Feedback on Feedback from M

I have been meaning to respond, but that is taking me forever and a day. So before this “gets away from me” and I am left with a half finished post, I thought I’d share with you a heartfelt and most heartening shout out from one of my 34 readers. The email below is unedited and cut and paste from his original comment.

Before you read on, I just want to say it’s emails like this that makes me feel I am doing something beyond feeding my need to journal online, and write for myself. That maybe– just maybe– I am helping someone else and paying forward what good has come my way and spreading positivity and love around.

Response coming soon.. promise.

M wrote:

A glorious new year to one of the most influential people who helped me change my life and shape my inner self 4 years ago. You pushed me to become the person that I am today, and for the person that I will become in the future.

It’s been a while, Attorney. I have countless of things to thank you for, but I think there’s going to be a perfect time for that (fingers crossed). Right now I just want to tell you how much I appreciate everything you said here in your blog including your personal message to me, and that all the things you said about life (law school in particular) were on point. It kept me moving forward even in roads I never thought I could possibly survive. So thank you. Thank you so much for bringing out the best in me. It’s been years since I read your blog and right now I could only wish that I should’ve visited this during my times of struggle. To bring you the good news, I’m now in my senior year in law school, a full-time regular student, still in San Beda Mendiola, struggling to have the best of both worlds since 2014 (full-time work and school so I could afford my fees). You really made a huge impact in my life (and you still are). Among others, I pray for your happiness and good health this 2018. Should the stars align soon, I hope I can help you publish your inspirational book for lawyering hopefuls in our country. You are truly a gift, a gem given to this world by our ‘big boss’ above. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR EVERYTHING!!!

My inner fire burns again: huge, fiery hot, in crimson red! same as what I had when I went through my 1st year in law school like an eagle diving to get his prey with absolute precision without dropping his focus!”

Thank you, M.

More posts like this one on trying to become a lawyer or thinking of being one can be found in the Lawyer Wannabe tab on the header menu.

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,


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.

To be a working law student

I promised a post on this even if I responded via e-mail, going back now to what is the most popular topic (young) people who find themselves in this corner of the web actually read up on.  (Just a reminder that there is an entire section devoted to the posts on the subject of law school and being in law school or trying to get to the right law school and everything else legal eagle related here.)

While I’ve edited out details that might be too revealing, I want to thank the young lady who wrote me with this query:

Let me start by saying that this is my first time to write an e-mail to a blogger. I have never done this before, but I need advise on how it is to become a working student in Ateneo Law School (ALS).   I started working last year and I have seen the importance of gaining work experience, training hours, and money, which is why it is hard for me to give up my current job. Currently, my mindset is to try to have the best of both worlds (I know this will be super difficult) by being a working student. I guess I am writing this e-mail just to ask for advise on how to successfully be a working student in ALS. Or is it even possible to be a working student enrolled in ALS?

There are many students currently walking the halls of the Ateneo School of Law who are working or have been working.  Not all of us go through our academic pursuits in a straight fashion.  Some postpone law school for much later, either due to financial or personal considerations — or simply to take a break and start earning money.  We all go and pursue our dreams at our own pace, in our own time.

I was a working student for most of my time in law school, and it was forced upon me by circumstance, and was not by choice.

Like I told my 11th reader (running joke that I have 10 and now 11 readers here!), I started working because of a literal reversal of fortunes.  It was such that I learned to commute at age 23.  Prior to this, I lived a very sheltered life, driven to and from home and school, fully subsidized by my parents.  I could sleep and study at will — I kept my own schedule. I got all my books in the original (and only law students would understand what I mean here), and got my cases photocopied from the library itself.  Alas, this dream life ended after my freshman year.

So as I entered my sophomore year, it was a hard choice to make — but I started working.  At first it was simply to supplement my spending money — and I took on a job that still gave me flexibility, and proximity to the then HV De La Costa campus of Ateneo.  (I know I’m dating myself here, what with the move to Rockwell ages ago.)  I was a newscaster for one of the radio stations in the Makati area which saw me earning minimum wage, but it was a good training ground for real life and the money helped.

But the choice of job was with law school being a priority in mind.  I wasn’t working to work — I was working because I needed it to continue to pursue my big dream.  I didn’t choose a minimum wage job in the industry I landed in because it was a career challenge.  My place of work was within walking distance from school, and the bourse worked well with my class schedule.(The newscasts were from morning to mid-afternoon, with the later ones taped after being culled from the day’s news.). But — and here’s the big BUT— even as I tried to supplement my income, it was clear to me why and what I was doing this all for.

I eventually moved on to two other jobs in the course of law school — for 18 months as part of a USAID project with the Department of Health that involved a lot of travel around the country, and then a leap of faith that saw me joining a boutique Ad agency just before the bar exams.  There was a lot of value in all those jobs — even voicing a novelty rap song as Louningning — but I would have preferred to have been a full time student.  I envied my classmates who were, and it took a  lot of gall and flexibility to make it through, but I did work through most of law school.

Yes, it IS possible to be a working student in the Ateneo School of Law or any other law school for that matter.  It might just be harder when you’re trying to be a legal blue eagle.

We have many distinguished graduates who went into law school as full time working students, and who were parents and breadwinners.  We had “moms” among us.  There were office workers who had regular 9-5 jobs then went to their classes after.  Again, note that the majority of the evening class were working, so there were enough of us to actually schedule classes around.

Law school, by itself, is a difficult hurdle to pass.  Working while studying law, and studying law at the Ateneo with its dreaded Quality Percentile Index requirement makes that burden double if not triple.  But it can be done.  How?

You have to learn to study in an abbreviated manner without sacrificing the quality of your learning.  That’s a lot of words that seem to be contradictory taken together.  Working means losing precious time to go through all the required reading.  Even as a full time student, you will always be looking for more time to read the cases and memorize the provisions.  Having done that, you usually don’t have enough time to integrate all that you just fed your brain and truly comprehend the bigger picture.  But we all have different methods for imbibing the knowledge that we read and hear — so find that which works for you.

Do not rely on others notes or digests and lose out on the details.  If you only study with digests, you are relying on how another student actually sifted through the facts and picked which ones they thought would help you survive a round of recitation on the case.  You miss out on the actual lesson which is explained in depth in the ponencia.  And there will always be cases that you will have to read in the original.  As a working student, you will not have that luxury anymore.  You will have to learn to read on the bus or in the jeepney, or during lunch breaks at work (which might not even be an option), and then cram through during the breaks between the ringing of the bells.

I remember being chided by students from the Business school for the law students eating lunch or dinner with their bookholders in front of them as we multitasked in the  cafeteria.

Weekends are for study catch up.  With weekday studies curtailed by work, I used to think twice about going out to watch a movie or hanging out at parties during the weekends.  Not that I stopped doing it altogether, but I was often too tired anyway, so I became very selective.  I hung out with my classmates more, but working shaped my weekends as catch up time.  You have to find the discipline to focus on how you apportion your free time when you find some — and weekends were usually the only time that afforded you that.

You have to be brave enough to swallow a “5” during recitation because you didn’t know the answer.  I may have recounted this story in an earlier blogpost of a professor who must’ve seen the gray matter between my ears who called me to recite on “x vs. y”, and I meekly stood up and told him, “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t read the case.”  Other professors would’ve quickly written me off with a “5”, but he proceeded to give me a chance with three other cases — and the long and short of it was, I didn’t get to the reading list AT ALL.  I repeated my answer for each one, then I sat down.

That was a very humbling moment, but he didn’t shoot me down or look down upon me.  While the 5 would’ve been easier, he wanted to give me a chance.

Be judicious about choosing when to be absent — at work or in school.  There will be days when you will have to choose one over the other, and you have to be careful in choosing.  There are only so many days you can cut a class, and so many vacation days to give up at work.  Choose well.

Know your priorities.  I always say that there is no hard and fast rule about life except that which pertains to doing what’s right.  We all know good from bad, but when it comes to deciding about our personal choices, it varies from person to person.  What might be a priority for me might not be as important a matter for you.

I cannot argue with the wealth of experience that working brings.  Who wouldn’t want to say no to earning your own money after being dependent on your parents for every expense from the time you were born?  But the study of law and the pursuit of that dream entails a different kind of focus and dedication that does not allow for half hearted effort.  So if the question is whether you can make it as a working student in law school — the answer is yes, but not without sacrifices or losing out on the chance to fully prepare yourself for what will be your lkfe’s vocation.

You should combine the two only if necessary.  If there is a choice between being a full time law student or working, and you still choose to do both, then your studies will definitely suffer for lack of your full attention.  Again, it can be done.  You are in Ateneo for a reason.  It wasn’t an accident you saw your name as one of the fortunate chosen– you obviously have the mental aptitude to keep up with the academic standards.  But if you don’t really need to work, ask yourself if the time that working takes away from your studies is worth risking what is one of the most important foundations of your future.

The question shouldn’t even be whether or not this will affect your chances of topping the Bar (although as one of my esteemed and dearest friends, Atty.  Jonathan Sarte told me before I took the bar exams, libre namang mangarap.. ). The question should simply be “Do I really need the distraction from what is supposed to be one of the most important pursuits of my life?”

You will get the chance to earn money — and more of it — later.  But you will only pass through the august halls of law school but once (hopefully) until you find yourself taking the Bar exams.  If the choice is difficult for you to see — absent a real and pressing financial need — then perhaps the dream of being a lawyer one day is not that firmly planted “deep in the deepest of your hearts”, as one esteemed lady professor would say in Obligations and Contracts.

If you can afford to focus all your energy and time in the pursuit of a legal education and the dream burns strong in your heart, it shouldn’t be that difficult a choice.  On the other hand, if (like me,) life deals you the hand that makes it imperative you support yourself whether partially  or in full through school, you will find it is that dream as well which will make you find the way to make it work.

Good luck!

To Each His Own (so you made it!)

The summer just ended in Manila was a busy time.  People were writing, messaging and asking about law school.  Some gave me updates that they made it (Yay!), while some, unfortunately, didn’t land their dream school.  I kept repeating over and over again that not landing the school you dreamt of doesn’t mean the end of the dream.  It just means you need to adjust and adapt and just steer things a bit differently.  It doesn’t mean having to abandon your passion.  In fact, if the dream is etched deep enough in your heart, it should be what matters more than which school you land to make that dream come true.

The same goes for the young teens who are now making their way through their college classes as Freshmen.  It’s a totally different world with more pressure and more responsibility.  And it can be frightening while it is, at the same time, exhilarating.

So how goes it once you’re there?

Keep your focus, keep your composure.  It is so easy to get lost in this new world of law books and case lists and hundred-page readings.  You find yourself doubting your choice.  You are thrilled pink but terrified.  It’s the real world.

My first bit of advice: mean it when you do the prayers before class.  I don’t mean to scare you, but you’re going to need it.  I used to have a nervous stomach before the first class everyday– and forget that I had a crush on our professor, something which my male classmates were so critical of because they couldn’t understand why.  (Let me leave it at that.. Lol). It will take time for your nerves to adjust if it ever does.  The thing is to be able to function despite it.

Do not be intimidated.  Someone wrote me about surviving in that presumed to be sosyal and elitist world — which, all things considered, should be the least of your worries.

First, there’s the dress code.  You don’t have to wear the latest fashion because really, your professors won’t care.  Just dress decently.  What they do care about is that your tie is neatly tied, and that you are not dressed as if you were going to attend a party.  Yes, some will mark you absent even as you’re pulling the tie to a knot during the roll call or if you’re not wearing your baring– or if you are not otherwise dressed appropriately.  They will not, however, care to distinguish if your tie is Burberry or Landmark.

Secondly, you have more to worry about cramming 18 hours worth of reading into a mere 12 hours, and that will include what little sleep you will afford yourself as a luxury.  Now, if you were working or are a mom or a dad, make that 18 hours in 6.  Good luck!  I wouldn’t let the twangs and the familiarity among those who grew up in the same circles get to you.  They are not trying to rub their social pedigree on your face — that is the world as it is and this is not a social ball– this is law school.  It doesn’t matter!

Third, forget about accents, too.  The number 2 topnotcher of my original batch spoke with such a heavy accent yet she answered on point (always!) and was just plain brilliant.  She was one of the humblest in class– had gone to college somewhere in the provinces — yet her simplicity belied the behemoth of a brain in that tiny head of hers.  What matters is what you spit back in answer to your professors, or that you are able to argue your answer coherently during the tests.

Fourth, remember that you made it past all the screenings– whether it was without a hitch or on a waiting list.  It doesn’t matter how — you’re in law school — that means you must have even just an iota of legalese in your coconut.  You didn’t win the lottery, so do not belittle the fact that you got yourself here.  Stop feeling small, or belittling yourself, because you have a bigger challenge up ahead: staying in.

Be creative.  Law school — in any arena– is an expensive undertaking.  You have to learn how to make ends meet– literally.  There’s always that urge to get your cases “in the original” and your books all new and spiffy, engraved with your name in front.  If you can afford to go that route, why not?  But learn how to spend your book allowance wisely by borrowing, if you can, or in finding a cheaper photocopying alternative to the library.  My classmates and I used to have one set done in the original, and someone would get the cheaper copies made outside.

I always underlined and highlighted my books cover to cover so borrowing was not an option for me, but I found ways to get copies made– again, by being creative.

Brotherhood or sisterhood?  It took me a while to land an answer to this, because I knew that no one answer was right or wrong.   And yet it was asked and I cannot gloss over it because I know that this is a nagging question for some.  The good things is that I know that most universities ban freshman recruitment, although that ban never stopped anyone from approaching a possible recruit.

To join or not to join a fraternity or sorority is a very personal choice.  I didn’t.  For one, the only sorority in law school back then had practically died out while I was there.  The boys, though, had two very distinguished fraternities to choose between, but I am not going to afford either one a mention here.  I have nothing against joining fraternities– I admire their camaraderie.   The connections seem to work for most.  I just don’t operate that way.  And neither did most of my classmates.  Two of my dearest and closest friends from college, though, had joined one, and I see how that had brought them closer and how their bond with their brods transcended their having had to leave Ateneo Law before they could finish the course.  (One had to take a leave of absence due to work and never came back — until last year or the year before, but in a different school.  The other fell victim to the QPI purge and ended up in the other law school that accepts transferees, and had enjoyed a very progressive career in the HR field with various multinational companies.).

Joining a fraternity or a sorority is a lifetime commitment.  It isn’t an easy task to join one.  If you feel the need and believe you have the stomach to go through the rigorous initiation rites of any of these groups, for as long as it parallels or equals your commitment to your dream, then go.  (My pain threshold is extremely low, and I am of the belief that that shouldn’t be the basis for my acceptance in any group.  Unfortunately, there will always be some form of physical pain involved, and I am NOT THAT brave.)  And to those not so inclined like I was not way back when, you aren’t giving up anything that you can’t have even sans that pledge of brotherhood.  It helps, maybe.  But it is not the be all and end all of succeeding in the world out there.  At the end of the journey, it is what you make of yourself that really counts.  It is how you choose to conduct yourself as an officer of the law in whatever field that would matter.

Find your own study mojo.  Everyone has their own style of studying, and you will have to adjust to the course load as you go along.  You will always find case digests aplenty and reviewers handed on from year to year.  You will eventually find yourselves organized enough to work systematically by assigning groups to do certain cases or reviewers.  All good– and yes, it helps — but at the end of the day, you have to be able to stand on your own two feet.

Not all case digests will be as good as the next, because it depends on (1) the writer’s ability to grasp the facts, issue(s) and ratio decidendi of the case– so you are relying on someone else to sift through that for you.  If the writer misses out on salient facts the professor asks about, you will get stumped.  (2). Although you would expect everyone has some writing skills tucked under their belt, not everyone will write with an eloquence or crispness that would make for easy reading.  Yes, you will come across classmates who can’t seem to write coherently enough for others to understand what they’re saying.  (3). There is always the temptation to copy an older digest already available without checking if it is on point with the original.  Again, you end up with a dud.

When time permits, read the case in the original.  It will train your minds to look at the forest and then see the trees and the nests tucked high up in those branches.  You will also find the different styles of ponencia that will sometimes just sweep you off your feet for their sheer elegance, or the straightforward yet  very detailed point-by-point dissection of a case.  It may not strike you at the time you first read them (mainly because you’re too busy worrying about how much more you need to read), but the writing skills of these great minds will shape your own thinking and writing in the real world.  And even when there is no time, there are simply cases that you WILL HAVE TO READ IN THE ORIGINAL, come what may, so you need to put in the extra effort to get that done.

Do not make the mistake of dismissing a dissenting opinion for lack of time.  There will be times when a dissenting opinion will become case law and be more relevant than the majority opinion that closed the case.  In certain opinions, it is here that you will find a clearer explanation of what the majority based their decision on.  A dissenting opinion, though, does not make the majority opinion wrong.  It just provides us another perspective strong enough for the dissenter to have taken pen and paper (figuratively) to make his or her point.  It is a contrary opinion which can help us see the other side of the coin.

I was a full time student during my first year but worked through my second year onwards.  There were times I was called and I actually stood up and told my professor I didn’t read the case.  One time, my professor was kind enough to go to the next case on the list, and the next (which is rare, because the first one would’ve merited a 5)– and still I had to sit down because I came unprepared.  I would often be stumped by my inability to weave provisions together — and later I realized it was because my brain was trained to read and memorize them individually.  But I persisted.

I learned to stay up late and find study guides.  I drank vitamins to keep myself on my toes and hopefully to make my brain work better.  I don’t know if those things did their job, but it had a placebo effect of reassuring my brain that I was trying to keep it healthy.  In that respect, they did work because I survived.

When your name is called and a question is asked, keep things simple.  Anyone would hate having to listen to a roundabout explanation of something which could have been stated in a straightforward manner.

Say yes or no.  State the law.  Give your reason.

When asked to recite a case, state the facts, state the issue, give the ruling.

When you don’t know the answer to the question, just say so.  There is no use pretending to know when you don’t because your professor has a lifetime of experience that will make him catch on even before you end your recitation.

With all that said, you have to prepare yourself for the worst by being your best.  I am not going to say here that it’s something you will enjoy, because that comes much later, when you get your groove going.  And the enjoyment really might not come until after you get the “Atty.” attached to your name.  And that’s a long ways to go.  But I will say it’s not impossible, and it IS doable — for as long as you want it badly enough.

Any half-hearted effort will land you someplace you wouldn’t want to be.  So ask yourself now if you’re up to it, because if there is even an iota of doubt in your mind or deep in your heart, you should seriously think of changing paths.  It is never too late to back out of a dream or a pursuit or a journey — whatever you may want to call it, for as long as you do it out of your own choice.  Do not put yourself in a position where your circumstances force you to change direction.  Put your heart and soul into it, give it 110% (everyday!), and pray, pray, pray!

I would love to hear from anyone who has something to chime in with — I’m at pinaynewyorker at gmail dot com… even if only to tell me you passed by my corner of the web and read this post.  And maybe I might even be persuaded to do a digest or two, as long as the original is accessible online.  (Ha!)

Back then, I was excited, I was terrified, I was often “lost” — but I always regained my footing in knowing I wanted this for me so bad that I would take any humiliation, any challenge, to make it through to the end.  I prayed very hard.  I struggled to make ends meet — and while I’m not a practicing lawyer now, I know I achieved that big dream I had always pinned my hopes on eversince I realized I couldn’t be a doctor.  (My gut reaction to touching my mom’s extracted tonsils in a specimen bag was the big reveal.)  Once a lawyer, always a lawyer.  I’m good with that.

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

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.)

The Waiting Game (Lawyer Wannabe Anxiety)

I have been slow to write of late because the little guy has been down with strep throat.  I can deal with pressure from work at any given day, or even with the unexpected potholes in life, but when my guy is sick, everything is up in the air.

I had my week planned, and of course that went this way and that.  I’m good now because he is well and back to school.  The marathon to catch up and get ready for school and tests has already begun.  Why are they studying The Odyssey in sixth grade?  That was senior high school reading for me along with the Illiad.  The good news is, it’s just the “story” and not the book.  Still.

Homer Simpson wrote me during the week and I received a similar question via a comment here from Kim a while back.  (My bad for taking forever and a day to write a reply.)   Their queries have more or less the same slant with anxiety creeping up because of having taken law school entrance exams or planning to take it and regretting or worrying about how they had done in pre-law.

So here goes.


Let me tackle the two together, although if you read what they wrote, they have a different slant on the question I’m trying to answer.

Kim wrote:

Hello ma’am! I read your post about law schools and I am a UP/Ateneo/Beda law school aspirant. I am quite anxious but reading your blog posts helped me.

I was enrolled in Ateneo de Manila for 3 years but transferred to a school in province. I was not kicked out, it was financial. However, my grades are not that clean. I had my fair share of drops (PE classes) and fails (Accounting). My average was alright because my other subjects pulled it up. When I transferred to a university here at the province, I took up Political Science and Public Administration. I am on my last semester. Even though my General Weighted Average could make it, my TOR spells “inconsistent”. Again, there were a few dropped classes (PE mostly- again). However, I enjoy my Political Science subjects and it reflects in my grades. The law schools ask you to submit your TOR and I am worried about my grades more than the entrance exams. I passed ACET, UPCAT, etc before. Also, I have been a paid part time writer online for 6 years and a recognized student journalist and debater for as long as I can remember, but, my grades are not that pretty. What can I do about it? I cannot bring back time. I was immature then and did not think I would be worrying about grades someday.

I also want to ask if a very nice co-curricular would help? I was President of the PolSci org in school and VP for the city-wide and regional Polsci orgs. Although not perfect, I am confident I can speak well and write well. I won in writing contests and debate competitions. However, I feel it wont’t be enough. I am very insecure about my grades it is giving me this feeling of hopelessness. 😦

Meanwhile, Homer Simpson wrote:

I’m really anxious about the Ateneo Law Exam Results. I really want to pass. I know I have the option of attending other law schools but still. Being an Atenean is still different. I live in the south so it’s a lot nearer than SBC. Living in the dorm is not an option because I have to take care of my parents. There are a lot of construction happening right now in Sergio Osmena highway. I’m incredibly worried that I’ll spend most of my time in traffic if I attend SBC, and I can’t risk it given the mortality rate there. You see, Metro Manila traffic is really bad right now.

I’m just really worried that my undergrad grades aren’t worthy for ALS. I have one failing grade and I am not from UP or Ateneo. I worked harder to get my grades up after my first year in college and it did. I worked at a law firm for a year so I think I did mature a lot since graduation and I do think I’ve changed. While I did proper preparation prior to the exam, I’m worried that it won’t be enough to get me in ALS. I reviewed using LSAT reviewers. I reviewed like crazy. Would that be enough? I actually finished the exam already. Not to brag but it was easier that what I expected ( I took UPLAE so I expected it to be a lot like LAE, if not more difficult) but isn’t that the scary part? I might have answered it wrong or it is too easy that a lot of applicants will be good at the exam as well. Also, how do the interview portions go? Do you have any tips? How do I go about calming my nerves!? Results come out in 2 months. I really want to pass ALS..

and the Pinay New Yorker says:

First of all, let me declare it here that I am in no way privy to the criteria nor the process of selection beyond my actual experience of having successfully passed two of the three law school entrance exams I took.  I cannot say with authority that one thing will work or not.  I can, however, speak to what worked for me, and what I think should be taken into consideration by the people who are going through what I have gone through now as they try to go through the process of entering or being in law school.

That said, here’s what I have to say.

I have a rule of thumb about trying to focus on how to channel my anxiety.  I try to deal with that which I have control over, and just hope for the best when it comes to those that I cannot steer this way or that.  Like things that have already happened and cannot be undone.  They are beyond your control so while entertaining bouts of remorse about what one could have done differently, the truth of the matter is, the die, as they say, has been cast.

I used to be guilty of the same thing they are indulging in — I would worry myself to death and then spend sleepless nights with “what ifs”.  Then I came to terms with the fact that worrying about them didn’t exactly solve the problem.  So yes, I still indulged myself with a bit of worrying and then whipped myself back up and moved on.  I let the anxiety be a mere blip instead of a horn blowing over the sound of the world going on around me.

I’ve written about it time and again that the entrance exams are meant to pinpoint aptitude — which is defined by as ‘a natural ability to learn or do something’.  So for all the figures and math and words that you encounter in the tests, they are actually picking through your brain trying to see if there is an iota of a chance that you have the ‘natural ability’ to embrace learning about the law.

I will be the first to admit that my grades in college were never sterling.  I wasn’t a Dean’s lister, and I basically went to college to do away with the pre-law requirement.  If I could go straight to law school, I would have.  I felt that that was my end goal.  I wanted it THAT bad.

I did do a lot of extra curricular activities, (student council and all), but really, I don’t think that figured much into my getting into law school.

Entering the law school of your choice, or any school for that matter and taking the entrance exam to that school (such as the much anticipated, dreaded and heartbreaking UPCAT), is a numbers game.

You have to consider the fact that there are so many souls out there vying for only so many slots.  So with that in mind, do not lose the dream just because the law school of yout choice did not pick you.  It might not just be your performance in the exam per se, but there are other factors like choosing the wrong university location, the wrong course combinations, etc.  Given the number of examinees and the actual slots open, you are actually competing with the rest of the world.  The first step is to actually pass that exam, or at least find yourself in the top percentile of exam takers, high enough to make it above the cut, so to speak.

So the entrance exam is key.  If you don’t make it then, your grades will not even factor in.  You may graduate with one of those ‘laudes’ — but if you don’t pass the exam, that speaks a lot about your ability to handle law school.

The fact that there are so many passers who will make the grade is what puts your performance in college or pre-law into play.  That’s when the ‘laudes’ will matter.  Or the ones, or the fours, depending on which school you went to for your prelaw.  Will they look at your extra curricular activities?  Logic tells me that they will, but only if you make it to the interview process.  That means you’ve been shortlisted from the shortlist — passed law entrance exam and brought a decent transcript that didn’t push you to the bottom of the list.  Will that sway a decision to bring you in?  I honestly don’t think so.  I have always been heavy on the extra curricular activities back in school, but the truth of the matter is, while they help you come up with better-rounded personality, school is really about academics.  And schools evaluating who gets to sit in your classrooms will look at the aptitude and performance of those vying for a slot.

As for the location of your school, Homer, my university of choice way back when was really DLSU which was located on Taft Avenue.  My Dad vehemently protested saying the driver would have to wade through the traffic caused by the original LRT construction back then, and it might adversely affect the schedule for my siblings who were in Pasig (St. Paul) and Mendiola (San Beda) respectively.  He wanted me to go to UP Diliman.  When the UPCAT results came out, we ended up in UP Manila, a ride away from DLSU and which was hit by the LRT construction — but I was in UP and he was happy.  No regrets, but at the start, I was really upset.  And yet, it worked out.

Law school was really a toss up between UP and Ateneo for me — and okay, maybe San Beda — but when UP said no, I figured I just wasn’t meant to be there.  Of course I said, it was their loss.  (After all, when I passed the Bar, I became a chalk mark for Ateneo instead of UP.)  But things happen for a reason, and sometimes, we have to listen to the universe when it says this isn’t the place for you.  “You are supposed to be somewhere else.”  And just like in taking law school entrance exams, these tests are supposed to tell you where your brain is best suited, even if your heart is screaming “LAW!”.

I was about to hit “publish” when I recalled something from when I was taking the Bar Exams ages ago.   Back then, I sat with people taking the bar exam for the nth time — and some of them were old enough to be my grandmother or mother.  They looked as determined as any of us haggard and harrassed Ateneans clutching our printed-on-blue-paper reviewers and tips.  We saw familiar faces but usually, we were the only one from our school in any given room.  There were that many of us taking the exams.  One of those Sundays, I got terribly sick because the airconditioner was on full blast and my body was ready to give in to the pressure.  I was having a hard time focusing and them I was reminded of what brought me to that point — after all was said and done, there I was, taking the final battery of tests in my pursuit of a dream.  And that jolted me to reality.  That was my reality.  That was where I was meant to be.

You have to tenaciously hold on to your dream, yet at the same time, make room for adjustments, if needed.  We don’t always get what we want, but we can help prod the universe, by going after it.

I know that what I’m saying isn’t very reassuring, but I think you have to go back to the rule of thumb I have put down somewhere at the start of my reply: don’t fret about things you have no control over.  I would put my heart and soul to preparing for the test (for Kim) and I will sit it out and just wait, Homer.  Good luck to you both.

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

Dreaming the dream

I am a dreamer at heart.  I think it’s what gives me hope and what makes me believe that no matter how bad things may get, there is a better day up ahead somewhere.  Maybe not today or tomorrow — but it’ll come.

It’s dreaming that makes me think that the disappointments that life throws my way are but temporary stumbling blocks I can hop over or dance around — depending on which fantasy I’m thinking of at the moment.

In my mind, I think of better days, I go back to warm and fuzzy feelings, and I look forward.  That’s what dreams are supposed to be — at least the ones we consciously spin in our heads and hearts.  It’s supposed to help us focus on what is yet to come.

What sets apart one dreamer from another is if he or she goes for that dream.  Some end up just wishing their life away without taking that giant leap towards finding out if that dream is within reach.  Others jump head first and hit the ground with a loud thud and then they get up and conjure up other dreams.  Others just stay frozen wallowing in their broken dreams.

So I got another e-mail from a Lawyer Wannabe.  (Makes me think I should change my tag line from “Musings of a Filipina living in New York” to “Advice for the legal eagle dreamers out there”.)

KC (also from UP)  is asking me about whether or not she should pursue an MS (driven by the current job she has) or Law which she is thinking of doing.  She wasn’t able to take the Law Aptitude Examination (LAE) as her job required her to go abroad, making her miss the only exam date for UP.  She is thinking of taking the San Beda Law entrance exam because she doesn’t want to wait another year.  Financial considerations are making her think twice about that decision because her parents are both government employees.  The crux of her dilemma is regarding whether she should pursue law or a Master’s degree in Science.

I gave her a brief reply via email which I have expounded below and want to share with those who might be having the same questions running through their head..

I have always encouraged anyone and every one who has dreamed to be something to go for it.  In the end, the choice is yours to live with, and I am of the school of the thought that it is better to try for something and know if it’s for you, rather than keep dreaming and never know.  It seems that so many people think of being this or that but never even get anywhere near finding out if they can be such and such because of sheer reluctance.  We have all heard it said, “Life is short..”.. “You only live once..”.  And yet we think of those phrases only when it doesn’t require us to be brave enough to take the leap, so to speak.If money is a factor then you might want to wait for next year’s UP exam.  Law is a very expensive course to take because of the books and numerous materials to be photocopied.  That is a given in ANY SCHOOL you go to.  So tuition really is the deal breaker.  You also have to take into consideration the fact that you’re working.  I did it back then, but it wasn’t easy.  Can you hack the schedule?

If you went for your masters, will your job pay for it?  If they will, then isn’t that a more practical route?  You mentioned MS so I am guessing your training is in the sciences and not the arts.  You have to weigh your skills against your dream.  Law requires a lot of writing — if that is not your strength, that is going to be a problem.  Our exams are all about reasoning out — more so in the Bar.

Regarding the financial aspect, my question is, if you are already working, why do you need to depend on your parents for tuition?  I would like to think that they had done you well by taking care of you up to this point, so it’s about time you stood up on your own.  However, if your intention is to be a full time student, then that is another matter altogether.  I think it will do you well to sit down with your parents and find out if they are prepared to continue to support you so you know where you stand if you make it to law school after all the exams are done.  You wouldn’t want to have to face the choice of foregoing your dream due to financial unpreparedness.  Their ability to support you should not deter you from pursuing your law education or your masters — it will help, but I know you can find a way if you put your heart and soul to it.  I did.

If it means that much to you, then by all means take the entrance exams.  Passing that hurdle is one step closer to the dream, but until you actually do, there’s no use fretting about the rest.  I know that might sound rather whimsical, but sometimes, you just have to throw all caution to the wind and go for it.  If it is meant for you, it will land on your lap — even if you don’t make it to the law school of your choice.  Opportunity will come knocking, maybe from UP!  Who knows?

The long and short of it is that you will never really find out until you go for it..  I think the best advice I can give you is to follow your dream but be ready to make it come true.  Do not ever let yourself be limited by your resources — if you don’t have them, find them.  We have been blessed with different levels of intellect, and my mother always harped on the fact that we were not created equal for a reason.   There are some of us who are more blessed than others, but that doesn’t mean the lesser ones are any less in the eyes of the boss upstairs.  It’s just the way life works — we can’t all be superstars.. otherwise, there will be no fans.  We can’t all be lawyers — and we can’t all be accountants or scientists of this or that discipline.  But we all have a role to play.

Find what it is that makes you happy.  Keep dreaming, and make those dreams a reality.

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

In My Mailbox: Beda Law Entrance Exam on Friday — what now?

I love getting mail from those who stray into this corner, and today, one greeted me from a “Lawyer Wannabe”.   (You can email me at pinaynewyorker at gmail dot com). I didn’t get a name exactly so I am going genderless on this, and just reprint the note I got.

“Good afternoon po, Atty. I’ve read your blog po and naisipan ko mag-email. Sana di po ako nakadisturb.. Can you give me some tips on what to study for my entrance exam in SBC? This coming friday na po kasi. Ano po coverage ng exam? 🙂 Thank you!! “

I wanted to be able to sit down and write a full response but was presssed for time as it would be Thursday already by the time my reply was read.  So I sat on the bus and postponed painting my face for until after I had written a reply.  Time being of the essence, I tried to write a comprehensive response anyway.

Here goes:

Thanks for writing and no, I don’t consider emails from the blog readers a bother.
First of all, good luck!

Secondly, I hope that you were able to read the post on preparing for the exams..

Third– you have to keep in mind this is an aptitude test so there is really no general scope. They are trying to determine if you have the smarts for a legal education. There are no set parameters for review because they are probing what’s already in that coconut of yours. ( just a little humor.. I know you’re nervous.)
Fourth- with that said, what tips can I give you?

– Relax and calm your mind. Repeat over and over to yourself you want this — and yes, you can do it. Doubt will slow you down and the test is mostly under time pressure. Say 120 vocabulary terms in 30 minutes which means you need to answer 4 in a minute. They’re not trying to find the speed readers amongst you but it’s simply because if you had the word in your vocabulary, you wouldn’t even have to think about it.

– Pick the first answer that lights up and don’t second guess yourself. Again, they are looking at what’s already in there so even if it’s a guess, your brain is actually wired to pick that which it knows is true or correct. In the same way, your brain will guess wrong if you’re playing darts not really knowing anything. The tests are designed to see those guesses.

– I don’t remember the San Beda exam but if there is an essay question like Ateneo , answer the question and then explain. They are looking at your writing skills here. Can you form a coherent thought? Can you explain yourself clearly?

If the question is why do you want to be a lawyer, be honest. There is no right or wrong answer as they are looking at how you write. If it’s an opinion question, say, on the death penalty, your first sentence should declare your stand, (for or against). Write a complete sentence, do not say just Yes or no. (Yes, I believe in the death penalty.). Repeat the question if you must within the answer. Then explain.

Never start with “because. ”

Do not use “I think…”. Instead, use “I believe..”

Your last sentence should reinforce or reiterate your stand or first statement, even if it’s a repetition of your first sentence.

Lastly, pray.

Trust that whatever the results are, wherever you land, there is a reason for it. UP said no to me, but I am grateful and happy I landed with the Jesuits. Whatever your faith is, whether you believe in God or not, know that the universe has a grand design. Don’t fight it, just go with the flow.

Dispossess your mind of the idea of being in a courtroom because lawyering is beyond litigation. I didn’t realize that until after law school, and I haven’t done any lawyering except for the periodic legal opinion request from friends who know I am one.

Do I feel like I wasted all that effort and time? No, I don’t. I had always dreamt of becoming a lawyer to be one– I didn’t want to be just a college graduate. I love studying the law and fought hard for it, even when it meant working while studying.

Am I ever going back to being one? I always say once a lawyer, always a lawyer– whether I am just being a mom or working up in my little perch in the corporate world where I am totally in a non-legal function.

Let me know how it goes and where you land. Very exciting times for you! I am fasting today and will say a little something to thenBig Boss upstairs soon as I hit send.

Best of luck!

Related posts on the pursuit of a legal education can be found in the blog section LLAWYER WANNABE in the navigation bar.

When you don’t make it to your school of choice

First of all, apologies for the tardy reply.  I had started drafting this in early July and it has lain untouched in my draft box.  Life has taken me over as always, and sometimes, dishing out my two cents’ worth by way of giving advice is not always as easy as I normally would write something spontaneous.

I got an e-mail (actually, two emails) but didn’t quite catch the e-mails in a timely manner because I hardly check the email account associated with the blog.  Please e-mail me instead at

I didn’t get much details except that someone was hoping to get to law school, didn’t get to the preferred school because of a fraction of a point difference in the required average.

Depressed and sad, what to do?

I had to let out an audible sigh after writing that question. It’s something we must all consider when we set our sights on landing in a particular university or college and we miss the mark. This is not only true for those seeking higher education but also for those trying to get into college (or had tried to get into college). Take heart!

So what do you do when you don’t land where you want to be, or get what you want… I have had to deal with that question many times over in epic proportions over the last two to three years.  And as the years went — it seemed to me that the disappointments became bigger and bigger.  The heartbreak became harder and harder to bear.

But I moved on.

Without pinning my hopes on ‘luck’, I instead pinned my hopes on ‘faith’ and ‘the universe’.  What is it that we say in the vernacular?  Kung para sa iyo talaga, magiging iyo.  Kung ukol, bubukol.  (If it is meant for you, it will be yours.  It is mean to be, it will happen.)

We have to determine what it is that means the most to us.  What it is that we truly want to achieve.  If one thing doesn’t work out, then move on to plan B.

Simply put, if your first school of choice doesn’t accept you (just as UP decided I wasn’t to be part of their student pool), move to another choice.  (And I embraced the blue..)  It doesn’t mean having to give up your dream — it just means adjusting it.

If it really means a lot to you to actually go to law school, the fact that you did not land in your school of choice shouldn’t shatter that dream.  It changes how you realize it, but it doesn’t mean that dream is now unreachable.

A former high school classmate (who is now 48 like me) with three grown children, a public service/media career she was appointed to, endorsements and an actor/husband who the ladies in our generation would not mind waking up next to every day, and whose celebrity has help spread cancer awareness and the message of hope to the public recently posted she was going to audit (observe/sit in) classes in law school.  Then followed the comment that she had always wanted to go to law school, and was wondering if she could do it.  Kaya kaya?  she asked.  We all pounced on the question and words of support chimed in from all over.  OF COURSE! Kayang-kaya!

First, age is never a detriment.  I’ve related this many times that when I took the bar in my mid-twenties, I was in the midst of adults old enough to be my mom and even be my grandma. Never too late to dream, or pursue a dream.

Secondly, her health challenges notwithstanding, she has the money and more importantly the brains.  Need I say more?

And that applies to everyone.  We have different ‘gifts’ and abilities. Our financial stretch differs from one person to the other, but the financial burden of pursuing ones’ dream can be adjusted.  If you can’t afford the more expensive school, go to the one that fits the budget.

“The Best” is not always for everyone.  Whether it’s because you cannot make it to that school because your scores or grades didn’t make the cut, or because you are otherwise constrained by other limitations, those are mere challenges that you should find a way around to get to where you want to go.  Those of us who are able to get up after a fall do so because we know how to make the most of what we have, and we never lose the hope that things will get better.

And while “better” is relative to how you perceive the world, it is never too far away if only you would look close enough to see how there is so much you have been blessed with.

So four or five years from now, don’t  be surprised if this once child star now celebrity mom and public servant in her own right, wife to the once heart throb and cousin to another, is addressed “Attorney”.  I know I won’t be surprised — I’ll just chime in and say “It’s about time.”

Related posts on the pursuit of a legal education can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE in the navigation bar.

Feedback on feedback: Making it to law school

I often wonder what has happened to the people I had shared a piece of my mind with through the years.  One of the law students who wrote me eventually made it and passed the Bar.  It was easy to find his name on the roster of successful bar examinees because he had written me from his personal e-mail.  I haven’t heard from him since, but I’m proud of him.

I recently received a follow up comment from Mike who had written me about choosing to go to law school on what others may call “a whim” despite having never thought of it before.

Here’s what he wrote:  

Hello again, Atty! How are you? I just want to thank you for all the advice you have given me! I passed the recent law school admission test in San Beda and guess what? The results weren’t that bad. I received a rare above average grade and was admitted in one of the “star” sections of our school. I had a rough time in the last part though, which is the essay. Well, the first part was already grueling to begin with so I guess preparation paved the way for luck. Thanks, Atty! By the way, I keep on reading your blog and I really appreciate your love for the arts. Too bad the school year is about to begin and I’m already preparing myself for the challenges ahead. May the Lord bless you and your family always, Atty! and keep on inspiring people 🙂

And Pinay New Yorker says:  

I always say that everything happens for a reason.. You made it! You made it to a good school!! You did very well!!! I must say I am disappointed, though, that you continue to underrate yourself. All of this was achieved through your own efforts. While prayer and luck may have figured in your landing the spot, without your own skills, knowledge and aptitude, no matter how rigorously you prepare for the test, the questions are designed to probe what that brain of yours already knows.

So you made it– now what?

I hate to burst your bubble (kidding!) but that essay you found difficult is probably going to be peanuts compared to what lies ahead. But I like that you are embracing it and owning it — and that’s the right attitude. I just hope that through the ups and many downs ahead, you’ll keep that fire in your heart.

Yes, even when you find yourself questioning your decision to go to law school when you can’t seem to get the answers right.

Yes, even when you didn’t get enough sleep memorizing the codal provision and you get called on a case you didn’t read in the original.

Yes, even if the darned QPI gets you and they decide they don’t want you there anymore– DO NOT LET THE DREAM GO! It only means that another university will proclaim you as a PROUD bar passer someday.

And yes, if — by some fluke– you don’t pass the Bar during your first take. Grieve, pick up the pieces, hit the books and take it again.

Some of the best lawyers I know, and some who are dear friends got booted out of their original law school of choice. Some of them didn’t make it their first and even second take– but they never let the dream go.

Believe in yourself. Believe that God put you there. . Do not waste the opportunity or squander away this gift. Remember the parable of the talents — these are yours.

Thank you, Mike. I am happy to have been a part of this journey and hope to one day hear from you, telling me you passed the Bar. In the meantime, I’m just a few keystrokes away.

Ps. I received an email from someone in Davao– I’ll get to you in a separate post.

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