Filipino lawyer graduates from Harvard Law School

Some dreams just seem too good to be true – and for many, this includes getting a degree from a prestigious university. But for Jose Angelo David, a Filipino lawyer, a combination of blood, sweat, tears, and a little help from friends turned his wildest dreams into reality despite all odds. 

In May 2020, David, who now works at the Office of the Solicitor General, received his Master of Laws degree from none other than the Harvard Law School, which was something that he once never thought he’d achieve.

 “I never imagined that I would ever say this: I now have a Harvard law degree,” he said in his Facebook post. 

The lawyer grew up in a “small, cramped town”

The hallowed halls of Harvard Law School, whose alumni include former US president Barack Obama, were not a place David could imagine himself in before. He had grown up in a “small, cramped town in bustling Metro Manila” where a college degree was considered a luxury.

Obtaining his first college degree in the Philippines became even more challenging when leukemia took away the life of his father. 

Filipino graduates from Harvard Law School
Image credit: Anjo David

“Whatever savings he had were spent for his battle with a disease that took away not only his life, but almost snuffed out our hope of having a comfortable future. Thankfully, our mother was, and still is, indomitable. From managing the household her entire married life, my mom braved the call center world . . .” David recalled how his mother took on a demanding call center job to keep his family fed after his dad passed away when he was younger.

Became a lawyer and pursued a Harvard Law degree

langdell hall of harvard law school in cambridge massachusetts
Harvard Law School
Image credit: John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons

After finishing his bachelor’s degree at the University of the Philippines, his aspirations to become a lawyer seemed beyond his reach at first, given his circumstances. But David was able to finish law school in San Beda University College of Law with a full scholarship, eventually passing the bar exams to become a lawyer in the Philippines.

His next step was Harvard Law School – and today, he holds a Harvard LL.M. degree with Filipino pride. 

David explained, “The idea of doing further studies in the U.S. did not cross my mind until I was already in law school. And even then, saying that I would someday go to Harvard was something that I only made in jest. Harvard, to me, was just one of those places that existed in the pages of John Grisham and Dan Brown novels. It was so beyond my reach that I could only ever consider it fictional.” 

Advice to bar examinees: rest while you can after the exams

For law students out there about to take their bar exams, David is also well known for his studying tips within his San Beda Law circles. He’s generous in giving guides on answering bar questions, bar review schedules and readings, and exam prep tips.

In his advice to lawyer hopefuls, he acknowledges how tough the bar exams are, but also dishes out the following tips: students should assess their strengths and weaknesses to determine what to focus on when studying, read the bar exam syllabus and study what is included, and to make a realistic study plan and keep to it.

But he also knows when to take a rest from serious study, as at one point, he even advised on his Twitter account that examinees could by all means go out and drink after taking the grueling Commercial Law and Criminal Law exams. 

Twitter account of Atty. AnjoImage credit: @anjo_david

“Rest but don’t quit! Ika nga pag inuman, susuka pero hindi susuko!” (Rest but don’t quit! As they say during drinking sessions, vomit but don’t quit), he said jokingly.

Dreams can come true

David with his family
Image credit: Anjo David

David’s story is indeed a classic tale of achieving your dreams despite not being born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Realizing his grandest aspirations may have seemed impossible to him at first, but with his study skills, hard work, and support from his family and friends, he proved to the world that even our most ambitious dreams can come true after all. 

Also check out:

Cover image adapted from: Anjo David

Follow The Smart Local Philippines on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram for more stories like this. If you have a story to share, email us at