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Working Scholar: Life and Law with Ms. Guinto

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

By: Archiebald Faller Capila

Barrista Solutions features the story of Ms. Maria Carissa Guinto, a  working Law Scholar at San Beda College of Law.
Working Scholar: Life and law with Ms. Guinto

If and when one would ask a law student on what is the most challenging task in the pursuit of the profession, most would say that it would be related to time management.

Because of the multitude of assigned cases, kilometric provisions that are required to be memorized, and the annotations which are preferred to be familiarized with—the study of law has evolved into a game of time and availability.

Some would say that they spend at least eight hours a day studying. Others however insist that it takes more than the same. Different paces, timelines, and adaptability are often weighed in by the members of the community trying to be lawyers any time soon. However, it cannot be denied that every schedule of every student is different from one another.

While others may have the luxury of time to study all day, some cannot afford to spend too much time on the same. Some students choose to work in order to lessen the financial burden of law school. Some students are required to work because it is the only source available to attend to their schoolings and other personal matters. Some students need to work because it is the only way that they could manage their time very wisely.

Being a working law student is already a daunting task. But to maintain academic excellence while having to carry two different worlds is a feat that is worth noting. Working students are always expected to double their efforts because of time constraints. And along the way, there would be working law students who will be recognized as the best of their batch not solely because of hard work but because of brilliance as well.

Within the small circle of working law students who excel in school and maintain a scholarly status is a woman of sheer determination, Ms. Maria Carissa C. Guinto. Well-known to her peers as a young and progressive mind, Ms. Guinto has become a role model not only for her batchmates but to the younger classes of law students as well.

In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Ms. Guinto shares with us how she manages her time being a working student, the hardships along the way, and the reasons on why she remained strong and standing amidst all negative efforts to put her down.

Barrista Solutions: What were the first thoughts that ran through your mind when you officially saw your name in the list of graduates of San Beda University College of Law?

Ms. Guinto: Getting your law degree in the middle of a pandemic gives you a range of emotions. On one hand, you are glad and relieved that you are finally done with law school. On the other, there is a certain amount of sadness and anxiety especially with your cancelled graduation ceremonies which your parents have been waiting for a long time, the moved bar exams, and the obligation to stay healthy until then. However, upon seeing my name on the list, I knew that the fight is far from over but everything I had to go through to get to this point was worth it. I just have to keep going.

Barrista Solutions: You have been consistently a part of the honor section in your school. Do you have any secrets on how you retained such status?

Ms. Guinto: This is not much of a secret, but for me, idle time is precious. In a day, you will have a lot of idle hours – while preparing in the morning, during your commute, while you are eating, etc. I use these hours to read and study. There were times when my answers to recitations came from the material I studied while riding the jeepney, or while in the LRT. I believe that using these idle hours to be productive really pays off in the long run.

Barrista Solutions: How did you manage your time in law school knowing in full that you also have to spend time working during the day? What are your tips for all working students out there as well?

Ms. Guinto: I believe that I adjusted well to the working law student setup because I had the privilege to not enter both at the same time. I was privileged to only need to start working when I was in third-year law when we had to deal with fire losses. Hence, by that time, being halfway through law school, I was already fully adjusted to the law school workload and I already know my study habits. What I did was to make a daily schedule and strictly adhere to it.

If one has such luxury, I advise that it would be better if one adjust first to law school. Know the workload. Know your study habits and reading capacity (i.e. how fast you read and how many hours do you need to finish your readings) fully well. By the time you start working during your second, third, etc. year in law school, you already know how many hours to allot to school and work deadlines. Meanwhile, if one does not have such luxury, I believe that it can still be done like what my other friends and colleagues in law school did. What I consistently saw in everyone is strict discipline. Our bodies may become tired, and we will not always have the motivation to keep going, but if we have the discipline to carry on despite the tough times, we will always find ourselves moving forward. Discipline really is the key to pull it off.

Barrista Solutions: During your stay in law school, what was the lesson that you’ve learned which stands out the most and why?

Ms. Guinto: The study of law is more than and never just about one’s self. Fortunately having the resources to read the law and be acquainted daily with the prevailing jurisprudence puts a law student in a path of privilege because compared to persons who have to set aside reading and at times even education as a whole to work for sustenance and to be able to afford the basic necessities, a law student probably knows more of the rights of said persons than these persons themselves. Thus, everyone who wants to be a part of this profession has both the legal and moral duty to lead the public in safeguarding their rights against any form of abuse, especially in these trying times where the rule of law is under attack by various institutions.

Barrista Solutions: If you could change one thing you have done in your journey as a law student, what would it be and why?

If I could go back and change one thing, I wish that I did not constantly worry about whether I was doing enough. Upon entering law school, you are immediately told that every time you study, you should always think of four years from now. Your outlook should be long-term. However, when you work and study at the same time, your goal is to survive the day - meet your work deadlines and stay alive after your recitations and exams.

Thus, you cannot help but think if you are doing enough when you are repeatedly told that your effort should be more than “just” surviving the day. However, I wish that I knew that I would still get that Juris Doctor degree even if I take my fights one day at a time. This is today. Excel, do your best and uphold honor at this very moment and you will still get there. You will get that degree.

Barrista Solutions: What are your thoughts as to the current state of law studies here in our country today?

Ms. Guinto: It is not uncommon to hear stories of law students being “terrorized” in the classroom. I believe that if we try hard enough, Philippine law schools could transition to a more humane environment and still produce great, strong-willed lawyers.

Barrista Solutions: For you, what can young and progressive Juris Doctors contribute to today’s socio-political structure?

Ms. Guinto: Show up, take space, and speak up, wherever, whenever possible. We must always keep in mind that the rights and freedoms which we have now are not merely intangible concepts. The earlier generations fought hard, through blood and sweat, for us to have what we have now. May we honor them by exercising these rights and freedoms and protecting the same from any threat from any person or institution.

Barrista Solutions: How do you see yourself and your batch of future lawyers make a mark in the legal profession any time soon?

Ms. Guinto: Wherever we practice in the future, I hope that we lead our respective communities towards a status where the rule of law is upheld. May we be the instrument to eradicate the injustices in our communities, and not otherwise.

Barrista Solutions: If you could give advice to your younger self who is about to enter law school, what would it be?

Ms. Guinto: I will tell her to be more gentle with herself because the journey will be extremely difficult, yet worth every step. She should not worry because she will not do it alone. She will meet strong, smart, and wonderful people who will also become her family and strength.

Barrista Solutions: What is your message to all the students of the law out there trying to finish their studies and finally claim that elusive Juris Doctor degree?

The person who saw everything completely - all the struggles you had to go through, all the breakdowns, and all the silent battles you had to conquer - is no one else but yourself. Thus, deep down, you must know that you deserve to be here. You have a spot here. You are worthy of that Juris Doctor degree and nobody could tell you otherwise. Moreover, if you reflect and look around, I hope you see that you are never alone in this fight and dream to serve the people and the community in the future. As I always say, I consider my law school friends as my angels. They have saved me a number of times from giving up. Take care of each other and always pray. We will all get there. For the people. For the country.

· Ms. Maria Carissa C. Guinto is a Legislative Researcher-Consultant in the House of Representatives. She is also a scholar of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity. She is a consistent member of the Honors Class of the San Beda University College of Law.

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