Law school interviews (the neverending saga of trying to get into law school)

I know this might be a tad too late since school has begun in Manila, but I thought it would be good to post about interviews in general.

I have gone through a lot of interviews through the course of my career as the interviewee and the interviewer, and I have to say that just like I have butterflies in my stomach every time I am asked to be the emcee in a program or to speak extemporaneously, interviews get me all nervous.. still.  I think I’m much better at doing them now, but you always try to put your best foot forward.

So one of my legal eaglets (a term of endearment for our lawyer – wannabes) wrote me for having been wait listed in the school of her dreams.  She was being called in for an interview.  I received an email and I responded directly but wanted to share with the others what I wrote.. (my now 41 readers as of last count.. Haha!)

I wrote:  Congratulations! I wanted to answer your questions briefly via email to put your fears to rest.. First thing’s first — you need to learn how to put your fears aside or to calm your anxiety or YOU WILL NOT SURVIVE LAW SCHOOL with this kind of attitude. One rule of thumb I have learned to live by is you need to worry about that which you can control, and let go of that which you can’t. You are thinking too much! DO NOT OVERTHINK IT or you might lose all your hair even before you take the bar! LOL (I’m trying to make light of this.)

1.) Once you’re enrolled and attending classes, does it really matter if you were part of the first list or the second? Do they, in some way, discriminate? NO. The teachers have no way of knowing and it’s too much trouble to distinguish and go through all that.  No one will know unless they memorize the list of waitlisted applicants, and the truth of it is, everyone is out there for themselves.  Even among your peers, no one cares that your name was on the initial list or that you were waitlisted, they only care where their name showed up.  You will find that gender and status and even academic background fall second to how you actually present yourself during recitation, or when the bluebooks are returned.  And being waitlisted doesn’t mean that you weren’t good enough — there were just more who were better.  I’d think of it that way.

2.) Do they admit students who have failed at least one subject back in undergrad if they’re not from UP/ADMU?  (Apparently, eaglet had read up and noticed that some got admitted despite their grades but they are from these 2 schools and she is very concerned about her transcript.). – First of all, I am not privy to the authoritative answer on this but logic tells me it’s your average and performance that will pull you up or down the list.  With the number of applicants coming in, you don’t really go through grade by grade and justify or find reasons to accept or not accept an applicant.

So common sense tells me that YES, they will admit you but that depends on your average. I was from UP and my average wasn’t bad but wasn’t sterling. They will evaluate the transcript whatever school you came from, and that is part of the total calculation of your ranking. Ranking, of course, is relative to who else is on the list. If you end up with so many cum laudes, too bad. If you land with other like minded souls with similar grades, that ups your chances. Also, you have to take into consideration that not everyone who passes will enroll, because some will go to UP, others will defer, or others will change their minds altogether for some reason or other. That is the reason there is a waiting list.  (I really think you shouldn’t be too concerned about the others.  This is YOUR journey and your focus should be on you!)

3.) Would (I) know what places applicants in the position wherein they need to get interviewed? Is it because they aren’t part of the top 150 passers or is it that they may have been part of the top 150 but they weren’t impressed with the documents submitted (transcript, application letter, recommendation letter)? During my time which was a lifetime ago, EVERYONE GETS INTERVIEWED. I passed and I got interviewed. The purpose of the interview is to see how suited you are again to the profession. Some people test very well — I don’t. And yet if you let me speak I can sell myself very well and convince you I’m the best person to put on that list.  And who would bother to remember which names were up for interview?  Do they have this on a list in the halls? And even if they did, that list would be off the bulletin board by the time school opens.  Would anyone really care if the person sitting next to them got in effortlessly or via a Hail Mary pass?  They will only get wind of it if you nervously blab about it, so stop and just focus on you– again!

4.) “Since most of the students belong to families of the upper class, I’m afraid I won’t fit in. Am I just overthinking this? I’m used to the Kwek Kweks, Isaws and Fishballs. I doubt there would be food carts in Rockwell, if you know what I mean. “– You’d be surprised — you might find fishball carts. And yes, when the school was still in HV De la Costa, we ate from them, wearing our dresses and the boys wearing their barongs.  (And we envied the boys who could eat with their undershirts on or without their ties..)

You have such an idealistic picture of law school and Ateneo. It isn’t all that. Or it might be, depending on how it wows you, but really, does it matter?  (Okay, Ateneans, chime in!  Let me hear from you about this..)

This is something I need you to seriously think about. Yes, most of the students will be from the upper class because the tuition sort of gravitates towards that end of the social spectrum. If you are not going to be able to get past that, then Ateneo is not for you. With all the aggravation you will get from the course load, the humiliation the teachers put everyone through regardless of gender, social class or appearance (beauty queen looks notwithstanding, — or worse, a famous lawyer surname which always almost means you get picked on), you have to stand on your own merits.
It is a very difficult and rigorous course. You really won’t even have time to worry about keeping up or all that. But you need to learn to get past that or you will forever be the wall flower too dyahe to talk to the cono kids. You will find yourself feeling envious of those kids with their own SCRA (the encyclopedia of cases which literally costs as much as a brand new car), or their fancy laptops and cars. You let that get to you, you won’t make it past first year.

You aren’t there to compete — you’re there to learn and prove to the teachers that you are worth being in that classroom. When you sit in their classes, all that will matter is that you can answer their questions correctly and coherently.  And believe it or not, even if your answer is wrong, if you can argue your case and give a basis for the wrong answer, you will earn their respect.  Forget that you might have a visayan accent or what not — or that you don’t speak as flawlessly as the cono kids do.   If you can find the right answer and analyze the law correctly, you stand a foot above them. At the very least, you will stand with them. There are a lot of very arrogant people in law school, but you’ll be surprised at how down to earth a lot of them are.  Ateneo included. You haven’t had a dose of Jesuit education if you equate them as being sosyal only. There’s a lot of social awareness in that community. More so in UP. We know we have the brains, we might have the money, but we know we have a bigger world that goes beyond us out there.

5.) Lastly, would (I) know what they ask during these interviews? Do they use intimidation to check if you’re fit for law school or is it your typical job interview type of meeting? Mine was ages ago, and it depends on who’s interviewing. But they are trying to see how good you are — meaning do you freeze when asked a profound question? Can you put two sentences together or do you simply answer with a yes or a no? Are you cocky to the point of arrogance? Are you too timid to answer to be heard? One simple rule: Be yourself.

If it’s for you, you will get in.  (Kung para sa iyo, para sa iyo.)  If it isn’t, that’s the end of the road. But you’re still in the race, so keep going. Don’t worry about the others running with you. Just worry about making it to the finish line.

And for what it’s worth, you can realize your dream to be a legal eagle in any school.  Passing the bar exams is not confined to the top schools.  At the end of the day, it is how you chase that dream and hang on to it for dear life that matters.  If at the end of the journey you find that it is still beyond your reach, then at least you know you gave it your best — trying.  You will be surprised at what you will learn along the way — not only about the law, but more so about yourself.

Remember to focus on you.  Everything else around you — the other students who seem to be better than you (and they may very well be, but who cares?!) — is just white noise.

Let me know what happened and where you landed, H!  Be well.

Related posts can be found here at Lawyer Wannabe (Please see navigation bar.)

4 thoughts on “Law school interviews (the neverending saga of trying to get into law school)

  1. I think that people who passed through interviews are more admirable than those who passed the exam right away, but that’s merely my opinion. If only I read this last year, but some things are just out of our control. Thank you po for writing!


  2. babysteps

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, atty.!

    I am also part of the waitlist this A.Y. and I was told that it’s mainly because I have a high mark on the exam but I have really bad undergrad grades. That being said, they grilled me during the interview and it has been all about that transcript. They were consistent in discouraging me in taking up law but I stood my ground and I made sure I was clear that I really want this, and I deserve a slot. It was ironic how we were talking about such bad credentials but I was laughing with the interviewers.
    I was very anxious at first but then I realized that I’d rather believe in myself and my dream than what name of school would come and pick me.
    Still waiting for the results but I am still grateful for the Ateneo for calling me out for an interview. It wasn’t expected at all, for I come from an unknown international school.


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