The nobility of the Law profession
A day before the 2022 Bar results was released, the Supreme Court launched the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA) in its en banc session in Baguio City.
The CPRA serves as the bible of lawyers and it revised the 34-year-old Code of Conduct and Professional Responsibility of lawyers.
The SC stated the CPRA “follows a values-based framework, divided into canons on independence, propriety, fidelity, competence, diligence, equality and accountability, similar to the New Code of Judicial Conduct.”
The CPRA will be incorporated in the lawyer’s oath the successful bar passers will take before they will claim the title “attorney” and start with the practice of law. The lawyers are bound by their oath and its violation is a ground for suspension, disbarment, or disciplinary action.
The incoming lawyers must realize that on their shoulders rest the responsibility of keeping and maintaining the nobility of their profession. It should not be treated like a business. In fact, during our law practice, we were not allowed to advertise on media about our services and the rates for each service. Not even flyers were allowed. What is allowed was a signboard at the residence and on the building of the law office and the door entrance.
Starting a law practice is challenging and must have been part of a law student’s planning after graduation from law school.
During our third year in the College of Law, law offices based in Makati invited some classmates to do apprentice work and upon passing the Bar would have a choice of joining the firm.
For my part, during my school break then, I would be at my father Pedro’s law office helping out, including janitorial and messenger jobs. There were no computers then and mailing system was through the post office or by personal delivery. Our research was done through law books instead of the now available internet research.
When I passed the Bar, it was not difficult then for me to blend into the law practice, as I had a seat waiting for me at my father’s law office. Although, there was also an invitation to me by a reputable Makati law firm to join them, I chose to remain in Baguio and be with my father who was elected vice mayor and needed me for the law office operation.
Our law office signboard at the then Teofelix Building along Session Road announced Claravall Law and Public Service Offices. It did not bear our first names, although my father has already established his name by his law practice for some 16 years or so before I joined him in the office.
Our signboard was unique because it bore the words “public services”. But, indeed, as early as the ‘70s our office was already offering pro bono or free legal aid to indigent clients, aside from detainees who could not afford a lawyer that courts would designate us to represent.
We evaluated legal problems, accepted cases without any fees or contracts, and never pressured clients to pay for every court appearance. In fact, we would pay for after-court merienda at times. We would go to out-of-town cases in provinces without expectation of what clients would pay, either in cash or kind (sack of rice, vegetables, fruits, etc).
Quite interestingly, the office was busy every day, including Saturdays, attending to clients many of whom were pro bono. But, as my father assured me, our office can be sustained because acts of goodness would have greater returns. By God’s grace, we were able to survive even during the dark years of Martial Law when our mobility was limited with the unlawful confiscation of our vehicles and constant invitation for questioning at Camp Dangwa.
My father was a labor union lawyer notably of transportation companies and associations, including the government-run Benguet Auto Lines, some labor associations, many of which he helped organize, of employees in hotels and department stores.
He was the lawyer of the late Rogelio Roxas, the treasure hunter from whom the military seized the Golden Buddha.
In fact, before the seizure of the Golden Buddha, Roxas was already my father’s client when he was a sidewalk watch repairer along Magsaysay Avenue.
As for me, I was red-tagged because of my membership in the Kabataang Makabayan and helped organize anti-government rallies before the Martial Law.
Looking back at the practice of law then and now, we personally observed and through reports that reached me during my stint as an executive judge, that it has lost much of its nobility as a profession. There is much to be desired as to the seemingly exorbitant fees being charged, even for just notarial service fees. Acceptance fees and appearance fees are now subject of contracts between lawyers and clients, including consultation fees, even via telephone or cellphones. We would summon in our chambers, lawyers or litigants who were not prepared for trial or were not in proper attire.
Although there were several opportunities and temptations that challenged our integrity and faithfulness to the lawyer’s oath, my father and I never regret becoming rich millionaires out of our law practice and even as public officials because we held on to our pride of being lawyers who have dedicated our lives towards imparting our God-given talents in service to our fellowmen.
It is our fervent hope that the new CPRA shall be an effective moral compass for our incoming lawyers, as well as the law practitioners, in guiding them towards the meaning and purpose of their lives and the nobility of the law profession.