Friday, April 7, 2023




 A.C. No. 6672               

September 4, 2009


Respondent convinced the clients of complainant to transfer legal representation. Respondent promised them financial assistance and expeditious collection on their claims. To induce them to hire his services, he persistently called them and sent them text messages.

To support his allegations, complainant presented the sworn affidavit of James Gregorio attesting that Labiano tried to prevail upon him to sever his lawyer-client relations with complainant and utilize respondent’s services instead, in exchange for a loan of ₱50,000. Complainant also attached "respondent’s" calling card. 

Petitioner filed a disbarment case against respondent for solicitation of clients and encroachment of professional services. The Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP found that the respondent had encroached on the professional practice of complainant. 


Whether respondent was guilty of solicitation of clients and encroachment of professional services. 


Yes. The SC held that respondent violated Canon 3 of the CPR which provides:

CANON 3 - A lawyer in making known his legal services shall use only true, honest, fair, dignified and objective information or statement of facts.

Time and time again, lawyers are reminded that the practice of law is a profession and not a business; lawyers should not advertise their talents as merchants advertise their wares. To allow a lawyer to advertise his talent or skill is to commercialize the practice of law, degrade the profession in the public’s estimation and impair its ability to efficiently render that high character of service to which every member of the bar is called.

Rule 2.03 of the CPR provides:

RULE 2.03. A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act designed primarily to solicit legal business.

Hence, lawyers are prohibited from soliciting cases for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers. Such actuation constitutes malpractice, a ground for disbarment.

Rule 2.03 should be read in connection with Rule 1.03 of the CPR which provides:

RULE 1.03. A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any man’s cause.

This rule proscribes "ambulance chasing" (the solicitation of almost any kind of legal business by an attorney, personally or through an agent in order to gain employment) as a measure to protect the community from barratry and champerty.

Complainant presented substantial evidence (consisting of the sworn statements of the very same persons coaxed by Labiano and referred to respondent’s office) to prove that respondent indeed solicited legal business as well as profited from referrals’ suits.

Although respondent initially denied knowing Labiano in his answer, he later admitted it during the mandatory hearing.

Through Labiano’s actions, respondent’s law practice was benefited. Hapless seamen were enticed to transfer representation on the strength of Labiano’s word that respondent could produce a more favorable result.

Based on the foregoing, respondent clearly solicited employment violating Rule 2.03, and Rule 1.03 and Canon 3 of the CPR and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court,

Any act of solicitation constitutes malpractice which calls for the exercise of the Court’s disciplinary powers. Violation of anti-solicitation statutes warrants serious sanctions for initiating contact with a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining employment. Thus, in this jurisdiction, we adhere to the rule to protect the public from the Machiavellian machinations of unscrupulous lawyers and to uphold the nobility of the legal profession.

Regarding the calling card presented in evidence by petitioner. A lawyer’s best advertisement is a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust based on his character and conduct. For this reason, lawyers are only allowed to announce their services by publication in reputable law lists or use of simple professional cards.

Professional calling cards may only contain the following details:

(a) lawyer’s name;

(b) name of the law firm with which he is connected;

(c) address;

(d) telephone number and

(e) special branch of law practiced.

Labiano’s calling card contained the phrase "with financial assistance." The phrase was clearly used to entice clients (who already had representation) to change counsels with a promise of loans to finance their legal actions. Money was dangled to lure clients away from their original lawyers, thereby taking advantage of their financial distress and emotional vulnerability. This crass commercialism degraded the integrity of the bar and deserved no place in the legal profession. However, in the absence of substantial evidence to prove his culpability, the Court is not prepared to rule that respondent was personally and directly responsible for the printing and distribution of Labiano’s calling cards.

Respondent was SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of one year effective immediately from receipt of this resolution. 

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