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Testing the Waters: Life and Law with Atty. Suringa

By: Archiebald Faller Capila

Do you ever look back at your journey and ask yourself why you want to become a lawyer?

For some people, it’s a childhood dream. They may have seen or heard some of their elders engage in the practice of law. These kids now try to emulate the greatness and respect attached to the profession itself. Most of the law students from the country are often star-struck when they see members of the legal profession that they try to emulate.

For some people, it’s a choice because of acquiring a certain set of skills. Some law students are born with the gift of writing, speaking, memorizing, analyzing, and even having other quips meant for the legal profession. As most would say, it is innate in them—they are destined to serve the Court and the profession.

However, for some people, it is merely an afterthought or a dream passed on to them by their parents. For some people, entering law school is testing the waters and sailing on stranger tides. For some people, law school is a journey one cannot know the outcome of, but enjoys the ride along the way.

Whatever the case may be, most people end up becoming members of this esteemed profession. Whether the same be a childhood dream or merely a decision out of impulse, they are lawyers in their own rights, fighting for the causes they believe is right. Indeed, becoming a lawyer is a destiny. If you are meant to become a lawyer, you will eventually become a lawyer.

In the long list of lawyers who at first was still undecided, there stands a woman who made it through and eventually succeeded. Atty. Vanessa Suringa is a lawyer who, according to her, entered law school because her dad told her to do so. However, after years of traversing such journey, she became a lawyer and flourished along the way.

In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Atty. Suringa shares with us her journey as a student of the law, the obstacles she went through, and the tips she finds effective for students trying to make it to the Bar.

Barrista Solutions: What or who inspired you to become a lawyer? Looking back at how you started your career in law, how can you describe your journey as a member of the profession?

Atty. Suringa: My father convinced me to take up law. To be honest, I never saw myself as a lawyer when I was asked by my father to enroll in law school. In fact, when the late Dean Inigo asked me why I entered law school, I only said my father told me so.

When I started my career in law, it was a bitter-sweet experience. I did not return to my previous job as a senior accountant but rather started to operate my own office as an accountant in public practice and at the same time, a lawyer fresh from the Bar exams. I had a few accounting clients at that time so my office was still quiet. But I also thought that I should cherish those times because soon I will be busy and true enough, the office became busy after several months.

Barrista Solutions: For you, what was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in law school? How did the same mold you into who you are as a member of the legal profession today?

Atty. Suringa: I think the biggest obstacle that I had to overcome in law school is juggling my work and school. You know I have seven siblings. When I entered law school, I had an agreement with my mother that I will be the one to shoulder my school expenses and tuition because at that time my siblings were still in school, majority in college and high school.

My experience as a working student really helped me in the long run. Though I failed in several subjects, I am still thankful I got through all those times. It helped me manage my time during the review, deal with my emotions, having the right mindset and perspective, and remain calm amidst all the chaos.

Barrista Solutions: Did you ever think of quitting while in law school? If yes, what motivated you to continue? If no, what inspiration did you cling on to so as to venture into the said profession?

Atty. Suringa: Of course, yes it (quitting law school) crossed my mind. When I was in first year, I was shocked that I needed to read 50 cases in one subject and I wondered how I can squeeze it into my schedule. The motivation came one summer when my brother was put in jail and it just so happened that his complainant is a lawyer. At that moment, I thought maybe it is a sign that I should continue law school.

Barrista Solutions: The profession of law is now at a point of reform because of the current health crisis affecting every life there is. How do you keep up with the times amidst the said pandemic?

Atty. Suringa: The COVID-19 pandemic really changed our lives. It has opened us to things that were already there but were taken for granted like maximizing the use of technology to get things done. We discovered apps and resources to keep us entertained, keep us updated in our profession, keep us sane and of course, do our work.

As of now, I am in Australia and my way of keeping up with the times is reading materials found online and following websites (government regulatory bodies) that are related to my work.

Barrista Solutions: What are the things that you look forward to seeing or having in the near future as a member of the legal profession at this time of a pandemic?

Atty. Suringa: This pandemic is for me, a blessing in disguise. Why? It forced us to rest and reflect and to utilize technology in the profession. I am looking forward to using schedule apps and diary/document management software in legal offices to document critical to the profession.

Barrista Solutions: For you, what could other lawyers and even law students do in order to uphold the rule of law and promote the beauty of the same even in their own little ways?

Atty. Suringa: I think for one to uphold the rule of law and to promote the beauty of the law is to embrace it as it is. No going around the bush. Take it as it is. Love it as it is.

I think the test of your success in law school or even in the legal profession is whether or not you love it so much that you are not afraid to fail. Because in failure, you know you’ll get better.

Barrista Solutions: What do you think should law professors do in order to fully impart with their students the essence and beauty of the law here in our country during this time of online classes?

Atty. Suringa: Law professors should keep the law subject as entertaining and as interesting as those in movies or series in Netflix. But at the same instill ethics and emphasis on the big responsibility they will have in the community once they become lawyers.

Barrista Solutions: If you could give a piece of advice or any form of a message to your younger self, what would it be?

Atty. Suringa: Glad you made it this far. You might have aged and tired at times but know that there are lots of people who love you and care for you.

Barrista Solutions: What is your message for those who have taken a break or are in doubt on whether or not the practice of law is for them?

Atty. Suringa: Test the waters. I remember when I started attending law school I was so excited but at the same time worried because I did not have any expectations on what’s in there. But as time goes by, you can gauge yourself if you can do it or not. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. Take breaks if you have to, eat well, enjoy and cherish the friends you’ll meet along the way.

Barrista Solutions: What are your tips and words of wisdom to all the students of the law out there trying to be a part of the legal profession someday?

Atty. Suringa: Always remember, the legal profession is never a money-making venture. Just like any other professions, it is a calling. Some students think this is a way for them to get rich quickly. Maybe but over and above the monetary rewards, doing your part in the community and in upholding justice is your primary duty.

As stated in Burbe vs Magulta June 10, 2002, “Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a money-making venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits. The gaining of a livelihood is not a professional but a secondary consideration. Duty to public service and to the administration of justice should be the primary consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal interests or what they owe to themselves. The practice of law is a noble calling in which emolument is a byproduct, and the highest eminence may be attained without making much money.”

* Atty. Vanessa Suringa is a CPA/ Lawyer. She is a graduate of Philippine Law School. She is the owner of Suringa Law and Accounting Office.

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