May 5th… Cinco de Mayo… Mayo 5… is a date that is extraordinarily memorable and special for me. Why? It was on this date that I officially became a lawyer.
On May 5th, more than ten years ago, I signed in the roll of attorneys. It is the final act in order to become a full-fledged lawyer in the Philippines.
I can still vividly remember the overwhelming joy and sense of gratitude I felt that day. It also felt surreal at that moment, as I couldn’t believe it finally happened. All the hardwork, patience, efforts, sleepless nights, sweat and tears, at last paid off. It definitely was one of the best days of my life.
A lot of things have happened after that day. My learning did not stop but continues up to this day. I thought I have learned most of what I needed to know when I was in law school, but apparently, being a lawyer entails non-stop education and continuous learning. I am not just referring to legal education. As a lawyer, the experience you gain in the profession is a treasure to hold. It is true what they say, experience is the best teacher.
I thank all the people I have met who made an impact (big or small; good or bad) in my life. They are the reason why I am who I am today. I look forward to meeting many more people in the future who will teach me how to be a better lawyer and a better person.
There are numerous lessons I have learned so far from that day I signed the roll. Here are some of them:
(1) DO NOT GIVE UP. This is a timeless saying and I am certain that everyone knows it already. There are many instances, however, that we tend to forget it. When we are exhausted, stressed and fully stretched to our limit, we have a tendency to choose the easy way out: to give up and let go. I have learned that if you focus your attention in your goal, work hard for it, and persevere, more often than not, you will achieve it.
(2) DO NOT BE EMBARRASSED TO ASK FOR HELP. I learned this the hard way. I was used to working alone. As much as possible, I do things on my own, using my own means and methods. Sometimes, my methods work, sometimes they don’t. In times of urgency, when there are deadlines to be met, you can only do so much. There are things that you can do personally, and there are things that you can delegate to others. Delegation of work is not easy for a lot of people, including me. I had this conceited notion that I could do things faster and easier than others. It did not work all the time. I have missed deadlines, submitted half-baked reports, and presented incomplete information in the past, which could have been prevented if I asked help from others.
(3) CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES. My colleagues know this as I often say this phrase. There are times that it is better to just keep quiet and remain calm. When you are confronted by a situation that is beyond your control, it is better to just keep your cool and be silent. Don’t waste your time and energy on people that vehemently oppose your beliefs, opinions and recommendations. For as long as you have fulfilled your job as a lawyer, regardless if your advice is taken, you are good. It is alright to engage in a healthy argument but when it becomes too hostile and hopeless, sometimes it is better to just turn your back and move the other way. It is not worth it. Channel your time and energy elsewhere. You have other notable battles to prepare for.
(4) BE CAREFUL WHO YOU TRUST. There are people who appear so friendly and trustworthy at first but in the end, they are the ones who stab you in the back. It is heartbreaking to know of people who are credit-grabbers, “user-friendly”, power-trippers and narcissists, especially when you thought they were your friends. In this crazy world of ours, be careful who you trust. It is okay to maintain professional at work and select a few handful as friends. Anyway, one does not need a lot of friends to be happy. Having a few but genuine friends, is enough. Trust me. 🙂
(5) DO NOT FORGET TO REWARD YOURSELF. Give yourself a pat on the back when you accomplish things, big or small. Reward yourself for the achievements you have made. Sometimes, especially when the momentum is high, you tend to overlook these things. The demands of work, family, business and peers deprive you of the simple joys which you truly deserve. Treat yourself by taking a quiet walk or a long hot/cold bath, or by journalling your day or even by organizing your drawer or re-decorating your table/cubicle. These won’t cost you anything but will remind you of how productive and good you are in what you do.
(6) ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL. It may not be a bed of roses all the time for all of us. Whatever situation you may be in, try to look for something to be grateful for. Believe me, there is always something that you are grateful for, no matter what. I find it better if you write these things down because after a while, you will be overwhelmed when you look back at how much blessed you really are. Always give thanks.
(7) NEVER STOP LEARNING. Like what I mentioned, when I became a lawyer, my learnings did not stop there. In fact, it paved the way for opportunities for more knowledge, lessons, and awareness. I know that I have still a lot to learn from my bosses, colleagues, trainers, coaches and experts, even my staff and subordinates. I welcome them with open arms and I will not get tired of acquiring knowledge in whatever form.
(8) KEEP YOUR PRINCIPLES. It is true that practicing law is a privilege and not a right. I know that I should not take it for granted. In law school, we were asked to memorize the Lawyer’s Oath below:
I, do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, I will support the Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself these voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.
There will be countless opportunities and instances when your principles will be swayed and tested in practice. Even in ordinary situations, there are times we are tempted to disregard our beliefs and principles for the sake of fame, money and power. When you are on the brink of losing your principles, it helps to pause and remind yourself of the reason why you became a lawyer in the first place. Remind yourself that you took the lawyer’s oath and that you pledged to take on the duties and responsibilities proper of a lawyer.
(9) SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE TO OTHERS. As opposed to what others told me when I was a young and new lawyer, I prefer sharing whatever knowledge or information I have to those in need, rather than keeping them to my advantage. When you reach to a certain point in your career, you do not seem to care anymore about competition. You will soon realize that collaboration is way better than competition. Regardless of the outcome, good karma always goes back to you. That’s how it really is.
(10) DO NOT FORGET TO PRAY. In law school, we have called the names of all the angels and saints during recitations and examinations. During review classes, bar exam and most particularly on the day of the release of the bar results, our faith has never failed us. We were beyond grateful when we passed the bar exam, took the oath and signed the roll of attorneys. As we continue our own journeys as lawyers, let us not forget that all these things were not possible if it were not for Him. When we accomplish things according to our plan, let us pray and give thanks. When we are confused and hopeless, let us pray and ask for guidance. When all else fails, let us turn to Him in prayer and strengthen our faith that everything will turn out fine.
These are the top ten things on my list. My list of learnings keeps getting longer and longer everyday. I will share the rest of them some other time.