article by Dean Cesar L. Villanueva
--- --- --- ---
The premium seal given to the Atenean legal education is proven, among other things, by the national market demand for Ateneo lawyers: we receive regular written request for referrals by leading law firm, government agencies and leading business companies, and that each hiring season, law firms request for the listing of the top twenty graduates in each batch.
In the international legal arena, the picture has not been quite rosy. Although quite a number of Atenean lawyers have gone on to work in big law firms or international agencies in the United States or in Europe, the primary basis for their employment have been the result of their taken up an Ll.M. degree in the particular jurisdiction. Our J.D. degree on its own has never figured as the primary draw for an international placement of Ateneans, much more so in ASEAN and East Asia regions, where the tradition (as it is among Filipino lawyers), that international “accreditation” is reached by obtaining a graduate degree in an American or European law school. The paradigm has began to shift.
In the past two weeks, the Law School received (perhaps for the first time in the Law School’s history) formal request for referral of Atenean lawyers for placement by a Singaporean institution and a leading Singaporean law firm, both engaged in international business or practice.
In the case of the Singaporean law firm, it had already previously recruited eight Atenean lawyers, who left their positions in leading local law firms, to take advantage of engaging in international practice based either in Singapore or in Vietnam. Last 22 May, Asso. Dean Candelaria and I had dinner with six members of that group, Attys. Aris Gulapa, Maya Pascual, Ryan Castillo, Justine Guerrero, Thel Mundin, and Mark Enojo, who shared their experience of how well they could more than attain the respect and appreciation of the partners and associates in the realm of international practice, especially on areas involving international commercial law and international public law.
As a strong guide to our current students in evolving the type of program they will pursue in attaining their J.D. degree, it must be noted that the group shared common denominators: they were active members of moot court and international societies in Law School, they joined international moot court competitions, they concentrated on international law in their elective courses and in doing their theses. Let me quote from the e-mail invitation of Atty. Aris Gulapa for that dinner: “As you may be aware, we are now eight Filipino lawyers in [the Singaporean law firm] and all of us are Ateneans (to CLV’s delight perhaps!) . . . We are all proud to say that our Ateneo education was enough to convince the firm to accept all of us (vis-à-vis the usual route of studying in the US and then passing the New York bar first).” So impressed was the partners of the Singaporean law firm with the “commercial and international law” quality of Filipino recruits, that it insisted on recruiting only Atenean lawyers for its litigation and patent positions (“young litigation lawyers who have two to three years of experience specifically in shipping, construction and commercial arbitration.”)
Atenean lawyers will do very well in the international legal and business arenas because excellence in performance are the traits learned and imbibed during the four-years of Ateneo legal education. Thanks to the inroads made in the region by our pioneering graduates, Filipino lawyers are beginning to build a reputation of being well-disposed into international practice in the ASEAN and East Asian regions, because of the savvy they display in articulating in the international language of business (and of law), which is English, and of having been educated and trained in a jurisdiction where the two great legal systems, civil law and common law, come into play.