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.

My Future History Professor

My ten-year-old and I have two favorite mommy-and-me topics: first, he enjoys hearing about how he was when he was much younger, and second, how things will be when he grows up. Somewhere between that is “the now” of my soon-to-be fifth grader and mommy trying to keep him from growing up too fast.

I am just grateful that he never passed the “I want to drive a dump truck/garbage truck” stage which my youngest brother, Nikki, swore to in his early years. (And we were all relieved that he eventually did become a licensed Physical Therapist now working in one of the bigger hospitals in Manila!)

These days, my little boy is fascinated with Social Studies and the American Revolution in general. At the end of his fourth grade, he got the Social Studies Expert award with matching cheers of approval from the rest of his class. We, as the proud parents, beamed with pride, but he glowed with the recognition of his expertise and that was the most precious of all.

You can imagine how heartening it is to hear him say he wants to be a History Professor when he grows up.  He wants to study History and teach History.

I’m trying very hard not to let my dreams and aspirations get in the way of him forming his own. I want him to set his own goals in life– and I want to just be on the sidelines cheering him on. I want to see him get himself to a university of his choosing and pursuing his dreams to fruition. I don’t want to be the parent living her dreams through her child. That would be most unfair because we bring our children up to be their own person and not to be who or what we couldn’t be. If we couldn’t live our dreams, we should make new ones for ourselves instead of burdening our children with the pressure of succeeding where we failed.

We always want what’s best for our children, of course.  Well, most of the time.  I don’t want to be that parent who pins their future hopes and dreams on their children’s success.  I want to stick around for as long as I can and maybe watch him become a family man eventually.  But I see myself growing old around him, but not being a burden on him.

It would be great to hear him say “I want to be a lawyer like you, Mommy,” but for now, the fact that he is thinking of college and doing something fruitful afterwards is good enough. Maybe in time he will think of the legal profession.  That would be nice, but it wouldn’t be the death of my hopes and dreams if he chooses to be a rock star instead.  (Well, he doesn’t have the rock star voice although he has the swag.  Plus, there’s the prerequisite that a rock star career be preceded by a college degree.)

I was never goaded by my parents to pursue a legal education.  The one and only goal was to go through and finish college.  That I landed in the University of the Philippines was an added plus but would not have been the be-all and end-all of my post-high school life.  The choice to go to law school was totally mine, and a dream I had set my heart on as early as I was choosing my college course or the university I was going to attend.  At that point in my life, I was going to college with the end in view of eventually going to law school.

I have come across many young people who had thought about law school much later, or not even with such a long thought out aspiration as I did — and that doesn’t surprise me, and that doesn’t make it any less a valid dream or goal to aim for.  We go through life learning about what we can do and what we want.  These things change as our personality changes through our life experiences.  Sometimes we grow in ways we never thought we would, and we find ourselves suddenly thinking of things we never thought we would consider, like being a lawyer.

I’d like to think that my own life experiences will have some bearing on my little guy’s own life choices, but when it comes to the career or direction he will want to take when he is older, I’d rather leave the decision to him.  I won’t try to influence that one way or the other, except perhaps to convince him staying closer to mommy instead of moving to the other side of the country would be just as good.  (I’m trying to bribe him to actually stay here until he is ready to stand up on his own two feet AFTER college.. wishful thinking, I know.)

I would be on cloud nine if one day he tells me he wants to be a lawyer, too.  But that’s many years away, and I can wait.  For now, I’d be happy to encourage the dream to be a History Professor. After all, History is a good pre-law degree.  =)

Related posts can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE which can be found in the navigation bar.

(Of Never-ending but very welcome) Law School Inquiries – A reply to Concerned Citizen

This is a much-delayed response to a long e-mail I received from someone who strayed into my blogspace last April. I apologize for the delay but it was not exactly a question I could answer with a “yes” or a “no” and I had totally lost track of which account the e-mail originally was sent to. (Reminder to self on e-mail / contact info widget.  And just for everyone else’s info, best e-mail to reach me at is pinaynewyorker@gmail.com)

First of all, I want to thank “Concerned Citizen” (CC) for having taken the time to write the e-mail and share with me his dilemma and ask me for my two cents’ worth on the matter. I am humbled that you found me worthy of asking, and no, I don’t find it nerve-wracking — on the contrary, your asking me the question was a compliment to this blog’s very existence.

CC would have graduated or is about to graduate from a prestigious university in Manila and is asking me what I think his chances of going to law school are, and if it is prudent to give law school a try given that it is something that came to him only in very recent weeks. He gave me a good background on how he landed where he landed, and I must say I found myself “talking back” as if in conversation as I read his e-mail.

CC, for whatever it’s worth, please bear in mind my advice here is just that: MY advice. You have quite a good head on your shoulders, and I take my hat off to your parents for having raised you as they did. Trust your instincts.

We parents always want what’s best for our children, but you will have to pardon our tendency of sometimes making the mistake of living vicariously through you, our children.. They mean well by trying to imbibe in you that goal of becoming a doctor one day. We try to set lofty goals for our children, because we dream of a good life and a good future for them. We seek affirmation of our success as parents in the hope that they will become successful. We always want our children to apply themselves, and be the best of what they can be. You are fortunate that your father seems to have the flexibilty between the two most cherished titles parents wish for their children (Doctor or Attorney), so that means you have retained the prerogative to choose. So setting aside what your family may want for you, let’s focus on what YOU want for yourself now.

The pursuit of higher education is a daunting task. Whichever way you go, it will mean hard work and a different brand of perseverance and persistence that you will need to see you through. Your father’s dream of you having a title and for the two of you to have something to be proud of is neither trivial or selfish even if it appears to be on its face. In a sea of graduates that join the job market year on year, a four year college course is now the norm. Of course having DLSU on your resume gets you more than just a foot in the door, but you need more to get you up the ladder.

I think I can see what your father and the rest of your family sees in you, that is why they keep goading you on to pursue higher studies.

Do not give in to self-doubt. You say you don’t think you are as smart as they think you are — I believe you’re short-selling yourself in this respect. That you lost your fervor for studying in college is not indicative of how intelligent you are.

My choice early on was DLSU. My father, however. wanted his daughter in UP. I have written about this several times that even if he decried the hardships that the (then) construction of the LRT on Taft Avenue would cause, I ended up on the other side of Taft Avenue in UP Manila.

I saw my college years fly by as a time of seeing the world with the eyes of a grown up. While I started out taking copious notes and studying diligently, an English professor was telling me she knows I deserve a 1 but she couldn’t give that to me if I was never in class by my sophomore year. I was still pretty tame compared to most — I never smoked, and while I went out with friends who went drinking on most afternoons, they ordered me a coke for every round of beer. (This same group produced at least 4 lawyers besides myself, by the way.). I could have made the Dean’s list if I really put my heart and soul to it, but it just wasn’t in me. I had other things that kept me busy.

I was also hit by that “I’m not as smart as they think I am” early on when I sat in one of my classes with my freshman “blockmates”. I couldn’t help but wonder if I really belonged in that class with what seemed to be a motley crew of freshmen from different parts of the country — but despite appearances, accents and all that — I felt they were all smarter than me. It took me a while to realize I did belong, and what’s more, I could actually hold my own. 

“Passion” and “Motivation” are two things that only you can find.  If it is not where you are right now or in what you are doing, then you have to accept that and move on from there.  You will only find those two if you continue to search for it.  We can only cheer you on, but the motivation must be there in you, or there will be nothing that will move you one way or another.

From this point forward, I hope that you will think only of you.  Let’s take the “family” equation out of the way.  I kept hearing you go back to “what would make (your) family happy,” and while I think that’s a major part of the equation, I don’t think that’s what should weigh heavily on any decision you make about yourself.  You appear to have done them proud and have been a good son up to this point.  You will always be — even if you choose to be a rock star.  Remember that no matter what you choose to be, and no matter how you end up in the future — whether you become a politician, an activist, a lawyer, a doctor — they will always be your family.  Your future, however, is in your hands.

I know only too well the pressure that thinking about one’s future brings.  No matter how independent-minded you are or want to be, there are always things that come into the picture, like people who depend on you or whose state of mind is intertwined with your course of action.   You always try to do things in the now in preparation for a goal or a dream about tomorrow.  But you have to keep in mind that it all devolves around YOU.   You can only be good at something that you truly enjoy or love, no matter how you may be able to learn and pick up things in a snap. You can only be truly good at something you like and enjoy doing. That is why you should decide based on what you want.  Do not be afraid to think about new ideas — so what if you just thought about pursuing a legal education in recent weeks?  What I think you should focus on is, as you wrote: “When I thought of this option, unexpectedly, I felt quite relieved for some reason.  I knew that somehow, my heart has found peace in the midst of all the anxieties I’m feeling because of the apprehensions the future bring me.”  CC, I would read that aloud and I would listen to my voice.

And here’s another reminder:  .. I decided to shift out, with a conviction that I do not want to be a doctor.  I realized that I didn’t want to become a doctor, it’s just my family pushing me to do something they want for me.”  I copied that verbatim from your e-mail.  I just realized on fourth reading that in one breath, you said it twice – “I do not/didn’t want to become a doctor.”

Okay, so that’s that.

I have always said you will never know until you try — you’ve already seen that the medical option wasn’t for you because you tried. I like that you can actually see that pursuing a law degree is not going to be easy, but you didn’t blink by thinking it was impossible. You actually see it as an easier path to success and stability later on in life.

So what do I think about you pursuing a law degree? I believe you have the smarts, the English (number 1 requirement!) and the proper frame of mind to go for it. You were able to relate your story to me in a very coherent and logical fashion. It was actually well-written, and I would have published it here in full but I felt that too many of the details would make you and your family easily identifiable by those who know you.   If I were to base my answer on whether or not you had what it takes academically and intellectually, I’d say yes.  But more than seeing  that you have the skills and the brains to go for it, I think the fact that you have a very clear picture of what you want to do is yet another reason to give the law entrance exams a try.  You’re just being held back by the notion that everyone wants you or expects you to be a doctor, and the thought that you only started thinking of law school recently kind of scares you.  Don’t let it.

Dreams have no timeline.  You can be a dreamer of many dreams.  What does have a timeline is going for that dream.  And no one says your dreams cannot change.  Let’s say you take the entrance exam, you pass, you go to law school, and you eventually pass the Bar and become a lawyer.  Then during your first year of practice, like me, you realize that litigation is not for you.  You realize that you want to be a journalist.  Or that you want to be a pastry chef.. or you want to be a travel writer.  What’s there to stop you?  Only you can really put a stop to any dream that crosses your mind.

I’d go for it.  And if, after the exams.. or even after a year or two in law school you realize it’s not for you, go and dream another dream.  Some people judge those who can’t seem to make up their minds about their pursuits as being whimsical or being irresponsible and living a life without direction, I say that perhaps they just have the guts to go after what hits their fancy at any given time.  Not everyone is as brave.

You know what you want.  I say go chase that dream and see where it takes you.

Related posts can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE which can be found in the navigation bar.