By: Archiebald Faller Capila
More often than not, people view lawyers as members of an elite circle. Not only that they think lawyers have superb knowledge when it comes to legal concepts and the like, they also believe that most, if not all, lawyers come from a well-off family.
From exciting novels to eye-catching series and movies, lawyers are often portrayed as those who think and act highly of themselves and those who came from a very colorful and rich background. However, reality begs to differ. Time has been a witness to how some lawyers had to double their efforts in order to reach where they stand today.
The journey to becoming a lawyer, as everybody knows, is hard. However, there are some people who need to go through more than just hardship. There are different levels of pain and sacrifice, especially in law school. While there are students who experience some rough roads ahead, there are some students who need to go through mountains and rise from the rubble.
Indeed, the road to becoming a lawyer is never easy. And to become an esteemed member of the profession, it is only but fitting that we take a look back and discover for ourselves the story behind one of the most respected institutions today—Pros. Freddie M. Nojara.
Working as an Assistant City Prosecutor, a law professor, an author, and a lecturer all at the same time, Pros. Nojara is known to many law students and law graduates all over the country. But behind the grand story that we all know is a narrative that we should understand and put to heart.
In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Pros. Nojara shares his life as a law student, the obstacles he had to go through, some words of wisdom along the way, and the answer to why he loves Criminal Law the most.
Barrista Solutions: Who and what inspired you to pursue law? Looking back, how do you describe your journey as a lawyer today?
Pros. Nojara: My late father was my inspiration. He was the reason why I decided to take up law. He was a “frustrated” lawyer. During his heydays, he ambitioned to be a good lawyer. He wanted to take up law but he came from an impoverished family. He was the youngest in a brood of seven. By the time, he finished high school, his parents were already old and had no financial means to send him to law school. When I decided to take up law after graduating AB Political Science, he was ecstatic about my decision.
Barrista Solutions: What were the greatest struggles that you had to encounter in law school and how did you overcome these problems?
Pros. Nojara: I came from a poor family. I am the ninth in a brood of ten. I have five sisters and four brothers. My parents could not afford to send us all to school at the same time. Some of my older siblings’ studies had to be sacrificed, i.e. two or three of them had to temporarily quit school until others had finished their college courses. Luckily, they were able to hurdle their studies and land stable jobs. While they were working, they had to help younger siblings (including me) to finance our education. In my case, my sister (working as nurse abroad) shouldered my room which I rented in Sampaloc. My other brother (engineer) was responsible for my tuition fees while I was enrolled at San Sebastian College. I was deprived of law books. I was able to get some books for myself. I had to use the books in our library. Since there were only limited copies, I would come early so that I could borrow the book I needed. I spent the whole day inside our library.
Barrista Solutions: What are the lessons in law school that you learned and that you continue to reflect upon in your current practice as a lawyer?
Pros. Nojara: Since I was deprived of these materials needed for my study (such as law books, reviewers, and other references) while I was in the college of law, I felt the only way to pass my subjects was my determination, perseverance, and my will to succeed. I sacrificed a lot during my studies. I shunned those activities (which a teenager like me would do during those times) which would distract my studies. I had to be focused on my studies spending long hours of readings, digesting of assigned cases, and other related activities. I never attempted to court a girl since I had no time and money to support that. When I passed the bar and became a practicing lawyer, I continued these traits I learned during law school. Determination, perseverance, and will to succeed.
Barrista Solutions: The current COVID-19 pandemic has affected the legal profession in general. What adjustments did you make in order to cope with the new normal?
Pros. Nojara: When the pandemic struck us in the early part of 2020, I was already a prosecutor in Antipolo City Prosecutor’s Office. Our hearings were done in a video conference using the internet. Similarly, our inquest proceedings were also online using the FB Messenger platform. On the other hand, our preliminary investigation was conducted in such a manner the parties would not have to come near to us. Moreover, our office adapted this “work from home” scheme where we brought our cases to resolve them at home. We personally reported to our office to sign our resolutions and information before they are filed with the courts.
Barrista Solutions: For you, how does this current health crisis change the landscape of our legal profession? What should we expect in the near future when it comes to the study and practice of law?
Pros. Nojara: This current health crisis affected the legal profession. I have friends who are practicing lawyers who told me that the number of their clients dwindled. Their monthly incomes were affected since people did not want to go into litigation. Their appearances in court were limited to video conferencing.
Barrista Solutions: You are currently an esteemed professor and reviewer of Criminal Law. What made you dwell on such expertise?
Pros. Nojara: Criminal law was my favorite subject in the college of law. In fact, I obtained a high grade in the subject when I took the bar exams in 1993. My background on the subject was enhanced by our reviewer then, former UE Dean Carlos Ortega, who at that time was the most sought-after reviewer because of his expertise on the subject. Modesty aside, I have a good background in criminal law. I adopted the style of teaching of Dean Ortega. To have a good grasp of the subject, one need not memorize the provisions of the Revised Penal Code nor the elements of the crime. All you have to do is read and understand the existing jurisprudence on each concept of the subject. Our Revised Penal Code was enacted in the early 1930’s. Considering that the Code has been in existence for eight decades, the concepts of criminal law are all well-settled. To have a better understanding of the law, law students must have a comparative study of the concepts and felonies in Book 2 of the RPC. As a professor and reviewer, I do not encourage my students to memorize. Instead, I present to them which felonies of the RPC must be correlated so that whenever a question is asked, the students may easily ascertain the proper since they know the distinctions of the involved felonies. As an author of criminal law books, I see to it that I am updated with the current jurisprudence. The study now is more difficult and complicated than during our time in the early 1990s. Nowadays, you have also to study these various special penal laws (SPLs). The current trend now is one should be conversant with the basic rules on the complexing of crimes and the doctrine of absorption. These concepts are helpful not only to law students or bar reviewees but also to law practitioner. It is a must that one should know when to complex felonies with offenses (under SPLs) or when the former can absorb the latter, or vice-versa. The only way to know is to read Supreme Court decisions.
Barrista Solutions: If you could give a piece of advice or any form of message to your younger self, what would it be?
Pros. Nojara: My advice to myself: Do not give up the study of law. I wish I could have more time to take up a doctorate course in law.
Barrista Solutions: How do you see yourself in the future as a member of the legal profession?
Pros. Nojara: I am contented with what I have accomplished as a lawyer, prosecutor, professor, reviewer, law book author and an MCLE lecturer. I hope I will have the energy and time to sustain these activities.
Barrista Solutions: What are your tips for all law students out there dreaming of passing and even topping the Bar exams?
Pros. Nojara: When I was a law student, I met this old RTC judge who gave me this advice: Passing the bar examinations is 99 % hard work and 1 % luck. I believed him. That was what I did. You have to give your “best shot” in your studies. Do not be contented with knowing 50% of the law. Be focused, and be determined to pass or even top the bar exams. It is only a matter of attitude. If you are really that determined, you will hurdle all of these hardships and failures that you may encounter in your journey in the legal profession.
· Pros. Freddie M. Nojara is an Assistant City Prosecutor for the Department of Justice. He is a well-known figure in Criminal Law being a law professor at several colleges and universities in Metro Manila. He is also a Criminal Law Reviewer for widely recognized review centers and is a Professional Lecturer as well. He is an author of a handful of Criminal Law Books available at Central Books.