What it takes to be an ADMU Law valedictorian

Arlet Coronado (The Philippine Star) - June 24, 2013 - 3:33pm

MANILA, Philippines - How did you get through it? is a question often asked of Ateneo Law School graduate Camille Maria L. Castolo and other law school students. But for someone who has a clear idea of who she wants to be, neither stress nor mountains of readings stopped her.

In fourth grade, Camille, 2013 valedictorian of Ateneo Law School already knew what she wanted to be. “I guess back then my naive idea of a lawyer was someone who spoke and wrote well. And I thought those were the things I could do, so when people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, that was the most logical answer,” she said.    

Castolo took BS Legal Management at the Ateneo de Manila University and graduated cum laude in 2009. After graduating, she went straight to law school to pursue her dream. It was then that she realized that the demands were different from college.

For her there were two things you had to be able to do to survive law school. First was time management “especially if you’re also doing other things in law school like extracurricular activities, you really have to manage your time well and focus,” she explained. “If you don’t focus enough, you will find it difficult to survive.”

For three years, she was one of the editors of the Ateneo Law Journal. “That was a commitment that I didn’t realize would be as demanding as a law school class,” said Castolo. “At first I didn’t really think that I could do it but as I said it’s a matter of time management”.

For Castolo, it was just important to have an activity other than studies. “Just so you can free yourself from the stress of academics and grades,” she explained. “Being an editor of the Journal allowed me to learn and relate with the law in another context – it’s a different forum for you.”

Secondly, she realized early on that she really wanted to pursue law studies. “After a few weeks in law school you will know that if it’s not something you want to do, you will not survive”, she said. “You really have to want it badly for you to survive and more importantly for you to do well. It’s not for everyone."

The hardest part for her is finding the stamina to withstand the daily demands of law school. “The most difficult part is finding that strength to do it every day, do it consistently and repeatedly without burning out,” she explained.

One of the most challenging professors she had to face was the former law school dean Fr. Joaquin Bernas SJ. Fr. Bernas was her professor in constitutional law and public international law. Up to this day, Castolo can still remember the case she had to recite on, and his questions to her.

“I remember that I was so nervous that I was stuttering. I studied well for that class because I was so scared of Fr. B that I ended up reciting even small details that weren’t really important for the case. But I think he ended up laughing for quite a bit because he saw how nervous I was to be even able to say those things,” she said.

But no matter how hard or stressful it was, she never quit. “One thing that sustained me was that I knew from the beginning this is what I wanted to do and I could not imagine doing anything else or being in another field,” she said.

Castolo said “you have your bad days, but the best thing you can tell yourself in law school is get back up and get up quickly.”

She and her fellow batchmates were challenged even more because during the oath taking of the new lawyers last April 2013, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno called on them to change the image of lawyers as corrupt and selfish.

For Castolo, one of the ways to change that image is to live a life of integrity. “No matter which path you choose, so long as you stay committed to it, do your part, and try your best to excel in it, then in your own way, you will be doing society good.”

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