The imprint of a lawyer in eight passwords

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

I was in Manila last May 2 to attend the oath-taking ceremony for new lawyers at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) Plenary Hall, accompanying the wife as she and other successful 2022 Bar examinees officially became full-fledged lawyers.

The ceremony, an en banc session of the Supreme Court, featured a particularly moving speech by 2022 Bar Chairman Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa. I wish to share the highlights of Justice Caguioa's speech with you, inspired by the very deep message of Don Quixote mentioned in his address --to see life not as it is, but as it should be. And in our context, it is to envision the legal profession not merely as it exists, but as the noble and just pursuit it should be.

Justice Caguioa shared eight passwords used by the examinees to access the exams on their laptops, each representing essential qualities that make a good lawyer. These passwords were taken from his personal favorites and carried significant meaning not just for the examination but for the entire journey of becoming a successful lawyer.

On the first day, at the very start of the Political Law exam, the password was "The game is afoot, Watson." In the afternoon, during the Labor Law exam, the password was, "Use your little grey cells." These first two passwords come from the world of fictional detectives Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, respectively, who represent critical thinking and the importance of deductive reasoning. As lawyers, cultivating these skills is crucial in their practice. Lawyers must continually sharpen their analytical abilities and mastery of language as modern-day gladiators fighting for justice, said Justice Caguioa.

On the second day of the exams, during Criminal Law, the password was, "We matter to God," in alignment with the subject of crime. The full quote is actually, "We matter to God and only God knows why." Justice Caguioa said in jest that he had to shorten it as some examinees complained that his passwords were too long and difficult to type.

This phrase is attributed to Father Brown, a fictional character who serves as the protagonist in a series of detective stories by G.K. Chesterton. Father Brown is portrayed as clumsy and naive, yet he possesses a sharp mind, keen insight, an aptitude for careful observation, and a profound understanding of human evil.

While Sherlock Holmes is an intellectual, Father Brown is a spiritual man, said Justice Caguioa. Holmes focuses on solving the crime without concerning himself with the criminal. In contrast, Father Brown is interested in the criminals' souls. He empathizes with suspects, and by trying to think and feel as they do, he successfully captures them.

Lawyers must remember that beyond the adversarial nature of their profession lies another human being. Justice Caguioa said: “In the process of being your client’s gladiator in an adversarial proceeding, please remember what Father Brown intuitively understood. That on the other side of that adversarial proceeding is another human being, a person who matters to God, even as we don't know why.”

“This to me puts the proper perspective to what lawyers ought to do in the practice of the profession,” Caguioa said. It is not so much to win at any cost, but rather to see the adversary as one who has his side of the story to tell, his own right to be heard.

In my next column installment, I will discuss the fourth through eighth passwords. Along with the first three mentioned in this article, all of them embody the imprint of a lawyer.

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