“Law school is never meant to be rosy, blue skies, and butterflies. For anyone who wants to become a lawyer, it’s the Spartans’ agoge.”
Let me paint you a romantic rosy picture of a life in law school.
Okay, scratch that. Just imagine the Grim Reaper and the Green Sower, or maybe the Storks—definitely the Storks.
It was morning in June. My then girlfriend asked me to drive her to school for the last day of enrolment at SWU. She was on her second year in Optometry. “Why don’t you enroll as well in law school?” she asked. It was said that an insane person and a man in love behave similarly. I played the part of an insane man that day and said, “Yes, why not.” Becoming a lawyer never crossed my mind since I was born. I’ll never know why I said yes that fine morning, but I went through all the motions of enrolling for law school.
In basketball, it’s the rookie year. It’s a period when rookies are expected to showcase their ineptness and must somehow master the basics in order to qualify for the next grueling season.
It’s the proving year to see if we have what it takes to be admitted to the noble profession. During this year, I learned to read and digest a case and to frame a legal argument during exams. I began to absorb the mysterious language of the law, words such as estoppel, demurrer, and replevin.
Then there was the endless reading, reading, reading.
We took up Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Persons and Family Relations, Obligations and Contracts, Legal Ethics, Special Penal Laws, and minor law subjects. My classmates are usually smart and accomplished. Most of us are juggling with our regular job and law school, and several even have a family to worry about.
Then the shooting started.
This is the class recitation or “pusil.” There were days when I felt that I was somewhat less intelligent than anyone around me. I remember my first recit in Constitutional Law. It was almost comical, leading to that embarrassing evening. I didn’t know what books to buy for each subject, so I made a quick Google search and learned that you can’t go wrong with Joaquin Bernas, S.J., for Constitutional Law. I bought a copy in Ayala. It was expensive. Not to shortchange my study on the Philippine Constitution, I also bought the book by De Leon, and a smaller size but thick red book they called Codal. I read pages of Bernas’s thick textbook and skimmed through the pages of De Leon and thought that would be enough to get me through my first class in Constitutional Law I. I was wrong. My name was called that evening for our first recit. I had no idea what on earth the question was about. I didn’t panic or cry like in the Bar Boys movie, or said anything resembling intelligence. “I have no idea, sir,” I said in defeat and embarrassment before the class. (Talk about giving a good first impression.) I discovered later that the professor was using the book by Isagani Cruz!
Then I had my first taste of the Socratic method during our Property class. My Philosophy degree wasn’t much of any help (or maybe it did a little) when the full force of the method was directed on me for almost two hours. I felt exhilarated and dizzy when it was over. “He just saved the whole class,” the good attorney said. Some clapped. I grabbed and gulped a bottle of water, which I thought was mine but belonged to a seatmate. She didn’t mind. God bless her.
Find what you love and let it kill you.
It’s a line from Bukowski. Any sliver of doubt if I really wanted to be in law school was dispelled after my first class in Criminal Law with the brilliant Fiscal Lomanta. (There I said it.) Something she said during the class (or maybe just her sheer brilliance) connected the dots in my head. I arrived at the right place, and I am staying.
Law school is never meant to be rosy, blue skies, and butterflies. For anyone who wants to become a lawyer, it’s the Spartans’ agoge. This is where future lawyers of the country have to go through a rigorous academic training period, equipping their brain with overwhelming law provisions, honing their logical thinking and reasoning skills, weaponizing their mind for future court or out-of-court battles.
Hundreds of criminal and civil law cases we read that year gave us the gory details of the sobering reality we are living in. The law deals with life in all its glory and brutal ugliness.
First year is also a year when you feel a stunning array of changes taking place within yourself.
Law school will eventually take over your life.
My daily long walks with Bronn (my golden-pitbull mix) reduced to short brisk walks. My coffee consumption tripled, quadrupled during exams. I lost interest in Photography that I just picked up that year. I have begun to smoke cigarettes again. I no longer have the time to read a novel or the latest news on the Cavs. Slippage after slippage put a strain on my relationship with my girlfriend. It was pretty costly.
Reading coverage before exams was voluminous and pretty demanding. It took its toll. I began to understand the aphorism of a jealous mistress and all that. The girlfriend seemed oblivious to my struggles. It turned into a clash of a jealous girlfriend and a jealous mistress—not a good combination.
You can’t concentrate on memorizing the Statutes of Frauds at two o’clock in the morning after a heated argument and angry messages on your phone. I was lucky to get four hours of sleep before a major exam. But you live and you learn. There’s nothing going around it.
At the end of my first year as a law student, I lost my girlfriend. I delved deeper into my study.
We started that year with over 70 freshmen. Only around 40 of us made it to second year. I’m not sure now how many will survive to see the finish line and get their LLB degree, or the lucky ones who will pass the Bar and earn the coveted “Atty.”
Writer’s Bio: Jonas Perida studied Philosophy at San Carlos Seminary College. He writes sometimes, runs twice a week, and loves pancakes. He is in law school to amend for his sins. He is now on his third year.