Preparing for the Bar: Beyond Average Prep Tips from Atty. Yebra
Updated: Nov 7, 2021
By: Romer Yadao and Archiebald Faller Capila
Getting ready for the Bar exams is a task beyond compare. All the knowledge one has acquired in law school will be put to the ultimate test. It is common knowledge as well that the Bar remains to be one of the hardest licensure exams in the country. Its intricate nature calls for hard work, dedication, brilliance, and luck.
After graduating from law school, Bar candidates tend to have problems in reviewing along the way. Because of certain factors that hamper one’s productivity, the review proper serves as a puzzle that not everyone could solve. Asking numerous lawyers who have hurdled the Bar, we are sure that the process itself is grueling, taxing, and disturbing all at the same time.
With this, Bar candidates seek help from practicing lawyers and professors on how they dealt with the grueling process of the Bar examinations. They ask for tips and knowledge on how they would eventually surpass the last hurdle before becoming a lawyer.
Indeed, much has been said about how a candidate should prepare for the Bar. At one point, they try to mimic a lawyer or professor’s preparation for the Bar exams. Because of fear or comfort in knowing that a method work, they would then try to recreate a study schedule and a study method in preparation for the last hurdle (for now) of their legal life.
But it begs the question—who must we listen to?
Among the esteemed individuals who we all like to hear from is none other than Atty. Alloysius R. Yebra. Hailing from a now known legal family name, Atty. Yebra stands at the helm as his own man and as a mentor to many. Aside from being a law professor and a bar reviewer, he serves as an inspiring individual who Bar candidates look forward to speaking.
So how did Atty. Yebra become a lawyer? How did he prepare himself for his Bar examinations? In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Atty. Yebra shares his story on how he eventually became the esteemed member of the legal profession that he is today.
Barrista Solutions: Why did you take up law?
Atty. Yebra: Honestly, I took up law out of pressure more than anything else. My brother, Usec. Renier Paul R. Yebra topped the 2009 Bar Examinations, 2 years before I graduated in College. He has always been my mentor and at that time, I had so much pride and ego that I wanted to prove to my family and everyone that I can also do it and even surpass his accomplishments.
Barrista Solutions: What served as your inspiration while you were taking up law?
Atty. Yebra: “The fear of being average” – This was (and is still) one of my inspirations in life. The constant fear of being mediocre and in not making an impact in life inspires me to always perform at the highest possible level. Of course, it’s always a given that my Family also inspires me to reach for my dreams.
Barrista Solutions: How long do you study and prepare for classes everyday?
Atty. Yebra: When I entered law school, I already had a mindset that I will focus all my time, efforts and energy in the study of the law. On a daily and rigorous basis, I had the same schedule of waking up at 8AM, start to study at 9AM, go to class, go home, study again and sleep at 1AM. More or less, I endeavored to study for 10 to 12 hours a day. Why settle for quality over quantity if you can strive to attain both.
Barrista Solutions: How did you study and prepare for the Bar Exam? Did you repeat reading all the books that you have read or do you read reviewers at this point?
Atty. Yebra: I studied for the Bar the same way I studied in law school. (a) I prepared a daily schedule that covered the entire duration of the bar review – from April to October. (b) I preapred all the materials I will be reading - same materials I used in my 4th year review classes, most of which are codals and one major reviewer per subject. As for primary textbooks, I only referred to these with respect to topics I have not yet mastered. (c) I committed to my schedule and endeavored to finish all my materials on time. (d) I monitored my rest periods during the day (max of 8 hours), during the week (max of 1 day), and also monitored my health to ensure optimal performance.
Barrista Solutions: How often do you use “codals”? Is it feasible to read codal for the entire day or 50% codal, 50% annotation? How did you do it?
Atty. Yebra: Always! The codal is the most essential bar material, in my opinion. Everything in the annotations and cases obviously stem from the codal because it’s the law in black and white. As far as how I read my codal, it really depended on the topics. Sometimes, I would read in one sitting, sometimes, I’d do it per topic. I think the method is up to the reviewee, but if I am sure of anything, it’s really that you read your codal first before other materials.
Barrista Solutions: During law school, you can see a lot of materials for memorization. How important is memorization both in law school and going to the Bar Exam?
Atty. Yebra: I’m really not a fan of the belief that you absolutely do not need to memorize anything. I do believe there are some parts of the law that require memorization. However, I was never the type to memorize simply for the sake of it. You see, when you read materials over and over again and when you really seek to understand what those words and provisions mean, the memorization part comes easy. You will find it easier to memorize because you deeply understand it or you memorize it unknowingly out of just being over-familiar with the concepts and provisions. Either way, it’s nothing if you don’t understand what you’ve memorized.
Barrista Solutions: In reviewing for the Bar Exam, did you cover all the concepts in the outline?
Atty. Yebra: Yes. The Bar Syllabus is indeed a guide for the barrister, but I never really depended on it insofar as gauging whether I’ve “read everything already” or not. I read it before I study so I could focus on topics that would potentially come out. After reviewing the subject, I’d go over it again just to gauge whether I remember concepts or if there is a concept in the coverage I have yet to read.
Barrista Solutions: Having covered everything in the outline, were there topics that you envisioned or anticipated on how they will be asked as a question?
Atty. Yebra: Of course. When you actively learn while you study and you understand the concepts, it’s only natural for you to ask yourself questions or think about questions that could potentially be asked during the bar. I just regularly stopped myself from overthinking it. The bar doesn’t ask the long, confusing questions the way law school exams do sometimes. It all really boils down to your mastery of basic principles of law.
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. Yebra: I’d have my codal and keep my pre-week selection small. Commit to it. Pre-week materials are basically just reinforcing what you already know anyway. So you don’t need to read every pre-week released by every school or review center. However, my codal and my notes if I had them were really my non-negotiables.
Barrista Solutions: During pre-week, did you still read the same materials that you have read or should candidates move on to materials given to them by review centers?
Atty. Yebra: That’s up to the candidates. But in my case, I had also decided on materials I would read for pre-week like my codal and notes. Other than that, if I had the time to read new materials, I would. But my mindset wasn’t geared towards reading all the new materials that came out. I didn’t want to be confused at a crucial time either. You also have to protect what you already know.
Barrista Solutions: In answering Bar Exam questions, how did you deal with definition of terms? How do you go about it?
Atty. Yebra: It’s always plus point if you know the definitions verbatim. Especially when those definitions are technical. Should you be unable to memorize them word per word, I suggest you at least identify the most important keywords in the definitions. Because from there, the rest of your answers flow.
Barrista Solutions: How about hypothetical questions? How did you answer these questions?
Atty. Yebra: I answered in a very straight forward manner. I made sure they were logical and that I only answer what the question was asking. I didn’t expound on other irrelevant facts that I observed was just there to confuse the exam taker. Read the question first then read the facts. Read it twice. And then answer. Of course, there should always be legal basis. It can’t be pure logic without basis otherwise, even if the categorical answer was correct, it wouldn’t seem like you knew how to apply the law to the examiner. Keep your answers short and concise. Hindi pahabaan ng sagot ang bar exam.
Barrista Solutions: Is it important to enrol in a review center or is it much better to study on your own?
Atty. Yebra: This is really up to the candidate. Some candidates can study alone, others need lectures and what not. For me, it really boils down to the type of learner the bar candidate is. Of course, if he is the auditory type who needs lecture, then enrolling in a review center would be helpful. There’s really no one way to pass the Bar because it really varies from person to person. The important thing is to really be able to understand what you read and also PRACTICE answering and applying what you’ve read. But as far as review centers go, in my opinion, they are able to accomplish their purpose naman. Case updates, chair’s cases and very informative lectures as well as mock bars are a few of the various reasons I’d recommend enrolling in a review center for.
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. Yebra: I think the bar exam moving into the digital space is a change that was a long time coming. For one, you no longer have to worry about your handwriting or your margins like we did. But, of course, what would make this year’s bar exams difficult is the fact that it will be held during a pandemic. So logistically, it’s a little more for the barrister to think about. But in terms of academically preparing for it and answering the questions, I’d say it’s still pretty much the same.
Barrista Solutions: What advice can you give to those aspirants who will be taking the Bar Exams this year?
Atty. Yebra: You have to be wholistic in terms of preparation. The bar requires physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual preparation. Believe in yourself. It’s cliché, I know. But really – you already know the law. You graduated from law school. Its really just a time to consolidate all the knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years. Also, be committed. Know that preparation requires a lot of time, effort and commitment. You have to be mentally prepared to make that sacrifice. You’ll miss out on a lot of things you wish you could be doing instead of sitting down, but know that there will be time for all of that after the bar. For now, fight hard to achieve the goal of passing the bar and always remember that “only dead fishes go with the flow”.
* Atty. Alloysius Yebra is a graduate of San Beda University College of Law in 2016. He is a Law Professor and a Bar Reviewer.
He is currently the Senior Vice President for Risk Management and Compliance of COCOLIFE.