Completing   law school is a feat but graduating  from the Ateneo Law School raises the expectations.  There is simply no room for mediocrity if you are to live by the words  St. Thomas More  “a man (or woman ) for others.”

In 1987 there were only  148 volumes of SCRA in the Ateneo Library.  In 1991 when we graduated  there were  194 volumes of SCRA  and  after 20 years, there are now 632 volumes of the SCRA in circulation.  Information is everywhere and has not stopped.  In 1991, Phil Juris was released,  the first compilation  of Supreme Court cases in a compact disc by Gigabytes Research Systems Inc..  Studying for cases was revolutionized and was never the same again.

As students, we were challenged and terrorized on a daily basis, six days a week.  On Sundays, we just gather enough strength to pray so that we can endure the following six days of the week.  Four years, eight semesters and a group thesis requirement announced on first semester  of third year   to successfully graduate the first batch of Juris Doctors in 1991. In addition to prayers, lifelong friendships were built.  No one survives  law school without friends.

Our classes were still at H.V. de la Costa then.   Looking back it was providential that the St. Thomas More Chapel was on the ground floor because before going to class, most of us, if not all, had no choice but to drop by every day.  Our standard  prayer before class is “Lord please do  not call me for recitation today.”   After class, our prayer was “Lord, thank you for not calling me today  for recitation.”  Thus,  the constant communication with the Higher Being was very much part of our daily lives in the law school.    No one can boast  that he or she survived law school without uttering prayers in order to survive the daily grind.  The bar exams, on the other  hand,  is another matter all together  but the intensity of prayers is 100 times more than the regular daily grind.   Some  were not content with the Almighty and the saints but even called on their dead relatives and loved ones to help them out.

Law school teaches you study like you have never done before,  and more importantly  to pray perseveringly and let divine intervention help you  do your best always even if it means you are unable to read the 300 cases a day assigned to you.

As lawyers,  you begin your journey with so many choices – good, better, best, bad, worse and worst.   Who decides  which is good or bad, better or worse, or best and worst?  You decide!

After graduation from law school, one realizes that the legal profession is a service profession.  Whether your client is an indigent or a Taipan, you are there to serve them their legal needs.  Although in the commercial world, there is a saying that “the customer is always right”, it is only in law profession that the client  is not always right.

When you are challenged and terrorized by your professors on a daily basis, you have no choice but to become bold when you deal with your clients.  You look them in the eye and tell them what is wrong with what he/she has done and what is the best way to rectify the same, if possible.  Many times lawyers realize they are very creative and imaginative in finding solutions to problems presented to them.

As any profession, you start from the bottom of the heap, and through the years , if your  end goal  is to attain the excellence needed everyday  –  outopia  (good place), you rise above the heap and see the light.

As a  neophyte, I attended all sorts of motions in court just to see the inside of the court, particularly, motions to postpone.  This was my next classroom.  Even if my motions were already heard, I stayed  to observe litigation proceedings, different judges, different procedures.  If I am  lucky, I got  appointed counsel de officio for arraignments of accused who do not have counsel.   This was a trill because I talked to prisoners and learned more about them.

I became a litigation lawyer by accident, not by choice, mostly criminal, and a handful of civil cases.  No regrets, of course.    Through the years because I am always for the defense, most of my clients have become my dear friends.  I thank God, no one is in jail.

While in law school, it was always taught that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty and that the accused deserves the best criminal defense whether he or she can pay for it.  I did not really understand what this meant until I became a litigation lawyer.    I could never serve my clients well until I prayed for them and for their circumstances.  If there was anything the law school has taught me  which I practice until today  – STUDY, PRAY and SERVE.    To date, I still pray before entering the Court room, and after leaving it.    My prayers are a little more complicated now but I still pray to serve my clients well.

Attaining The Excellence Needed Everyday  – Outopia (good place) that’s what Ateneo means to me!