The Philippines has been excelling in various fields in the international stage: in entertainment, in beauty pageants, in business, and in the arts. But rarely does the country see Filipino talent excel in international tax and business law.
In his own quiet capacity, Filipino lawyer Edzyl Josef Magante is doing just about that.
Just recently, Magante was recognized by the United States Congress for his contributions to the community in Los Angeles, where he resides.
Signed by Congressman Ted Lieu, member of the US House of Representatives representing California’s 33rd Congressional District, the Certificate of Congressional Recognition dated December 17, 2017 was awarded to Magante “in honor of (his) outstanding community service and with sincere appreciation for (his) remarkable dedication and commitment to the public welfare of (the) Los Angeles Community.”
“I am humbled and inspired to keep striving to be of value to the Los Angeles community”, says Magante.
It all began with his father’s dream.
Magante recalls how everything began with his father’s simple yet ambitious dream.
“My father wanted to become a lawyer himself, but his family was poor. Even after becoming a CPA (certified public accountant), he could not afford to go to law school. So my father told me at an early age, 'Son, you will be a lawyer one day. You'll study at Harvard Law School one day.”
Like any son, Magante had doubts about his father’s dream for him. But he never dismissed it.
“In time, his dream became my dream.’”
The Harvard Law journey
Armed with his father's confidence, Magante began charting his path towards becoming an international lawyer.
He began his journey by taking up his bachelor's degree at the University of Santo Tomas, graduating cum laude. He excelled in varsity debating as a college student and won national and international debating competitions.
"We didn’t have a lot of money, but my father never made me feel like we were poor or deprived. I always thought we had enough."
Magante later earned his Juris Doctor degree at the Ateneo de Manila Law School (Ateneo) with honors.
Immediately after law school, he accepted an offer to work for the country's top law firm Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices. Due to his impressive performance, he was eventually offered to teach law at his alma mater, the Ateneo.
In 2010, Magante won a full Chevening Scholarship from the British Embassy while working as a high-ranking court attorney in the office of then Supreme Court Associate Justice and now Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
This allowed him to obtain an LL.M in Corporate and Commercial Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He graduated with merit in 2011.
He returned to the Philippines to assume the critical role of Associate Director at Ernst and Young Philippines, where he served as international tax and business law counsel to multinational corporations belonging to Fortune 500 companies.
He was eventually awarded as Ernst & Young Visionary for his strong performance and communication skills.
But despite all these, Magante felt he had some unfinished business. His father’s wishes kept ringing in his ears.
"My family never subscribed to the 'pragmatic’ notion that after you earn your basic degree, you just work your entire life. I believe in the exact opposite of that: your journey does not stop until you find your place in the sun."
It is in 2015 that he found himself in that spot: Harvard Law School.
“When I applied, I simply poured everything I got into my application and let the chips fall where they may. The post-application wait period was the most difficult phase. You reckon with optimism dampened by fear and hope tempered by reality,” he said.
His performance was so impressive that his mentor, former Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, also a professor of former US President Barack Obama, said: “In my own class, he constantly demonstrated mastery, clarity, and an ability to respond to complex problems effectively. Edzyl has been a credit to every professional and educational institution in which he has played a role.”
He earned his Harvard LL.M. in 2016.
Entering the US job market
What Magante realized was that having advanced degrees from Harvard and LSE do not immediately guarantee a job. Finding employment in the US is hard. The legal job market has shrunk over the years, and the competition remains stiff.
"In law, the US job market is tougher than ever, especially for foreign attorneys. The hardest part is trying to change residual notions of legal knowledge and expertise being jurisdiction-specific. This is no longer the case in this age of globalization," he said.
Despite the challenges, he was hired and is now working for California law firm Roy Legal Group Inc as an international associate.
Like any migrant worker, Magante had to endure the desolation of being away from his family for long periods of time. His persistence, however, was tested when just last month, his father- the one who hammered this dream in his heart- died.
"I know in my heart he is proud. In our last conversation, he was very supportive. I know he wants me to continue pushing forward and be the best version of myself," Magante said.
With sheer determination, Magante is already making his mark in the US legal profession.
His advice to Filipinos aspiring to follow a similar path? "Learn to move with the current, understanding what the market needs. Keep abreast of the latest developments in your field, and let your dreams evolve to meet market demands.”