Feedback on feedback: You made my day, Lawyer Wannabe

I had just ended a video call with the family back home when I started scrolling through my email, still lying on the couch Sunday morning. It’s a bit nippy out there but I’ve made my mind up to head out a little later than usual so I can walk to this Asian grocery 5.000 steps away to get some moon cake. (And the store didn’t carry any!). This is me, trying to stick to my Noomin’ and planning for a special treat later today. My excuse: it’s seasonal.. (yeah, yeah..).

And this is what greeted me as I refreshed my inbox, which totally beats any special treat I was thinking of earlier. Talk about a major pick me up, and a heartwarming reminder of one of the reasons this topic is always near and dear to my heart. This email is being shared unedited, save for the omission of the identity of the writer.

Ateneo only has two classes at most (and maybe I’m wrong now because it’s been ages–) and in any case, it is easy to identify someone even by mere initials.. so here goes…

“Dear Pinay New Yorker,

Hello there. Four years ago, I wrote to you because I was worried about getting into Ateneo Law as a waitlisted applicant or as a student who wasn’t a graduate of Ateneo in college. I honestly don’t remember which of the two. I do remember being extremely insecure about my credentials and that I was anxious about not fitting in. You were kind enough to indulge my concerns and you gave me valuable advice.
I remember that  we exchanged a few emails (aside from addressing my concerns on your website). You even invited me to lunch since you were visiting the Philippines. I don’t remember what happened next but I do know that you really helped me when I needed it.  This wasn’t the email address I used because the goal was to keep myself anonymous. Unfortunately, I can’t find the email thread now.
I just wanted to randomly send you a thank you note for helping a stranger out. Just to let you know, I will be graduating from Ateneo this year. I wouldn’t have made it here without you so thanks again! ☺
(Name withheld for privacy)”

Touched. Speechless. Grateful.

Related posts on the topic of law school and the pursuit of a legal education based on my personal experience can be found in this section: Lawyer Wannabe

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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.)

Dream on (Feedback from someone hoping to be a legal eagle someday)

Dream!!This post is inspired by an e-mail I received from a lady who is thinking of pursuing a career in law and currently trying to get into law school in the Philippines.  Her e-mail has inspired a half dozen possible posts, but let’s begin where the pursuit starts:  a dream.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor.  I liked the idea of wearing that thing-a-ma-jig (stethoscope) around my neck, and seeing my doctor come into this colorful examination room bedecked with cartoon character mobiles and murals.  (My pediatrician was the late and great Dra. Fe Del Mundo.)  I didn’t like all doctors, though, particularly this one who lived near us and who was always taking out those glass syringes and long menacing steel needles.  But I liked the sound of “Doctora”.

Then certain life experiences, innocent though they may be, convinced me that that wasn’t the path for me.  I have written about most of them.  (Gag alert)  One was my experience holding my mom’s tonsils floating in liquid in a plastic bag after her tonsilectomy — it literally made me feel my stomach turn but thankfully, the gag reflex was easier to control.  Second was my waterloo being Math.  And I think I haven’t mentioned how one time I ventured into the kitchen to try to slice through a slab of pork, just feeling the knife slicing through the meat sort of sent the wrong sensations up my spine.  End of the dream.

But one thing that made me shift my sights on the legal profession in my younger years was I realized I loved to write, I had the gift of gab, and I liked the looks of those lawyers parlaying their skills as defenders in court.  (Little did I know that they didn’t speak Tagalog at all in court.. everything was translated.  That was all for drama.)

We nurture all sorts of dreams in our hearts. I nurture dreams big and small, simple and profound, achievable and impossible.  Even now at 48.

I dream of one day being able to wake up without the burdens in my heart.  Being able to truly wake up with a smile not just on my face, but deep within.  Of one day being able to say I made it through.  It’s all behind me.

I also dream of maybe having the time and the energy to devote to my creative pursuits.  So many beads to make things out of.. so little time to sit and try.

And as much as I’ve written and do write, I have a particular project I’m hoping to one day accomplish.. I want to write profiles of people on a website dedicated solely for that purpose.  And I don’t mean those celebrities or bigwigs (although I do know one or two) or popular personalities.  I want to write about the very affable sandwich guy in the deli where I get lunch for my boss, or the young lady with very pretty eyes who rings it up when I’m done.  I want to write about the old lady who serves up food in one of the Filipino bakeshops we frequent and find out what brought her here.  I want to hear their story and have their stories heard.  I want to write about classmates who are now their own person — whether as single moms, successful executives, entrepreneurs, politicians.  But I don’t want to write about them as the person they are known for.  I want to write about something that they are that people don’t know.  For example, one celebrity friend who has battled cancer likes Matrushka dolls, Hello Kitty and Bath & Body Works Sanitizer keychains.  I want to write about why she likes those things and how she reacts when people tell her she’s inspired them in their fight against cancer.

I can go on and on and on, but that is a project for another day.  It’s a dream in my heart and in my mind.

Not all dreams are nurtured early on.  Some of them come at the spur of the moment.  It’s like a lightbulb that pops up at the weirdest of hours.  Like most things in life, dreams are fanciful enough for us to take seriously or dismiss with flip of the hand.  But if we choose not to ignore it, no dream is too late pursue wherever we may be in life.

Not even entering law school.

There are many lawyers or lawyers-in-waiting (those who cannot seem to pass the Bar exams despite multiple tries but who have not given up — kudos!) who pursued that dream very much later in life.  When I took the Bar myself, there were people in the same room who were old enough to be my mom.  Yet they were there feeling as nervous as we young ones (then) were.  When you take the bar exams, you are thrown into a new room for each of the four Sundays.  You don’t know who is going to sit next to you, and often, there’s a lot of small talk and nervous chatter between exams as we await the beginning of each one.  I have been lucky enough to have taken it only once, and during the first Bar Exams held in the premises of De La Salle University on Taft Avenue at that so we had airconditioned rooms and all.  But seeing that collective laboring through the travails of trying to make it through the four Sundays gave me added courage that I needed to believe in myself.  If they can make it, I can make it.  I felt one with them — we were all dreaming the same dream.

Beyond my innocent visions of being in the courtroom as I watched those movies showing Atty. so-and-so when I was younger, I’ve come to see that being a lawyer is not confined to being in the courtroom.

So my reader Evelyn tells me that she doesn’t even know why she wants to be a lawyer when deep in her heart she is a businesswoman with a flourishing printing press.  (Wow.)  To which I say, what’s stopping you?  Being in law school, finishing it, taking the Bar Exams and passing it may not be needed in your printing press business, but believe me, it won’t hurt to have that added knowledge.  You’d be drafting your own contracts instead of going to someone else (and paying them for it) and maybe even notarizing those documents yourself.  You will know your rights and the nuances of contracts, taxation and corporation law in relation to your business.  But that’s not even the crux of why I think you should go ahead and give it a shot.

Going after your dream is living your life as you want it.  It’s like a lifestyle choice — you can be whatever and whoever you want to be.  If you have the means like you do thanks to the business you’ve been successfully running, what’s stopping you from pursuing a legal education that so many others pine for but can only dream of for lack of the financial means to do so?  So what if the law school you choose doesn’t choose you!  As you have probably read in previous related posts, I wanted to go to UP but they didn’t want me.  Because the Ateneo School of Law opened their doors to me, when I passed the Bar, that point went to their passing statistics.  We choose the school we go to based not just on their reputation and their standards, but sometimes we have to go to the school that will accommodate our work schedule, too.  And even if that school that we chose or that accepted us later on decides it wasn’t working out (translated: if you get booted out or dropped), there are other schools.

From the beginning to the end of that journey, it’s you and your dream that will steer you this way or that.

Future posts will deal with the other points you wrote but let’s start at the most important deciding factor of whether you eventually carry “Atty.” before your name some day — dream on, Evelyn.  I say go for it!

Next up, writing, you ask…

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The Path You Choose to Take


“What advice can you give as I decide on whether or not to go to law school?”  It’s a question I never tire of answering because although it has been years since I asked the same question of friends who had made the same decision, I still remember how that thought weighed heavily on me.

It is different for each one of us who have gone into the pursuit of law.  Even the career paths we ended up choosing after leaving the august halls of the Ateneo were diverse.  Instead of providing my own point of view, I’ve asked a favor of three former classmates and schoolmate from a batch ahead (but who I practically grew up with from elementary to high school) from the

Of the four, two are formerly from the University of the Philippines(like the Pinay New Yorker), and like Carmela, the sole lady lawyer came from one of the more prominent family of legal eagles.  

Atty. Reggie Nolido, currently connected with Corporate Counsels Philippine Law Offices, came from the University of the Philippines where he finished a degree in Economics.  He chose to go to the Ateneo “(b)ecause Ateneo delivers quality education.”  Unlike me who had come into the decision to go into law as a future career on my own, Reggie was practically programmed by his parents to pursue law as a profession from an early age.  That didn’t mean, though, that he had his heart set on it as early as his parents were, as he admits that the idea of actually pursuing law didn’t quite grow into him until he was in college. 

When I asked him what it was that drew him to making that decision to go into law school, he says “It’s a very interesting discipline. Knowing what you can and cannot do. Understanding the logic of relationships, transactions, deals. the thrill of combat in a regulated arena. Parang sports din.”

Meanwhile, for Atty. Noli Tibayan, the lure of law school came while he was already working with the NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) after college.  I have come across many classmates who had decided to go into law school after entering the work force and even when I sat for the Bar Exams, I found examinees who were old enough to be my Mom or Dad, sitting in on the same exam I was taking.  This, I think, goes to show that the realization or the decision to go to law school does not always come automatically for all of us.  Perhaps then, for those truly undecided, it bears some thinking to take pause literally and postpone law school for after some time in the real world as part of the workforce.  Some of us, like Noli, feel the call so to speak, at a later time.

“I thought people would listen to my thought more readily if I had more educational qualification. Feeling then I had enough economics which I had taken up in college, I thought of law studies — something which my mother really wanted me to do but which I rejected so much when she was hounding me to take it..,” Noli continues.  (There again figures some parental influence in the matter.)  And why Ateneo?  “(b)ecause of the Jesuits — believe it or not.”  Then again, having taken up Economics with the Jesuits, it seems an automatic choice for him to continue to pursue his legal education in the same university. 

Nowadays, Noli is part of the corporate world as HR Director for Roche in Manila.  That’s a long way from his days at the NEDA before law school, and while he isn’t actively practicing, his legal education has given him solid footing in this career path.

And there are those of us who are influenced by those moments in history which makes us stop to think about where our lives are going.  For Atty. Reagan De Guzman of the

Reagan continues “Law school was supposed to hone my skills on finding solutions to problems besetting every person every day. Law school was not simply to memorize the law but to immerse oneself on how a law is crafted and how it is to be interpreted and how it should be applied on certain situations. Law is a dynamic process. It evolves as society evolves. But sometimes, its evolution is stunted with self-interest rather than the interest of society as a whole and this is where one’s skills honed in law school will come into play.”

And why Ateneo?  That’s almost a silly question to ask of this true blue Atenean: “… because it’s the only school…… the others are just law schools…. not the Ateneo Law School…. I am biased towards Jesuit teachings and trainings… to always question everything… to have doubts… and yet to still have faith…”

Finally, this lady attorney and I practically grew up together, having gone to the same elementary and high school.  From the very start, her pursuing a law career seemed to be preordained as people saw her famous lawyer dad attend Parent-teacher conferences.  It was a face you couldn’t miss.  The famous lawyer dad and a law career for the daughter were synonymous in people’s minds.

She confided that she knew as early as Grade 1 or 2 (age 6 or 7!) that she wanted to be a lawyer.  “It was when I started hanging around my father’s law office a lot — playing and believe or not, smelling the old musty books. I liked the quiet peaceful feel of the place. It was very formal and the leather/cloth bound books looked so impressive. I liked the steady hum of the aircon, watching him work etc. I’d copy him by reading and writing whatever.”

They travelled the world over, and she tells me now that while she always wanted to be a lawyer, that decision somehow changed after one trip to Europe where she found herself thinking of going another route.  “It seems that all through my life I was destined to go to law school. Then, after high school we went on a trip to Europe. Everything changed and I suddenly wanted to take Hotel & Restaurant Management in Paris. Not going to happen. My parents, being very old fashioned, gave me 2 choices: law or medicine. So back to law.”

Like me, she went to college at the University of the Philippines to get to law school.  It seemed but a step closer to law school with the decision to pursue a legal education already firm in her mind.  “I just took up Poli Sci in college because I wanted to take it easy in my pre-law course since I knew for sure there’s no way I’m not going to take up law.”  She continues on, “Deep inside I knew if I took up law there will be more doors open to me. Private practice, politics, business, foreign service, corporate and the like.”

Her choice to go to Ateneo was partly motivated, though, by the very factors that led her to choose a career in law in the beginning — her father’s stature.  “I was in UP College during the EDSA revolution. You can imagine my student life in UP Poli Sci – with my father’s position, political ties etc etc. One professor would require us to join rallies. So of course I joined – he liked that a lot and I got a good grade. I thought Ateneo would be more peaceful, reasonable, less politicized. Wrong. It does not matter where you go. Its all crazy reading, studying everyday. You have to like it or else you will not see the point of studying all that. If its money you’re after – go into business!”

They chose the paths that have led them to where they are right now, each molded by circumstances peculiar to each one.  In the end, the answer lies within — it’s a choice you have to make not for anyone or anything else but yourself.   The challenge of pursuing one’s dream is to see it through.  And when your journey is ended, you can always choose to take another path.  Going to law school does not mean entering the litigation arena.  There are those of us who use what we have learned in other ways, or choose not to use it at all.

I’d like to think like Reggie, Noli, Reagan and my former classmate did: that it opened doors, that there were better opportunities, and in the end, that we realized we really did it for ourselves after all.  And that’s a good rule of thumb — do it because you want it for yourself, and no matter where you end up, you’ll be able to live with your choice.  Whether you successfully finish the course, pass the Bar Examinations or just decide in the middle of it all that it wasn’t your cup of tea, you can live with the decision and reap the success or face your failure head on knowing you did it because you wanted to.
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