By Keziah Joy Roa
The Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) serves as the ultimate guide and basis of the present Philippine Legal System. It provides guidelines for the continuing practice of law in a civil society and sees to it that legal ethics are observed. Through this, the value and credibility of the legal profession, through its practicing lawyers, are upheld and their responsibility to the society, legal profession, courts, and its clients are laid down.
The CPR is comprised of 22 Canons divided into four chapters. One of which is the canon 3 that states that ”A lawyer in making known his legal services shall use only true, honest, fair dignified and objective information or statements of facts”. The plain use of words must be construed to give emphasis on the integrity that a lawyer must maintain in the exercise of service, and truthfulness in one’s statement in relation to his qualifications.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the act of advertising one’s own talents and skills is being frowned upon and prohibited according to the Code of Professional Responsibility. This is under the belief that the practice of law is a profession and not a business. The lawyer may not seek or obtain employment by himself or through others for to do so would be unprofessional. It is destructive of the honor of a great profession; it lowers the standards of that profession; and it works against the confidence of the community in the integrity of the members of the bar. (In Re: Tagorda, 53 Phil 37 )
Under Canon 3, Rule 3.01, “A lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, undignified, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services”. Hence, the law governs not only the unethical acts done by any member of the bar but as well as those who have committed such acts with his permission. Improper advertising includes the distribution of pamphlets and any other materials bearing the attorney’s card, thereby, marketing his legal services.
In the case of Linsangan vs. Tolentino, A.C. No. 6672, a complaint for disbarment was filed against Atty. Tolentino on the grounds of solicitation of clients and encroachment of professional services. Linsangan alleged that the respondent promised to provide financial assistance to the former’s client provided that they transfer legal representation. One of the evidences presented include respondent’s calling card advertising his law firm with the term “with financial assistance”. The Supreme Court held that the act of the respondent in attaching the aforementioned phrase in his calling card is a clear advertisement of the legal profession with commercialism and with the purpose of enticing clients to change counsels through the promise of loans to finance their legal action. It further held that a lawyer need not to advertise the legal profession in such a manner similar to commercial businesses, and that a lawyer’s best advertisement is a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust based on his character and conduct and not through promises of money.
Additionally, using of misleading information or firm names created in bad faith constitutes a violation of Rule 3.02 under Canon 3 of the CPR which states that “In the choice of a firm name, no false, misleading, or assumed name shall be used. The continued use of the name of a deceased partner is permissible provided that the firm indicates in all its communication that said partner is deceased”. Law partnership among lawyers are acknowledged in legal profession. As a matter of fact, it is considered to be common in the practice of law. However, such is simply mere association and is not to be viewed as a business partnership. Rule 3.02 allows the continued use of the name of the deceased partner due to the presumed contribution of goodwill of both partners to the reputation of their firm and the possibility that such reputation be disturbed by the change of firm name. Thus, the death of a partner does not automatically extinguish the relationship created between the client and the firm.
Moreover, as stipulated in the case of Dacanay vs. Baker and Mckenzie, G.R. No. L-41862, the use of foreign law office name is misleading towards the public and the clients. In this case, one of the respondent lawyers, Vicente A. Torres used the letterhead of Baker & Mckenzie when he sent a letter to Rosie Clurman, a client of the herein complainant. The court held that the respondents, being associates of the firm Baker & Mckenzie are not authorized to use the said firm’s name which may tend to mislead clients. Respondents’ use of the firm name Baker & McKenzie constitutes a representation that being associated with the firm they could “render legal services of the highest quality to multinational business enterprises and others engaged in foreign trade and investment.” This is unethical because Baker & McKenzie is not authorized to practice law in the Philippines.
In addition, Rule 3.04 under Canon 3 states that, “Where a partner accepts public office, he shall withdraw from the firm and his name shall be dropped from the firm name unless the law allows him to practice law concurrently.” This is to provide protection to both the lawyer and the firm from unnecessary harm. On one hand, what is avoided are instances wherein the law firm uses the name of such partner for their own benefit as in attracting legal business and to prevent suspicion of undue influences. On the other hand, the lawyer might cause certain acts bearing the name of the firm which might taint the clean record and good name of the firm. This is in lieu with the fact that negligence of a member in the law firm is negligence of the firm.
Finally, according to Rule 3.04, “A lawyer shall not pay or give anything of value to representatives of the mass media in anticipation of, or in return for, publicity to attract legal business.” Sticking to the main principle that directs this discussion, it is precisely a questionable act and a distinct manifestation of unethical behavior to seek media publicity for the sake of attracting legal business. This includes the indirect advertisement in a newspaper, or billboards for the sole purpose of it as the rule ensures that no lawyer gains an unfair advantage over the other by the help of different media gimmicks.
Through the application and strict observance of the rules provided under Canon 3, lawyers are encouraged to present themselves in a more respectable form. It brings out the purest intention and purpose of the legal profession. Canon 3 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is under the Chapter entitled: “The Lawyer and the Society”. True enough, this canon serves to remind each and every member or the bar to uphold the integrity of the law profession and lean firmly to the virtue of public service. It condemns and deems it unethical to present such profession as business, because it is not and it should not be.