of not being a walking library. Not even the examiners nor the Supreme Court Justices could say that they know and understand all the laws. What the bar exam wants to gauge from you is “entry level knowledge”. We have good foundation in the fundamental laws through our good professors and if that’s what the bar wants from us then definitely we must all pass but practically the exam is completely different from what it is supposed to test.

The bar is like a quiz show. They could pick a question hiding somewhere from those voluminous laws. Your armour for the bar really are the remnants of all what you’ve read, studied, and understood in all those four years and definitely not in the review. What the review must do for you is to reinforce what you have studied in law school. It should not be a venue for new information for if it is you are doomed to fail lest you will really do extraordinary ways in reviewing beyond a human brain’s capacity.

Let me be the harbinger of doom and failure if need be. Let me ruin your evening if that’s how I’ll make you realize the need for you to prepare yourself this early. All of my friends sitting in front of you have also been there, they could attest to the truth behind the bar.

If in the middle of the review, prostrate you will feel, remember the promise of joining the law profession and being a disciple of justice, the most valuable laurel you will earn beyond anything material and tangible. The trust and respect of people, things you will never earn instantly in any other way than passing the bar. Remember your motivations and inspirations. Remember the people who love and care for you. Remember the Lord who will never leave you in distress if your intentions are true.

I stand here this evening to tell you the extent of happiness I feel now, the sense of fulfillment, that even with overwhelming responsibilities I carry with me now, I stand proud and brave because I know I am no longer the student helpless to change things for the better. I stand proud and brave because with a little effort I can now make a big difference in the lives of others.

Thank you and good night!”