Saturday July 21, 2018

Libre: Barrister-solicitor

WHEN I left for New Zealand in 2005, I bade farewell to my law practice as well as being a faculty member of the College of Law of the University of San Carlos. I had no inkling if I could gain employment again, as my concern was for my children to complete their studies and become professionals in their chosen field. Surprisingly, I became a government employee for nearly ten years. I worked in the High Court of New Zealand as a Court Registry Officer, the nearest thing to being a lawyer.

It was a stable and decent paying job that allowed me to interact with judges, lawyers, clerks and media but there were friends who urged me to pursue a career as a barrister-solicitor as the Filipino community has grown through the years. Having qualified for a student loan from the government, I enrolled in 2016 in the University of Waikato, Hamilton as a full-time student.

With the Philippine qualifications and experiences taken into consideration, all I needed was to pass six core subjects – New Zealand Legal System, Contracts, Torts, Crimes, Land Law, and Equity & Succession that could all be taken in one year. There are no Bar examinations in New Zealand, as the examinations in the law schools are prescribed and monitored by the New Zealand Council of Legal Education.

Going 60, I was uneasy on the first day of school on the thought that I’d be the oldest student in class. But my fears vanished when I realized that about one-fifth of most of the classes I enrolled consisted of matured individuals. There were no graded recitations, and it was up to the student to keep up with the lectures. Tutorials were part of the curriculum with students required to attend the sessions with intent to equip them with techniques, tools and knowledge to tackle the examinations.

Coincidentally, the last day of school year was November 6, that also marked my 60th birthday. I felt like a candidate for the CPA licensure examination and the Bar examination again as I waited for the grades to be released. It was a relief to learn that I passed all the examinations. In the first half of 2017 I processed my papers for admission. This consisted of the Completion Certificate from the NZ Council of Legal Education and as important the Certificate of Character from the New Zealand Law Society. These are tedious processes that required certified documents from the Philippines.

Having complied with all the requirements, I took my oath as a barrister-solicitor along with fourteen other applicants in the High Court in Hamilton on August 25. It was a formal, yet intimate ceremony, and as meaningful as when I took my oath as a member of the Philippine Bar in 1982. Who would have thought I’d be able to hang once more my old picture frame that contains my practice vision: ”Excellence in the Delivery of Justice for the Greater Good”?