by Archiebald F. Capila and Adrian Lorenzo R. Garcia
The practice of law has always been a noble profession in every known society there is. The groundwork and foundation of nations are determined by policies and practices anchored on the spirit of what law is enacted and observed. Lawyers play a great role in nation-building for they serve as the bright minds that offer projects that reflect a progressive community. Lawyers, as some would say, play the role of technocrats and bureaucrats who improve the status of lives whenever they desire to do such acts.
While the practice of law may be seen as a lucrative and competitive profession, we must all take a look at how things start. While the profession is seen as a league of its own, we must remember that the lawyers comprising the same have different backgrounds molded by their respective law schools. Lawyers have in them certain morals and principles which they cling on to whatever happens in their respective lives and the decisions they make for that matter.
Indeed, the best lawyers are honed by law schools. And the best law schools have in them the best professors. While being the best is subjective, we may factor in what characteristics comprise of a great law professor. Brilliance and mastery of the law is one. The ability to connect to students is another. However, some of the few characteristics that stand out the most is being able to understand the plight of their students and being compassionate about teaching the text and essence of the law.
Some choose to teach, and some are destined to do so. Atty. Wilson A. Legaspi is among the many lawyers who was destined for the said profession. Growing up in practice, Atty. Legaspi has encountered several instances and signs that he was destined for such a path. Now known as a well-respected member of the academe and as an author, we can say that Atty. Legaspi is far from stopping. His legacy as a grounded professor only grows by the minute.
In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Atty. Legaspi shares his experiences as a member of the teaching profession, the lessons he learned along the way, and the message he wants to impart to his students and those trying to become lawyers any time soon.
Barrista Solutions: You have been a professor of law for quite a time now. What motivated or inspired you to engage in teaching?
Atty. Legaspi: Fate, or should I say destiny, led me to the teaching profession. I remember the time when I was in a hearing in Imus City, Cavite. I saw my former law professor, Atty. Voltaire Duano, who was also in the hearing. After the hearing, I approached him and told him that I was his student some 15 years ago. I had to introduce myself because from the looks of his face, it seems that he could hardly remember me. That chance meeting was followed by another one when we met again in a hearing, this time in Naic, Cavite. It was at that time that I asked for his number, which he gladly gave. Once in a while, we messaged each other until the time when he asked me if I was willing to teach in San Sebastian. He asked me this because I told him in one of our conversations that I wanted to teach in our Alma Mater. According to him, the new Dean then, Justice Brion, was looking for someone to teach Torts and Damages. I gladly accepted the offer. After all, Torts was one of my favorite subjects in law school. When I began teaching, I told my wife, “Ganito pala kasarap magturo. Bakit di mo agad sinabi?” If you may ask, my wife is also a college professor at the De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute in Dasmarinas City, Cavite. I was always teasing her that she always brings her work to our house to check the examinations of her students and to prepare her lectures without being paid for those extra hours of work. Now I swallowed all of those that I said to her. I came to this realization that, you teach not because it is lucrative; you teach because it is your passion to share your knowledge.
Barrista Solutions: Our legal education is one of the aspects gravely affected by the pandemic. As a professor of law yourself, what major changes have you done with respect to the manner of teaching?
Atty. Legaspi: Like what other teachers do, we have to adjust and learn all these kinds of technologies to reach out to our students. Like in other professions, the teaching profession requires constant learning even in the field of technological advancements. Also, as teachers, we have to be more sensitive now to the present conditions of our students without sacrificing the quality of legal education. Indeed, it requires a delicate balancing between quality of education and compassion.
Barrista Solutions: From your own perspective, what are the major problems that law students experience during these times? How do you connect to them knowing that there is a worsening condition of the COVID-19 outbreak?
Atty. Legaspi: The major problems that law students experience during these times are depression and the sense of hopelessness and despondency due to the deteriorating situation brought by the pandemic. As teachers, we can only do so much. From time to time we give them advice. But the most important is we know how to listen to them as regards their needs. We also have to heed their request from time to time to let them take a pause once in a while so that they will not get overwhelmed by the tasks that continue to pile up. But as I have said, we must not sacrifice the quality of legal education. As law students, they should be taught not only the law; they should be trained to be tough as well. We have to make them prepared and ready for the tough tasks that they will be facing once they are already members of the legal profession. They should know that the legal profession is not for the fainthearted.
Barrista Solutions: Recently, you published three books pertaining to different aspects and subjects of law. What motivated you to write these books amidst the fact that there is a pandemic?
Atty. Legaspi: I was prompted to write these books one year earlier. Originally, I planned to write once I already have my master’s degree. But it seems that was not the plan for me. During the early weeks of the ECQ, I already finished updating my lectures in all the subjects I’ve been teaching. I also finished writing the first draft of my thesis in masteral. I have no pending pleadings or motions to be submitted to court. So out of boredom, I took a look again at my lectures and began editing them to make it in a narrative form (because my lectures were in a question-and-answer form). I also began using footnoting in my references. After I was done, I told Prosecutor Fred Nojara about it. He then asked me for a copy of one chapter of my work, and I gave him one chapter of my lecture in Torts and Damages. After reading my work, he told me that it is reader-friendly and that it can be published as a book. So he gave me the number of Ms. Girlie Gonzales of Central Bookstore. We talked and she asked me for my manuscript. And the rest is history.
Barrista Solutions: Back in law school, who were your favorite authors and how did they influence you in writing your own set of law books?
Atty. Legaspi: When I was in law school, I was fond of reading the books of Atty. Cesar Villanueva (Law on Sales, Philippine Corporate Law and Commercial Law Review), Justice Isagani Cruz (Political Law and Constitutional Law) and Atty. Francis Sababan (Taxation Law Review). After I took the 2003 Bar Examinations and while waiting for the result, Dean Willard Riano published his book in Civil Procedure, which I am also fond of reading because it is easy to comprehend despite the complexity of the subject. These books have something in common: their approach is conceptual and topical, and not by codal provision. That is how I got the title of my three books that I wrote, i.e., Conceptual Approach to Torts and Damages, Conceptual Approach to Special Proceedings, and Conceptual Approach to Civil Procedure. To tell you honestly, I emulated their approach in writing a book. They were my inspiration, especially Dean Riano.
Barrista Solutions: You are currently taking up your Master of Laws. For you, how do you manage your time as a student, as a law professor, and as a lawyer engaged in other activities as well?
Atty. Legaspi: I love doing all my works as a student, as a law professor, and as a legal practitioner. As long as you have a passion for doing all of the things that you do, you can always make time.
Barrista Solutions: In your own perspective, how is it different now that you are teaching the next generation of lawyers while continuing to learn new things under a Master of Laws program?
Atty. Legaspi: When I was studying for my master’s degree, I came to realize that we as professors should not teach the students just to pass the bar. Competition among lawyers, whether in the practice of law or in the academe, has never been this fierce and high. So as a teacher, we have to inculcate in the minds of our students that they should continue to love learning the law and never get stagnant even after they pass the bar, always aim for excellence, and continue studying so that they will never be left behind in this increasingly competitive field of our profession.
Barrista Solutions: What is your favorite lesson from law school that you still stick to or continue to practice now that you are a lawyer?
Atty. Legaspi: Practice humility and never get discouraged by the frustrations in life. Whether we admit it or not, in our first year in law school we tend to believe that we already know everything. But in our succeeding years as a law student, we realize that we still have so much to learn. And sometimes we are bound to fail. Even now that I am already a lawyer, I still believe that we cannot depend on our knowledge alone. Sometimes, the road gets bumpy. So never get discouraged by frustrations. We are always students in this life and from time to time we learn something from our own experiences. Whenever this kind of question is asked, I am always reminded by this beautiful quote from one of my favorite movies, which I feel is worth sharing, “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Barrista Solutions: If you could give a piece of advice or any form of a message to your younger self, what would it be?
Atty. Legaspi: Strive more for academic excellence as a student. Focus more on your studies and eliminate all the unnecessary distractions. And once you’re already a lawyer, make a more concrete direction in your career path. Have a good mentor. He or she will certainly help you a lot to your success in your legal career.
Barrista Solutions: What are your tips to all law students out there dreaming of passing and even topping the Bar exams?
Atty. Legaspi: It may be seen by many as a broken record, but I have to say it again. The review and preparation for the bar begins from the time you set foot in law school. This is especially true to most of the students who consider themselves as an average type like me. In my time, to compensate for the fact that I was just an average type of student, I always read even during semestral break, Christmas vacation, and even during summer vacation. I hardly take a break in reading and studying all the subjects that we took in the semester that just ended. It was because I knew my limitations as a student. I made it a point to take extra effort to fulfill my dream of becoming a lawyer, and take and pass the bar at once.
· Atty. Wilson A. Legaspi is the Managing Lawyer at W.A. LEGASPI LAW OFFICE. He is a Trained Commercial Arbitrator for the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc. (PDRCI). He is a law professor at San Sebastian College – Recoletos College of Law. As of writing, he has authored three books: Conceptual Approach to Torts and Damages; Conceptual Approach to Special Proceedings; and Conceptual Approach to Civil Procedure, all under Central Books Supply, Inc. He recently defended his thesis for his Master of Laws degree at San Sebastian College Graduate School of Law.