By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III
So now you have not just passed the Bar, you have also taken the Oath and signed the Roll of Attorneys. That makes you a full-fledged attorney affording you the license to engage in the practice of law.
For those who have passed the Bar but not yet completed these requirements, be patient. “In Beltran, Jr. v. Abad, (Bar Matter No. 139, 28 March 1983, 121 SCRA 217) a candidate passed the bar examinations but had not taken his oath and signed the Roll of Attorneys. He was held in contempt of court for practicing law even before his admission to the Bar. Under Section 3 (e) of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, a person who engages in the unauthorized practice of law is liable for indirect contempt of court”. (DONNA MARIE S. AGUIRRE v. EDWIN L. RANA, B. M. No. 1036 June 10, 2003).
Yet still for those who have hurdled these requisites, you too must be mindful that “Before one is admitted to the Philippine Bar, he must possess the requisite moral integrity for membership in the legal profession. Possession of moral integrity is of greater importance than possession of legal learning. The practice of law is a privilege bestowed only on the morally fit. A bar candidate who is morally unfit cannot practice law even if he passes the bar examinations.”(DONNA MARIE S. AGUIRRE v. EDWIN L. RANA, B. M. No. 1036 June 10, 2003).
Venturing out in your practice, whether you choose to engage in private practice or in the government service, always be cognizant of the vastness of legal services you can roll out.
“In Philippine Lawyers Association v. Agrava (105 Phil. 173 (1959) the Court elucidated that:
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. 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. (5 Am. Jur. p. 262, 263). (Italics supplied) x x x.
In Cayetano v. Monsod (G.R. No. 100113 September 3, 1991) the Court held that ‘practice of law’ means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. To engage in the practice of law is to perform acts which are usually performed by members of the legal profession. Generally, to practice law is to render any kind of service which requires the use of legal knowledge or skill.” (DONNA MARIE S. AGUIRRE v. EDWIN L. RANA, B. M. No. 1036 June 10, 2003).
Then again, such magnitude of services that you can offer does not always (and quickly) translate to fees or income. The practice of law (especially private practice) is akin to sailing out to sea in your lonely fishing boat. You want to catch a fish but first you must know how. And even if you do already know how, always reckon the words of Ernest Hemingway in his famous novel The Old Man and the Sea, “Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready”.
Find a good mentor who can show you the ‘ocean’. Rough seas are up ahead. Be ready for the drudgery as you must first pay your dues to earn society’s respect.
Be wary of clients who are in a hurry. While you may not be charging much as of yet, that does not mean that you do not know your worth. “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is”. (Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea).
Remember that the gates that lead to temptation are always wide. Choose the narrower path which augurs well with your dignity and self-worth.
Protect your name. Always remain as ladies and gentlemen in your dealings. “For a lawyer’s good name is, in the ultimate analysis, his most important possession”. (Concerned Students of Western Mindanao State University, through Atty. Grace G. Bernardo v. Atty. Quirino G. Esguerra, Jr., A.C. No. 10656. April 3, 2019).
If you heed this advice, the vastness of the sea up to the horizon, the limitless blue sky with all the clouds of different shapes and sizes, are incomparable to the rewards that are in store.
Stick to these principles.
And the recompense will follow.
(The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates- a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor and a book author. His website is etriiilaw.com).