THE ATENEO LAW SCHOOL AS A PERSONAL CATALYST FOR METHODICAL INTENSITY AND CROSSING THE BAR

I

INTENSITY (in·ten·si·ty) n.

1.       The quality or state of being intense; especially: extreme degree of strength, force, energy, or feeling.[1]

For everyone, I guess there is always that time when he or she is either too young or too ignorant to know what is really good for him or for her. For me, that time was my sophomore year in college at the Ateneo de Manila, where, enrolled in a pre-law course, I didn’t even know what law school is. Sure, I do hear my blockmates discussing law school after college, but I never thought about it during that time. Exacerbating my youth and ignorance were intellectual stagnation and incorrigible laziness. However, the most embarrassing part of my past was, as an Atenean, I did not live out the true meaning of magis.

After several life-changing events after that sophomore year in college and reasons too numerous to discuss, but mainly to redeem myself, I chose to enter the Ateneo School of Law instead of the U.P. College of Law. From day one, I knew that I do not have the things that would make for the ideal law student, such as genius, superior talent, unlimited resources, and financial security. But I have ambition. And in my own eyes, I have earned only one distinction which sets me apart from the rest: I am the most intense law student I have ever seen.

I took a particular expression with me to law school: I would rather flare out than gutter out. I burned the midnight oil over provisions of law and jurisprudence. Whenever I stand up for recitation, I speak and gesticulate in a fiery mood. I was a firestarter. And if ever my intensity will cause me to overheat and explode, I would do it just the same. I will go down in a blaze of glory.

Can passion exceed the reality of matter? That is the question I ask myself, day in and day out, when I wake up in the morning and when I sleep in the evening. Maybe I was starting to learn what magis means. I wanted more. And ironically enough, during my sophomore year at the Ateneo Law School, I had the honor of joining the Board of Editors of the Ateneo Law Journal and competed as an oralist for the Ateneo-Philippines World Trade Organization Moot Team, where we triumphed as the Best Team in Asia and represented the Philippines in the Final Oral Round. The Ateneo Law School gave me the opportunity to acquire and refine the skills I would need to be one of God’s best in the Philippine legal profession.

That year almost broke me mentally, emotionally, and physically. But I toughened it out. There are the times when we think about what the law can give us in the future after we graduate, when in fact, we should be thinking about what we can give to the law when the time for our service comes.

The law, as often said, is like a jealous mistress,[2] but it is more of a selfish and exacting goddess.[3] She only accords her divine quintessence to those who are ready to sacrifice everything for her.[4] Everything and always.[5]

The Ateneo Law School made me who I am and instilled in me an insatiable love for magis.

II

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
 
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

-          Crossing the Bar, Alfred, Lord Tennyson[6]

It may come as a morbid joke (but funny nonetheless) that I am making an allusion to Tennyson’s poem, which hints at death, in the same vein that I am writing an exposition about the Bar Examinations. I don’t think it is solely because the Bar will suck the vitality out of us, or because we will live a year in a heartbeat, or because we will always feel like we are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I believe that, ultimately, as law students, once we cross the Bar, we really do die from our old selves. As law students aspiring to be God’s best, we will face our Creator and account for the use of our legal talents on this earth, every minute and every day, even before we die. On a lesser scale, in my close to three years in law school, I am reborn every morning, with a new day ahead of me, only to get bruised and beaten by law school through the afternoon, and expire when the night is over. But there is always tomorrow, and I am always resurrected from yesterday’s old self, definitely stronger and maybe a little wiser. And you will know that it is a pity and a sin, to be given so much abilities and opportunities only to waste them and to pall in undignified obscurity. As Ateneans, we should internalize and live out the true meaning of magis.

Even though I am writing this while I am still in my junior year in law school and will hopefully take the Bar in 2012, I already feel entitled to the fear and pressure barristers experience in their Bar year. Of course, I’ve heard of the cliché that one should start preparing for the Bar in his or her freshman year in law school. While this is certainly commendable, misinterpretation is certainly not remote. This may sound like conventional wisdom, and something every law student should really take to heart, but I would like to qualify this. True, we should be preparing for the Bar the moment we enter the Ateneo Law School, but this is not the be all and end all of our Juris Doctor education. Law school is not a glorified review course; it is a place for something bigger and more important. It is that part and time of our lives where and when we build character. We are not just preparing to be Bar passers; we are preparing to be strong-willed and honorable legal practitioners for our country. Yes, legal education at the Ateneo Law School is not easy. We all have our dark moments, forgettable days, even nightmares from law school. But for as long as we are in the Ateneo Law School, we should always strive to breathe intensity and exude confidence, because in the end, after all the pain and hardships, we will bleed excellence.

In conclusion, I have quoted a lot of conventional wisdom and clichés pertaining to the study of law. In my opinion, originality may be one of the challenges law students and ultimately, legal practitioners, face in the noble profession. From all the hours of rote learning and precedents, it is possible that one may be reduced to the sum of his or her memorized provisions of law or parroted jurisprudence. In my experience so far, the Ateneo Law School has given me the opportunity to be creative in learning the law, not only through classroom instruction but also through skill-oriented extra-curricular activities. In the end, the test for all of us is to break free from the mold and from all the clichés, keeping in mind and in heart that desire for excellence and living out magis through constant, never-ending intensity and passion in this calling that we have really come to love.


[1] Definition of Intensityavailable at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intensity (last accessed Feb. 14, 2011).

 

[2] Joseph Story, The Value and Importance of Legal Studies, lecture delivered August 25, 1829, at his inauguration as Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University.

[3] After Keisuke Itagaki, New Grappler Baki, ch. 78, at 201 (2001).

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] In Memoriam, Maud, and Other Poems, Alfred Tennyson 259 (2004).

Emmanuel Rey Pine Cruz graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2008 with a degree in Political Science. Emmanuel is currently a third year law student at the Ateneo de Manila School of Law. He joined the Board of Editors of the Ateneo Law Journal in 2009 (Volume 54) and is currently the head of the Internet Committee. He was also an Associate Lead Editor for the 4th Issue of Volume 54. He is the Lead Editor for the 2nd Issue of Volume 56.