WHEN WOMEN LEAD: How a Grab Driver Transformed Her Career to Become a Lawyer at Age 54

Read the inspiring story of how one woman faced her fear, changed her career, and fulfilled her dream at middle age.

Sometimes life throws us punches, and sometimes it showers us with a barrage that breaks even the toughest among us. Such was the experience of Audrey del Rosario, who despite her best efforts, was met with a series of career and health challenges that broke her at one point, only for her to rise triumphant later in life.

The Business Manual spoke to Audrey del Rosario, who is proof that achieving career goals isn’t always a straight or easy path. Her display of grit and resilience is an inspiration to all.

Early Career Path Setbacks

Growing up, Audrey was known as the “bibo” [vivacious] child. A student leader, performer, athlete, and consistent honor student, excelling and succeeding seemed to come naturally. In college, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines, where she also  decided to pursue her dream of studying law, to follow in her father’s footsteps—a highly respected Justice in one of the Philippines’ Special Courts.

Out of hundreds of applicants, she was one of only a handful, who was accepted to the UP College of Law, and was one of only 17 from her class who finished.

When it came time to prepare for the bar exam, she put in the typical long hours of study, reviewing as early as five am everyday until night time, for nearly half a year.  Yet despite all the hard work, and to everyone’s surprise, she failed the bar.

From 1997 to 2000, Audrey took the bar three more times. She even had to repeat one year of law school and review for another six months on her fourth try. Yet no matter how hard she tried, she just kept failing. Was she missing something? She just couldn’t wrap her head around why, despite her previous history of success, she couldn’t overcome this life-defining hurdle.

Making things worse was the fact that everyone knew her father was an accomplished and respected Court Justice. “I started to doubt myself,” she shared. “I was peeved. I was asking myself why did I study so hard all those years for nothing? Imagine for five years I was going to class from Monday to Saturday while working at the same time.”  

Shelving the Dream

Unable to practice law, she ventured into corporate work where she reported directly to a brilliant but demanding CEO. Pressure from work and her previous disappointments, began to build up inside her and eventually manifested in her health. She developed various illnesses that the doctor could only attribute to severe stress. She was hospitalized three times, underwent surgery, and almost did not survive at one point. Because of her condition, Audrey was forced to give up a lucrative career path and put her health first.

From a managerial post, she had to downgrade to entry-level jobs, even becoming a Junior Call Center Agent at one point. “I had to focus on my health and reduce my stressors” she explained. Audrey set her pride aside to give her health time to recover, while still earning a living. “I knew I had to do it. Kailangang magtiis [I needed to endure],” she added.

Despite the setbacks, she was eventually given the chance to venture into HR consultancy. “I realized that it was something I could do because I’m familiar with labor law,” she said.  This allowed her to apply her law degree while keeping a flexible schedule and a less stressful work environment. But it also meant that work and income were not consistent. She needed to find a way to pay the bills and make ends meet while building her consultancy business. 

At that time, ride-hailing app Uber was just starting in the country, and gaining interest from both commuters and car owners who were interested in the side income. Audrey thought she would give it a try. “I was interested because I love driving and I enjoy meeting people,” she said. But her decision to become an Uber driver did not come without raised eyebrows, even from her own family.

They [family members] would say things like:  Driver ka lang? Bakit nag-law ka pa? [You’re just a driver?  Why did you even bother to study law?]” she laments.

She ignored the disparaging remarks and focused on making ends meet. “It’s a humbling experience,” admitted Audrey. “Sometimes you have to do things regardless of what others might think or say. What mattered was that I was able to pay my bills,” she reflected.

But she realized that she actually loved being a driver [Initially for Uber and then for Grab Car] , and found it to be the right fit for her personality and current circumstances. “Truth is, it was the best job that I’ve had so far,” she claimed. “I didn’t have a boss, owned my time, and was less stressed.” More importantly, she wanted to keep a flexible schedule, in case she gathered enough courage to take the Bar again.

The Turning Point

The pivotal moment came suddenly in 2019. In a social gathering, she found herself at a table with a group of young lawyers who couldn’t believe how she had buried her dream for so long. “They told me Sayang ka! Mag-take ka ulit. Kaya mo yan! [You would be such a waste. You should take the bar again. You can do it!]“Audrey recalled. “Maybe they saw something in me, because they had so much faith that I could pass,” she shared. That simple vote of confidence from a group of complete strangers became her turning point. After 19 years, and at age 52, Audrey made the decision to take the bar for the fifth time.

Deciding to try again was just half the battle, preparing for it was the harder part. “It was tough,” she admitted. “The last time I studied was way back in 2000. The laws were already different. I had to start over,” she said.

Age was another factor working against her. “I wasn’t used to memorizing anymore. My memory was no longer as sharp,” she admitted. “So I had to prepare earlier and try harder than others.”

Another challenge was engaging with a group of highly successful professionals, after being out of the corporate scene for a long time. “On the first day of class, everyone made the usual small talk, asking about each other’s background and what they did for a living. So when they asked me, I told them I was a Grab driver,” she recalled. “No one believed me. Even the professors thought I was pranking them. I had to show everyone my Grab I.D. to prove that I was telling the truth.” In response, the class elected her as Batch President.

career path

Her Time to Shine

After two years of preparation, Audrey took her fifth bar exam. Fortunately, the fifth time was the charm, and at age 54, she finally fulfilled her dream of becoming a lawyer.

Today, after a year of practice, she has already handled five cases, all of which she has either successfully settled or won.

But as a member of the LGBT community, has she ever felt discriminated in her male-dominated field? “There was an incident, in the past, of a judge who was suspended for discriminating against a gay lawyer. I think that case has made people more mindful,” reflected Audrey.

“I am just being me. Judge me based on my character and my work, and not based on my gender identity,” she said.

Fortunately, both clients and colleagues have been very professional.  “Clients get me despite my appearance. In fact, I think it has even worked to my advantage, because it has made me easier to remember,” she joked.

There has certainly not been a lack of clients since she began, and all purely through referrals. “Maybe this is really God’s perfect timing,” she said. “If I had passed earlier, I may not be as enthusiastic and my principles may not be as solid.”

“I am guided by my father’s principles,” she added. “He didn’t enrich himself in office. We lived very modestly.”

When the bar results came out in 2022, her father was also the proudest. “He told me that I should have taken it earlier. He always believed that I could make it,” she recalled. He died less than a year after she passed the examination.

Although her father could not see her practice today, Audrey believes she can keep his memory alive by continuing his principles of honesty and integrity.

It took her more than 20 years to fulfill her dream, but it taught her many lessons in the process, and she believes she’s now a better lawyer because of it.