Almost three months have passed since the beginning of this school year and I must say the experience so far is generally painful. Before entering law school I had this fantasy of what law school is all about. As an aspiring student I have had this innocently conceived idea that law school is going to be a great place where I will be building my dreams of becoming a lawyer one day. But upon entering law school and a few weeks thereafter, it turned out that this fantasy of mine is all just that: a fantasy. Law school, after all, was not what I expected. It is physically, mentally and sometimes spiritually exhausting; stress is the order of the day. It is a place where getting low grades are a normal occurrence; failure is surprisingly understandable and sometimes something not to worry about, at least instantly. If there is a place not for the faint-hearted, this is undoubtedly the one. Clearly, law school is very different from the fun, friendly and welcoming place I imagined. It was a complete culture shock which, thankfully, I am slowly recovering from.
Such was my understanding of the law school I am in, until that day where our class was having a recitation in our subject Statutory Construction. Our teacher in the subject is Atty. Victorino. I find her nice, a woman of class with a good sense of humor. She is firm and handles the class fairly well. I have no problem about her except of one little thing: her presence intimidates me. She is a woman with a demeanor that commands respect but so much so that for some unknown reason I am intimidated. During our first meetings, I have thrown in some jokes in class from time to time; I thought it is a good idea to level her intimidating presence. It was not effective.
And so here we are having this recitation in her class. Like a normal law student I sat on my chair praying not to be called at all. And I mean ?at all.? But apparently God was busy attending to some other prayers and so I was called to recite. As I stood up my knees weakened: a profound confirmation that she indeed intimidates me. The topic in the class that day was about the enactment of laws. And so the question was, and I remember it vividly: ?Can Congress pass a statute that is, (a) prospective (b) retroactive or (c) both?? Upon hearing the question, time stood still and I went blank. My heart beats faster than normal and I felt like running away. I was desperately holding on to my reason at that moment but as I see her my reason is failing me. I therefore closed my eyes and considered the question again. I thought that it was a multiple choice question so at least I got a shot. My line of thought that time was that prospective statutes can of course be passed by Congress as it is mandated by the Constitution to pass laws that would promote common good and advance public welfare. But I am not as sure as to laws with retroactive application as there is a prohibition against ex-post facto laws. Then suddenly, our teacher in Persons and Family Relations subject Judge Hernando crossed my mind. As I remembered, he said and in fact it was written in the book, that Congress, in addition to passing prospective statutes, can also pass retrospective statutes so long as (1) such law is curative or remedial (2) such law is merely procedural (3) such the law is penal in character but favorable to the accused and (4) such law expressly provides for its retroactivity (I actually forgot this one but one of my classmate provided the answer). So I answered letter C to her question, that is, both prospective and retroactive laws can be passed by Congress provided that the limitations concerning retroactive laws are observed. She appeared surprised with my answer and asked: ?Really?? She was obviously testing me if I can defend my answer. And so, with all the courage I can muster, defend my answer I did. But she was not impressed (though I know that she knew my answer was correct). She even appeared irritated by my answer and all I can do was to make a forced insincere smile. I felt stupid! And so it transpired that here small engagement in shaking my answer was not yet over. She asked me a follow-up question. She asked: ?Why is Congress prohibited to pass retroactive statutes?? she was referring to ex-post facto laws. I was blank again; she got into me for the second time. She was hasty for an answer this time so without thinking too much I answered: ?[it is prohibited] because the Constitution says that it is against the due process of law.? True enough, my answer was right because she smiled upon hearing my answer. Ex-post facto laws are against due process of law, and therefore, the Constitution, as they make innocent acts criminal, inflicts greater punishment and so on. I got 90 as a grade for that recitation. The grade was more than a relief, it was a vindication. I sat down with a smile on my face, a sincere and a satisfied one this time.
Having such an experience made me think that law school is not that bad after all. Truly, you will find its good traits if you look closer and not focus on its bad side all the time. Not because it appears difficult it necessarily means that it is bad altogether. As I discovered, law school is a replication of life itself: it has its good times and its bad times as well. It is fun, friendly and welcoming not in a conventional way but in a professional, candid and challenging way. You just have to look for its beauty not by normal eyes but by the eyes of wisdom in order to fully appreciate it. There you will see something special, something worthy and something that is readily available to make you better. We ought to have longer understanding to things that initially appears unlikeable because sometimes they are the ones who are more valuable.