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53 Phil. 37 – Legal Ethics – Malpractice – Solicitation of Legal Business – Advertisement in the Legal Profession – Stirring Up of Litigation
In 1928, Luis Tagorda was a provincial board member of Isabela. Before his election, he campaigned that he is a lawyer and a notary public; that as a notary public he can do notarial acts such as execution of deeds of sale, etc.; that as a lawyer, he can help clients collect debts; that he offers free consultation; that he is willing to serve the poor.
When he won, he wrote a letter to the barrio lieutenant of Echague, Isabela advising the latter that even though he was elected as a provincial board member, he can still practice law; that he wants the lieutenant to tell the same to his people; that he is willing to receive works regarding preparations of sales contracts and affidavits etc.; that he is willing to receive land registration cases for a charge of three pesos.
ISSUE: Whether or not Tagorda is guilty of malpractice.
HELD: Yes. Tagorda admitted doing the foregoing acts. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
The most worthy and effective advertisement possible, even for a young lawyer, and especially with his brother lawyers, is the establishment of a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust. This cannot be forced, but must be the outcome of character and conduct. Solicitation of business by circulars or advertisements, or by personal communications or interviews not warranted by personal relations, is unprofessional. It is equally unprofessional to procure business by indirection through touters of any kind, whether allied real estate firms or trust companies advertising to secure the drawing of deeds or wills or offering retainers in exchange for executorships or trusteeships to be influenced by the lawyer. Indirect advertisement for business by furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude of the interests involved, the importance of the lawyer’s position, and all other like self-laudation, defy the traditions and lower the tone of our high calling, and are intolerable.
It is unprofessional for a lawyer to volunteer advice to bring a lawsuit, except in rare cases where ties of blood, relationship or trust make it his duty to do so.
Tagorda’s liability is however mitigated by the fact that he is a young inexperienced lawyer and that he was unaware of the impropriety of his acts. So instead of being disbarred, he was suspended from the practice of law for a month.