Dream and Live the Dream

I am happy to welcome those legal hopefuls who manage to stumble into this space in their quest for answers or enlightenment, neither of which I claim to offer — but I am happy to share my two cents’ worth based on personal experience.  Some queries I end up answering straight away in an email, and others I try to postpone for a blogpost here. While some end up unwritten or unpublished, there are topics and questions that I just have to share.  How many times do we find ourselves reading something that we identify with, because we hear our voice in another person’s story?

Several weekends ago, this came my way. Reading it before my morning cup of coffee and being fully awake would’ve normally merited only a cursory reading, but it came out so loud and clear that I read it from start to finish right there and then.

“I am N, a  24 years old probinsyana who found her way to Manila in her pursuit to be in the legal profession. I stumbled upon your blog through searching online about the feasibility of working and studying law at the same time. That was the first post I read from your blog. It inspired me so much that I started to work on my application at ALS.

There are many things that I have to consider in my pursuit to become a legal eagle. One, is the financial stretch. I also came from an Ateneo school in the province but my legal pursuit is something that I do not want to be my family’s financial responsibility anymore as my single mother is already old and gray. And so, I am currently on a job that pays me 20 thousand a month with the pressure of achieving a monthly quota not to mention the almost three times a week fieldwork.

I’ve read in your post that you encourage us the hopefuls to try to apply in different schools as well, I’ve thought of UP and PLM but my heart really belonged to the Ateneo. And so, I applied for jobs nearer in Makati and eventually got an offer to become a compliance officer somewhere in Ortigas, the pay is 50% higher but the risk of giving up my current job to embrace an altogether different job with no assurance yet that I’ll be accepted in the Ateneo scared me.

Now, I find myself in the crossroad and the what ifs. I know deep in my heart that the l am meant to pursue law. But it feels like with all the moves that I can possibly make to get there, the risks are too high. I do not have a safety net in case things don’t work out the way they should be, and that is the main reason why up to now I have not made a career move yet.

Chasing a dream is not only challenging but sometimes a lonely road to take. Reading your blog kept me from focusing on why I decided to endure this job and live in Manila despite a comfier life back home. To be admitted in ALS in itself is an almost impossible feat for me; taking into consideration my finances and TOR. But the thing about dreams is that when it hits you, it hits you hard.

I hope to hear from you, Atty.

Kind Regards,

N”

And the Pinay New Yorker says..

This reply took a long while and for this I apologize. I have always been careful Ispeaking about life in general because I am aware that it reaches a deep note within those who read what I write here. But here I am.. and here goes..

I have always said each of us has our own story to tell, and while I do not judge the way emails are written or how a message is conveyed, there is much that is said by the way a legal eagle wannabe writes me. I told N that this was one of the best emails I have received, for being clear, to the point and well written as a whole. It is by no means perfect, but if you’ve gotten this far in reading this post, then you know what I mean.

The pursuit of a legal education is by no means an easy ride, and the only way to truly survive it is to really want it so badly you will fight to make it to the end– literally. There are many obstacles along the way, on top of the very demanding curriculum in whichever school you choose. To make it, there many sacrifices one has to make.

I was a working student through most of law school. It was not easy traveling around the country and juggling schoolwork and case loads with all that, along with a 9-5 job when I was in town. My work-life balance was non existent but I knew my priorities. I was working not to work and build a career, but to see myself through school. So the paycheck was relevant, because it allowed me to pursue my dream.

Switching careers or jobs is never an easy choice. But you have to consider that a job offer means the hiring party saw potential in you. Sometimes, the most unlikely field choices turn out to be life changing moves that bring us closer to where we want to go. Or, and I say this with caution– the switch makes us see a different picture altogether, pointing us in a totally different direction.

I know that you would’ve made your choice by now. I know, too, that is likely that you chose to stay. If you ever come across such an option again, I would grab the higher pay. Law school is a very expensive undertaking even if you can borrow books, get hand me down reviewers or have the time to live in the library to study there in person. It is not only an intellectual and emotional investment, but more importantly, it is an economic one.

If you ask me, work in any shape or form is a distraction from school. If one has no choice but to work and study at the same time to pursue law, then let’s make the distraction that work is, worth the aggravation. Goose the one that pays more. You don’t want to be saddled with the rigors of work on one hand, and the expense and mental weight of memorizing and reading all those books and cases on the other. To make it, you have to make it clear that work is just the means to get to your dream.

And again, the choice of school matters not just as far as which one is the best. You have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and see what works best for YOU. Not what works in the eyes of your family or in your view.. but what actually works for you.

Schedule wise, financially, standards (QPI be damned), location. If Ateneo can work and granting that you do make it, then go for it. But if it doesn’t, the Ateneo is not the only road to making your dream come true. Being a working student means being able to make both schedules work. It means working with half the time a full time student has to study– and cramming everything into what pockets of time you find. It also means working on finding a way to make the expenses of law school fit into your budget. And I’m talking about every day expenses, not even the tuition fee.

I can feel the heaviness on your shoulders as they sag reading what I am writing here. I am not trying to discourage you– I just don’t want to sugarcoat the situation because it is far from a joyride. If it is a lawyer that you want to be, then you focus on that dream and everything else will have to be a means to get to that. There will be a lot of stumbling blocks and wrong choices made. But if you are focused on that dream, you will be able to pick yourself up from each fall and keep going.

Choose your schools and take the entrance exams. Let’s see which one(s) accept you and then you lay down your options. Look at things objectively from all viewpoints. Do not let the financial consideration be your only parameter. What if Ateneo accepts you? What are the other options open to you?

I wasn’t the only working student and you will not be the only one. There were even others who were working and who had families to take care of. Dads and moms. And it wasn’t just in the Ateneo. Other schools offer executive classes which mean going to school Saturday and Sunday. I have many friends who are now teaching in non-Ateneo schools and they are imparting their Ateneo and UP legal wisdom in schools like Arellano and FEU. Those students should be proud to be learning about the law from these distinguished lawyers– and I say that not because they are dear friends from even before law school, but because I know the length and breadth of their expertise and legal experience speaks volumes of their worth.

Again, look at what works for you. After all is said and done, it will be your choice, your dream.

Ps. Related posts can be found in LAWYER WANNABE where there is a list of previous articles on the topic.

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