(Easier read than done)
A collaboration with Cas Fama

There are lots of people who would like to make their law study efforts in order. And we seem to have frustrations finding one sure-shot solution to our legal wandering because not even the Rex Bookstore sell any law student’s guide into studying law. There may not be any hard and fast rule about it, but a simple guide would at least paint in you the gruesome but delightful pace in a law student’s studying life. Turn it on!


Before anything ridiculous, prepare your peace of mind. Irrespective of what time of the day you are studying or where in this planet you are comfortable to indulge yourself into burning your brains out, behave yourself as if you are a student of yoga and as if you have attained for yourself some kind of industrial peace for the sake of it. Alright, I will try to explain what kind of peace of mind I’m talking about.

Sometimes it’s important to ask yourself, am I in the right environment to study? Well, basically, if you’re in your study area, then this is a stupid question you’ll say so. But, come to think of it, even people in the library find it difficult composing themselves on how to focus. Now, focus is a very sensible thing in this endeavor we are conspiring to do into action.

So asking yourself if you’re in the right environment will not take you a lifetime right? Or it may be quicker than your last estrus period with some opposite alien in front of you right? Then, just look within you if you have that comfortable gut from where you want to study. Comfort means, if you are inside a crowded library, not having to boggle your mind whether or not your seatmate or the people at the back is staring at you and saying some comments or murmurs like they are judging some kind of beauty pageant where you appear to be the Ms. Congeniality, if you know what I mean.

What is peculiar to people within a crowd is that they start to think what others think. That’s obviously paranoia in its strict sense. Hey, would you just mind your own business and proceed with your life? Run your motor and drive normally. Leave to them what they want to think and do. If you start thinking about what they think, you better consult your shrink, you’re definitely not comfortable.

On the other hand, comfort in private place does not have to be like what comfort meant inside that book cemetery. Unless you have some kind of freaky spirits wandering around your room. Sorry to mention that. But, sometimes it’s good to have company while studying, although not necessarily some supernatural beings. So when you are in your own room or a place where you have some privacy, comfort will come easily. Just remember, it’s not a license to sleep when you’re on your own “studying.” One of the most important things to remember here is that you should not fool yourself out of your own expense.

What is seemingly parallel between public and private study area is that you should unload yourself of that simple things you ought to do. Walk in and sit down without anything to think but to study. That’s great yeah I know. No life issues, no calamity sentiments, no sweetheart glitches, no monetary cracks, no nothing but your mind on your subject and your subject on your mind. Without no one forcing you, behave in a manner like a very guilty pleading criminal on the verge of stupefying a voluntarily surrender. Yes, we need cooperation between the outside forces and your mind. Study time is a period of ceasefire between you and the world. If you can already handle that, wherever you are, you are probably in one of the suitable environments to study.

You see, a stinking place is not a suitable environment because basically it stinks. A cafeteria sometimes becomes a suitable place to study; only, it will involve some higher level of focus and ceasefire. The park is also a good study area when it’s not raining. And even more if there are no bodily distractions around like a scantily dressed super celebrity humanoid. Just don’t forget to bring a lamp in the evening.

Furthermore, a noisy place is different from a place with a light music. Music and studying can actually be harmonized when you can stop thinking about what you hear but instead blend it with what you’re focusing with. But if it’s noisy, then how can you even think of what you hear and finally think clearly? Maybe we’ll end up with a chocolate pineapple pie with some raisins over it after you put some gelatin which messes up when you suddenly thought about your worst hair-do. There’s no loud thinking in a noisy and unruly place. More often than not, you’ll find yourself involved with the noise until what you just do is justify those noises and it’s really stupid.

Truly, a good study environment is a place where you can have all your senses focused only to what you are reading and synthesizing. When it’s noisy, as I’ve said, your ears will be compromised with what it is hearing. When it’s stinking, your nose will somewhat have a small brain for itself and start nagging your mind to debate. When it’s hot or cold beyond usual tolerance, your sense of touch may be impaired and all you do is think of buying a new electric fan or a new sweater soon as you can. Of course, you’ll start to think of the prices and all where you can find your needs. This ends and corrupts the ceasefire.

Some bring food, it’s alright as the stomach should also be worshipped. And it’s an easy way to keep yourself awake if you study during wee hours or even in a very boring dog day afternoon. Only, do not overload your tummy with those food supplements. Like the nose, if your tummy is overloaded, your brain will start entertaining the elements inside your stomach and will definitely set aside what your book wants you to digest. That’s scientific, I guess.


We can define focus as a mind set where you can walk blindfolded in a straight line in a satisfied manner that you are in a sound pitch to make the first step. Yes, it’s all about that first step because no one is assured that their minds will not sway during that whole blindfolded walk. Just the first step and if you can handle that, you are in a ready position to start reading and actually gaining knowledge.

Like motors, we need to have that key. That key, for all we know, is needed to start that engine to run the motor. Studying as a whole is like running the motor. We treat the key here as focus. In short, we cannot go on with studying without first having that focus secured in our mind. No key no run. No focus no study. Well, of course, this learning is different from what is commonly known as learning based from experience because it’s good for another topic.

Study for all we know is that whole lotta ride. We need not dig much deeper into what study meant and how it is shoveled. What is important anyway is that we have the slightest idea what study is. Learning, education, knowledge or whatever you call it. It is, for this matter, the same and treated alike.


Nevertheless, I have focused my discourse to share my own miserable way of studying law. As I see it though, I ran out of cigarettes and that’s not at all bad because it’s the Eve of Everything and there’s not much stores to buy anything from. It killed me.

A. Sleep. Yes, they say sleep is something precious. But anyway for me it is only one sure way of escaping reality for sometime that in the end you may surprise yourself you’re still alive and later on realize again and again that there are more things to do than waking up in the first place. In law school, sleeping isn’t a much talked about topic. Maybe because it’s nonsense to them. Sweetdreams.

B. Treating subjects. Bear in mind that you should not discriminate studying habits according to the professor you are under however unfortunate your lineup is. Whether he is an ultimate ego-tripping machine or a typical high school teacher, the point is that your legal subjects remain the same. What you will face in the real world of legal catastrophes cannot be changed merely because you think the professor is a former maximum security warden. The codes you are deciphering remain the very same codes irrespective of the professor teaching it.

Yes there are teaching technique differences. But your way of studying and preparing for the day’s battle should not be that different if given the chance to be under other professors teaching the same subject matter. What I mean is that there should be consistency in the effort. Treat everything important because each and every subject anyway has its divine connection with each other.

Learn to accept that there aren’t any choices given to any one law student. If ever we have one then that is choosing to study law above anything more romantic and worthwhile. To indulge into law or not, that is the choice. But after that fact, we should realize that we have already consumed that choice of indulging into this lawful discourse as we are already here and should start liking everything under the Philippine legal system, in whatever form or substance we may find them; in however way they may excite us.

I say there are more benefits to think this way than to blame the incorrigible live band speaker preaching like a guilty criminal in front of us. Anyway, we should just be doing our part as students. Nevermind the professors. Their business is to be there for us but we have no business to be there for them but with all fairness to yourself, nevermind too this very imaginary fear against any professor.

In political law we have learned the doctrine of equal opportunity. That is basically how we should treat all our subjects under all given professors. If you have Dean Aligada in front, do not wish he was someone like Atty. Gonzales or Atty. Bolivar instead. That’s what basically I am pointing out. If they may have some differences, I say those differences aren’t in any way material and substantial. Why? Because there is no such a thing as New Civil Code X Version or New Civil Code Y Version or New Civil Code Z Version. That’s odd enough to happen. But I say most of the students make it happen that way.

Look at it on the even ridiculous point of view that some people and Samaritan societies have notes on every professor in town. Yes that is helpful but the effects are only aggravating the fears. I wish they consolidate those notes and try to harmonize them all, charity begins at home right? That if you don’t have any notes for that particular professor, more likely you will grunt and die every recitation session. On the other hand, if you have notes and still study in a way that the New Civil Code still remains without any amendment from any professor’s notes, then you are on the right track.

There are students who complain that if your subject is a 2-unit subject under this very vain professor, your subject actually becomes a 5-unit Halloween masquerade subject. That’s awesome right? Yeah. We should cut this notion as early as now. If that is a 2-unit subject then give it a 2-unit study time and treat it as such. I am not saying that treat it lightly as what I say treat your Roman Law. I say study it smoothly in a 2-unit way meaning lesser time than what you dedicate to a 5-unit subject.

If you think you really feel like the professor is turning the 2-unit subject to a 5-unit one, then I say you are not on the standard studying format yeah whatever. Meaning, your studying style isn’t consistent. Meaning you have favoritism among your given subjects. Hello? We have no choice right? So why make a stupid favoritism thing? Favorite because the professor isn’t that strict in classroom recitations? Not strict with grammar? Not strict with legal bases? Not strict with the school uniform? Relax and forget favoritism just do what you have to do and you’ll smoothly breeze through. Sometimes it’s just trying to realize that you are not prepared and not that your professor is strict. If you start thinking that way then you start shifting the blame from your professor to your own misgivings.

C. HOW TO READ LAW BOOKS. Law books are presented in a manner that there is a codal provision like an Article or Section or Rule, then followed by the annotations of the author and some examples to flex your mind. If you happen to see a book presented like this, then more often than not, that is a law textbook.

SCAN THE TABLE OF CONTENTS. This is basically one of the few things that you should try to organize before you start reading the book for the first time. It’s like buying a house or a new car. Inspect the thing in its generality and check its route. Like a fieldtrip, take a tour of the whole book using only the table of contents. That way you will know what is included and peculiar in that book compared to other subjects or maybe so compared to other titles dealing with that same subject. Later on in your study you can gauge yourself and your class if you have already covered substantially what the subject is all about. Indeed, the table of contents gives you a bird’s eye view of what a particular book has in store for you. I wish they sell cigarettes by now.

Imagining within verses means applying the codal provisions to real life situations or to plain examples like if you read Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code your mind should tell you that there’s somebody like Filguy killed Rene by cutting his head while the latter was sleeping. Treachery precisely. And this imagination should happen simultaneously while you are reading the article. Remember that all laws are worded in a simple grammatical structure so that a man with a common intelligence can appreciate it clearly without pain of consulting Mr. Webster and Justice Paras.

Now if you cannot imagine any single thing with what the law is saying, after trying a million times, then start consulting the annotations for that matter. With this I am impressing the point that you should first try to understand the codal provision relying only from your mind. Because if laws are worded in a way that a common man can understand, then why in the world can’t you? Not to mention doubting yourself if you belong to the “men with common intelligence” thing. Doubting oneself is not a bad thing for later on we will deal with reflections on the law you are “digging.” If you don’t belong among the “men with common intelligence,” don’t take it as a downer dude, we have Justice Holmes right? The great dissenter right?

But yes maybe you have a “hint” of what the law says, only that you do not clearly see its ramifications. This is where annotations come in. Open your mind and welcome your book mentor, the author’s point of view and his learned researches. But take note that there are a lot of controversial provisions in our legal system where noted commentators and renowned jurists differ in their very own interpretation of the subject matter like Art.488 of the New Civil Code which is under Property. You should be alert on sensing controversial provisions so that you can exhaust your learning to the fullest.

Now why try to imagine the verses first if we have the author’s comments? Precisely because it brings you affirmation and confidence. If what you have imagined is the same with what the annotation dictates, then you’re starting to build a legal mind which becomes a strong foundation to a wise legal opinion later in your legal career. Not bad right?

READ BY CHAPTER / TOPIC WITHIN A CHAPTER. Do not content yourself with reading 10 articles as what your law professor assigned you all to read for the next discussion. That’s not healthy. But anyway we cannot blame our professors why they do that. Nevertheless what you should do is try to read by topics. Meaning, if that 10 articles covers 2 complete topics then it’s good. But if that 10 articles covers only one incomplete topic then try to finish the topic even if it will mean continuing the reading up to 15 articles for that matter. This completes reading and makes you truly understand the topic at hand. Do not chop it up irregularly because trying to look back at the table of contents, it’s already chopped up. And that’s what the law is, no need to further chop. Porkchop.

If, however, the 10 assigned articles covers two or three topics the last topic being unfinished, always try to finish it. That’s the way you should treat assignments and that’s how you should read. Read not by the number of pages but by topics. Why so? Because page numbering isn’t at all important. 30 pages to one author for a certain topic may mean only 10 pages to another, which doesn’t in any way impair your learning as they may have their very techniques which will suit our individual minds.

It’s like I’m saying do not count the articles rather just finish the topic. If the topic is killing a person under the Articles in the RPC, then deal with all the killings involved because basically that is under one long chapter of Crimes Against Persons. When you encounter long chapters like this, remember that there are subtopics in it. You can figure it out what are those right? Now, what is the import of this? The catch is that there are as many kinds of killings (murder, infanticide blah blah,) as there are situations you should fit your knowledge about killing.

Remind you that annotations are just aids in learning not the learning itself. So if you feel like the author is going merry-go-rounds with the topic and actually being soberly redundant about summertime, drop it. Move on. Don’t feel guilty that you haven’t read about what the author said about summertime. I mean if it’s off-tangent to the topic and a blatantly redundant explanation, save the time hippie, start turning the page!

Further, studying law isn’t just studying article by article or section by section. Provisions aren’t given for a certain topic if they do not relate with one another. Why not try this? Treat all provisions in a given topic as if it is a whole provision. We should be in fact grateful the code commission subdivided the provisions into many parts for otherwise our brains would surely blast off in vain. What I’m trying to say is, always correlate the provisions with one another. The law is One. Yup, that’s right. With a capital “O.” thus, it should be treated and dealt with as One. With this tip, one is assured that graded recitations and even everyday interactions would not be very difficult. Why? I’ll tell you why. Imagine playing a guitar with only 2 or 3 strings and try doing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” I don’t think it’ll ever sound good. Not even close with “G” of good. But if the strings are complete, then a harmonious music would eventually emerge. That is of course if you have the talent.

Anyway, same principle holds true in the study of law. You should not be contented of having read 10 articles of a 15-article topic. That is half-baked reading. Substantial compliance is not always healthy. It is like going to war with a shield but without a spear or club. Worse, it is like premature ejaculation. Whew!! The beauty of knowing the entire topic helps law students more particularly in recitations. Some professors may have the habit of asking provision by provision. But it would be most helpful to know the entirety of the topic. That’s the best way of preparation.

In this concern, Blaise Pascal’s the Doctrine of the Wager is applicable. When you study provision by provision and the professor asks provision by provision, then you are very fortunate. But when he asks any where in the topic, you are surely doomed. But when you know the entire topic, whether your professor asks you any provision regarding the topic or provision by provision, then you’ll be glorified or whatever. So what’s the best thing to do? The point is, it is always best to know the entire topic before you ever open your mouth and recite. Of course, in the long run, knowing the entire topic would surely help you in your practice of law soon. Indeed, reading the entire topic is placing you up a giant’s shoulder for there you can see the entire reality of the field and its repercussions.

GENERAL TO SPECIFIC. The law is presented in a logical manner. Not to mention some illogically crafted laws, well there is a handful. Logical in a sense that first it gives you a general insight, the general idea of what the law is all about. The foundation which should be laid down before the entire house may be built. Like the Civil Code, it gives you rules and exceptions to apply at all times. If you notice, the law will first deal with the part which will lay down the grounds for further specification which will be repeatedly referred to in further specific topics in the law. In short, general objectives come ahead of the specific ones. Presented in a manner that when unfortunately you get lost in the middle of the forest-like specific provisions in the law, you will always have the general principles to back you up and surely bluff your way out of the legal juxtaposition of being called to recite unprepared and numb. But do not overuse that style unless you wanted to be called a Recto Lawyer in the making. That’s not the point actually. The point is that, in trying to understand the specific provision, always remember that that specific provision is only an amplification of the general one and should always be in consonance with what the general provision has laid. Simple right?

RULE AND EXCEPTION. In the study of law, you will always encounter these two ideas: the Rule and the Exception. These two are always present in every topic. So in deciphering articles or sections you must be aware between the rule and the exception. With this way of thinking, you will not be confused with what is the character of the provision you are reading. Like what I’ve said before, correlate. And correlation is the key to squeeze out which provision is a rule and which one is an exception to the rule. Also, there are perversions to the exception which in a way becomes a rule by itself. This perversion is called the exception to the exception. As I analyze it, it seems to be more mathematical of an expression. Negative multiplying a negative is positive. Okay cut the crap.

Absolute rules are very rare in our legal system. Even rare, they are outstanding. The long line of legal rules anyway is always subject to a rule that exempts. This “rule that exempts” is also specie to this dichotomy of separating which is which. Just take note about it. What is similar to them all is that they have their own respective ambits. They apply not simultaneously but successively. Meaning, not at the same time but one at a time distinctively. They cannot overrule each other. So be alert also with situations that they are called upon to make order.

DECIPHERING. You see the law is all but grammatically presented and not mathematically endorsed. Deciphering is either made by reading (and eating chocolates along or having a cigarette on one hand) or manually taking down your own notes (with the chocolates and the cigarette too.) Let’s deal with taking down your own notes rather than reading. Reading and understanding it that way is classical and summa cum laude typical. But jotting your own manuscript is the sure shot effort, lest martyrdom.

The law is normally presented in a paragraph form. There are as many sentences in one paragraph. Notwithstanding that, as a rule in grammar, every paragraph has its own lead sentence. And that lead sentence will be the guide for you to know the main idea that the paragraph would like to point out. That is the civil law style except maybe when special laws come in like the Negotiable Instruments Law which provides for its own lead sentence at the outset. Really it’s easier to understand what the law is saying when there are available lead sentences at the outset. You just content your mind with what the lead sentence provides and don’t wander anywhere outside that fence. Because wandering outside that fence is wandering out of the main thing that the provision is pointing out. In that case, you will find your brain chewing some other provision. Well so to speak that’s not at all bad because you’re definitely trying to correlate. But make it sure you are correlating and not trying to impress yourself that you have understood the provision but in all truth and in fact you have mistakenly absorbed a different provision because you went out of the lead sentence’s fence. That’s the risk of correlation we all have to burden ourselves with. Welcome to the critical thinkers’ club compañero!

Usually dissecting is needed when you come across a lengthy provision. Actually, it’s simply like eating fish, do not eat the bones just the meat of the fish. And before you can do that, you must dissect the parts right? You can’t just swallow the poor fish. Do it slowly, and with delight. Wrap your hands at it and lick it to the top. No, seriously this lengthy paragraph is simply a group of sentences. This group of sentences is all basic. Meaning it all supports only one lead sentence. That’s it. If you can draw it so that you can easily grasp the visual presentation, which for your information is easily to understand unlike just reading it, then better. You can also highlight the familiar words in it (like consent and delay in your Obligations and Contracts.) That’s to ease out your eyes with the astounding height of the lengthy paragraph. Make yourself realize that sometimes the law is superfluous and redundant. Make yourself realize that there is nothing to fear with lengthy provisions. They are lengthy because some codal writers forgot the use of sub-paragraphing and bulleting or numbering the points they wanted to say. Live with it. Just do not be paranoid of these kinds of bulky provisions. Easy as Sunday dude. If that is not lengthy, you will probably find more articles in that law right? So dissect all you need to and do not complicate your easy Sundays, it’s just not cool to do that okay?

READING A CASE. There are only 3 things to remember here: The Facts, The Issues and The Ruling. Many students fail to appreciate that if you recite/read a case, you should do it in a tenor which will suit the present provision of the law you are discussing inside the class. Meaning if it’s a political law subject, do not deal with anything remedial if that’s not the political law issue that your professor wants you to learn. Good if that remedial law issue is the political law issue itself, but if it’s not, in all cases, do not include anything remedial in the facts, the issues and the ruling.

Facts. Say a criminal case; just recite the set of facts vital to the issue. What is that vital set of facts then? In criminal law, it is the elements. Put the elements into motion. Like X killed Y with a knife at nighttime while the latter is sleeping. Just that. Do not anymore include what the trial court said, what the Court of Appeals said. And god forbid if the dates aren’t necessary elements drop it. That’s a perfect waste of time yeah. Because in the ultimate analysis, it’s only the elements which will be presented for decision. Weed out the stupefying funny facts but don’t forget them. If it’s a long case of loan, just drop the amounts and say something like, X obtained a series of loans totaling P1M issuing several promissory notes therefore and at the maturity failed to pay. Do not anymore specify each loans obtained. That’s again a perfect waste of time for chrissake. Likewise, do not anymore say these words “The RTC ruled in favor of the prosecution,” and later on “The Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC,” and finally “So X appealed to the Supreme Court.” It kills me. Just the relevant things man. It’s just as simple as A and B or X and Y just that. Note: do not apply this to sensitive professors who have their very typical way of making you recite including the RTC Judge, branch, and all who handled the case and even the ponente of the decision. It kills me too.

Issue: The issue is something like “whether or not” thing. That’s the standard way. But you can say it in a direct question answerable by yes or no only. Focus your issue on the subject matter. Even upper class students fail on this point – to focus the issue on the subject matter alone. Leave the irrelevant issues to the bollocks. And state it very simply. Do not recite facts in the issue. Also, do not make an issue which is not found on the set of facts you have just said. It makes some “what the hell” thing in the professor’s mind and my mind if I’m your classmate. Kills me again.

Ruling: Again, the decision must answer the issue narrated in the facts. Sometimes the decision is only a one sentenced passage in the whole of the case. Just always try to remember, the decision must be supported with something in relation with your subject. Do not recite a decision of political law in character which will be supported by a remedial law rule. Make your decision in consonance with the issue.

Now brace yourselves to the phoniest part of our program. Yes we are in one helluva legal education. This is one helluva roller coaster ride of our lives. Once you set in and grab that book and start reading after making some “focus” and “peace of mind” whatever things, you should set that mental attitude of always asking yourself why.

Why, why, why, and why. Nonstop. Why? Because we should at least narrow the gap between what is actual and what is ideal. What is happening in the real world and what is confined in the holy scriptures of civil law? This is some sort of a higher correlation not between provisions but between reality and the law. That’s just the most worthwhile thing that I admit I do when I study legal subjects. And it always wants to make you vomit in tears to realize the many perversions of truth we are feeding our minds at. Fooling ourselves at our expense. Ouch.

Inside the class, your professor wouldn’t want you to just recite the case or read to him a lonely sleepy provision. He wants you to correlate the provision with the actual practice or actual events in our community. That’s important in our legal education because that’s basically where we will be in the very, very, very near future. And maybe start building your own theories as there are so many legal provisions which are yet without jurisprudence. Or even with jurisprudence but a very unstable one. Take note if the case was decided en banc or just with a 5-man team. That bears something to the actual practice whether it is susceptible of being overturned in your time when you face the Supreme Court by then.

Asking why isn’t at all painful. That should be the habit that you have to build while studying. It helps a lot when you are imagining how the provision works and in time you will see yourself equipped with that legal mind to solve actual controversies without the necessity of referring first to your book. I remember Atty. Enriquez said to us that “Every conceivable thing that may happen has its legal implications.” That’s true and that’s the way it is. If you cannot appreciate this fact of asking why all the time, then maybe you do not fit the legal course, maybe you can somehow fit where you do not need no asking, just doing ministerial things. We should not be raised like that in the first place. So even if the professor just sticks to the provision, do not take away from yourself the habit of asking WHY.


The study of law is not limited to complying with the requirements given by your professors and passing the course and consequently, the Bar. It is not a matter of memorizing every provision of the laws and become a lawyer. Studying law is all about having the knowledge of law. Knowledge, on the other hand, entails a deeper sense of meaning. It is understanding and analyzing the essence of every rule and applying such rules in your life. The study of law is about studying life, its whereabouts and its future.

All men are created equal yet distinct from one another. We may have differences in the way we deal about things particularly in the way we study. The endeavor just presented to you is just one of the many ways in facing the world of law and its study. This method of study is not absolute and you may have a more suitable and effective way of studying. Follow that method if you are comfortable with that. Yet, after reading the entire article and after going through these pages, what bad can it give you if you at least try to think about it and apply it? Who knows, it is the method of study you’ve always waited for. Better yet, why not consolidate this method with your way of study.

Let us not therefore be the obstruction to the educational process. Let us travel the complete metamorphosis of the justice system. All these are because we are the Lady Justice’s dream. So put down your past. Pick up your future. Follow me as we journey to the Red Sea because I have been to the mountain top. I have seen the Promised Land. Mine eyes have seen the glory! My spirit has been delivered. My mind has been reinstated to the traditional pen and paper work. I have been emancipated. Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!


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