Mauricio C. Ulep vs. The Legal Clinic, Inc.

B.M. No. 553. June 17, 1993

Facts:
Mauricio C. Ulep, petitioner, prays this Court "to order the respondent, The Legal Clinic,
Inc., to cease and desist from issuing advertisements similar to or of the same tenor as that of
Annexes `A' and `B' (of said petition) and to perpetually prohibit persons or entities from making
advertisements pertaining to the exercise of the law profession other than those allowed by
law.” The advertisements complained of by herein petitioner are as follows:
Annex A
SECRET MARRIAGE?
P560.00 for a valid marriage.
Info on DIVORCE. ABSENCE.
ANNULMENT. VISA.
THEPlease call: 521-0767,
LEGAL5217232, 5222041
CLINIC, INC.8:30 am-6:00 pm
7-Flr. Victoria Bldg. UN Ave., Mla.

Annex B
GUAM DIVORCE
DON PARKINSON
an Attorney in Guam, is giving FREE BOOKS on Guam Divorce through The Legal Clinic
beginning Monday to Friday during office hours.
Guam divorce. Annulment of Marriage. Immigration Problems, Visa Ext. Quota/Non-quota Res.
& Special Retiree's Visa. Declaration of Absence. Remarriage to Filipina Fiancees. Adoption.
Investment in the Phil. US/Foreign Visa for Filipina Spouse/Children. Call Marivic.
THE 7 F Victoria Bldg. 429 UN Ave.
LEGALErmita, Manila nr. US Embassy
CLINIC, INC. Tel. 521-7232521-7251
522-2041; 521-0767

It is the submission of petitioner that the advertisements above reproduced are
champertous, unethical, demeaning of the law profession, and destructive of the confidence of
the community in the integrity of the members of the bar and that, as a member of the legal
profession, he is ashamed and offended by the said advertisements, hence the reliefs sought in his
petition as herein before quoted.

In its answer to the petition, respondent admits the fact of publication of said
advertisements at its instance, but claims that it is not engaged in the practice of law but in the
rendering of "legal support services" through paralegals with the use of modern computers and
electronic machines. Respondent further argues that assuming that the services advertised are
legal services, the act of advertising these services should be allowed supposedly in the light of
the case of John R. Bates and Van O'Steen vs. State Bar of Arizona, reportedly decided by the
United States Supreme Court on June 7, 1977.
Issue:
Whether or not the services offered by respondent, The Legal Clinic, Inc., as advertised
by it constitutes practice of law and, in either case, whether the same can properly be the subject
of the advertisements herein complained of.

Held:
Yes. The Supreme Court held that the services offered by the respondent constitute
practice of law. The definition of “practice of law” is laid down in the case of Cayetano vs.
Monsod, as defined:
Black defines "practice of law" as:
"The rendition of services requiring the knowledge and the application of legal principles and
technique to serve the interest of another with his consent. It is not limited to appearing in court,
or advising and assisting in the conduct of litigation, but embraces the preparation of pleadings,
and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, conveyancing, the preparation of
legal instruments of all kinds, and the giving of all legal advice to clients. It embraces all advice
to clients and all actions taken for them in matters connected with the law."

The contention of respondent that it merely offers legal support services can neither be
seriously considered nor sustained. Said proposition is belied by respondent's own description of
the services it has been offering. While some of the services being offered by respondent
corporation merely involve mechanical and technical know-how, such as the installation of
computer systems and programs for the efficient management of law offices, or the
computerization of research aids and materials, these will not suffice to justify an exception to
the general rule. What is palpably clear is that respondent corporation gives out legal information
to laymen and lawyers. Its contention that such function is non-advisory and non-diagnostic is
more apparent than real. In providing information, for example, about foreign laws on marriage,
divorce and adoption, it strains the credulity of this Court that all that respondent corporation will
simply do is look for the law, furnish a copy thereof to the client, and stop there as if it were
merely a bookstore. With its attorneys and so called paralegals, it will necessarily have to explain
to the client the intricacies of the law and advise him or her on the proper course of action to be
taken as may be provided for by said law. That is what its advertisements represent and for which
services it will consequently charge and be paid. That activity falls squarely within the
jurisprudential definition of "practice of law." Such a conclusion will not be altered by the fact
that respondent corporation does not represent clients in court since law practice, as the weight of
authority holds, is not limited merely to court appearances but extends to legal research, giving
legal advice, contract drafting, and so forth.

That fact that the corporation employs paralegals to carry out its services is not
controlling. What is important is that it is engaged in the practice of law by virtue of the nature of
the services it renders which thereby brings it within the ambit of the statutory prohibitions
against the advertisements which it has caused to be published and are now assailed in this
proceeding. The standards of the legal profession condemn the lawyer's advertisement of his
talents. A lawyer cannot, without violating the ethics of his profession, advertise his talents or
skills as in a manner similar to a merchant advertising his goods. The proscription against
advertising of legal services or solicitation of legal business rests on the fundamental postulate
that the practice of law is a profession. The canons of the profession tell us that the best
advertising possible for a lawyer is a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and
fidelity to trust, which must be earned as the outcome of character and conduct. Good and
efficient service to a client as well as to the community has a way of publicizing itself and
catching public attention. That publicity is a normal by-product of effective service which is right
and proper. A good and reputable lawyer needs no artificial stimulus to generate it and to
magnify his success. He easily sees the difference between a normal by-product of able service
and the unwholesome result of propaganda.

Khan v Simbillo

Facts

Resp Atty. Rizalino Simbillo advertised in the PDI and MB his legal services for annulment
cases.

Upon investigation by the Pub Info Office, it was confirmed that Simbillo is offering his services
to interested clients.

Ismael Khan, chief of the PIO, filed an administrative charge vs resp for improper advertising
and solicitation of his legal services in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility

Resp argues that advertising or solicitation is not per se a prohibited act:

a. Public interest is not served by the absolute prohibition
b. It’s time for the Court to promulgate a ruling that such advertisement is not contrary to
law, public policy and public order.

The IBP found the resp guilty and suspended him from the practice of law for 1 year, writing it in
a resolution

Issues

W/N resp’s act was a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility

Ruling

Yes. Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code states that a lawyer is prohibited from performing acts
designed to solicit legal business and that he is not permitted to use self-laudatory or unfair
statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services. Practice of Law is not a
business. It is a profession with public interest as the primary duty. It’s not a money-making
venture and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits. The duty is to public
service and the administration of justice. Elements that distinguish it from business:

a. A duty of public service, of which the emolument is a by-product, and in which one may
attain the highest eminence without making much money;
b. A relation as an “officer of the court” to the administration of justice involving thorough
sincerity, integrity and reliability;
c. A relation to clients in the highest degree of fiduciary;
d. A relation to colleagues at the bar characterized by candor, fairness, and unwillingness to
resort to current business methods of advertising and encroachment on their practice, or
dealing directly with their clients.

The solicitation of legal business is not altogether proscribed. However, for solicitation to be
proper, it must be compatible with the dignity of the legal profession. If it is made in a modest
and decorous manner, it would bring no injury to the lawyer and to the bar.

MANUEL G. VILLATUYA v. ATTY. BEDE S. TABALINGCOS

FACTS:

Complainant, Manuel G. Villatuya filed a Complaint for Disbarment on December 06, 2004
against respondent, Atty. Bede S. Tabalingcos. In a resolution, the court required the respondent
to file a comment, which the respondent did. The complaint was then referred to the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines for investigation.

In a mandatory conference called for by the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP,
complainant and his counsel, and the respondent appeared and submitted issues for resolution.
The commission ordered the parties to submit their verified position papers.

In the position paper submitted by the complainant on August 1, 2005, he averred that he was
employed by the respondent as financial consultant to assist the respondent in a number of
corporate rehabilitation cases. Complainant claimed that they had a verbal agreement whereby he
would be entitled to ₱50,000 for every Stay Order issued by the court in the cases they would
handle, in addition to ten percent (10%) of the fees paid by their clients. Notwithstanding, 18
Stay Orders that was issued by the courts as a result of his work and the respondent being able to
rake in millions from the cases that they were working on together, the latter did not pay the
amount due to him. He also alleged that respondent engaged in unlawful solicitation of cases by
setting up two financial consultancy firms as fronts for his legal services. On the third charge of
gross immorality, complainant accused respondent of committing two counts of bigamy for
having married two other women while his first marriage was subsisting.

In his defense, respondent denied charges against him and asserted that the complainant was not
an employee of his law firm but rather an employee of Jesi and Jane Management, Inc., one of
the financial consultancy firms. Respondent alleged that complainant was unprofessional and
incompetent in performing his job and that there was no verbal agreement between them
regarding the payment of fees and the sharing of professional fees paid by his clients. He
proffered documents showing that the salary of complainant had been paid. Respondent also
denied committing any unlawful solicitation. To support his contention, respondent attached a
Joint Venture Agreement and an affidavit executed by the Vice-President for operations of Jesi
and Jane Management, Inc. On the charge of gross immorality, respondent assailed the Affidavit
of a dismissed messenger of Jesi and Jane Management, Inc., as having no probative value, since
it had been retracted by the affiant himself. Respondent did not specifically address the
allegations regarding his alleged bigamous marriages with two other women

On January 9, 2006, complainant filed a Motion to Admit Copies of 3 Marriage Contracts of
respondent wherein he attached the certified true copies of the Marriage Contracts referred to in
the Certification issued by the NSO.

On January 16, 2006, respondent submitted his Opposition to the Motion to Admit filed by
complainant, claiming that he was not given the opportunity to controvert them. He disclosed
that criminal cases for bigamy were filed against him by the complainant before the Office of the
City Prosecutor of Manila. He also informed the Commission that he filed Petition for
Declaration of Nullity of the first two marriage contracts. In both petitions, he claimed that he
had recently discovered that there were Marriage Contracts in the records of the NSO bearing his
name and allegedly executed with Rowena Piñon and Pilar Lozano on different occasions.
The Commission scheduled a clarificatory hearing on 20 November 2007. Respondent moved
for the suspension of the resolution of the administrative case against him, pending outcome of
petition for nullification he filed with RTC, but was denied. The Commission resolved that the
administrative case against him be submitted for resolution.

On February 27, 2008, the Commission promulgated its Report and Recommendation addressing
the specific charges against respondent. The first charge, for dishonesty for the nonpayment of
certain shares in the fees, was dismissed for lack of merit. On the second charge, the Commission
found respondent to have violated the rule on the solicitation of client for having advertised his
legal services and unlawfully solicited cases. It recommended that he be reprimanded for the
violation. As for the third charge, the Commission found respondent to be guilty of gross
immorality for violating Rules 1.01 and 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and
Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. Due to the gravity of the acts of respondent, the
Commission recommended that he be disbarred, and that his name be stricken off the roll of
attorneys.

On April 15, 2008, the IBP Board of Governors, through its Resolution No. XVIII-2008-154,
adopted and approved the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.

On August 1, 2008, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that the
recommendation to disbar him was premature.

On June 26, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors denied the Motions for Reconsideration and
affirmed their Resolution dated April 15, 2008 recommending respondent’s disbarment.

ISSUES:

1. Whether respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility by nonpayment of fees
to complainant;

2. Whether respondent violated the rule against unlawful solicitation; and
3. Whether respondent is guilty of gross immoral conduct for having married thrice.

RULING:

First charge: Dishonesty for non-payments of share in the fees.

Supreme Court affirmed the IBP’s dismissal of the first charge against respondent, but did not
concur with the rationale behind it. The first charge, if proven to be true is based on an
agreement that is violative of Rule 9.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. A lawyer is
proscribed by the Code to divide or agree to divide the fees for legal services rende-red with a
person not licensed to practice law. In the case of Tan Tek Beng v. David, Supreme Court held
that an agreement between a lawyer and a layperson to share the fees collected from clients
secured by the layperson is null and void, and that the lawyer involved may be disciplined for
unethical conduct. Considering that complainant’s allegations in this case had not been proven,
the IBP correctly dismissed the charge against respondent on this matter.

Second charge: Unlawful solicitation of clients.

In its Report, the IBP established the truth of these allegations and ruled that respondent had
violated the rule on the solicitation of clients, but it failed to point out the specific provision that
was breached. Based on the facts of the case, he violated Rule 2.03 of the Code, which prohibits
lawyers from soliciting cases for the purpose of profit.

A lawyer is not prohibited from engaging in business or other lawful occupation. Impropriety
arises, though, when the business is of such a nature or is conducted in such a manner as to be
inconsistent with the lawyer’s duties as a member of the bar. This inconsistency arises when the
business is one that can readily lend itself to the procurement of professional employment for the
lawyer; or that can be used as a cloak for indirect solicitation on the lawyer’s behalf; or is of a
nature that, if handled by a lawyer, would be regarded as the practice of law.
It is clear from the documentary evidence submitted by complainant that Jesi & Jane
Management, Inc., which purports to be a financial and legal consultant, was indeed a vehicle
used by respondent as a means to

procure professional employment; specifically for corporate rehabilitation cases.

Rule 15.08 of the Code mandates that the lawyer is mandated to inform the client whether the
former is acting as a lawyer or in another capacity. This duty is a must in those occupations
related to the practice of law. In this case, it is confusing for the client if it is not clear whether
respondent is offering consultancy or legal services.

Considering, however, that complainant has not proven the degree of prevalence of this practice
by respondent, the Supreme Court affirm the recommendation to reprimand the latter for
violating Rules 2.03 and 15.08 of the Code.

Third charge: Bigamy.

The Supreme Court have consistently held that a disbarment case is sui generis. Its focus is on
the qualification and fitness of a lawyer to continue membership in the bar and not the procedural
technicalities in filing the case. Thus, in Garrido v. Garrido:

Laws dealing with double jeopardy or with procedure — such as the verification of pleadings
and prejudicial questions, or in this case, prescription of offenses or the filing of affidavits of
desistance by the complainant — do not apply in the determination of a lawyer's qualifications
and fitness for membership in the Bar. We have so ruled in the past and we see no reason to
depart from this ruling. First, admission to the practice of law is a component of the
administration of justice and is a matter of public interest because it involves service to the
public. The admission qualifications are also qualifications for the continued enjoyment of the
privilege to practice law. Second, lack of qualifications or the violation of the standards for the
practice of law, like criminal cases, is a matter of public concern that the State may inquire into
through this Court.

In disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant. In this case,
complainant submitted NSO-certified true copies to prove that respondent entered into two
marriages while the latter’s first marriage was still subsisting. While respondent denied entering
into the second and the third marriages, he resorted to vague assertions tantamount to a negative
pregnant.
What has been clearly established here is the fact that respondent entered into marriage twice
while his first marriage was still subsisting. In Bustamante-Alejandro v. Alejandro, 56 we held
thus:

[W]e have in a number of cases disciplined members of the Bar whom we found guilty of
misconduct which demonstrated a lack of that good moral character required of them not only as
a condition precedent for their admission to the Bar but, likewise, for their continued
membership therein. No distinction has been made as to whether the misconduct was committed
in the lawyer’s professional capacity or in his private life. This is because a lawyer may not
divide his personality so as to be an attorney at one time and a mere citizen at another. He is
expected to be competent, honorable and reliable at all times since he who cannot apply and
abide by the laws in his private affairs, can hardly be expected to do so in his professional
dealings nor lead others in doing so. Professional honesty and honor are not to be expected as the
accompaniment of dishonesty and dishonor in other relations. The administration of justice, in
which the lawyer plays an important role being an officer of the court, demands a high degree of
intellectual and moral competency on his part so that the courts and clients may rightly repose
confidence in him.

Respondent exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as a member
of the bar. He made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.57
His acts of committing bigamy twice constituted grossly immoral conduct and are grounds for
disbarment under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court.

The Supreme Court adopted the recommendation of the IBP to disbar respondent and ordered
that his name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys.

BR Sebastian Enterprises, Inc. v CA

FACTS:

Eulogio B. Reyes, now deceased, filed an action for damages against the Director of Public
Works and BR Sebastian Enterprises. Trial court found B.R. Sebastian liable for damages but
absolved other defendants. B.R. Sebastian, thru its counsel, the law firm of Baizas, Alberto and
Associates, timely appealed the adverse decision to the respondent Court of Appeals. During the
pendency of the appeal, Eulogio B. Reyes died and was substituted by his heirs. On February
1974, B.R Sebastian, thru its counsel of record, received notice to file Appellant’s Brief within
45 days from receipt thereof; however, it failed to comply. Court of Appeals issued a Resolution
requiring said counsel to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed for failure to file
the Appellant’s Brief within the reglementary period. On September 1974, Court of Appeals
dismissed the appeal. On September 1974, petitioner, this time thru the BAIZAS LAW OFFICE,
filed a motion for reconsideration of the resolution dismissing its appeal alleging that as a result
of the death of Atty. Crispin Baizas, senior partner in the law firm. Atty. Rodolfo Espiritu, the
lawyer who handled this case in the trial court and who is believed to have also attended to the
preparation of the Appellant’s Brief but failed to submit it through oversight and inadvertence,
had also left the firm. Court denied the motion for reconsideration. No action was taken by
petitioner from within the period to file a petition for review, the same became final and
executory, and the records of the case were remanded. Trial court issued a writ of execution. But
on November 1975, petitioner filed with Court of Appeals a Motion to Reinstate Appeal with
Prayer for Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction but was subsequently denied. Petitioner
filed prohibition and mandamus, with prayer for preliminary injunction with the Supreme Court
to Court of Appeals denial of petitioner’s motion. SC required them to comment and soon after,
some amendments were made. Ultimately, the petition was denied. But on May 1976, petitioner
filed a motion for its reconsideration claiming that since it was deprived of the right to appeal
without fault on its part, the petition should be given due course. Supreme Court reconsidered
and required both parties to submit simultaneously their respective Memoranda.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the respondent Court of Appeals gravely abused its discretion in denying
petitioner’s motion to reinstate its appeal, previously dismissed for failure to file the Appellant’s
Brief

HELD:

No. The Supreme Court held that no fraud is involved in the present case. What was present was
simple negligence on the part of petitioner’s counsel, which is neither excusable nor unavoidable.
Petitioner thus failed to demonstrate sufficient cause to warrant a favorable action on its plea.
Granting that the power or discretion to reinstate an appeal that had been dismissed is included in
or implied from the power or discretion to dismiss an appeal, still such power or discretion must
be exercised upon a showing of good and sufficient cause, in like manner as the power or
discretion vested in the appellate court to allow extensions of time for the filing of briefs. There
must be such a showing which would call for, prompt and justify its exercise. Otherwise, it
cannot and must not be upheld. The “confusion” in the office of the law firm following the death
of Atty. Crispin Baizas is not a valid justification for its failure to file the Brief. With Baizas’
death, the responsibility of Atty. Alberto and his Associates to the petitioner as counsel remained
until withdrawal by the former of their appearance in the manner provided by the Rules of Court.
The law firm should have re-assigned the case to another associate or, it could have withdrawn as
counsel in the manner provided by the Rules of Court so that the petitioner could contract the
services of a new lawyer. The rule is settled that negligence of counsel binds the client.
Moreover, petitioner itself was guilty of negligence when it failed to make inquiries from counsel
regarding its case.

Petition DISMISSED.