Updated: Aug 24
By Archiebald Faller Capila
What does it take to top the Bar? For most, the same comes in a simple narrative. Topping the Bar for them means being exceptionally bright in class, finishing law school with ease, and eventually claiming what is destined for them in the first place—a spot in the small circle of topnotchers all over the country. However, as bright and dreamy the same may be, it falls short of truly describing the experience. It downplays whatever sacrifices a candidate may have gone through before claiming his or her reward. This idea is nothing compared to what the journey truly is.
Some people did not have the reward pre-ordained or pre-destined. Some people had to work hard in order to surpass the obstacle that is law school. Some people had to work while studying in order to financially support their ventures. Some people had to manage their time wisely because they already serve as pillars in their own respective families and households. Some people had to grind all the way to the top. Some people had to do it against all odds. And in that certain group of people, a recent Bar topnotcher fits the fold of hard workers who survived it all—Atty. Jun Dexter H. Rojas.
Atty. Rojas is unlike any other passers who aced the Bar. It was only after 11 years from the time he finished studying at the University of the Philippines that he entered law school. Serving as a dream which he cannot let slip away; he entered the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) –College of Law in 2015. In the said university, he managed to become a student leader while working. The same serves as an extraordinary feat because Atty. Rojas also has to attend to his duties as a husband and as a father to his own family.
But against the odds, he bested several Bar takers for the 2019 Bar examinations and placed 9th in the Bar exams. In addition, he made history as PUP’s first lawyer to notch a place in the highly-coveted Top 10.
It now begs the question—what is in the mind of a topnotcher moving forward to the practice itself? What can his particular plans be in the future? In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Atty. Rojas shared his thoughts about the current state of the legal profession, what his plans are moving forward, and what can he say to all the aspiring lawyers out there.
Barrista Solutions: Since the announcement of the 2019 Bar Examination results, you have gained the attention of a lot of young and aspiring lawyers. Now that you are a practitioner, how do you intend to use your platform and cater to a now-wider audience?
Atty. Rojas: I was very fortunate to be included among the ten (10) bar topnotchers in the 2019 bar exams. This unique honor paved the way for several career opportunities that would not have opened had I not been included in the most coveted list.
Among these opportunities, I cherish the most the fact that, despite having just passed the bar, I was invited to teach certain law subjects in two (2) very prestigious law schools: one is my law alma mater, the PUP College of Law and the other is the University Of Makati School Of Law. It is an established fact that, except for a very few exceptions, to be invited to teach in prestigious law schools, a lawyer must have established a good reputation in the legal community as a law practitioner. I am honored and blessed to be included in these schools’ faculty roster together with today’s most prominent legal luminaries.
As a law professor, I intend to share and equip my students with the tools that helped me not just pass but also top the 2019 bar exams. I am resolute in my belief that the most significant purpose for entering law school is for one to become a full-fledged lawyer. To me, this is so commonsensical. For what is the use of having the prowess to debate on legal traditions vis-à-vis social paradigms if, at the end of the day, one can’t even pass the bar exams?
Unfortunately, I continue to see scores of law students who seem to not have found this purpose and/or are unsure how to achieve such purpose. Failing the bar exams would surely reveal that law school is a very expensive place to waste one’s time and money.
Barrista Solutions: You are one of the more prominent figures in social media today among lawyers and law students alike. Personally, what do you think are the impacts of these online platforms in today’s practice of law?
Atty. Rojas: I think the most significant impact of social media in relation to the practice of law is that it provides an inexpensive avenue to share a lawyer’s thoughts, causes, and ideas to a limitless audience. The size of the audience is only limited by the lawyer’s prominence or the lack of it. Through the comments section, legal opinions are refined by the consequent constant exposure to public opinion. Lawyers who love to give public lectures can utilize social media to reach a larger, albeit, virtual audience.
Barrista Solutions: After landing a place in the top 10 of the 2019 Bar Exams, and being PUP’s first Bar topnotcher, how do you look at and deal with the expectations of your peers?
Atty. Rojas: Landing in the top 10 surely invites very high, even unrealistic, expectations among our peers. To me, passing and topping the bar exams merely caps the journey to get the title “Attorney”. Practicing what I have learned in law school is a completely different ball game. It is one which I have barely scratched the surface. This is why I am humbled whenever I am in the presence of those who have been in the law practice for several years. I always feel like I am the most ignorant lawyer whenever I am in their company. This makes law practice as exciting as law school. There is just so much to learn.
Barrista Solutions: The pandemic has taken a toll on every profession there is in the country, including the practice of law. How do you overcome this struggle, given the fact that you are a part of the newest batch of lawyers?
Atty. Rojas: This is very true. With most of the courts in the country under lockdown, law practice these days seems to be snail-paced. Fortunately, most of the cases assigned to me by the firm can still proceed despite the pandemic. In my downtime, I study the amendments in the Rules of Court and other statutes. The way I study now is different. I no longer study in order to pass exams. Now, I study with the perspective of applying what I learned in my practice.
Barrista Solutions: What are your thoughts as to the current state of legal practice here our country today?
Atty. Rojas: I don’t have much law practice experience in order to intelligently answer this question. I have no way of comparing the current state of affairs with how it was in the past as I just passed the bar. However, based on what I heard, lawyers these days are much more willing to enter into compromises than their seniors.
Barrista Solutions: For you, what can young and progressive lawyers do in order to uphold the rule of law in today’s time?
Atty. Rojas: I think upholding the rule of law in the old times is not much different from upholding the rule of law in today’s time. Ideally, the purpose of upholding the rule of law is always the achievement of social justice in its purest sense. Justice Leonen, in his speech during our oath-taking ceremony, captured how we should view the rule of law, and I quote: “The rule of law is always the rule of just law; it is no code for servility. Your oath to the rule of law is not an oath of surrender to the unjust and oppressive elements of the status quo. It is not a license to further marginalize those who are disadvantaged, those who are poor, those who are abused by power, and untruths. Your oath serves as your power to bring about change that is hopefully just, hopefully systemic. Your oath is a promise to empower.”
Barrista Solutions: Personally, how do you describe the current situation of our legal education? Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the same?
Atty. Rojas: I am very happy with the recent trend in the legal education. My law school is in the NCR but being a probinsyano myself, I can’t help but cheer for the provincial law schools in the bar exams. The results in the last decade reveal the strong bar performance of provincial law schools. In fact, in 2016, all of the bar topnotchers came from provincial law schools. This shows that quality legal education is not monopolized by the NCR schools. I think technology has a lot to do with this development. Legal materials are now accessible anywhere in the Philippines via the internet.
Barrista Solutions: How do you see yourself in the legal profession ten years from now?
Atty. Rojas: In ten years’ time, I would like to be somewhat known as an effective practitioner in a particular field of law. At the same time, I would also like to have built a career in the academe and to have authored my own law book.
Barrista Solutions: If you could give an advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Atty. Rojas: Use your time wisely.
Barrista Solutions: What is your message to all the students of the law out there trying to be a part of the legal profession someday?
Atty. Rojas: Looking back, I can’t remember of a day in law school when I procrastinated reading. During the semesters, I was always totally focused. Everything was scheduled. Whenever I could not finish my readings, I took time away from sleep. Of course, I would make the most of my sem break and summer vacations by travelling with my family. But even then, I always had a law book with me and, whenever I had downtimes, I would read even just a few pages.
I believed Abraham Lincoln when he said, “If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already.” I say that if to be a lawyer is what you really want, then give it your best shot every waking moment you have. I’m talking here of foregoing social gatherings, limiting your access to social media, making a very strict daily study routine, setting study goals and meeting them. Like I always told my younger classmates in law school, “we have no right to relax and party until we’ve passed the bar exams.”
Atty. Jun Dexter H. Rojas is the first graduate of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines—College of Law to land a place in the Top 10 of the Bar examinations. He placed 9th in the 2019 Bar Exams.