Changing Careers: Life and Law with Mr. Gemora
By: Archiebald Faller Capila
The dream to become a lawyer comes with it a history-- a past so rich in reasons that eventually pushes a student to do great things amidst adversity. Those who want to become lawyers have reasons of their own on why they want to eventually become a member of the legal profession. Whether it be because of a childhood dream or because of some other factor that eventually gave birth to such a goal, it is but implied in their journey that they were taught to become lawyers in the future. Indeed, the dream of becoming a lawyer has always been vivid for these students. Their goals of becoming future officers of the Court are always kept intact in their respective minds which drive them to do great things not only for themselves but also for the people they want to serve through the grand and touching elements of the law.
However, there are some who did not want to pursue law in the first place. For some, it took a while before they realized that they are tailored for the study and practice of law. For some, it needed a lot of experience and signs before they realize that they are indeed for the greater purpose of the law.
Not familiar to most, there are a handful of law students, law graduates, and lawyers who ventured towards the field of science before entering law school. For some, they are already practitioners of health before they realized that they are more needed as future officers of the court.
One of the few candidates who started in healthcare services and ended up being a decorated law student is Mr. Aaron S. Gemora. Starting off his career as a Registered Nurse and eventually ending up as a Juris Doctor graduate, Mr. Gemora has been on both sides of the spectrum. Accordingly, he also had the opportunity to work for a handful of governmental offices wherein he applied his legal learning in the process.
In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Mr. Gemora shares with us his life as a law student, an active member of several student organizations, and a hard-working government employee during his meaningful stint in office.
Barrista Solutions: Who or what inspired you to pursue law? Looking back at your journey, how can you describe in summary such feat after graduating?
Mr. Gemora: Entering law school was a personal decision. Before law school, I was a practicing registered nurse for one of the top hospitals in the country. While working as a nurse, I quickly found out that I am not fit for the nursing profession. The nursing profession requires a certain set of skills that, honestly, I did not have. As the saying goes, “you can’t put a square peg in a round hole.” So, I quit my job and the nursing profession.
And so, I thought of a field where I can grow and potentially excel at. I’m not the most talented of guys. I only have a few things which I can safely say that I’m good at; my writing and speaking skills. And so I thought, what is the field where I can use such skills. Voila! Like a proverbial light bulb that turned on inside my head, I thought of the legal profession.
Barrista Solutions: Being a Registered Nurse before entering law school, what adjustments did you make in order to adapt to a new environment? Was it hard knowing that your undergraduate degree is relatively different from further studies in law?
Mr. Gemora: At first, I must say yes, it was hard. Coming from a medical course, even the basic legal concepts were foreign to me. I knew I had to quickly adapt. And the good thing about law school is it compels you to adapt. Quite quickly, I learned na hindi law school ang mag a-adjust sa’yo, ikaw ang mag a-adjust sa law school.
If there was one thing that I had to adjust, it’s that I had to create “study habits” because honestly, I didn’t have those back in college. I was a happy-go-lucky college student who studied for exams two hours before the actual exam. That attitude won’t cut it in law school. In law school, a day or even two days preparation for a recitation (not an exam, a recitation) oftentimes isn’t even enough.
Barrista Solutions: In your stay at San Beda University, you also stood at the helm of The Barrister, the official student publication of your school, as its Editor-in-Chief. How can you describe your journey as a writer meeting and interviewing several personalities in the process, most of which are legal luminaries in their respective fields?
Mr. Gemora: One of the best decisions I made in law school was to join The Barrister. Fortunately, I got in. And once inside The Barrister, I was quickly inculcated with the virtue of “tulungan.” Expectedly, most of the members when I got there were junior and senior law students. These are people who have had more experiences in law school than me, and they showed me the value of helping one another. My seniors instantly became my ates and kuyas. They gave me tips, materials, case digests, reviewers, advice, anything and everything I may need to survive law school. The camaraderie I experienced inside the publication was probably the highlight of my stay at The Barrister.
In addition, I was very fortunate to be able to interview and meet some the “who’s who” of the legal profession like the late, great Dean Willard Riano, former SC Justice Jose Reyes Jr., Ombudsman Samuel Martires, the incomparable Dean Virgilio B. Jara, among others. These interviews and interactions gave me different perspectives on what law school and lawyering are all about. Not every law student gets the chance to converse with legal luminaries on a personal level, so it was my goal to share their story in a way that our readers can relate to, hoping that they will also pick up nuggets of wisdom from our interviewees.
Barrista Solutions: Aside from your venture as the Editor-in-Chief of The Barrister, you were also an editor for the San Beda Law Journal and a Legal Intern for the San Beda Legal Aid Bureau. How did you manage your time while doing a multitude of tasks?
Mr. Gemora: Time management. As cliché as it may sound, but it’s really just time management. When you do something that you love, it’s not “work,” it’s passion. And believe it or not, when what you’re doing is your passion, you may not notice it, but everything will fall in its place. You will unconsciously learn to balance your assignments, manage your time, and learn to prioritize.
Barrista Solutions: Being engaged in several extra-curricular activities while studying law, how did you manage expectations in handling all your works both as a student of the law and as a high ranking-officer in your respective organizations?
Mr. Gemora: First, shun people’s expectations. It’s very difficult to be bound by expectations that you didn’t set for yourself. Set your own short-term, realistic goals. Take things one step at a time.
Barrista Solutions: Accordingly, you also engaged in governmental work as an executive assistant for the Department of Health while finishing your studies. How did this work experience give you a fresh perspective in the study of law?
Mr. Gemora: Working for the government made me realize how important the role lawyers/legal officers play in the public sector. The government programs and initiatives we see are by-products of numerous governmental processes which almost always involves the application of legal concepts and principles, from the most basic to more complex ones.
Barrista Solutions: During this time of a pandemic, how do you handle the additional stress and burden of not being able to leave home both for your review proper?
Mr. Gemora: Admittedly, I am more inclined to studying outside the comforts of home. But this pandemic taught me the importance of adaptability. We must “play the cards we’re dealt with.” Luckily for me, I was able to carve out a space for me to study for the Bar inside our home. Yes, changing my study habits from outdoors to indoors has its challenges, but I can safely say that I have adapted well, and finally getting the hang of it.
Barrista Solutions: For you, how can law students and Bar candidates help improve the status of the legal profession and how can they uphold the rule of law in today’s time in their own personal capacities?
Mr. Gemora: I think it is fundamentally important to always remember why we wanted to be lawyers in the first place. We all have different reasons for wanting to be a lawyer. Some want to be an advocate for the less fortunate, the oppressed, the downtrodden, some want to uphold a family legacy, some simply want to be better persons. Whatever your reasons are, hold on to those reasons, and try to be the best version of yourself day in, day out.
Barrista Solutions: If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self who is about to enter law school, what would it be?
Mr. Gemora: Read. Start training yourself to read because the amount of work law school entails will overwhelm you if you don’t practice reading for hours.
Barrista Solutions: What is your message and tips to all law students—both working and full-time, who are hoping to graduate in their respective law schools?
Mr. Gemora: As the Benedicines of my alma mater always say, ora et labora. Prayer AND work. Pray like you’ve never prayed before, and work like you’ve never worked before.
· Mr. Aaron S. Gemora is a Juris Doctor graduate of San Beda University. He worked as a Technical Consultant for Policy and Legal Research for the National Anti-Poverty Commission. Accordingly, he also served as an Executive Assistant for the Department of Health.
For more inspiring stories of esteemed members of the Philippine Bar, view articles on Barrista Profiles.