'Your Hope Gives Me Hope' -Chel Diokno Pens Inspiring Letter to Aspiring Lawyer in Grade 12
It would be just like Chel Diokno to respond to an aspiring lawyer’s e-mail asking for career advice.
Instead of letting the e-mail be buried in what we’re sure is a busy inbox, Diokno penned an inspiring letter to Hans Kasilag, a Grade 12 student from Quezon Province who dreams of one day becoming a lawyer like Diokno.
The letter is reminiscent of the words Senator Jose W. Diokno, Chel’s father and one of the greatest statesmen in our history, wrote to his eldest son, Jose Ramon. You can read that letter in full here.
Like his father before him, the younger Diokno has a knack for inspiring a generation of youngsters with the potential to transform our country for the better. While it's addressed to the lucky Hans, Diokno’s words will surely inspire many more youths.
Read the full letter below:
First of all, let me say how happy I am to see that you’re not just dreaming to become a lawyer—you’re actually working towards your dream by learning more about the profession even this early. I’m happy to share some advice for you, some of which was also passed on to me by my father, Ka Pepe.
First: be dedicated.
I will not lie to you, Hans: this is a difficult and stressful field that you want to enter. Law school can be overwhelming, especially here in the Philippines. It helps to manage your time well, to stay organized, and to know how to handle pressure. But it would also help to always keep in mind why you’re pursuing a legal profession in the first place. In my case, I decided to pursue law because of the injustices I saw when I was young. That kept me motivated in law school, and that continues to motivate me today.
Second: work on your speaking and writing skills, even as early as now.
It’s never too early to start preparing for law school and the legal profession. A lawyer has only two weapons, the written word and the spoken word. If we cannot use these weapons well, we won’t be of much help to our client. And in any case, even if you decide to pursue a different field in the future, these skills always come in handy. When I told my father I wanted to be a lawyer like him, he told me the same thing. He encouraged me to spend more time reading and writing. Both in English and Filipino.
He told me to practice writing as often as I can; to keep a diary, record my thoughts, and experiences, and write every day or at least every week, even if it’s just a paragraph or two. This is helpful, he told me, because when we train ourselves to express our thoughts and feelings more clearly, we also train ourselves to think more clearly. That’s something every lawyer needs. But keep in mind that this doesn’t stop when you finally become a lawyer—law students, even lawyers, should never stop learning.
And finally, always keep in mind what the law is for.
Here I’d also like to share what my father taught me: that the task of the lawyer is to persuade people to do what is right and fair. It’s easy to lose sight of this in law school and the legal profession—but if there’s anything in this email that I would like you to always remember it’s this. And so even now, I hope you practice this. This, perhaps, is the best way to prepare for the legal profession: to always do what is right and fair, and to convince others to do the same.
Do this in all things, both big and small. Do this inside the classroom, and outside in your daily life. Do this for everyone—not just when you’re the one being wronged or experiencing unfairness.
As for what HUMSS students need to know, I would suggest our Constitution—especially its Article III, our Bill of Rights. This declares the rights and privileges we should all have, no matter what. I would say this should be required reading not just for aspiring lawyers or students like you, but for every Filipino. After all, the first step to keeping our rights intact is to make sure we know about them.
Thank you for your email, Hans. I know that nowadays it’s so easy to be cynical about the legal profession, especially if you’re a young Filipino who sees how the law can be twisted and bent to favor the rich and the powerful.
But your hope gives me hope.
And I look forward to the day we become fellow lawyers—or (I hope, but not pressure) maybe even fellow human rights lawyers too. I wish you all the best.