11 February 2021

My third anniversary in the office is coming up (tomorrow, to be exact), and it just dawned on me that I haven't exactly written about my work life. Not in my old blog, and not even in my personal journal. I've shared snippets of it on Twitter, my LinkedIn profile is pretty transparent, and surely most people in my circles are aware of the kind of work I do. But it never really occurred to me to really write about what I do for a living - and more importantly, why.

I suppose it's mostly because I don't want to come off as pretentious. People who only talk about their work can come off as insufferable. Especially when they claim to be experts at what they do. And I still feel like there is so much I don't know, so what right do I have to be writing about it?

Then again, it's not as if I'm going to be throwing out random legal advice into the ether. Describing the job - and really thinking about why I'm in it - is certainly worth making some room for, even in my small corner in the digital space. After all, it's almost three years now. Milestones are milestones, and they're worth writing about, aren't they?

Being in intellectual property wasn't something I planned on before I entered law school, and it wasn't even something I considered in law school. Before my fifth year of law, I was dead set on applying at the Supreme Court, particularly in the office of then-Chief Justice Sereno, where I interned that previous summer. But we all knew how things turned out, and by the time I finished taking the Bar, they were no longer taking in new applicants, given the uncertainty of the situation. As such, I was forced to consider the more "traditional" route, i.e. firm life. 

I did enjoy IP in law school, in large part due to my professor (and one of our sorority's most esteemed alumni). Something about it made sense to me, mostly due to my undergrad. CAL taught me to value the artistic and creative integrity that comes with each piece of art, innovation, or technology. And considering that I was in deep denial about no longer being a literature major for the entirety of law school, taking this path felt like coming home in many ways.

My law school thesis was actually on fair use. And the topic was serendipitous, in that, all the pieces wouldn't have come together had it not been for my background. One desperate, fateful night in 2016, just a few hours before the deadline for submission of initial thesis proposal topics, I came across several Facebook posts (and links to some blog posts) about an ongoing copyright issue with one writer and one local publishing house. (The writers on both sides included professors from our department.) It was a very interesting, unique, and novel issue on copyright, fair use, criticism, and appropriation of literary works, and one that I had a unique viewpoint from which to see the action.

Two years later, it got published in the Philippine Law Journal. And that very same thesis also landed me my current job. During my interview, one of the partners asked me about my thesis. It caught me a bit off-guard, since none of the firms I previously applied for asked about it. I went into great detail about the topic, arguing passionately for the writer/artist. In another twist of fate, turns out, this law firm represented the publisher! I was so sure I would not get the offer, considering my stand. I walked out of there thinking, "Okay time to search for other IP firms!!!" But I got invited to a second interview, and was eventually given an offer.

And now here we are. To borrow from another great KB (Kate Beckinsale, in Serendipity): a fortunate accident.

Since then, I've handled cases on copyright, trademark, and patent enforcement and litigation. I am also assigned work that deals with the policy aspect of intellectual property. We assist in the drafting of university and institutional IP policies and agreements, as well as give advice on certain government-funded technology projects. I also do contract reviews and provide legal opinions on franchising and licensing agreements, artist/producer/director contracts, and other IP related matters. We handle local and foreign clients, and we provide opinions on a variety of novel issues. You'd be surprised at how much IP intersects with a lot of other fields.

Last November 2019, I was selected by my firm as a delegate for the Licensing Executives Society (LES) Young Members’ Circle Asia-Pacific Conference in Seoul, South Korea, where I learned more about global licensing particularly on beauty, healthcare, telecommunications, big data, artificial intelligence, and entertainment. It was such a privilege to have been selected to attend that short conference. I got to meet other IP practitioners from Manila, and all over the world. But I'm not going to lie, my favorite part of the whole thing was the fellowship with other attendees. We all went to a cozy, underground jazz bar and drank all night. (All while trying to squeeze trite trademark-related jokes in between.) It was a blast. 

Something I'm most proud of during quarantine was being part of the Technical Working Group in the Supreme Court that worked on the amendments to the Rules of Procedure on Intellectual Property Rights Cases. One of our partners was part of the TWG, and he tagged me along. Before the start of the pandemic, we would regularly attend meetings at either the IPO or the SC. And during quarantine, we had bi-weekly Zoom meets to discuss, go through, and align all provisions and proposed amendments. Since my boss was the expert private practitioner in the group (even the justices deferred to him on some matters), we worked double-time on ironing out the kinks, while consulting other laws and even rules from other jurisdictions. And yes, even on weekends. But it was so satisfying because it felt like a significant contribution to the practice. I have to admit, I cried a bit when the Rules were finally published on the newspaper. My name wasn't there (my boss' was though), but deep down, I was like, "I helped!!!" 

And just this week, our boss again tagged me along to join him as part of a TWG in Congress, this time for the amendments of the IP Code itself. I can anticipate a pretty long, gruesome, and thorough process again. But it all sounds exciting. 

Exciting. I guess that's the important keyword right? The last twelve months have been stressful as f*ck. For about two-thirds of 2020, we were only two associates. (Two resigned pre-pandemic.) There were days when I'd literally cry myself to sleep, then cry myself awake. Highly unusual for masandal-tulog, parang-mantika-matulog me. But... I don't know. I still very much enjoy the work. As much as I hate litigation (I really do; but my frustrations about it are for another post altogether), I still like everything else I'm doing.

I like doing what I do. Which isn't saying a lot for most people. A friend once told me that your mission is where your deep happiness meets a deep hunger of the world. I don't know if I'm at a point in my life where I can say that about being a lawyer. Or this practice, even. The truth is, I've never fallen in love with lawyering the way everybody - including myself - expected. I crawled my way out of law school, desperate for affirmation, lost as to purpose. But somehow, surprisingly, I managed to find a good, comfortable place that I actually like. Me, liking the intricacies of the law? Who would've thought? Maybe I'll be elsewhere years from now. Maybe I'll come across a field or a job that is truly representative of all my interests (and that does not involve appearing in court). Maybe not. But right now, I still like this.

And maybe that's a good thing.

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