Lessons from 70-year-old lawyer bar topnotcher

Lessons from 70-year-old 
lawyer bar topnotcher

He was dressed in a simple barong sitting on a plastic table beside a small store selling coffee and cheapest sandwiches in the vicinity of a Hall of Justice in Binan, Laguna.  I knew he was a practicing lawyer like me and I thought he was only 60 years old and was puffing a Fortune cigarette.  Yet he was healthy looking. 

When I started the discussion, I learned from him he is already 70 and was a bar topnotcher. He told me he is already 45 years now in private law practice.  He has never joined the government. During the Marcos oppressive years, he was an activist lawyer along with then Jejomar Binay who he now describes as consumed by greed.

I inquired from him what counsel he could give me to a young lawyer like me and these are what he said:

1. Learn to aim only for an income that is enough for your family's and your needs, particularly providing for three meals a day;

2. Do not be in the employ of anybody so that you can always speak your mind and be not a slave of rich men or arrogant bosses in the government, just serve your client well unless the client is bad who wants to do bad things;

3. Do not charge high fees because the truth remains that your talent and knowledge as a lawyer are never far better than fellow lawyers; 

4.  What was you during the Bar exams, a topnotcher or not, is not what makes one a good lawyer, it is sincerity and character that separate the true good lawyers from equally-competent ones;

5. Fight with all your might for your clients up to the point their evidence warrant and smile at losses in cases;

6. Remember that if you obviously have more money compared to fellow practicing lawyers, it is your children, sisters, brothers and parents who will know first that they came from crook works and do not forget that what your children saw in you will dictate how they will live their own life;

7.  Love your parents as the first over your spouse, children and siblings because it is your only way to give back for giving you life;

8.  Laugh all the time and be happy with small things coming your way, even if your clients cannot pay you.;

9.   Believe in karma (gaba in Visayan language) because I have seen all my generation of lawyers who strayed and I have seen nothing is left to their descendants when they died: all went to hospitals and expenses to arrest problems that came to their lives;

10.  Give your share to your country by taking advocacy works that you could do your best.

11.  For me particularly, he counseled me: "Young man, I sense you are a lawyer as good as me because you passed the Bar in one take.  I appreciate your advocacy for the establishment of a Jury System in the Philippines.  I appreciate your advocacy of helping your former fellows in the media in their libel cases.  Do more while you are young and take over our activism.  At the end of the day as where I am nearing now, it is not money that makes you happy but the good old days that you reminisce because they make you smile and proud for the good name you are ready to bring along with your grave.   It is enough that I sent my children to school and waiting for the day when darkness falls."

This old lawyer gave a parting shot: "I love your philosophy in life that you place in your calling card: "'LAW IS BEAUTIFUL EVEN WITH ONLY ENOUGH TO LIVE BY.'"

I smiled and thanked him as I left with my 84-year-old client who I am working for to claim back the lands taken from them by deception.   My client is not sick while his opponents are all ill and one of the two lawyers of his opponents died of stroke while the other one is, according to the judge, ill with cancer.

With these lessons I got, I say to myself: 

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