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Canon 20: A Lawyer shall charge only fair and reasonable fees.

Issue:
Was the lien made by the respondent attorney over the award as attorney’s
37. Traders Royal Bank Employee union-independent vs NLRC
fees valid?
269 SCRA 739
Held:
Facts:
Yes. It is valid. The P3,000.00 monthly fee provided in the retainer agreement
Petitioner Traders Royal Bank Employees Union had a retainer agreement
between the union and the law firm refers to a general retainer, or a retaining
with Atty. Cruz for 3,000 pesos in consideration of the law firm’s undertaking
fee, as said monthly fee covers only the law firms pledge, or as expressly
to render the services enumerated in their contract. During the existence of
stated therein, its commitment to render the legal services enumerated. The
the agreement, the union referred to the private respondent the claims of its
fee is not payment for private respondents’ execution or performance of the
members for holiday, mid-year and year-end bonuses against their employer,
services listed in the contract, subject to some particular qualifications or
TRB. The NLRC granted the petition of the union with regard to the demand
permutations stated there. As stipulated in Part C of the agreement, the
for bonuses.
monthly fee is intended merely as a consideration for the law firms
commitment to render the services enumerated in Part A (General Services)
However, TRB challenged the decision of the NLRC before the Supreme Court.
and Part B (Special Legal Services) of the retainer agreement.
The Court modified the decision of the NLRC by deleting the award of mid-
year and year-end bonus differentials while affirming the award of holiday A general retainer, or retaining fee, is the fee paid to a lawyer to secure his
pay differential. future services as general counsel for any ordinary legal problem that may
arise in the routinary business of the client and referred to him for legal action.
TRB voluntarily complied with the decision and determined the holiday pay The fees are paid whether or not there are cases referred to the lawyer. The
differential to be in the amount of 175,794.32 pesos. After private reason for the remuneration is that the lawyer is deprived of the opportunity
of rendering services for a fee to the opposing party or other parties. In fine,
respondent received the above decision of the Supreme Court, he notified
it is a compensation for lost opportunities.
the petitioner union, the TRB management and the NLRC of his right to
exercise and enforce his attorney’s lien. Private respondent Atty. Cruz filed a On the other hand, a special retainer is a fee for a specific case handled or
motion for the determination of his attorney’s fees, praying that ten percent special service rendered by the lawyer for a client. A client may have several
(10%) of the total award for holiday pay differential computed by TRB at cases demanding special or individual attention. If for every case there is a
P175,794.32, or the amount of P17,574.43, be declared as his attorney’s fees, separate and independent contract for attorney’s fees, each fee is considered
and that petitioner union be ordered to pay and remit said amount to him. a special retainer.
Hence, the Court ruled that the resolution of the NLRC with regard to the
Because of that, petitioner file an appeal with the NLRC seeking a reversal of attorney’s fees is modified, and Union is hereby ordered to pay 10,000 for the
that order. Petitioner maintains that the NLRC committed grave abuse of firm’s rendered services.
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in upholding the award of
attorney’s fees, that it is in violation of the retainer agreement and that the
challenged resolution of the NLRC is null and void. Full text (link): http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/1997/mar1997/120592.htm

lien - any official claim or charge against property or funds for payment of a debt or an
amount owed for services rendered.