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How to Prepare for the Bar: An Interview with Atty. Carino

By: Romer Yadao

From the time a student graduates from law school and prepares for the Bar Exams, there will be more questions that he/she needs to answer. More than the legal concepts learned during his/her stay in law school, the more important question now is how to pass the exams as it is, arguably, the toughest licensure exam in the Philippines. That being said, before sitting for the Bar, it is important for one to be in the best shape before facing this daunting task.

As the cliché goes, “By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail”. Preparation, for some, is easy. You craft a battle plan and you follow it. However, for others, it is not. Unfortunately, they do not tend to look five or six steps ahead. Instead, they look way closer. And this makes bar preparation really tough.

After graduation, there are approximately six months to decide on what books to read, concepts that need to be mastered, and timelines to follow. In short, one does not have the luxury of time. Sadly, during these times, some are still at a loss at what to do.

Now, worry no more. We know that the time is limited and we want you to focus. Because of this, we asked for the help of Atty. Genie Carino to provide tips and what one should prepare for the Bar Exams.

In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Atty. Carino shares how she prepared for the Bar Exams, the importance of studying smartly, and how she sees the platform from traditional to a more modern one.

Barrista Solutions: What served as your inspiration while you were taking up law?

Atty. Carino: My family served as my inspiration when I was in law school. I knew I had to make them proud.

Barrista Solutions: You have been a lawyer for a long time now. Looking back, how did you study and prepare for the Bar Exams?

Atty. Carino: Before I started reviewing, I spent a few days researching on how to prepare for the Bar exams. I read a compilation of study habits shared by previous bar topnotchers. I asked for tips from my friends who already passed the Bar. I also enrolled in a review center that offered online lectures and coaching sessions. Here are some of the strategies I did:

· I studied frequently asked questions in Bar examinations from the year 1990 to 2016.

· I did not read a lot of reviewers, books, and handouts. I mastered only one comprehensive reviewer per Bar subject and focused on memorizing and studying codal provisions. Codal was my bestfriend. I did two readings for each subject.

· I placed marks on my codals and reviewers for important provisions, definitions, and discussions of concepts so that I know the parts that I should focus on.

· I attended lectures for subjects that I was not good at in law school.

· Every morning and evening, I would answer one bar question and write my answer on a sample booklet. This was to improve my handwriting and way of answering.

· I made sure to have one rest day before moving on to the next Bar subject.

Barrista Solutions: What setbacks did you encounter along the way?

Atty. Carino: There were days when I really felt exhausted and could not bring myself to study. Some days I felt like my progress was very slow, that I was not clocking in substantial study hours or that I could not remember anything from the topic that I just read. I did not force myself to study when those times happened.

Barrista Solutions: In reviewing for the Bar Exams, did you cover all the concepts in the outline?

Atty. Carino: I tried to cover all the concepts in the outline but it was really hard to memorize and study everything. I just focused on the important concepts for each subject based on the frequently asked questions in Bar exams. In short, my technique was to study smart.

Barrista Solutions: During the pre-week, reviewers say, “Do not let any stone unturned”. What was your mindset/ routine/battle plan during the pre-week?

Atty. Carino: My mindset was to go over my reviewers and codals one last time but with emphasis on the topics that I previously marked as important. There were a lot of handouts and materials given during pre-week and I did not force myself to read all of them. I was adamant about sticking to those materials that I have already mastered and studied prior to pre-week. As a supplement, I just picked a few, probably one or two, short materials with doctrines on cases penned by the Bar Chairperson.

For the stones I may have left unturned, I just trusted on whatever knowledge I had from recitations in class and lectures I attended.

Barrista Solutions: In answering Bar Exam questions, how did you answer some definition of terms? How do you go about it?

Atty. Carino: When the questions called for definition of terms, I still answered in complete sentences. One or two short sentences would suffice. If the term or concept to be defined was out of the ordinary such as a Latin concept, I relied on context clues.

Barrista Solutions: How about hypothetical questions? How did you answer these questions?

Atty. Carino: The most important rule in answering Bar exam questions is to be responsive. Knowing how to answer properly a given question is just as significant as knowing the correct answer.

When I reviewed for the Bar, I made a conscious effort to improve on the way I answer hypothetical questions. I practiced answering previous bar exam questions every morning and at night. I was meticulous with the way I present my legal basis, application of the law to the facts, and conclusion. I made sure that my answer was responsive, direct, complete yet concise. Taking mock bar exams and attending coaching sessions in my review center also proved helpful.

Barrista Solutions: In the upcoming Bar Exams, we will see a shift of method. Do you think there will be much of a difference on this new approach as compared to the traditional one?

Atty. Carino: Yes, it will be a lot different because 2021 Bar Examinations will be digitalized and localized. An advantage with this kind of format is that bad handwriting will not be a problem for barristers anymore. There will be more than one testing site so the barristers from provinces have other options on where to take the exam.

Barrista Solutions: What advice can you give to those aspirants who will be taking the Bar Exams this year?

Atty. Carino: To the barristers this year, bar review will be a test of your focus and discipline. The only thing you will probably like about it is that you do not have to worry about recitation in class. However, you have a hundred other things to worry about: finishing your reading materials, catching up on your backlogs in law school, and preparing for your mock bar examinations, among others. It is really overwhelming but try your best to relax and do not add unnecessary pressure to yourself. The years you have spent in law school are more important than your review. Keep in mind that time is not on your side so do not procrastinate and instead study with a sense of urgency.

Know that reviewing for the bar will also be a test of your character. In the days you feel self-doubt and insufficiency, remember the difficult subjects in law school you thought you would not pass but you did. In the days you feel tired and drained, remember how far you have come and draw inspiration from your loved ones. Believe in yourself and always have a positive mindset.

You have already struggled and endured so much especially reviewing for the Bar in the middle of a pandemic. Just keep in mind that you have to get a reward from it. When you finally see your name in the list of bar passers and you see your family beaming with pride, you will realize that all your hard work and sacrifices are worth it.

Atty. Lougenia “Genie” Carino is currently an associate of Lotilla Law Office. She graduated from San Beda University College of Law and placed 12th in the 2017 Bar Examinations with the grade of 87.85%

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