Back when I was in Law School

The rivalry between the two foremost law schools in the country has been there since time immemorial.  Funny how we sometimes have a “cross over” professor who has the distinction of being a teacher in both schools.  Both are usually very parochial, sticking to their own roster of distinguished alumni to staff their faculty which is their pride and joy.  While most of us hated our professors for their arrogance and condescension, I later appreciated all that they made us go through when I left school.

Of late, UP has been topping the Bar which is really no surprise at all.  And while I have no access to the passing average, I know that Ateneo remains very consistent in having a higher passing average than the state university.  UP will say it’s because from day 1 on, the Ateneans are taught to answer the Bar, and the state scholars are taught how to be lawyers out in the world.

It’s been a decade since I left the halls of the Ateneo School of Law, and it wasn’t the sprawling grounds in Rockwell then but that solitary building on H.V. De La Costa street.  My choices for law school were only between UP and Ateneo, and I make no bones about the fact that I ended up in Ateneo because they saw something in me that UP didn’t.  (That’s not sourgraping, that’s  a fact.) 

My days in law school saw me inventing study habits that I did not have in UP where I managed to coast through on my gift of gab and my ability to write.  By my sophomore year, I was no longer being chauffered to school but commuting for the first time in my life — a nerve-wracking but humbling experience that eventually saw me skilled enough to cross the Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue end of EDSA in front of Dasma in my heels even late at night.

I entered law school after extending 2 years in college, so I somehow managed to have 2 years of world knowledge over my classmates.  They were surprised to hear me defining what a “midnight decree” was when it was not in the text books — which was simply street smarts combined with my ability to say something coherent which sounded like it was memorized from some text book.

Right about the same time I learned how to commute, I started working part time to help me with the mounting expense of books, photocopying, and dressing up according to the Corporate attire requried by Ateneo.  I also learned how to eat balot to help me keep my strenght up as I studied late into the night, waking up to hit school, then repeating that over again.

By my junior year, I was working full time and traveling to boot.  There were days when I would come to class and would be unable to give an answer during recitation for the simple reason I wasn’t able to read the assignment.  From working as a newscaster on RJFM to ending with a stint in an Advertising Agency before I took the Bar, I managed to supplement the costs of school as well by writing digests or summaries of the cases which were assigned by the professors, typing them up at work and then charging for the photocopying or print outs.  It helped me study for the lessons in advance, write coherently and succintly and find some additional spending money.

One memorable part of being in law school is how I would fall in line in the cafeteria with my dear friends Onggie and Reagan, just to make lambing that Onggie get me the arroz caldo and Reagan get me the puto.  One of the boys was behind us and asked in jest if I didn’t have any money, to which I replied that my payday was still a day away.

Those were humbling days indeed but I saw myself through law school somehow.  Although I finished law school in 1994, I postponed taking the Bar because I did not have the resources nor the time to stop work and study full time for a heads on review.  By 1995, my Mom begged me to take the Bar and told me that she knew God will provide.  And she assured me just as any mother would that it would be alright if I didn’t make it.. the important thing was for me to try..

So I filed my application before the deadline in June, and I took a leave of absence from work only the week before the Bar month of September.  (The Bar exams are 4 Sundays.)  I will reserve the Bar Experience for another post, but suffice it to say that it was not an easy task, but I made it.

I never really practiced law but have dabbled in Corporate Communications instead.  But in my heart and mind, I have achieved what I have always wanted to achieve — pass the Bar, and that is what makes me a lawyer, body and soul.  When I came here to New York, I made an agreement with Alan that I was putting aside any legal aspirations as I wanted to start a family.  Perhaps when Angel is grown up, I can go back to that one love.. for now, I have a greater love I’m nurturing.  After all, I know deep inside me — once a lawyer, always a lawyer.

Related posts can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE which can be found in the navigation bar.

0 thoughts on “Back when I was in Law School

  1. Hey…it’s me again. I just discovered this post of yours. Hey, I’m also a graduate of Ateneo Law School…what batch are you? You speak of Reagan….I often hear his name from my friend eric declaro…you know him??? Well…coincidence schmoincidence.


  2. breezie

    Perhaps this is 18 years delayed, but just the same, I want to congratulate you for your determination and hard work. I just graduated from Ateneo law and currently reviewing for the bar. I know how difficult it is, and so I admire you for enduring law school while working full time. 🙂


  3. les martin

    hello ms. dinna, i read your blog and found your entries really interesting. I was just taking a short break this morning from studying and came across your blog site. truth be told, what caught my attention was the fact that you were from ateneo law school and now living in new york. you see, right now I’m reviewing for the bar exams after having graduated from ateneo law, plus, I really am seriously considering taking the new york bar after this. i was wondering if u have any advice for me since you’re a lawyer and you’re living in new york now. there are quite a number of us who plan the same thing, and we’ve researched a lot regarding the requirements for the new york bar. So far, we’ve heard that the Barbri? review center in NY is the best law review center, that the exams are held twice a year (feb and july), and that ateneo and UP law grads can automatically take the bar exams while grads of other law schools need to take 19 units of law courses at a U.S. law school. my mom wants me to meet up with an immigration lawyer here so I can acquire a more detailed set of information regarding the requirements for pinoy grads. truth is, m quite torn because I also think that working here in the philippines for a local law firm might be more advisable before taking the NY bar, plus, it would be helpful if i save up a little before going there since based on our estimation, it would cost around P800K-P1M to enrol at a review center, rent an apartment, and spend for necessities and law materials for a period of 5-6 months. but my worry is that if i start working here, what if I end up getting stuck with my job and not being able to uproot myself anymore to move to NY, also, what if the privilege granted to law grads of ateneo gets revoked in a few years. i have no idea what NY is like. the only relatives i have in NY is a cousin who’s living with her husband and her baby, but they dont reside within the city itself. My older relatives like aunts and uncles live in New Jersey.

    I was hoping u could maybe give me some idea on what it’s like to live in NY for fresh pinoy grads like us, and perhaps share some information regarding law practice there. =)

    I also find it interesting that your interests include communication and the arts since my major back in college (loyola) included english literature and com arts. I also went through the same experience of passing the UP law entrance exam but got rejected during the interview phase. no regrets there =) i love ateneo, i had the greatest time and met the coolest friends =)


  4. taft

    i enjoyed reading through it. By the way, I’m a college student from your rival school along taft ave. Before I was admitted in La Salle, I considered Ateneo as my dream school in college. Though, I have no regrets afterall. Now, I still have one year to finish my pre-law,economics, though I’m uncertain that I could pass either UP or Ateneo Law School because i really am not fluent in English especially when it comes to oral communication. I’ve been psyching up for a couple of days preparing for this. Can I have some advice how to admit in those law schools? Thanx!


  5. kai

    Angel , hey, i’m glad u liked ms. dina’s blog. And since most of you seemed to be from ateneo law school i would like to ask your help pertainig to advices and tips on passing the law entrance exam. This would be of great help to an aspiring athenean law student. Thank you.


  6. Roanne Calizo

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I’m from Maryland, an Ateneo Law School aspirant. I was wondering, would I be able to take US law bar exams if I graduated from Ateneo? Besides passing the bar exam, what else would I need to practice law in the US if, say, I graduated from Ateneo? Thanks a lot.



  7. scottie

    nice to hear that a fellow ateneo law alumnus is here living “buhay amerika” hehe! when did you graduate? im from class 2005, just passed the bar. im here in california right now, planning to take the CA bar maybe in a year or so. can you give me some advice? id appreciate it, if you did. im planning to work as a paralegal in the meantime.. do you happen to know any law firms of fellow ateneo law alumni here?


  8. Dinna

    Scottie — I am not actively involved with the Ateneans here but I know they have an alumni association. You might do well to hook up with them. I will write you privately..


  9. Krizia

    Hi Ms. Dinna,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m really learning a lot from it. I’m an incoming freshmen at Ateneo Law School and I’m also a UP graduate like you. I hope I can also make it through law school while working part time, as you did. 🙂


  10. Dinna,

    Well, I flunked the exams.. for reasons I do not know.
    I’m thinking that maybe I asked the wrong people for the recommendation forms, or maybe because I graduated from a provincial school. Though possible, I don’t think I failed Ateneo’s Entrance Exam, the only exam I took.

    Currently, I have a year to waste. Everyday seems so bad because I never expected my plans to be altered.
    I do not know if I’ll try taking the exam again this October, but if ever I do, I hope the Ateneo won’t consider my other insufficiencies, like graduating from a small university in Pampanga and just being an average income earner.

    Since I was a boy, it has always been my dream to finish at Ateneo Law School. I’m just hoping that they give me a chance to prove my worth.

    Your blog entries continue to inspire me. Thanks always!


  11. Peter

    Yam, if I remember correctly, Atty. Cesar L. Villanueva, the Dean of Ateneo School of Law, also graduated from a “small” university in Pampanga. 🙂


  12. prince

    I’m a freshman at the Ateneo.
    I need your encouragement…
    A lot of horror stories have been told about how the professors treat or, shall I say, maltreat their students. One time, I was called for recit by our consti law prof. The question was about a certain case assignment. Well, considering the big pile of such, I think that it would be just normal that we won’t remember everything that is written in the case. The thing is, the moment I stood up, I got mental blocked (plus the fact that I am not the most eloquent speaker that you can find) and I only remember me saying a sentence and stupidly repeating such thrice. My professor reacted negatively saying that maybe I should back out because I cannot express my self well and we are expected to be such, cosidering that we are at the ATENEO.
    My heart was torn into pieces and I really considered dropping and withdrawing from the school the very same day.
    The truth is, there are some job offers and I am now tempted to bite. But it is really my dream to become a lawyer…


  13. Anonymous

    The only thing I hate about Universities is the damn entrance exams. Passing an entrance exam does not necessarily mean that the student will perform exceptionally well once admitted. I have had a hard time scoring high in entrance exams mainly because of the time pressure. I know I can perform superbly as a student. But as an aspiring student that has to tackle a TIMED exam? Hard. Consequently, graduating in Ateneo Law School has been my dream ever since I could remember. And DREAMS mean HARD WORK. Thank goodness there are posts/forums/blogs like this. Makes US aspirants a couple of steps closer to realizing our dream.


  14. hi there. I know my comment is a bit late. I’m about to take my entrance exam in Ateneo college of law in a few weeks. I do hope I pass. And your posts are very inspiring. Truly God has provided you with great blessing and I find your posts inspiring. =)


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