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Becoming a Juris Doctor

By: Archiebald Faller Capila

“Nasa portal na po ang grades.”

For the first time since time immemorial, I felt a heavyweight piercing through my chest. Our class beadles informed each and every group chat there is. My notifications were exploding. After a couple of weeks of waiting, the news we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. However, now that it is there, I found myself at a standstill and did not know what to do.

All my life, I wanted to become a lawyer. The main reason for the same now seems bleak to me. Maybe it was because I grew up watching my dad accept pro bono cases at the peak of his powers. Maybe it was because I was so fond of watching men and women in suits in a courtroom. Maybe it was because I was told by many that I have a knack for speaking and writing. Maybe it was because I knew I wanted to have some kind of societal affirmation in the future. In the end, what mattered most is that I wanted to become a lawyer.

Before entering law school, I dreamt of topping the Bar and eventually making a name for myself. I would spend hours imagining myself in a courtroom exchanging banters and legal knowledge with an opposing counsel. I would put myself in a lawyer’s shoes and take pride in becoming the legal mind behind the policies and programs of esteemed officials and politicians. At such a young and tender age, I knew what I want and I would do everything to attain such goals. However, by the time I was accepted for further studies in law, things quickly went south and made me question my decisions along the way.

My first few weeks in law school were a nightmare. For quite a long stretch, I experienced shock, stress, and horror all at the same time. The kilometric reading assignments deprived me of regular sleeping hours. I remembered only sleeping for at most four hours during my first few months in law school. I was so shocked by the volume of materials I had to understand and memorize. To add salt to the injury, I was not able to finish a single coverage, and that I performed poorly in my subjects.

Every night, I would cry myself to sleep. I would not be able to talk to my parents about how things are going. I was so ashamed of my performance that I had to rethink whether or not the study and pursuit of law are indeed for me.

All my life, I believed that from time to time, I am the smartest in the room. I was nabbing awards left and right whether the same be related to academic or extra-curricular activities. I was a consistent honor student. I graduated with Latin honors. I always told myself that I will become a big name someday—or so I thought. Law school made me realize that I am just a footnote in a bigger story.

I found myself in a free fall in the first few months of law school. I hit rock-bottom more than I am supposed to. For the first time in my life, I do not know how to deal with the immense pressure of succeeding a day in the hellhole that I got myself into. My dream of topping the Bar became short-termed. I prayed that I just survive the semester. In the long run, that dream even became simpler—I prayed that I just survive the day.

Law school is and will always be my greatest puzzle. While I was able to compose myself after quite some time, I was still not able to perform at a level I want to attain. The competitor in me insisted that I must succeed in every task handed to me by my professors. However, the same is not always the case.

I experienced some failing marks for my recitations and exams. The only measuring stick that made me keep on fighting was the “curve” our professors promise every time we would all flunk as a class. While law school has some bright days when it comes to academic achievements, it is more often than not a storm that cannot be stopped. It is a heavy pour that drowns.

Nonetheless, I did what I do best—I kept fighting and I never gave up. Every time I was on the brink of turning my back, I would recall my dad saying that “Exams are made by professors to test you. Students are meant to crack them every time.” Every time I was lost and I had no one to go to, I would remember my mom saying that “Prayers can answer every problem you have.”

Every time I thought I was going to fail, I eventually surpass the same and carry on to my next chapter.

It is true that no one survives law school alone—it takes a village to produce a Juris Doctor and eventually a lawyer along the way. Students need their parents who serve as guiding lights in this dark alley of their journey. Students need their partners and loved ones who serve as the pillars that strengthen the foundation of their dreams. Students need their friends and colleagues who serve as the support group that helps their sanity stay intact. Every student needs someone to look up to or someone to go to in the pursuit of their dreams as practitioners of the law. Every student needs someone to share their stories with.

“Nasa portal na po ang grades.”

The news we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. However, now that it is there, I found myself at a standstill and did not know what to do. After composing myself, I rushed to my hometown’s church and kneeled for quite a while. In solace and in silence, I could hear myself pray to God.

I took out my rosary and opened the portal. After skimming through the same, I went back home and saw my parents having their afternoon snacks along with cups of coffee to complete their meals.

“Anong balita?” my dad asked seeing a different smirk on my face. After all the emotional rides I had to go through, I was only able to say a short statement:

“All grades are out na po. Hintay na lang tayo ng graduation. Juris Doctor na po ako.”

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