What is it that is so daunting that I noticed, many young people these days dream of becoming lawyers but shudder at the thought of pursuing that dream?
I guess I find it surprising because I had known I wanted to be a lawyer since I was in high school. I always tell people I went to College only because I needed to do it to get to law school. There were no lawyers in my family, and other than our family lawyer, the late Atty. Victor Hugo, I really had no interaction with members of the legal profession except in shows like Paper Chase. But I knew in my heart that I wanted more than a college education. I wanted the title, I wanted to learn about the Law, and although I was proven wrong after I finally got it all, I thought I wanted to be a trial lawyer. (That’s another blogpost altogether..)
I make no bones about the fact that my years as a law student in Ateneo Law were some of the more difficult and challenging times I’ve gone through. I did not learn how to commute until then, I never worked a day in my life until then, and I was humbled by my personal circumstances in so many ways. But I pursued my dream.. and now I live it.
Although I am not a practicing lawyer, I have always held the belief that you are one forever, once you are one. You have a different appreciation of life in general as you view government in a more technical sense, as you see the legal machinery move, and you find yourself looking at issues differently. You don’t lose the emotion, but you learn to temper it with the objectivity of the rationale behind the law — you never lose the legal perspective. Although my life now as a mother and wife and a working woman in a field totally unrelated to the profession doesn’t utilize my legal knowledge, I don’t feel like I’m any less a lawyer living my life the way I am living it now. I know who and what I am, and I am proud to have accomplished what I have.
But going back to the pursuit of that dream. I realize now that many young people considering further studies in law fear the rejection of the most prestigious schools in the land — but one must realize and keep in mind, that there are other legal luminaries who form the backbone of the academic teams behind the other schools who have produced good lawyers. And one will never really know if one can pass that entrance exam until one takes it.
Getting into law school and finishing the course is just half the battle — passing the Bar Exams is another major hurdle one must deal with. I know I’m not making it sound any easier writing about being a lawyer the way I am discussing it here, but I made it despite so many odds — and I know anyone who puts their heart and soul into it will make it as well.
If you can write sensible sentences in English — forget how your English sounds as long as it is grammatically correct — if you can put two and two together and have a knack for memorization, and if you truly want to embrace the Legal profession, then go for it.
I did not have spectacular grades in law school. I was put under probation on my second semester because my performance in the first year was dismal at best. Yet I managed to survive the four years of law school despite being a full time working student — and I successfully hurdled the quality percentile index (QPI) requirement of the Ateneo School of Law to the very end.
Do not commit the mistake of evaluating how good your chances are in law school based on your performance in college. The pressure is different, the standards are higher — and if you nurture that dream in your heart, you will find yourself working harder. I didn’t have any study habits to speak of when I stepped inside the halls of the HV De La Costa Campus of Ateneo back in 1989. But soon I was writing notes feverishly, even transcribing the lectures of our professors word for word from tapes. I learned how to write digests in a concise way, relating the story in an easy to remember fashion and zeroing in on the issue and the basis for the decision.
We all have our gifts. We each have our strengths. I wrote well — sometimes good enough to justify a wrong answer because I was able to explain my own rational behind my choice. But I had classmates who could remember minute details and put together supporting facts from various bodies of law even if they spoke English with a heavy provincial accent, or if they had a “p” and “f” defect. I had classmates who could read through chapters and chapters of the assignment in one night without losing it to neverland when they wake up the next day. There were those who could memorize provisions of law and quote them verbatim without much effort. The only thing that we had in common between all of us was that we all wanted so badly to become lawyers.
And even after all is said and done in law school and your grades are in, you start with a clean slate when you sit down to take the Bar Exams. I have a high regard for all those who dare to take the Bar Exams — even those who have taken it more than once. In Ateneo, you shudder at the thought of flunking because you know you will be remembered and everyone will know because the passing average is so high that only a few don’t make it. You pray to all the saints that you won’t be one of the few who will have to join next year’s bar review class again. But then when you think about who have flunked, you realize that some of the so-called brainier ones have had their bad days, too. So in the end, if not for the fact that there were so few, you realize that failure, as it goes for life in general, happens.
Disappointment and failure are part of everyday life. It’s how we deal with it and strive to overcome it that matters more. If you have a dream in your heart, I believe you will be a bigger failure if you do not pursue it. Even those who have continued to take the bar exams over and over again deserve our congratulations. They have kept that dream alive in their hearts, no matter how elusive.
So I say to those legal eagle wannabes out there — you’ll never really know what stuff you’re made of until you take the bold step of daring to find out. I dare you to try and pursue that dream to fruition.