Updated: May 15
By: Archiebald Faller Capila
Law school will always serve as a benchmark of excellence, hard work, perseverance, and brilliance. It is mentioned more often than not that law school is a melting pot of every kind of personality there is to know. At the same time, it serves as the preparatory stage for aspiring members of the legal profession. In which, one could meet a future Justice of the Court, a future legislator of Congress, a future high-ranking official of the executive department, or the future face of litigation or corporate law.
Most, if not all law students, already focus on their respective professions if and when they graduate and pass the Bar. Majority of lawyers already focus on building a name for themselves or even start a legacy in which they will eventually be remembered. Finally, they are free of the law school turmoil that haunted them for a year. Finally, they could focus on the things that they were only dreaming about in the past.
However, there still lies a separate branch of the story. While most lawyers already focus on their respective jobs after they become lawyers, some feel they haven’t had enough. For them, the pursuit of knowledge must not stop if and when one becomes a lawyer. For them, it is not enough that they eventually surpass law school, ace the Bar, and become a member of the legal profession in good standing.
Some lawyers opt to pursue a higher degree of further studies. Some lawyers commit themselves to higher learning and enroll in a Master of Laws program. Some even pursue a higher Bar and study for his or her degree in Doctor of Jurisprudence. While there may be a few who pursue this particular path, it is a path taken by the bravest nonetheless.
Dean Rodel A. Taton, DCL is among those who braved it all. After passing the Bar and gaining some experience through practice, he then decided to take it up a notch. He then finished his Master of Laws and Doctor of Civil Law degrees from the University of Santo Tomas. He has flourished in the academe as one of the well-respected authorities in the aforementioned field.
Amidst having a lot of experience under his belt, it seems that Dean Taton’s journey is just starting. Aside from being the Dean of the Graduate School of Law of San Sebastian College- Recoletos, he was also recently appointed as the new Director of the Recoletos Law Center. These are just some of his works not mentioning his private practice and his job as a law professor, an MCLE Lecturer, and a staple in the Bar Review programs all over the country.
So what is it like to have a life like that of Dean Taton? In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Dean Taton shares with us his life as a lawyer, his life as a law student, and his thoughts on the current state of the legal profession in the country, specifically that of the aspect of legal education. In addition, Dean Taton shares with us his message to his brothers and sisters in the legal profession as well as those aspiring lawyers who are currently having a hard time because of the current pandemic. Indeed, there is a life beyond the Bar that is focused on furthering knowledge and legal know-how.
Barrista Solutions: Who and what inspired you to pursue law in the first place? Looking back, how do you describe your journey as a lawyer today?
Dean Taton: As a kid, I am a fan of debates and listening to commentaries even over the radio. To some extent, it gave me the idea that lawyers are good at public speaking. But I never entertained the thought of becoming a lawyer up until I am about to finish my Political Science. I took a deeper reflection on this decision. My parents don’t even want me to take law school I guess. But as soon as I graduated from college, I enrolled in law school.
Barrista Solutions: The current pandemic has affected the practice of law in the country. What do you think should be the major adjustments of practicing lawyers in order to keep up with the “new normal”?
Dean Taton: True, the new normal is really demanding. When we thought that we can just stay at home and have an incomplete get-up for a hearing, major adjustments really have to be made by lawyers. Internet speed and gadgets have to be properly set up even at home. Also, this pandemic taught us to be creative in so many ways like in dealing with clients and in how we conduct legal counselling and practice. The use of emails and online platforms are a common practice now, for example so we need to check it regularly.
Barrista Solutions: Accordingly, one aspect of the legal profession which is gravely affected is our legal education. As a professor of law yourself, what major changes did you do in order to adapt to the new normal of teaching law?
Dean Taton: Teaching law in the new normal posed as a challenge not only for students but also for the teachers of the law. We became creative in thinking how we can deliver or how we can relate to students' common clamors above the delivery of the content. Even in the examination formats online are quite a challenge so we explored mechanisms like ClassMarker, Schoology, Google and others.
Barrista Solutions: You are currently the Dean of the Graduate School of Law of San Sebastian College – Recoletos. For you, what are the differences or even the challenges in teaching law subjects both at the law school proper and at the graduate school of law?
Dean Taton: There are differences in teaching both in law school and graduate school of law. In the substantive aspect, we know that law school is demanding and entails pressure because of the bar examination to be taken by the students in the future. On the other hand, in Graduate School, the students are already lawyers and in terms of content, this time they explore more up to its application and the possible reforms. Procedurally, in law school, socratic method is still widely practiced with recitations and examinations, while in grad school, different modalities may be applied by the professor like dialogues, reports, moot courts, papers. There is more freedom in graduate level as compared to the law school both for students and the professors.
Barrista Solutions: For you, why should lawyers pursue further studies even if they are already equipped with ample knowledge of the law concerning different fields?
Dean Taton: Our role as a lawyer does not end at the time we pass the Bar, rather we take active participation in the larger scope of practice of law. By that I mean, we take part in the development of the law, participate in reforms, engage in improving the legal bibliography through researches and there is an attempt to increase discourse on law and how it is applied. Further, others would want to pursue specialization and others for promotion, and for people like me, self -realization maybe.
Barrista Solutions: Aside from being a professor of law, you have been engaged in different activities concerning the legal profession in general. How do you manage your time in attending to your different duties and responsibilities?
Dean Taton: We learn in law school time management and discipline. I have carried that in my practice as well as in my other activities. Also, there are causes that are worth pursuing, so we make time for that.
Barrista Solutions: As a progressive lawyer in the practice today, what are you looking forward to the most with respect to the profession if and when the pandemic is over?
Dean Taton: This pandemic really redefined some of our priorities. When things get back to normal, maybe those after-work get-togethers with colleagues, the community activities where I get to travel in our LLM program nationwide, and some MCLE programs across the country. The travels and the camaraderie, apart from honing our skills.
Barrista Solutions: If you could give a piece of advice or any form of a message to your younger self, what would it be?
Dean Taton: To my younger self, I have to say enjoy life, keep yourself healthy and see the better perspectives of difficult and challenging situations.
Barrista Solutions: What is your message to your co-members of the legal profession in this time of a health crisis?
Dean Taton: To my brothers and sisters in the profession, we have to consider our health and happiness always. We have chosen a challenging and stressful career, we need to find ways to avoid those which are unnecessary.
Barrista Solutions: What are your tips to all law students out there dreaming of passing and even topping the Bar exams?
Dean Taton: Just believe in the power of your dreams. From there determination, courage and strong will may evolve. Study harder must be the basic rule.
*Dean Rodel A. Taton, DCL is the Dean of the Graduate School of Law of San Sebastian College – Recoletos. He is the founder of Taton Law and he currently holds special certificates for his study of International Criminal Court, Dispute Resolution, and Intellectual Property among others. He is a sought-after MCLE Lecturer and Bar Reviewer in the country. He is the newly-appointed Director of the Recoletos Law Center.
For more inspiring stories of esteemed members of the Philippine Bar, view articles on Barrista Profiles.