Things I didn’t know about the Law Profession before I became a Lawyer

1.) There are different kinds of lawyering. You thought with all those movies that appearing in court as a litigation lawyer is the only practice of the profession. You’re obviously wrong. In Cayetano v. Monsod, the Supreme Court stated :

Interpreted in the light of the various definitions of the term Practice of law”. particularly the modern concept of law practice, and taking into consideration the liberal construction intended by the framers of the Constitution, Atty. Monsod’s past work experiences as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both the rich and the poor — verily more than satisfy the constitutional requirement — that he has been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.

Corporate, Intellectual Property, Taxation, and Labor law to name a few, could be practiced even without court appearance. There is clearly law practice outside the walls of the court.

2.) Everyone refers to you by your initials. While you can call your bosses sir or ma’am, and be on a first name basis with lawyers of the same rank, you can skip the awkward by using the lawyer’s initials: “I have work due today for BBB’s review.”

3.) The hierarchy is extreme. Partners rarely wanted to be called by first name (I only know one who prefers being called by first name and he practiced for a long time in New York) and depending on your firm culture, even Senior Associates might need to be called ma’am or sir. This hierarchy is not really objectionable as what you know when you start is really incomparable to a lawyer who has more years in his/her belt.

4.) Everyone starts stupid. Law school teaches you nothing. Law school only teaches the law. How you handle your clients, deal with government agencies, write documents and approach a problem can only be learned while going through the grind of being a practicing lawyer. You are a clean slate when you start.

5.) Your law school only matters sometimes. In the workplace, you will encounter colleagues coming from less popular law schools and you will realize that your UP, Ateneo, San Beda etc. education, is not really that amazing. You all start on the same place (assuming you passed the bar knowing good English and having a work ethic). Having said that, I have experienced outright offers when I presented my resume.

6.) Your salary is higher than most entry-level jobs but you will still struggle. You’ll frequently spend your own money for uber or grab (and get reimbursed later), for meetings with client, going to court, government offices etc. There’s also the rent and utilities if you happen to live alone (or with a roommate) in the city. If you live with your family, you’ll still have to offer a part of your salary for the family expenses. Delicadeza. You’re now earning money.

7.) Your idealism and principles will wither away. You can’t really choose the clients that your firm your accept. You can’t choose work. Everything will just pile up. If you are in a litigation firm, yes you will defend “criminals” no matter how gruesome you think they are. They have the right to due process after all. If you work for some offices in the government, you will encounter people who will try to bribe you. The frequent moral dilemma is there.

8.) Your post-graduate doesn’t make you a better person. You are the same person as you were before you entered law school. You know laws, jurisprudence and heck, you can even probably handle yourself better but you are not “smarter” just because you are a lawyer. You eat the same food and breathe the same air. Go figure.

9.) You will never get a break from a hectic life. Passing the bar is only a temporary relief. You signed yourself up for a lifetime of hard work.

This ends my list for now. Any comments or suggestions? Feel free to comment, message or email me.

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