By: Archiebald Faller Capila
In these troubling times, the study of law has become more taxing in the sense that law students are obliged to change their known methods. In the past, law students are trained in a traditional sense that they study in their respective libraries and preferred study places. In addition, they meet their professors face to face and learn from them various legal bits and knowledge.
However, because of the current health crisis the world is going through right now, the practice of law and our legal education changed its approach as well. From utilizing digital platforms to adapting to the new normal when it comes to teaching and learning, law schools are now looking for ways in order to continue giving quality education.
Indeed, it is not only law students who are gravely affected by this transition but the law professors and law administrators as well. Law schools all over the country are now adopting innovative means and measures so as to connect with their students and teach them the law in a grand manner.
And because different law schools have different histories and cultures, they still try to impart their respective brands of teaching in their respective institutions. Law professors try to connect more to their students. Law school administrators try to implement policies and regulations for the benefit of their students. Most importantly, law school Deans think of ways on how to sustain the quality of education they give while adapting to the new normal.
In the long list of law school Deans all over the country, Dean Rico Paolo R. Quicho stands out as one of the most progressive lawyers handling a law school. Currently the Dean of the Universidad De Manila College of Law, Dean Quicho shared his thoughts on the current state of legal education and how law schools are adapting to the current state of teaching and learning.
In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Dean Quicho shares his experience as the Dean of Universidad De Manila College of Law, his inspiration on why he pursued law, his thoughts on the practice and study of law in general, and his message to all aspiring lawyers.
Barrista Solutions: Who and what inspired you to pursue law? Looking back, how do you describe your journey as a lawyer today?
Dean Quicho: Both my parents are non-lawyers. They have always inspired me to strive to be better, and their sense of fairness and felicitous relations with others have been my first and barest concept of justice when I was growing up in our province of Bataan. Looking back, my parents’ upbringing and nurturing of me and my younger brother have greatly contributed to my pursuit of a law degree.
My journey as a lawyer would not have gained ground if not for the love, patience and unconditional support of my mother, father, brother, wife and family. They have always been the driving force of my law career. I owe a lot to them. They have been with me through the peaks and valleys of my life. Special mention would also go to my mentors when I was starting with my career. They have given me opportunities and elbow room to grow and explore the legal profession.
Barrista Solutions: What is the greatest lesson that you learned in law school? How did your experience as a law student mold you into the lawyer you are today?
Dean Quicho: Be humble, patient and always grateful. We are only as good as our last recitation and examination or pleading and hearing. There is always space for improvement and self-development. Once you become complacent and conceited, that would be the start of your downfall in law school, and in practice.
I struggled in the first few months of law school because I lacked focus and commitment. When I met my wife during our law school days and thereafter had our son, these experiences gave me the right perspective and motivation to never give up and work hard to finish what I started. That is why I always tell my students to never look for excuses but rather find the proper motivation to push through 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 Quicho: Adapt and be creative.
It was not only the daily operations of businesses and other industries that were disrupted but also the legal profession. To the younger ones, when you see the bigger picture, it should motivate you to stop complaining and start working.
Technology has a way of levelling off the effects of the pandemic to the legal profession so we need to embrace and enhance it to help us with the unusual work load and mental fatigue of a work and study from home set-up.
Barrista Solutions: Accordingly, one aspect of the legal profession which is gravely affected is our legal education. As the Dean of the Universidad de Manila College of Law, what programs and policies do you implement in order to adapt to the new normal of teaching law?
Dean Quicho: As the new Dean of the UDM College of Law, I made it my first priority to know the situation of my old and new students — how they are coping and what issues and concerns they are facing.
Our students and professors were all caught flat-footed by the sudden need to shift to online learning. Students were not spared from this intriguing dilemma to replace physical classes with synchronous and asynchronous activities.
The end result of this “new normal” in conducting classes is not only physical strain but also mental fatigue for both students and professors. Long hours in front of computers, laptops, tablets or even smartphones place a great toll on the eyes and diminishes attention span while the constant anxiety of not being able to join class due to poor internet connection, lack of proper equipment or not having a conducive study area prove to be mentally taxing to students.
So, at UDM College of Law, we need to ensure a smooth implementation of a blended learning methodology and embrace alternative ways of outcomes-based instruction which veers away from the traditional and, sometimes, archaic teaching methodologies. Our revamped roster of faculty will properly and timely utilize these best practices now enjoyed in online classes to jumpstart our program.
So expect learning through creative ways, more collaborative and self-paced learning activities to be implemented in UDM College of Law. I will encourage engaging activities that will help our students learn while easing the pressure so that our students will remain focused and attentive to our learning objectives.
Barrista Solutions: From your own point of view, what should law professors do in order to effectively teach and connect with their students in this time of a pandemic?
Dean Quicho: My rallying theme is “teach and mold” so our UDM College of Law professors would work on the process and not immediately on the results.
I will have listening sessions with our students to reassure them that they are not alone in their journey. At this time, our best ability is availability to our students.
Recently, I started a podcast, “The MaLAWpet Show” that gives a platform for students and professors to interact, know each other, and bridge the gaps of uncertainties.
I always say that the greatest challenge to our legal education is inertia but with new learning initiatives and out of the box activities from professors, we could harness the diamond in the rough with the immense pressure brought about by the pandemic.
Barrista Solutions: You are currently engaged in teaching law in various institutions all over the country. How do you compare the status or landscape of legal education then and now?
Dean Quicho: In Philippine law schools, professors were so used to the traditional Socratic method, quizzes and exams.
The Socratic method has been a tested way of ensuring proper learning and retention of legal concepts, principles and jurisprudence, at least in the first few years of law school. However, with the change to online medium of instruction, we have witnessed schools trying different online video conferencing platforms to continue holding classes, recitations and examinations.
On the other hand, a lot of studies have shown that lectures in class are among the least effective methods of deriving the needed core competencies and enhancing the skills set required of law students.
From what I experienced when I took my Masters of Law at the University of California-Berkeley Law, creativity and innovation are needed in order to provide students with an inclusive learning environment. Being in law school is a sui generis experience since law students are not only groomed to graduate but also to prepare them for the arduous and challenging bar examinations. There are no compromises here. Both professors and students are expected to do the heavy lifting in order to achieve meaningful results.
Barrista Solutions: For you, how important is the role of law students in upholding the rule of law in today’s time?
Dean Quicho: Law students are always groomed to be our next leaders, captains of industries and important members of the society.
As law students and future members of the bar, keep the strands of vigilance and activism on certain sectors of the society that have been neglected by prejudice and discrimination and help those that have been deprived of fair and proper representation by greed and insatiable thirst for power and money.
Barrista Solutions: Aside from being the Dean of a law school and teaching law in other institutions, you are also the Founding Partner of the Quicho Law Offices. How do you manage your time in attending to your different duties and responsibilities?
Dean Quicho: Just by proper time management and sheer hard work and passion to persevere for God, family and country. Anything less is a great disservice to my children.
Barrista Solutions: If you could give a piece of advice or any form of message to your younger self, what would it be?
Dean Quicho: Be more discerning with the people you trust. Not anything that glitters is gold. Earthly and material possession contributes to the folly of youth.
Barrista Solutions: What are your tips to all law students out there dreaming of passing and even topping the Bar exams?
Dean Quicho: The grind is the glory.
As you prepare for the bar exams, always remember that the hours you spent studying for your classes will help you face the challenging bar examinations. You have come a long way to be in this position of achieving your dreams. Let not anyone deprive you of it. Make this moment as your motivation to leap towards your dream of becoming not only lawyers, but great lawyers for God and Country.
· Dean Rico Paolo Quicho is the Dean of the Universidad de Manila College of Law. He was also the former Dean of the University of Makati School of Law. He is the founding partner of Quicho Law Offices. In 2017, he was nominated as one of the Young Lawyer of the Philippines in the Asian Legal Business.