THE SCHOOL THAT MOLDED THE LAWYER I AM TODAY

June 1977, the Ateneo College of Law Building was transferred to Salcedo Village, Makati. Still vivid in my mind was the day I entered the new Ateneo College of Law Building along dela Costa Street.   I was thrilled with excitement, my mind filled with visions of what can be,  guided by a thirst to learn many things .  Entering the new building was like going through  the hallways of the future. I was already challenging myself – “ if I could be given the opportunity to be able to learn everything that this place could offer, I could impact the lives of people, change things for the better, become a practitioner of law.   It was my burning passion-  to learn law as much as I can. I learned soon enough that it wasn’t going to be an easy road. The work piled-up fast, the books to be read became endless, and the professors seemed determined to weed out as many as possible. The school challenged  me  to seriously take to heart what I read as I started memorizing codes, and  phrases of jurisprudence. I was driven to understand the spirit of what the law stood  for. My mind was pounded to a pulp, each cortex drilled and filled with the different parts of the law. I learned that knowing the law simply for the sake of memorizing and committing it to memory should be coupled with being able to understand why the law was enacted.  In Legal Philosophy and Legal Ethics , it became clearer to us law students that knowing what the law is was not sufficient , we needed to fully understand that it is based and even subservient to a higher moral law- one that truly holds society together. There was a big emphasis on the four fold rule: the lawyer’s obligation and duty to society, constitution, to the court, and to fellow bar members. To this day, I bear that in mind and share this with future lawyers: . “To compromise  this  principle may give some initial success, but will never give long term gains in the legal profession.”

The Ateneo Law School  gave me what one would say is a chance of a lifetime-  to learn and be taught by experienced and passionate professors who are legal experts. It gave me the opportunity to test myself to the fullest as we were challenged daily with recitations to cite the provisions of law, and to  analyze  cases that governed particular provisions. This is the best training one could get from Ateneo Law which I took to heart. In my mind it was a process of learning law, provision by provision, and case analysis one day at a time. The professors were of high caliber, legal practitioners who are very well experienced in the field.   Some were law luminaries from the courts and government offices. There were so much to learn from their lectures and practical illustrations of the application of a particular principle.

Equally important in the Law School environment were my classmates in the Ateneo Class of 1981 . They are all bright, and determined to make it from law school all the way to the bar exams.  We learned from one another. We admired each others presence of mind as we simply  listened to how the recitations and explanations of  the case were made. Imagine being grilled by an expert in a particular topic and  being able to stand up and  defend your point-  this is what I call a true test of one’s intellectual ability.  During breaks, we partied and had fellowship that  bonded us in a personal way. That is why Class 81 is a tightly knit group.  We knew each other inside and outside the classroom.  We all had the same four years of character formation where each had to work very hard to survive. Eventually , we had to part ways but still kept in touch.  Years past and a good number were able to carve a name for themselves in the legal field.   In a graduation speech under the theme : “A Passion for Justice”, delivered by Justice Pompeyo Diaz,  one line stuck into my mind, heart and soul and became a constant reminder in my 30 years of law practice : “Never sell your vision for if you do, you will become a mere auctioneer ready to go to the highest bidder!”. This line has guided me not only in the law profession, but also in my journey through  life  with my family, my friends,  and my fellow lawyers.  That line taught me to seek what is just, never compromise it ,  and to never sell or throw away the trust that people has given me .   As I embarked on my Law career, I kept a low profile, away from the public’s eye.  I focused on being a good counselor of law to my clients, envisioning  to become  a trusted adviser  providing the best legal advice possible  that will benefit the client,   the society and country as a whole.

I particularly remember one classmate that I looked-up to.   I have never seen anyone study the law with passion, energy, and dedication day-in and day-out.  In the library, I observed that this student engaged the study of law in a very systematic way. He would read his codal, then go to the cases, then patiently write the digest by himself.   He would then read the commentaries and codal again. He studied  and learned  law as if his very life depended  on what he has reading  and committing  to memory. I believe , that discipline made him our class valedictorian, and he placed second in the bar exams.  He took his masters from Harvard Law and later on became an author of numerous law books.  He is now Dean of the Ateneo College of Law – Dean Cesar Villanueva.

As a practicing lawyer since 1982, I had some share of success in the private sector and a few years of stand in government.  In the 27 years since our office was established  in l 1984 , the office has grown into a stable, medium sized law office with a list of established clients, and a  good network  and  access to information to provide updated legal and business advisories. The Law practice has opened opportunities that provided the partners and associates modest and comfortable gains.  The practice has likewise given me the opportunity to provide my family and  others who  depend on us, with sufficient economic comfort. It has opened avenues for me to assist others,  guided by our noble calling to be man for others.  Currently, I chair a foundation that aims to promote the Filipino brand and values through the arts and culture. The network I gained early on in my student years are part of those who have been instrumental in helping me with the activities of this foundation.

I attribute where I am now to hard work and determination, and to the first rate education and guidance that the Ateneo Law School has given me. I took my law seriously, tried to learn as much as possible from the distinguished professors, and made good friends with my classmates in the Batch of 81. I am proud to be an alumnus with all the other law graduates as the school celebrates its diamond year.   I am proud to say that for 30 years, I have applied the foundation that the Ateneo Law School has given me in my dealings with my clients. I believe I have kept the trust of my clients for many years because of this foundation.

As the Ateneo Law School celebrates its 75th Year, I encourage those enrolled in the institution today to keep the school’s ideals burning. Become the new generation of lawyers who will be social innovators and agents of positive change, and builders of new guideposts for the country. The road will be hard, and the challenges will seem insurmountable. But I believe that with discipline and sheer determination, you will soon belong to the ranks of law professionals with the good foundation that will make our world a better world for all.