1. Concept

crop asian judge working on laptop in office

Any activity requiring application of law, etc.

Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. (Cayetano v. Monsod, G.R. No. 100113, 03 September 1991)

To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession; to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill. (Query of Atty. Karen N. Silverio-Buffe, A.M. No. 08-6-352-RTC 19 August 2009, citing Cayetano v. Monsod, supra.)

The term “practice of law” implies customarily or habitually holding oneself out to the public as a lawyer for compensation as a source of livelihood or in consideration of his services. Holding one’s self out as a lawyer may be shown by acts indicative of that purpose, such as identifying oneself as attorney, appearing in court in representation of a client, or associating oneself as a partner of a law office for the general practice of law. (Atty. Edita Noe-Lacsamana v. Atty. Yolando F. Busmente, A.C. No. 7269, 23 November 2011)

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or litigation in court; it embraces the preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts, and in addition, conveyancing. (Philippine Lawyer’s Association v. Agrava, En Banc, G.R. No. L-12426, 16 February 1959, cited in Aguirre v. Rana, En Banc, B.M. No. 1036, 10 June 2003)

In general, all advice to clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law, incorporation services, assessment and condemnation services contemplating an appearance before a judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of a creditor’s claim in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and conducting proceedings in attachment, and in matters of estate and guardianship have been held to constitute law practice, as do the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work done involves the determination by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts and conditions. (Ibid.)

Not a practice of law

Individuals who are non-lawyers have long been permitted to manage, prosecute and defend their own actions; and when they do so, they are not considered to be in the practice of law. One does not practice law by acting for himself any more than he practices medicine by rendering first aid to himself. (Maderada v. Mediodea, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1459, 14 October 2003)

NB: See also non-lawyers authorized to appear: I. Legal Ethics > A. Practice of Law > 4. Appearance of Non-Lawyers

a. Privilege

The right to practice law is not a natural or constitutional right but is a privilege. It is limited to persons of good moral character with special qualifications duly ascertained and certified. (Philippine Lawyer’s Association v. Agrava, supra.)

The exercise of this privilege presupposes possession of integrity, legal knowledge, educational attainment, and even public trust since a lawyer is an officer of the court. A bar candidate does not acquire the right to practice law simply by passing the bar examinations. The practice of law is a privilege that can be withheld even from one who has passed the bar examinations, if the person seeking admission had practiced law without a license. (Philippine Lawyer’s Association v. Agrava, supra.)

1) Attorney as title

The title of “attorney” is reserved to those who, having obtained the necessary degree in the study of law and successfully taken the Bar Examinations, have been admitted to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and remain members thereof in good standing; and it is they only who are authorized to practice law in this jurisdiction. (Alawi v. Alauya, A.M. No. SDC-97-2-P, 24 February 1997)

Persons who pass the Shari’a Bar are not full-fledged members of the Philippine Bar, hence may only practice law before Shari’a courts. While one who has been admitted to the Shari’a Bar, and one who has been admitted to the Philippine Bar, may both be considered “counsellors,” in the sense that they give counsel or advice in a professional capacity, only the latter is an “attorney.” (Ibid.)

2) Regulated by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is constitutionally mandated to promulgate rules concerning the admission to the practice of law, and the Integrated Bar. (Section 5 (5), Article VIII, 1987 Constitution)

The ultimate power to grant license for the practice of law belongs exclusively to the Supreme Court. (In the Matter of the Petitions for Admission to the Bar of Unsuccessful Candidates of 1946 to 1953; Albino Cunanan, En Banc, 18 March 1954)

3) Other Government instruments not allowed to regulate law practice

Where a Director of the Patent Office required lawyers to pass an examination given by the Patent Office before being allowed to practice in the said office, this was struck down as void. Thus:

•••

CASE STUDY

Philippine Lawyer’s Association v. Agrava (1959)

Were the Patent Office to be allowed, in the absence of an express and clear provision of law giving the necessary sanction, to require lawyers to submit to and pass on examination prescribed by it before they are allowed to practice before said Patent Office, then there would be no reason why other bureaus specially the Bureaus of Internal Revenue and Customs, where the business in the same area are more or less complicated, such as the presentation of books of accounts, balance sheets, etc., assessments exemptions, depreciation, these as regards the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the classification of goods, imposition of customs duties, seizures, confiscation, etc., as regards the Bureau of Customs, may not also require that any lawyer practicing before them or otherwise transacting business with them on behalf of clients, shall first pass an examination to qualify… under the present law, members of the Philippine Bar authorized by this Tribunal to practice law, and in good standing, may practice their profession before the Patent Office, for the reason that much of the business in said office involves the interpretation and determination of the scope and application of the Patent Law and other laws applicable, as well as the presentation of evidence to establish facts involved; that part of the functions of the Patent Director are judicial or quasi-judicial, so much so that appeals from his orders and decisions are, under the law, taken to the Supreme Court.

•••

b. Profession, not business

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, AC No. 99-634, 10 June 2002)

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. (Burbe v. Magulta, supra.)

1) Primary duty

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. (Ibid.)

The Supreme Court stresses that a lawyer’s primary duty is to assist the courts in the administration of justice. Any conduct that tends to delay, impede, or obstruct the administration of justice contravenes this obligation. Indeed, a lawyer must champion his client’s cause with competence and diligence, but he cannot invoke this as an excuse for his failure to exhibit courtesy and fairness to his fellow lawyers and to respect legal processes designed to afford due process to all stakeholders. (Festin v. Zubiri, A.C. No. 11600, 19 June 2017)

Leave a Reply