What's in a name?
Eight years ago I was one of those hopefuls, to get that coveted "Atty." to attach to my name. Take note of the "period" (".")! My law professors told us students that when somebody completes law school, he or she has earned an ATTY to his or her name. Passing the bar gives that person the "." to attach to the name. And it is only when he or she has passed the bar exams that such right to use "ATTY."
Every waking day, during law school, I asked myself this question, "Why? Why am I doing this? Instead of enjoying life, here I am, being tortured."
Eight years later, I have come to realize what the title "Atty." entails.
1. It is definitely a privilege. People with legal issues look up to lawyers as their solutions to their their legal problems. Lawyers have the capacity to bring significant changes to the lives of people with legal issues.
2. Lawyers are in a better position to fight unjust practices. Because of their education and training, lawyers have the burden of helping bring out into the open the wrongs done in the society.
3. People think highly of lawyers. They think of lawyers as law-abiding citizens since their knowledge of laws allow them to be more prudent in their actions.
4. Hearing oneself being called "Torni" is not for egotistical purposes. It should serve to remind lawyers of their sworn duty to promote and ensure that justice is served. Every time one is addressed "atorni", it should be like a tap on the shoulder or a knock on the head that would say, "Hey, you're job is to make this world a better place by bringing out the truth and ensuring that fair play is observed."
5. While lawyers can charge hefty fees, it doesn't mean that everybody should be charged at the same rate. True satisfaction comes in being able to help someone in need and that someone has no capacity to return the favor financially. There is no better payment than seeing true gratitude and appreciation in the eyes of a client who has little capacity to pay or even none at all. .
On a lighter side, I have also come to the following realizations:
1. People actually think that all lawyers have a lot of money. I thought so too, that's why I pursued law. But no, it's definitely not true. Lawyers don't have bathtubs full of money.
2. While those from other professions can make a loan in a flash in times of need, lawyers, sadly can't. Credit card companies hate us. Banks are wary of us. So we need to take care of family and friends who have money because in times of need, we can run to them, but not to the banks.
3. While people think highly of lawyers, the downside is, if the case is really a lost cause, the lawyer is to be blamed, even if that has been explained to the client from the start. Why? Because people are so fixed on thinking that lawyers are the solutions instead of realizing that lawyers are only there to protect whatever rights, if any, are available to them.
4. Not all lawyers twist the facts to serve their clients. There are still lawyers who try to win their case with only honesty in their bags. And they are definitely dwindling in number.
5. Lawyers get abused too. People name drop and use their lawyer's names to serve their needs - to brag, to get credit, to look smart, to threaten another, to intimidate, without the lawyer knowing about it. Relatives and close friends are usually the culprit here.
6. Filipinos try to get legal consultations at inappropriate times to save on fees. Experience has taught me that sometimes a lawyer is invited to party not really because he/ she is wanted there, but because the host/hostess needs to get legal advice, and the perfect timing is during lunch or dinner and the lawyer has no chance of escaping and no way of billing the consultation.
7. We Filipinos are thrifty. That also applies to attorney's fees. Instead of paying in cash, clients bring fresh produce instead. That's why, I have convinced myself that it is okay to receive a basket of fresh fruits and vegetables as legal fees. In fact, while this may not be good for the pocket, this is definitely good for the heart.
Oh, and lastly, native chicken and the like are also good alternatives to fresh fruits and vegetables.
To the new lawyers, welcome to the fold. May you always remember that the law profession is a noble profession. You may be disappointed to see that there are those who seem to have forgotten this and as such, demean the profession, but there are still those who still live by and abide by their lawyer's oath.