Signs of Life under Quarantine

It's Day 6 of the quarantine. I wish I can tell you I have been very productive. Other than checking my e-mails every once in a while and commencing with pleadings that are not due for another month or so, things have been pretty slow and steady. Courts and government offices are closed; all the other companies I correspond with both here and abroad are also on a lockdown. Nothing like a pandemic to make you reflect that your profession can be rendered futile, almost like an afterthought.

Because what use is it being an intellectual property lawyer at a time like this?

And then, as if on cue, in the midst of my unearned ennui, I receive this:





I got admitted to Loyola Marymount with a merit cholarship! This is for their IP and entertainment law LLM program! To say that I am overwhelmed is a complete understatement. What in the world! When I opened my e-mail last Thursday, I could not believe my eyes. (But I resisted the urge to touch them, because masunurin ako. Haha.) I did not apply for a scholarship, but according to a separate e-mail I received, they reviewed my application and were "impressed with my background." Aaaaaahhhhh! (Side note: since this is a Jesuit university, magiging quasi-Atenista na ba ako?! Haha! AMDG!)

The truth was, this was the unofficial goal post after the bar. As soon as I started practicing IP, I realized there was so much more to learn, so much to discover. The good thing about diving right into a specialized field was that I immediately got to, well, specialize. And in a field that I actually like. It's no secret that I had a difficult time in law school precisely because I thought my heart wasn't in it. I didn't like it enough. I didn't find something in it I was passionate about, except our IP class. Which sounds unnecessarily sentimental now, given the context. It's true, though. In practice, it surprised me that it was truly interesting for me. That I loved it.  Yes, it was something related to my literature background, but it was a field where I felt I could contribute greatly because I was good at it. I wanted to learn more, so I could do more.

But then, we're hit with a virus, and our work is paralyzed just the same.

When people ask me why I went into this practice, I always cite my background as a literature undergrad. I guess I needed something to anchor me back to my days as a creative writing major to make me feel like my work as a lawyer is meaningful. In the looking-at-the-big-picture kind of way, I truly want to encourage people to create more art. To allow artists to protect it. So much of our culture thrives because we put our sentiments on paper, on canvas, through song. The least I could do - if I cannot make any more art - is to help encourage its creation. I guess that's why when asked by my bosses about my long-term plans, I always say I want to teach or I want to study some more. Trite as it may sound, I think that deep down, I truly believe there is a lot of good that can still be done in the world; I have to learn more so I can do my part.<br />
It's true that in the midst of a pandemic, I feel like a lawyer like me does not have much to offer. What use is a trademark inter partes proceeding at a time like this?

And yet, I'm reminded of this quote from Mindy Kaling's speech for the Harvard Law School Class of 2014:

"The thing I find the most fascinating, is that [lawyers] are responsible for the language of justice, for the careful and precise wording in all those boring contracts [...]

These are protections that we take for granted. Your dedication to meticulous reading is a tedium that I find so admirable. You take words and you turn them into the infrastructure that keeps our world stable."

These are trying times. As I write, the president is asking Congress to grant him emergency powers. (The audacity!) There is so much more that needs to be done to help repair our fractured society. The least we can do as lawyers is be vocal about our concerns, help explain to the public what our laws and jurisprudence provide, and ensure that rights are protected, even, and especially, in this time of crisis. I'm not just an IP lawyer. I'm a lawyer. I have to do my part. I have to remind myself that our job is not just to uphold the Constitution: it's to go out there and become the embodiment of it.

In the grander scheme of things, to give honor to our profession, we have to give our best and become good at what we do so we can contribute more, so we can help more. Hopefully soon, when everything goes back to status quo, that means pursuing this LLM and learning more about my field, in order to hopefully help foster a culture that values the creation and protection of intellectual property. Big picture kind of dream, you know? But that can wait. Today it means being vocal about the loopholes in the proposed Bayanihan Act, rightfully demanding for what is just amidst a public health emergency, and lending a voice to the helpless.

I have no idea what the future holds; if this is just a pipe dream, if this is just a taste of something that really isn't for me. It certainly feels selfish to be thinking about myself at a time like this. But it also feels wrong to not be thankful. If anything, now more than ever, this rings true: life is short. We have to embrace each moment, celebrate each milestone, and live each day as it comes.

Today, I am thankful and glad, for this opportunity, and for all the affirmation it brings.

Tomorrow, we carry on, and fight, and believe, and hope.

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