Teaching/Studying the Law in the Philippines

Atty. Rami Hourani

I’ve had the good fortune of teaching in the University of Cebu as a member of the faculty of law. Over the months which I’ve had the opportunity to teach I’ve learned some new things and rediscovered what I’d previously taken for granted. These are a few of them.

The Power of the Roteness

The power of the law is in its ability reduce things to the lowest common denominator. That million dollar contract that is the length of a book and covers large chunks of a conglomerate? Contract of Sale. How far can the police go in an arrest? Bill of Rights. How do I make someone pay back their debt? Demand Letter then Complaint.

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

To harness the power of that paradigm though, you need to have an unthinking understanding of the Law. What you know must be so deeply engrained that you can recite verbatim what you studied with only the smallest of prompts. The challenge to this though is there is no intuitive understanding of the law.

Allow me to explain, legal principles are very powerful but they aren’t anchored in any objective reality. You drop something, it falls to the ground. Why? Law of Gravity. If you make less of something, people will pay more for the remainder. Why? Law of Supply and Demand. You murder someone, you go to jail. Why? Because the Law said so.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

This means that, as an intellectual exercise, the study of the law is not very appetizing. However, once you’ve given yourself the knowledge of the law befitting a lawyer, you give yourself two very important things. First, you become a vacuum for the information that other dismiss as irrelevant or esoteric. Second, you can play with the concepts in your mind and see opportunities where others might see only walls. This is power that few will ever be able to claim to.

The Cost of Ignorance

In law school, they are selecting for certain traits. More than most any other they are looking for intellectual rigor. The lack of intellectual rigor is the trait of ignorance. Ignorance as a trait is very costly. However, it can cause you to lose everything if that trait is taken to a court room. It can be disastrous if made the feature of a lawyer’s practice.

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

I don’t give students bad marks for answering badly. I give anyone who gives me anything approximating a legal answer a passing grade for that question. There are however two things that I cannot let by: first, a failure to understand the question; and second, a refusal to answer. Lack of Comprehension and Refusing to Attempt are the two greatest sins a lawyer can commit. We must understand, and when questioned we must answer. The life and property of our clients may very well depend on our ability to respond in that moment.

The Burden of the Judge

At the end of the semester, despite the jokes and jovial nature of the students. There comes a time to give the grades. This is the most difficult part of the teaching job. Despite the good memories, we must ask ourselves if the person gave a performance befitting that of a lawyer.

Photo by Kind and Curious on Unsplash

It is the solemn responsibility of law professors to nurture and nourish the student’s over the course of the semester. However, part and parcel of that is letting them know if they have strayed from the standard that was expected of them. It is not a responsibility that can be enjoyed though.

It is not something I enjoy doing, becoming the stumbling block in my student’s law school experience. However, nothing great was ever achieved without sacrifice. There is little I can do during the semester to encourage my students to change the way they might be approaching law school. The clearest and only message I can give them is the grade they get at the end of the semester.

I hope you all enjoyed this peek into my mind. If you are a law student for whom anything said here might want engender a question in. Don’t hesitate to drop me an email. I promised myself that I would be as helpful as possible to anyone who is persevering through law school.

Atty. Hourani practices law in Cebu City, PhilippinesIf you would like to set an appointment with him, you may reach him here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *