What does it take to pass the Bar exams?

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A lawyer, fresh from passing the 2016 Bar exams, reveals the amount of grit and determination it takes to pass one of the most difficult licensure exams in the country. Illustration by CARINA SANTOS

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — One hot afternoon during the dying days of summer five years ago, I sat in fear as the professor of our mock recitation class called on a name and addressed to that person the words: “Give me the facts of the case.”

My blockmate called on deck fumbled with his sentences, and soon enough, half of my block of incoming law school freshmen were all standing up. We wrestled with what the phrase open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession meant for what seemed like an eternity. The session ended, and we all stood there in silence, still shaking from fear.

Not everyone in that block of 33 people would make it to graduation. Some quit as early as the first week of school, while some fought tooth and nail to remain in the college. In the end, only eight of us would go on to take the November 2016 Bar examinations. And after half a year waiting, we were all part of the 3,747 successful examinees out of 6,344 who took the exam.

Test of grit and determination

The Bar exam is the culmination of going through four (even more for some) difficult years of law school. The exam consists of eight subjects from different fields of law: Political Law, Labor Law, Civil Law, Taxation, Commercial Law, Criminal Law, Remedial Law, and Legal Ethics. It was conducted during all four Sundays of the month of November 2016. Bar candidates must obtain an average of 75 percent for all subjects in order to successfully hurdle the exams and be qualified for admission into the practice of law.

The road to those Sundays is paved with all kinds of stories of pain, failure, and sacrifice. To be able to graduate from law school is a feat in itself. Any law student would have their own ‘war stories’ about their experiences in school.

We live in a country where the wheels of the justice system seem to grind slowly and where access to resources is heavily in favor of the powerful. When the currency of power defines itself in all forms of violence — be it physical or symbolic — those who are granted the opportunity to become lawyers must work to shift the imbalance.

Sleepless nights, nerve-wracking recitations, and difficult exams are all part of the law school package. But the greater chunk of the sacrifice a law student makes has to do with their social life. I would often pass on invitations from friends, and in some occasions, family gatherings, just to be able to finish all my assigned readings and prepare for the daily grind. The saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” In the same way, it takes a loving and understanding community to make a lawyer.

Passing the Bar exam is a test of one’s grit and endurance, but more so of one’s determination to hold on to the dream of being a lawyer. While one may have what it takes in terms of academic preparation, the reality is that it is the emotional and psychological aspect of it weighs heavier in determining the final outcome.

On to the future

As I started to receive congratulatory messages confirming the good news, I just sat in disbelief while my parents started to cry tears of joy and triumph. I did not know where to begin in processing all the emotions that welled up inside of me. Trying to stir out of the shock, the first sentiment I had was that of profound gratitude. I think I could safely assume in behalf of most successful bar candidates that we owe our victory to the people whose belief and hope helped hurl us over the finish line.

The euphoria is going to last for a while. But while I dive into the joy of my personal victory, I soberly think of the whys behind the fulfillment of this dream.

Time and again, the Supreme Court in jurisprudence reminds lawyers — especially erring ones — that the practice of law is, more than anything else, a privilege. Given this year’s unprecedented passing rate of 59 percent more lawyers are called into the fold of service and giving back.

We live in a country where the wheels of the justice system seem to grind slowly and where access to resources is heavily in favor of the powerful. When the currency of power defines itself in all forms of violence — be it physical or symbolic — those who are granted the opportunity to become lawyers must work to shift the imbalance.