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TitleLegal Ethics
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Page 1

LEGAL ETHICS
It is a branch of moral science which treats of the duties which an attorney owes to the

court, to his client, to his colleagues in the profession and to the public as embodied in the
Constitution, Rules of Court, the Code of Professional Responsibilities, Canons of
Professional Ethics, jurisprudence, moral laws and special laws.

Original Bases of Legal Ethics

1. Canons of Professional Ethics
2. Supreme Court Decisions
3. Statistics
4. Constitution
5. Treaties and Publications

PRACTICE OF LAW
Rule 138, Section 1. Who may practice law – Any person heretofore duly admitted as a
member of the bar, or hereafter admitted as such in accordance with the provisions of this
rule, and who is in good and regular standing is entitled to practice law.

CONCEPT OF PRACTICE OF LAW
Cayetano v. Monsod, 201 SCRA 210
***Practice of Law means any activity in or out of court which requires the application of law,
legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. To engage in the practice of law is to
perform those acts which are characteristics of the legal profession. Generally, to practice law
is to give notice or render any kind of service, which devise or service requires the use, in any
degree, of legal knowledge or skill.
Generally, to engage in the practice is to do any of those acts which are characteristic of the
legal profession

(In re: David, 93 Phil. 46). It covers any activity, in or out of court, which requires the
application of law, legal principles, practice or procedure and calls for legal knowledge,
training and experience (PLA vs. Agrava, 105 Phil. 173).

PRACTICE OF LAW: A PRVILEGE

The law makes his passing the bar examination equivalent to a first grade civil service
eligibility for any position in the classified service in the government the duties of which
require knowledge of law, or a second grade civil service eligibility for any other government
position which does not prescribe proficiency in law as a qualification.

1) It is a privilege burdened with conditions. READ: Adez
Realty vs CA, 251 SCRA 201
2) While Practice of Law is a mere privilege, it has also the
nature of a right. READ: Bongalonta vs. Castillo, 240 SCRA 310

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a.Hence, attorneys cannot be restricted from appearing
before the Patent Office by requiring them to pass an exam
covering patent law. READ: Philippine Lawyers’ Association
vs. Agrava, 105 Phil 173

Is the practice of law a natural or constitutional right?
The right to practice law is not a natural or constitutional right but is in the
nature of a privilege or franchise. It is limited to persons of good moral
character with special qualifications duly ascertained and certified. The
right does not only presuppose in its possessor integrity, legal standing
and attainment, but also the exercise of a special privilege, highly
personal and partaking of the nature of a public trust. (In re: Petition for
Authority to Continue Use of Firm Name, July 30, 1979)

PROFESSION, NOT BUSINESS

In this day and age, members of the bar often forget that the practice of
law is a profession and not a business. Lawyering is not primarily meant
to be a money-making venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that
necessarily yields profits. The gaining of a livelihood is not a professional
but a secondary consideration. Duty to public service and to the
administration of justice should be the primary consideration of lawyers,
who must subordinate their personal interests or what they owe to
themselves. The practice of law is a noble calling in which emolument is
a byproduct, and the highest eminence may be attained without making
much money. (Burbe v. Magulta, A.C. No. 99-634, June 10, 2002; Canlas
v. Court of Appeals, 164 SCRA 160; R. Agpalo, Legal Ethics, pp. 12-13)

REQUIREMENTS BEFORE A CANDIDATE CAN ENGAGE IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW:
He must have been admitted to the Bar
Furnishing satisfying proof of educational, moral and other qualifications.
Passing the bar
Taking the lawyer’s oath before the Supreme Court
Signing the Attorney’s Roll and receiving from the Clerk of Court of the Supreme
Court a certification of the license to practice.

II. After his admission to the bar, a lawyer must remain in good and regular standing
which is a continuing requirement to the practice of law. This means that her

must:
Remain a member of the IBP
Regularly pay all IBP membership dues and other lawful assessments, as well as
the annual privilege tax.
Faithfully observe the rules and ethics of the legal profession and
Be continually subject to judicial disciplinary control.

What are the basic requirements for all applicants for admission to the
bar?
All applicants must be a (a) citizen of the Philippines; (b) at least 21 years of

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Q. May a lawyer be disciplined either by the IBP or the Court for failing to pay
her obligation to complainant?

A. NO. A lawyer may not be disciplined either by the IBP or the Court for
failing to pay her obligation, a matter in her professional or private
capacity. (Toledo vs. Abalos)

Q. Is wanton disregard of the lawful orders of the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline a ground for suspension of a lawyer from the practice of law?

A. YES. A lawyer was suspended from the practice of law for one month due
to her wanton disregard of the lawful orders of the IBP Commission on
Bar Discipline. (Toledo vs. Abalos)

LIABILITIES OF A LAWYER

In re: Julian T. Publico, 102 SCRA 722
Membership in the Bar is a privilege burdened with conditions. By far, the most

important of them is mindfulness that a lawyer is an officer of the court.

In re Parazo, 82 Phil. 230
The legal profession unlike any other calling is subservient to the court. Courts have

the inherent power to adopt proper and adequate measures to preserve their integrity and
render possible facilitate the exercise of their functions. Including the investigation of charges
of error, abuse or misconduct of their officials and subordinates, including lawyers.
People vs. Andan, CA-G.R. No. 3173-R, May 17, 1949

Membership in the Bar being merely a privilege, the same may be suspended or
removed from the lawyer for reasons provided in the Rules, law and jurisprudence. The
actuations of lawyers are subject to scrutiny at all times. The professional activities as well as
the lawyer’s private lives, in so far as the latter may reflect unfavorably upon the good name
and prestige of the profession and the courts, may at anytime be the subject of inquiry by the
proper authorities.

ADMINISTRATIVE LIABILITIES OF LAWYERS

Tobias vs. Veloso, 100 SCRA 177
A warning, in ordinary parlance, has been defined as an ‘act or fact of putting one on

his guard against an impending danger, evil consequences or penalties’, while an

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admonition refers to a gentle or friendly reproof, mild rebuke, warning or reminder,
counseling, on a fault, error or oversight, an expression of authoritative advice or ‘warning’.
They are not considered as penalties. A reprimand, on the other hand, is of a more severe
nature, and has been defined as a public and formal censure or severe reproof, administered
to a person in fault by his superior officer or a body to which he belongs. It is more than just a
warning or an admonition.

Suspension is the temporary withholding of the lawyer’s right to practice his profession as a
lawyer of a certain period or for an indefinite period of time.

Disbarment is the act of the Supreme Court in withdrawing from any attorney the right to
practice law. The name of the lawyer is stricken out from the Roll of Attorneys. And he does
not have the right to put in his name even the prefix “Atty.”. Neither can he sign pleadings
even if he does not personally appear in court.

Section 27, Rule 138, ROC
Who has the power to discipline errant lawyers?

The Supreme Court has the full authority and power warn, admonish, reprimand,
suspend and disbar a lawyer.

Section 16, Rule 139-B, Rules of Court
The Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts are also empowered to warn, admonish,
reprimand, and suspend an attorney who appears before them from the practice of law for
any of the causes mentioned in Section 27 of Rule 138, ROC. But they cannot disbar a
lawyer.

Balasabas vs. Aquilisan, 106 SCRA 489
An RTC Judge cannot summarily suspend a lawyer as punishment for committing an

indirect contempt. That is not allowed under Section 6, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court.

Royong vs. Oblena, 7 SCRA 859
The power to suspend or disbar a lawyer is judicial in nature and can be exercised only

by the courts. It cannot be defeated by the legislative or executive departments. While the
legislature may provide in statute that certain acts may require disbarment, such statute
cannot restrict the general power of the court over attorneys who are its officers.

A disbarment proceeding is a class by itself (SUI GENERIS). It has the following
characteristics :
It is neither a civil nor a criminal proceeding.

Double jeopardy cannot be availed of in a disbarment proceeding against an attorney.

It can be initiated motu propio by the Supreme Court or by the IBP. It can be initiated without a
complainant.

It can proceed regardless of interest or lack of interest of the complainants. If the facts proven
so warrant.

It is imprescriptible.

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