When I wasn’t a lawyer yet, I told myself that if I will be hired as an Associate in a law firm, I will stay there forever. I prayed so hard to get in. I remember during an interview, the partner asked, “Where do you see yourself ten (10) years from now?” I answered, “I’d still be here, ten (10) years from now!”. Then, I was hired! Fast forward to now, a year after the said interview, I find myself as a legal counsel in a real estate corporation.
When I told the partner I’d still be in the law office ten (10) years after, I swear I meant every single word I said. But as they say, “wag magsasalita ng tapos”. True enough, I ate my words.
Being a Junior Associate is a bitter sweet experience for me. I was literally surprised knowing how capable I was of doing difficult tasks under pressure (aside from law school). I am not an a-type person. My personality is not strong. I am not competitive, ambitious, or aggressive. But as a Junior Associate, I was pushed to my limit. I met unbelievable deadlines and I guess I worked hard enough and produced positive outcomes. I don’t know how but I was able to deliver. I experienced victory in most of my handled cases. I was able to represent the clients well and defend them in courts and through pleadings. And it was a very rewarding feeling. But at the backdrop of it all, I gave up once a week every time I feel pressure. I cried a lot of times! I felt so tired and exhausted. I could barely see my family and have fun. That time, I felt so occupied of everything that I had to do for the clients and impress other people, that I feel like I don’t have time for myself and my family anymore. It felt like I was losing myself in the process. My energy was drained. Getting out of bed became a chore. I felt really sad. I lost all the positive energy I had with me when I entered the firm and all I could see were the negative things around me. Then I started to analyze, is this the kind of life I want to have? Solving other people’s problems and living every day trying to impress my superiors, while setting aside myself and my family? That time, I knew it was time for me to go.
I was with the best people, don’t get me wrong. I think this is the part where the “it’s not you, it’s me” portion of the article should interpose. I just felt that working as a Junior Associate is not for me. I failed to keep my promise to stay, but I know I will fail even more if I will keep that promise.
Before I decided to leave, people tell me to not choose the easy way, to not be the mediocre lawyer, to not stop learning. Did I choose the easy way? No. Did I opt to be the mediocre lawyer? No. Did I stop learning? Absolutely not. I just chose the path that is suited for me. The truth is, you can be the best lawyer as you vision yourself to be, in whatever area you are in. I personally believe that as long as you put your heart to anything and give your best version of yourself each day, having the right purpose, you can excel in whatever specialization you choose to be in, may it be litigation, corporate, government, or academe. You just have to find what area best suits your personality and purpose in life.
Looking back, I still ponder on what a roller coaster ride my life had been as a Junior Associate. I must say, the past year as a Junior Associate had been the most challenging year of my life so far. I’m thinking, had I stayed for a year longer, would I be able to get through and grow as a Junior Associate? Well, maybe. I don’t really know. But my heart is happier now. :’)