Legal Ethics

Mauricio Ulep vs The Legal Clinic

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A.C. L-553 – B.M. No. 553 – 223 SCRA 378 – 42 SCAD 287 – Legal Ethics – Advertisement in the Legal Profession – Practice of Law

In 1984, The Legal Clinic was formed by Atty. Rogelio Nogales. Its aim, according to Nogales was to move toward specialization and to cater to clients who cannot afford the services of big law firms. Now, Atty. Mauricio Ulep filed a complaint against The Legal Clinic because of the latter’s advertisements which contain the following:

P560.00 for a valid marriage.
Please call: 521-0767; 521-7232; 522-2041
8:30am – 6:00pm
7th Flr. Victoria Bldg., UN Ave., Manila

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.
7th Flr. Victoria Bldg., UN Ave., Manila nr. US Embassy
Tel. 521-7232, 521-7251, 522-2041, 521-0767

It is also alleged that The Legal Clinic published an article entitled “Rx for Legal Problems” in Star Week of Philippine Star wherein Nogales stated that they The Legal Clinic is composed of specialists that can take care of a client’s problem no matter how complicated it is even if it is as complicated as the Sharon Cuneta-Gabby Concepcion situation. He said that he and his staff of lawyers, who, like doctors, are “specialists” in various fields, can take care of it. The Legal Clinic, Inc. has specialists in taxation and criminal law, medico-legal problems, labor, litigation and family law. These specialists are backed up by a battery of paralegals, counselors and attorneys.

As for its advertisement, Nogales said it should be allowed in view of the jurisprudence in the US which now allows it (John Bates vs The State Bar of Arizona). And that besides, the advertisement is merely making known to the public the services that The Legal Clinic offers.

ISSUE: Whether or not The Legal Clinic is engaged in the practice of law; whether such is allowed; whether or not its advertisement may be allowed.

HELD: Yes, The Legal Clinic is engaged in the practice of law however, such practice is not allowed. The Legal Clinic is composed mainly of paralegals. The services it offered include various legal problems wherein a client may avail of legal services from simple documentation to complex litigation and corporate undertakings. Most of these services are undoubtedly beyond the domain of paralegals, but rather, are exclusive functions of lawyers engaged in the practice of law.  Under Philippine jurisdiction however, the services being offered by Legal Clinic which constitute practice of law cannot be performed by paralegals. Only a person duly admitted as a member of the bar and  who is in good and regular standing, is entitled to practice law.

Anent the issue on the validity of the questioned advertisements, the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer in making known his legal services shall use only true, honest, fair, dignified and objective information or statement of facts. 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.  Further, the advertisements of Legal Clinic seem to promote divorce, secret marriage, bigamous marriage, and other circumventions of law which their experts can facilitate. Such is highly reprehensible.

The Supreme Court also noted which forms of advertisement are allowed. 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.  The Supreme Court also enumerated the following as allowed forms of advertisement:

  1. Advertisement in a reputable law list
  2. Use of ordinary simple professional card
  3. Listing in a phone directory but without designation as to his specialization

Read the full text here.

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