Is it your dream to become a lawyer someday?
The road to being an attorney is no easy feat. A huge amount of time and energy is required to grasp complex cases, prepare for class recitations, and, of course, the Bar exams.
Released by the Supreme Court on Dec. 5, the 2023 results showed 3,812 passers out of 10,387 takers of this year's Bar exams held in September.
If you're hoping to "claim the dot" next year, take inspiration from some of the 2023 Bar topnotchers who shared with PhilSTAR L!fe how they prepared for one of the biggest exams of their lives as well as their plans moving forward.
Mark Josel Vivit (2nd place)
Mark Josel Vivit of Ateneo de Manila University placed second with a rating of 89.12%, and he said it was all about maintaining good study habits.
“My method of studying is reading the materials first and understanding them, then writing them on my notebook,” he shared with L!fe.
“Once I finish writing everything on my notebook, I would try to memorize all my notes there by highlighting them and marking them with my ballpen,” he said, adding that he did it every day from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and go back to it around 7 or 8 p.m.
Vivit also shared that he did not force himself whenever he didn't feel like studying since he knew it would only be counterproductive for him. “Ending, aaralin ko siya ulit,” he said.
While the routine worked for him, Vivit stressed that effective study habits vary for every student.
“This worked for me, but I suggest that you find your own study habit that works for you to get better results,” he said, stressing that “your study habit must fit you personally.”
When asked about his plans after the Bar, Vivit said he's looking to explore different fields of law with the help of his mentors at Tolosa Javier Law Firm, where he is currently employed. He also plans to pursue a career as a professor.
Frances Camille Francisco (3rd place)
For Frances Camille Francisco, a graduate of San Beda University who placed third with a rating of 88.91%, acing the Bar exam was “a dream come true.”
Since she aimed to be one of the topnotchers from the start, Francisco made sure to excel starting from her first day in law school, living by Qui-gon Jinn’s iconic line in Star Wars: “Your focus determines your reality.”
“I poured my focus and energy not only to become a good law student, but to excel,” she told L!fe, sharing that she diligently followed a routine to be able to balance her studies with work.
“I wasn’t a fan of shortcuts. I really did the hard work because becoming a lawyer is my dream. I figured since day one, if I’m going to do it half-baked, perhaps I shouldn’t do it at all,” she said.
Her preparation included aligning her reading schedule with that of her review center. She also made sure to attend other lectures and take mock Bar exams to recharge her mind from time to time.
Francisco also made sure to regularly consult with her mentors and get some much-needed support from her family.
“I was fortunate to be guided by brilliant minds in fulfilling my dream,” she added. Although her schedule was jampacked, she shared that she also made it a point to take breaks “to prevent fatigue during the Bar week proper.”
After achieving one of her biggest dreams, Francisco plans to pursue a career in the corporate world, focusing on taxation and commercial law.
“By continuing to grow professionally and expanding my legal knowledge, I hope to contribute to society’s quest for fairness and justice in this particular field of law that I aim to enter into,” she said.
David Joseph Flores (5th place)
David Joseph Flores from De La Salle University shared with L!fe that he only hoped to pass, so it was a “delightful surprise” when he found out that he placed fifth with a rating of 88.55%.
According to Flores, he focused on studying the bar in a practical manner, which he said would be helpful for his future law practice. Part of his routine was testing his knowledge by answering mock exams and previous bar exam questions without notes on hand before correcting the areas he misunderstood.
“I detest any form of route memorization since it only wastes time; the better alternative is to always integrate each new concept with one's prior knowledge, forming a big picture of how each concept interacts with each other,” he continued, adding that this habit made the review fun and memorable. “This nontraditional approach is not only helpful in preparing for the bar, but also helpful in making myself ready for law practice.”
He added that he also made time for sleep and exercise, stressing that doing so helped him keep a healthy and sharp mind.
“I am a firm believer that a healthy body makes for a healthy and sharp mind. I always make time for quality sleep and exercise to prime myself for learning,” he said.
After achieving such a feat, Flores said that he's looking to explore and gain experience in different fields of law. However, he’s mainly interested in commercial and tax law in particular.
“I am inclined in providing consulting services to corporations, policymakers, and other institutions as I gain more experience in the field,” he said.
Ralph Vincent Samaniego (6th place)
UP Law's Ralph Vincent Samaniego, who garnered a rating of 88.47%, admitted that he didn’t expect to be one of the topnotchers of this year’s law licensure exam.
“I was truly shocked when I found out that I placed 6th in the Bar Exams,” he said in a chat with L!fe. “I wasn’t even on my own radar given that I graduated without Latin honors and that I was not even among the Top 10 of my batch. I really did not see it coming.”
Sharing how he prepared for the Bar, Samaniego recalled studying for eight to 10 hours and allotting one hour for fun and leisure each day.
He also had his own study group, as well as two “unusual” habits which greatly contributed to his success.
“First, I would use the wall or the air as an imaginary bulletin board. Second, I would read my notes aloud in a British accent to remember them better,” he shared.
After acing the Bar exams, he shared that he plans to practice corporate law, working under the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala and Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW) starting January 2024.
Pio Vincent Buencamino (8th place)
For Pio Vincent Buencamino, a University of Santo Tomas graduate with an 88.25% rating, making time for leisure and getting eight hours of sleep were just as important as studying.
“As a nurse, we were taught to take care of a person holistically. That is what I implemented during my law school and Bar review,” he shared.
Buencamino also noted the power of prayer, which greatly helped him with his preparations for the 2023 Bar.
“Dean Divina drilled into us to study as if everything depended on study, and pray as if everything depended on prayer,” he shared with L!fe. “Therefore, I prayed every day before beginning my readings.”
Buencamino plans to specialize in commercial law and maximize his learnings from his current firm before he pursues a teaching career in law school. (with reports from Brooke Villanueva)