So you want to be a lawyer? A few things we need to talk about.

Hi! How are you guys? It’s Day 5 of 365. I’m a bit disappointed since I’m home due to another asthma attack! Today, I’m taking another trip down memory lane (the second of many, I hope), and share something I learned while I was (still) in law school. For those who are new to this blog, I’ve had to give up law school for the time being to help take care of my father who had a stroke more than two years ago, and partly because I was burnt out. Now that he’s much better, and I’m ready, I’m taking steps to going back to law school, probably starting over.

What I would like to share with you is that law school is a life changing journey. It’s been difficult as I’ve failed subjects every now and then (it’s part of the process, more or less), but it didn’t stop me from going for my dream of becoming a lawyer. This post is probably going to be the most challenging one I’ll ever write, because I still have a long way to go. Hopefully, this one will help those who dream of becoming a lawyer–and that this post will not serve as a deterrent from what you hope to be in four, five years time.

 

This was my exam booklet for my Provisional Remedies class. My professor for this subject likes our answers to be straight to the point. At the time I was answering this question, I was pretty much drained, as I had an exam prior to this (three exams in one day, woooo!), and another one in the evening (Law schools in the Philippines are mainly evening classes). So with nothing else to say, and completely bereft of (proper) legal basis, I answered this question in the most direct (and dare I say smartalecky) manner possible. Little did I know that my answer was correct. (NB:My professor only makes a mark on the answers if he is making deductions. As this particular page is clean, it means my answer is correct.)

So, you want to be a lawyer? That’s a worthy ambition. I do think it’s still a noble profession, no matter what people say. It’s not going to be plain sailing. Let’s tick one by one the things you should think about before you pass that admissions application form

1.Why do you want to become a lawyer? Do you really want to be one?

Do you really want to become a lawyer? Is it something that you’ve chosen to do? If yes, then good for you. That’s one step ahead of the game.

If you are going to law school because your parents want you to be a lawyer, think again. You better have a serious conversation with your parents (who would be most likely to finance your studies) because not only it is a life-changing decision, it’s an investment. Tuition fees, textbooks, related readings do not come cheap. If you are half-hearted about the whole thing, then tell your parents that you would rather be doing something else. Honesty is the best policy. Better be frank than breaking everybody’s hearts if things do not go as planned.

I have friends in law school whose parents are in the legal profession, and they are inspired by their parents’ work. But again, are you sure you really want it? If yes, then go for it! At least you will have your role models and you will have someone who you could turn to you when you find a concept hard to grasp. If again, your heart is not in it, then don’t go there. While I’m sure your parents would be disappointed if you’d rather be an account/an architect/a chef/ a chemist/a doctor, a scientist–but again, remember, honesty is the best policy. It’s easier said than done, but one day, they will thank you for it.

If, however, you are going to be a lawyer because you have peso/dollar/pound signs for your eyes, then forget it. Law is a profession, not a trade. While yes, you may have a good salary, but there are other ways to make serious money.

 

2. Prepare to get skint.

Yes, really. If you’re in the Philippines, a law textbook can cost as much as Php 2,000.00 (Roughly US$40;£32-33). Then handouts, case readings that can cost as much as Php 1,000.00 (accumulated, but still no exaggeration here, approximately £16;US$19-20, possibly more). Other students get photocopies of the books (because it’s cheaper), but as much as possible, if it’s available in the bookshops, I buy it from there. Why? As a (former) student of the law, no matter if it’s fair use (something you’ll learn in Intellectual Property Law–I’ll probably tell you all about it later), I’d rather support the author. He or she has given so much of his or her time, effort, and possibly other resources in writing the book. Getting it photocopied just because you want to skimp is rather too much for me. Your reading materials are an investment. You will appreciate it more when the time comes you will be reviewing/revising for the Bar exam.

 

3. If you don’t know how to manage your time, then now is the time.

No pun intended, sorry!

But seriously, time management is an essential commodity in law school. Back when I was a full-time student, I thought that I had all the time in the world (well, I sort of did, my class being at 6 pm). Later, I learned how dangerous this is. Having learned that lesson, I made a timeline of sorts. For example, for Persons and Family Relations (my class is at 6 pm on Tuesdays, and 5 on Wednesdays), I have around twenty to thirty articles to study. If I start studying at 3 am, I should have at least reached 1/4 of the textbook assignment by 5 am (break not included). Then I go read the cases until 7 am. At 7 am, I start to get ready for school. At 9, I arrive in school, and continue reading the rest of the coverage. I make it a goal that by 5 pm, all I should be doing is reviewing what I’ve studied and making additional notes.

It was a different story when I became a working student. My time for studying became limited to early morning and lunchtime. I had to cram in so much information as I could, went on an eye-damaging crusade by reading in moving transport (hey, life of a commuter).

 

4. You will have to make some sacrifices. Priorities, priorities!

I remember one family gathering that I was on Eat and Run. Originally, I preferred to stay home, but as my parents had asked me to go with them to a family gathering as some relatives haven’t seen me in ages. So I did go with them, but I brought along my readings. After saying hi to said relatives, I ate dinner, “borrowed” a cousin’s room to study (in peace). Story of my life, lol. I’ve said no to many people because I’ve had to finish my readings, do related coursework (hi, case digests, hi, legal research homework). If you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t a law student, prepare to make a compromise. One of my friends is circumspect with her time. Mondays to Saturdays are for school. Sunday morning for church, which leaves her Sunday afternoon with her boyfriend. Then she goes home by early evening to do more studying. She is blessed with a very supportive boyfriend, so it was a bit easier for her. Some partners are not as understanding, and will ask you to choose.

Blessed are the people who are in a relationship with fellow law students for they understand how it feels, what’s it like to deal with a lot of stress.

I was about to say that you might have to sacrifice sleep as well, but for me, lack of sleep=poor immune system, ergo you get sick. So, no, you can’t sacrifice your health here. You can say goodbye to your social life, but your health should not be compromised.

 

5. A thick skin suit is very much needed.

I don’t know about law students elsewhere in the world, but here in the Philippines, we’ve bought thick skin suits, worth their weight in gold, charged to experience. Why? Every meeting, law students get to be a verbal punching bag for every bad recitation we make. Because the Philippines follows the Socratic method in learning the law, there is a recitation every time the class meets, unless there’s a ceasefire (a law school jargon, meaning there will be no recitations. This is a privilege meted out by professors in very rare cases. Usually, the beadle–or the class representative or monitor appeals for this privilege in behalf of his classmates/blockmates). Oh, and there’s the prelims/midterm and final exams. Either you fail, or you pass. There was one time that I massively failed an exam. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

In law school, the professors will not care if you have been an honour student during your undergraduate student days (Law is a graduate degree in the Philippines). Some of them really have the knack of making you feel like the proverbial village idiot. Their motto: You are only as good as your last recitation.

 

So there you have it! They may be only few, but I do hope this post has helped! If, after reading, you still are determined, well, huge props to you! 🙂

 

 

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