Something personal
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A letter to the law school freshman.

I didn’t just study in coffee shops–sometimes I study at home, especially when I am skint!

Dear Law School Freshie,

I’m sitting here writing a letter to you, the law school freshman. There was a bit of mental see-sawing before I started to write this post.

First things first–I am not a law student.

Hear me out–I used to be one. Leaving law school was a difficult decision to make, yet, at the same time, the best one. It isn’t because the passion isn’t there anymore, but I needed to take that breather.

Anyway, here’s the tea: law school is a rollercoaster. Having been in it for years has helped me become a stronger person emotionally. I’m not scaring you off, but there are a few points I need to make.

Make sure you you’re going to law school for the right reasons. Do you really want to be a lawyer. Do you, really? If the answer is yes, then you’ve won half the battle. You’ve got to want it hard enough to put in a lot of work–and I mean a lot.

If you’re going to law school because

a. your family needs a lawyer in the family
b. you’re in it for the money

…then you might as well forget it. Again, hear me out, but having that raison d’etre for going to law school more or less gives you that drive to keep you going.

In short, you have to want it so bad.

Don’t get me wrong, though. There are times that you may want to give up, regardless of your drive to succeed. I did it, but it was not because I no longer wanted to be a lawyer, but I was burned out. Charred, burnt crisp. I needed to save my mental health, which was, the last time I went to law school, not in a good shape.

Invest in your health. I cannot emphasise this enough. You can’t afford to get sick while studying law, although sometimes its inevitable when you study late into the night.

I got myself vaccinated. I’m a sickly girl, I’ll admit that. But I wanted to be in my prime physical condition. Also, I stocked up on Vitamin C, to get my body’s defenses up.

Also, get enough sleep. You need it too. I don’t give a fuck about whatever tripe your professors say about having to burn the midnight oil–your body’s not that infallible. If you think your brain can no longer absorb xxxx amount of information, that’s because your brain is tired. A rested brain is a happy brain. If you are tired, don’t, for the love of God and whatever’s holy force yourself to stay up because you have to finish that coverage. Do yourself and your body a favour. Get yourself tucked up in bed and go to sleep. Wake up early instead. I find that this helps me more than any late-nighter.

Here’s the thing, dear law school freshie, you also have to look after your mental well-being too. Allow yourself a day where you can relax. No, really. You deserve it, too. Spend time with your friends outside of law school. Treat yourself to something nice when you ace an exam or recitation.

Then again, as a law student, sleep is a treat in itself. You will soon understand.

Get your shit together (get yourself organised). Yes, it’s important. Get your books and study paraphernalia in one accessible place. Not only will it save you time, it will make life easier for you.

Also, take down notes, and keep them in a safe place. In a notebook or binder. Make a filing system for each subject area. If you can, photocopy case digests before you submit them to your professor, and file them according to subject area as well. They will come in handy when exam time comes, as well as when you study for your Bar Exams. It cuts down time looking for things. When I quit law school, I gave away my notes–because they will be more useful to my law school friends. But I had an easy time getting them–because I know where to find them.

Also, find time to get your room cleaned. No excuses. If you can find time to go and catch a pint after class, then you can find time to clean your room. No excuses.

Budget thy finances. Whether you are a working student or financed by your parents with regards to schooling, again, get your shit together when it comes to finances. Yes, your parents give you an allowance, or you may have a hefty paycheck–but remember, money doesn’t grow on trees.

I am not saying that you should live like a monk–you don’t have to–but you have to carefully watch every penny; otherwise, you’ll get skint at the end of the week. This was where my money went during the semester. I was already a working student at the time:

*Please note that this is just a template

Money received: My hazards allowance (around 3,000 pesos)

Expenses/Estimated cost:

Meals: Dinner–0.00 (I make my dinner in the form of a sandwich the night before and I prepare my own drink–except if I didn’t bring food/I treat myself to a burger meal, then that’s around P150.00-200.00). Sometimes, however, I buy the occasional snack to eat whilst studying in the library. That sometimes goes up to 100.00

Readings:

Cases/Jurisprudence: I subscribed to the eSCRA for six months, which cost me a whopping 4,740.00 when I signed up at the start of the semester (leftover money from my thirteenth month pay). However, the amount was well worth it–it saved me hundreds and hundreds of pesos if I had cases photocopied–that would be around 200-300 pesos a bundle, and probably even more.

Extra Readings/Memory Aids: Around 300.00 to 600.00, depending on thickness (this is a one-time-big time expense, though, and I don’t have them photocopied often). I have these spring/wirebound in another printing/binding service.

Transportation: I buy a stored value card (100 pesos, good for two weeks) for my LRT train rides. I ride the LRT whenever I go to school, except if I’m in a hurry and desperate, then I take a cab (An explanation: I go to school in the city of Manila.

A cab ride would be around 200.00–more or less (This amount, however, might have changed now as the cab meter calibration was not yet in place the last time I went to school in Manila). On way home, I take the FX, which costs me around 45.00 to 50.00 pesos.

Stationery/school supplies: I usually buy stuff in bulk at the start of the semester. However, if they run out, I reserve around 500.00 (depending on the item, and quantity) to replenish that item. Notebooks for me were no problem; admittedly I hoard many of them, so I don’t need to buy any.

The school supplies I usually buy are:
unruled idex cards (perfect for flashcards!)
pens
highlighters
steel ring thingies (for the flashcards)
Sharpies
Post-Its (there’s no other brand I trust for sticky notes. Other brands lose their adhesiveness over time–3M’s Post-Its do not.)

Here’s my total breakdown:

Food: 300 pesos, max (this includes snacks)*
Transportation: 580.00 (Itemization: 10 pesos from my office to Anonas LRT Station, 21 pesos deducted from my LRT stored value card, and 40 pesos pedicab ride from Legarda Station to my school, plus 45.00 FX fare on my way home–this is for FIVE DAYS)
Readings-600.00 max*

So: 580*
+ 600**
300***
=1,480

I still have half of my money to live on until the next week. I allow myself the occasional treat–a sundae or pie from the local fastfood restaurant only costs around 30.00. I don’t go out drinking, so that’s money saved already. Walwal is okay, but again, watch your pennies carefully. That budgeting skill will come in handy in your law practice.

* Transportation budget if cab is not being availed of
** Depending on the thickness of the memory aid
*** My meal budget if I did not make my own dinner, plus the occasional snack

Remember that it’s okay to ask for help. If I only realised this earlier on, it would saved me a lot of grief. I felt like I needed to know everything, I felt like I have to have all the answers. What happened? My mental health crashed. The happy, passionate law student was gone. In her place was a stressed out, depressed, anxious, horrible witch of a person. My grades suffered, too.

If there’s something that you need help with in your academics, you can ask your blockmates or friends in the year above you for help. If your mental health is concerned, please do yourself a favour and drop by your uni or college’s guidance counselor and talk it over with said guidance counselor. Keeping it all bottled up is not going to help you.

I hope this letter will be of help to you. Also, take care of yourself, and keep your passion for the law burning.

Love, an ex-law student who still loves the law.

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Filipina, thirtysomething. Public servant by day, grad student at night. Blueberry cheesecake and cat enthusiast. Loves a good caramel milk tea with egg pudding.