Thursday, January 12, 2012

Confessions of a Bar Flunker: Part 1

From whom would you learn the most valuable lessons: from the bar flunker or from the bar topnotcher?

I am the most famous unknown and I am a bar flunker. And this is a first person account of how and why I flunked the first bar examinations implementing the most revolutionary reforms in the Philippine bar’s 100-year history. And, parenthetically, I may have set Supreme Court history in taking the 2011 bar.
Yes, sir, the one at the back, in maroon T-shirt, what’s your question?
“Who are you and why should we care?”
Ah, I knew it. Actually, the question itself is the answer. If you have to ask who I am, then it follows that you don’t know me, which means I’m not intelligent, rich, famous, or powerful. Therefore, you shouldn’t care. I’m not some hotshot summa cum laude or some high-flying class valedictorian from some big time law school. And since it is embarrassing to be a flunker, please allow me a thinly-disguised pseudonym to shield me from the general public.
Next? Ah, yes, the lady in blue, yes, ma’am?
“Are there learning objectives in your discourse? What lessons are we supposed to get from you?”
Well, with due respect ma’am, the signage says Confessions of a Bar Flunker not Confessions of a Bar Topnotcher. For that one, you’ll have to wait for six months and that wouldn’t be mine to deliver.
And so, since all of you here are attached to the study of law in one way or another, you are expected to be rational enough to realize that the only lessons you will ever get from me is how not to pass the bar.
Any more stupid – oops – relevant questions? The lady in red, yes ma’am.
“The bar exam was just concluded a few weeks ago and officially, the results will be out normally in six or seven months. How did you know you failed it? Do you have a mole in the Supreme Court?”
Hmmm. That’s exactly the mystery isn’t it? That’s the reason why the maroon, the blue, and the red ladies and gentlemen are still here. I know you don’t care to know how I failed the bar, or why I failed the bar. You only want to know how, this early in the waiting game, I knew I failed the bar.  Come on, we all know that’s what you want to know.
However, if I were to reveal the mystery right now, nobody would be around any longer to listen to my confession, and that would be sad, wouldn’t it? I mean, me talking, and nobody listening.
Anyway, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to reveal the mystery at the very end of this very long confession. That’s if you really think the mystery is worth the wait. But does it really matter if I knew I failed six months ahead of schedule? I mean, six months from now, when the Supreme Court officially releases the list would you really care if my name isn’t in the newspapers? 
Personally, if I were you, I would leave this place right now.
I mean, why would anybody pay attention to an account narrated by a famous unknown who is a self-confessed bar flunker? Yes, indeed, why?
You must realize this is not an account by a competitive full-time best bet, or by a summa cum laude, or by a valedictorian, or by a bar topnotcher, or by a law school dean, or by a legal practitioner, or by a judge, or by a legal columnist, or by any one of the bar examiners, or by the Supreme Court justice assigned as the Chairman of the Bar Committee, or by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  No, this is not that at all.
At least with the valedictorian or bar topnotcher who would become Chief Justice, Senator, or President someday, we could expect intelligent academic insights into this new bar format. But the problem is that he only comes out of hibernation after landing in the top ten. Prior to that, if you ask him, he would be shier than a lamb. And after he is heralded as the glorious topnotcher, he would be bound by false humility.
At least with the dean, the practitioner, or the judge, we could expect an excellent review of the new format in relation to the doctrines and principles covered in the bar that are relevant to trial practice.
Also, at least with the legal columnist we could expect him to excellently explain to the general public the intricacies of the new format and how it would affect the quality of lawyers and their pleadings.
Dean Andres Bautista of the Far Eastern University, class valedictorian at Ateneo, president of the Philippine Association of Law Schools, and columnist of the Philippine Star had written about the new format a few weeks ago (Nov. 12).
 Former Dean Raul Pangalangan of the University of the Philippines, former bar examiner, member of the Supreme Court committee who crafted the 2011 bar reforms, and columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer also wrote a column about the new format as the examination month progressed (Nov. 25). You contact them for copies because their unique positions empower their insights.
At least with any of the 2011 bar examiners, we could expect firsthand knowledge as to the insights they used in crafting the first multiple-choice questions (MCQ) ever to be used in the bar and ensuring that the quality of the barrister is better, or at least the same as the with old format. The raw MCQ results would be a huge data mine for the examiners. However, their identities remain an unsolved mystery until after the official release of the exam results.
Finally, with the Chairman of the 2011 Bar Committee, who is an associate justice of the Supreme Court, and with the Chief Justice himself, we could expect to partake of the grand strategy and execution of the most radical departure from the traditional bar exam format. Being the person before whom the bucks stops, the bar chairman has access to original data, ideas, suggestions, and feedback from deans, practitioners, the judicial academy, the integrated bar, and from the examiners. And remember that Justice Roberto Abad, who was once a dean of the University of Sto. Tomas law school, is an excellent communicator having authored the book Fundamentals of Legal Writing (2004).
(With this, I have just given editors an interesting article idea to pursue once the results are released. And if you are a 2011 bar examiner, or the bar chairman himself reading this, may I suggest you start jotting down notes so that wouldn’t forget them when write your own confession.)
However, the bar chairman has no feedback servomechanism directly from the examinees themselves. That’s the defective black hole in the bar chairman’s intelligence mining.
Anyway, what have I done so far? I have identified eight types of experts, an octet, who better deserve your attention.
Therefore, there being no more rational obstacle, you are now unconditionally free to abandon me here on my own.
Wait, wait, wait. Wait a minute. Come on guys, I was just kidding, are you really leaving me here all alone? Come on. This is so awkward, so humiliating, so embarrassing. Guys, come on, please. Please hang around… please listen to what I have to say.
Okay, okay, I’ll make it worthwhile for you. Can I interest you in something? Just to make you stay. Remember, not all is useless in a useless talk.
“I’ll hang around! Yes, I’ll stay. But on one condition: After you have thoroughly convinced us to better hear from the real experts, can you give me one, just one, even the flimsiest, the lamest, the weakest excuse why I should listen to you. Just one, no matter how lame it is.”
Yes! Thank you for hanging around. Your request is fair enough. I will give you not one, but several reasons.
First, there is nothing yet from the real experts, so there’s hardly any contest at all. On one hand, you have nothing from them; while on the other hand, you have me, right here, right now. As the CSN song goes, “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”
Second, anything written by a topnotcher would be useless for you and me. I know I said not all is useless in a useless talk but come on, what could you gather from a topnotcher that would be even remotely relevant to real people like you and me?
We could expect his generic motherhood statements like, “You know, that exam was really hard, I even thought I failed. This comes as a big surprise. I thank all of you for your support, my friends, my teachers, my family. The secret of my success? Just study hard and pray hard.”
The topnotcher’s narrative would be fatally defective, though. In what way? First, it is so comfortable and so safe to write about being a topnotcher after you have known you are one.
Then, there’s this thing about being a topnotcher. A topnotcher is by definition always a defect, a freak of nature, an outlier, and aberration. I mean, imagine a concert stadium of 6,000 people, and you select the 10 most knowledgeable ones. It would be a tough delicate act, and for sure the competition would be very intense.
The topnotcher by no means represents the average bar examinee. Real people like you and me could not even validate the topnotcher’s experiences, even vicariously. 
No matter what the format is, a topnotcher will always be a topnotcher. Consequently, the variation in exam format is hardly a differentiating factor for him, and his attempt to distinguish between the two would be meaningless for ordinary mortals like us.
Third, it is true we have established how extremely valuable would be the insights of the examiners themselves who designed the MCQs and the legal writing portion, and the insights of the bar chairman who supervised the actual execution of this grand design. However, their narratives would be defective. Why? Despite their combined intelligence, eloquence, and eminence, the bar chairman and the bar examiners’ narratives would still suffer from a huge fatal defect: none of them actually took the 2011 bar exams!
Fourth: Unlike the real experts, I was the one who actually, physically, mentally, and emotionally took the first bar exams to feature new format. Probably, I was the true real average representative of the 80 out of every 100 who fail the bar. I did warn you, I said “probably.”
Whether the test was short or long, easy or hard, good or bad, fair or unfair, I am the one qualified to testify to that effect. Not the experts. This is not hearsay; this is a real first person account narrated without the benefit of the certainty of the official results.
Fifth, this is a real, actual, physical, mental, and emotional experience of the most famous unknown. Forget all the other excuses I mentioned earlier. This last reason alone - being the actual experience of the most famous unknown - is compelling justification enough for the maroons, the blues, and the reds to hang around to listen to the portrait of the most famous unknown as a bar flunker.
-End of Part 1-

"Don't worry, my knowledge of the law hasn't decreased just because I flunked the bar."
                                          - Bar Flunker

Table of Contents
Confessions of a Bar Flunker
Part 6 (intentionally not uploaded at this time)
Part 7 (intentionally not uploaded at this time)
Part 11 (intentionally not uploaded at this time)
Part 12
Part 13 (Epilogue; written after the official release of the results)

Note: Due to very personal details contained therein, I have withheld some chapters. Please drop by once in while to see if i have finally released the intentionally omitted parts.

Update: Sometime in December 2011 (just one month after the bar and long before the official results were released on Feb 29, 2012), I sent sample chapters of these Confessions to a newspaper of national circulation for possible publication but for several reasons they did not.