It finally happened. No bar topnotchers will be announced for the upcoming 2020/21 PH bar exam. It took a pandemic.
Since I was in law school, there has been a clamor for the removal of the annual fanfare of announcing bar topnotchers. Days after the release of a bar exam result, media outlets are awash with interviews of bar exam topnotchers.
The usual question and answer surrounds on: (1) how did they do it, (2) how they feel about the result, and (3) what are their plans. True to form, and like a playback recording, most will answer: (1) they did not really aim to be a bar topnotcher and simply wanted to pass the bar exam and thus they studied, studied, and studied more; (2) they are exhilirated and overwhelmed learning that they passed and overjoyed knowing they aced the exam becoming a bar topnotcher (again, they did not aim for it); and, (3) they plan to do meaningful work, such as becoming a publiv defender at the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) or some other Government agency.
In other jurisdictions, their bar exams ar simply a pass or fail system. Either you pass or you fail. No bar topnotchers. After all, the bar exam is not a competition where individuals are awarded trophies for being 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on. It is a licensing exam with the objective of evaluating an applicants qualifications on whether he/she is fit and suitable in becoming a lawyer.
As for the PH bar exam making this transition, you may want to curb your enthusiasm. The removal of the bar topnotchers is pro hac vice. Meaning, it is only applicable this time or limited to the 2020/21 PH bar exam. Thus, bar topnotchers will return in the next bar exam unless this is extended (as the pandemic will likely still last by then) or be permanent (which is the better direction).