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PALE REPORTING ATTY.

HIGUIT

ESTABLISHMENT OF ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP

NILO B. DIONGZON vs. ATTY. WILLIAM MIRANO


A.C. No. 2404, August 17, 2016

Facts:

In 1979 complainant Diongzon, a businessman engaged in the fishing industry in Bacolod City, Negros
Occidental, retained respondent Atty. Mirano as his legal counsel to represent him as the plaintiff in a civil
case then pending in the City Court of Bacolod City.

In November 1981, the complainant again retained the respondent as his lawyer in relation to the
execution of two deeds of sale covering the boats the former was selling to Spouses Almanzur and
Milagros Gonzales (Gonzaleses).

In January 1982, the parties herein signed a retainer contract for legal services that covered legal
representation in cases and transactions involving the fishing business of complainant Diongzon.

In February 1982, the Gonzaleses sued Diongzon for replevin and damages, and sought the annulment
of the aforementioned deeds of sale. They were represented by Atty. Romeo Flora, the associate of
respondent Atty. Mirano in his law office.

It appears that the respondent Atty. Mirano eventually entered his appearance as the counsel for the
Gonzaleses against Diongzon. Therefore, Diongzon initiated this administrative complaint for disbarment
against the respondent by verified letter-complaint.

The respondent stated that Diongzon had been his client in a different civil case; that Diongzon had never
consulted him upon any other legal matter; that Diongzon had only presented the deeds of sale prepared
by another lawyer because he had not been contented with the terms thereof; that he had not been
Diongzon's retained counsel because the retainer agreement did not take effect; that he had returned the
amount paid to him by Diongzon; that he had appeared for the Gonzaleses only after their evidence
against Diongzon had been presented.

The complaint was referred to the IBP for investigation. The IBP Board of Governors finally recommended
that the respondent be held guilty of conflict of interest for appearing as the counsel for the "opponents of
Diongzon with whom he had an existing lawyer-client relationship, a gross violation of his ethical duties as
an attorney.

ISSUE:

Was there an attorney-client relationship established between the complainant Diongzon and Atty. Mirano
that would make the latter guilty of representing conflict of interests?

RULING:

YES.
The lawyer-client relationship begins from the moment a client seeks the lawyer's advice upon a legal
concern. The seeking may be for consultation on transactions or other legal concerns, or for
representation of the client in an actual case in the courts or other fora. From that moment on, the lawyer
is bound to respect the relationship and to maintain the trust and confidence of his client. No written
agreement is necessary to generate a lawyer-client relationship, but in formalizing it, the lawyer may
present a retainer agreement to be considered and agreed to by the client. As with all contracts, the
agreement must contain all the terms and conditions agreed upon by the parties.

In this case, the respondent presented such a retainer contract to the complainant, the terms of which are
stated below:

The CLIENT retains and employs the ATTORNEY to take charge of the legal matters of the former in
connection with his fishing business, and the attorney accepts such retainer and employment subject to
the following terms and conditions, to wit:

1. That the term of this contract shall be for two "2" years beginning February, 1982 but is deemed
automatically renewed for the same period if not terminated by both parties by virtue of an agreement to
that effect and signed by them;

2. That the compensation to be paid by the client for the services of the attorney, shall be three hundred
pesos (P300.00) a month;

3. That the attorney may be consulted at all times by CLIENT on all business requiring his professional
advice and opinion and when the ATTORNEY gives a written opinion, a copy shall be sent to the CLIENT;

4. That the duties of the attorney in this retainer contract shall include consultations, opinions, legal
advices, preparations and drafting of contracts and other legal papers, and other legal works, in
connection with the business of the CLIENT, except those cases involving trials in court, which if they are
entrusted to the ATTORNEY, shall be subject to a new agreement;

The lawyer-client relationship between the parties was duly established beginning in 1979 and lasted until
1982. The respondent's claim that he returned the retainer fee did not alter the juridical existence of their
lawyer-client relationship. When the complainant consulted him on the sale of the boats to the
Gonzaleses, the respondent reviewed the contracts of sale in the capacity of the complainant's lawyer,
and even notarized the same. He became aware of the details of the sale by virtue of the confidentiality
generated by his lawyer-client relationship with the complainant.

A conflict of interest exists when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two opposing parties, like
when the lawyer performs an act that will injuriously affect his first client in any matter in which he
represented him, or when the lawyer uses any knowledge he previously acquired from his first client
against the latter.

When he appeared in court for the benefit of the Gonzaleses to try the case against the complainant, the
respondent unquestionably incurred a conflict of interest. Having become privy to the terms of the sale
subject of the civil case, the conflict of interest became unmitigated because the complainant had not
expressly consented in writing to his appearing in behalf of the Gonzaleses. It would have been more
prudent for him to have excused himself from representing either party in the civil case.
MICHAEL RUBY vs. ATTY. ERLINDA B. ESPEJO and ATTY. RUDOLPH DILLA BAYOT, Respondents.

A.C. No. 10558, February 23, 2015

Facts:

The complainant alleged that he and his mother, Felicitas Ruby Bihla (Felicitas), engaged the services of
the respondents in connection with a case for cancellation and nullification of deeds of donation.

. Pursuant to the retainer agreement2 dated August 29, 2009, the complainant and Felicitas would pay
Atty. Espejo the amount of P100,000.00 as acceptance fee

The complainant and Felicitas likewise agreed to pay the amount of P5,000.00 as appearance fee for
every hearing

On September 15, 2009, the complainant gave Atty. Espejo the amount of P50,000.00 as payment for
filing fee. However, the actual filing fee that was paid by her only amounted to 7,561.00; she failed to
account for the excess amount given her despite several demand letters therefor. Atty. Espejo allegedly
asked the complainant to give Atty. Bayot the amount of P30,000.00 the remaining balance of the
acceptance fee agreed. The complainant asserted that the same was not yet due, but Atty. Espejo told
him that Atty. Bayot was in dire need of money. The complainant gave Atty. Bayot the amount
of P8,000.00 supposedly as partial payment.

On September 25, 2009, Atty. Espejo called the complainant informing him of the need to file a separate
petition for the issuance of a TRO. She allegedly asked for P50,000.00 to be used as "representation
fee."

On October 23, 2009, the complainant deposited the amount of P4,000.00 to the bank account of Atty.
Bayot as appearance fee for the hearing on the motion to serve summons through publications, however,
Atty. Bayot allegedly did not appear in court and instead met with the complainant at the lobby of the
Quezon City Hall of Justice, telling them that he already talked to the clerk of court who assured him that
the court would grant their motion

Thereafter, the complainant alleged, the respondents failed to update him as to the status of his
complaint. He further claimed that Atty. Bayot had suddenly denied that he was their counsel. Atty. Bayot
asserted that it was Atty. Espejo alone who was the counsel of the complainant and that he was merely a
collaborating counsel.

This prompted the complainant to file an administrative case with the Commission on Bar Discipline
(CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) against Atty. Espejo and Atty. Bayot.

Atty. Bayot claimed that he was not the counsel of the complainant; that he merely assisted him and Atty.
Espejo. He averred that Atty. Espejo, with the complainants consent, sought his help for the sole purpose
of drafting a complaint. He pointed out that it was Atty. Espejo who signed and filed the complaint in the
RTC. He further pointed out that he had no part in the retainer agreement that was entered into by the
complainant, Felicitas, and Atty. Espejo. As to the P12,000.00 that was given him, he claimed that he was
entitled to P4,000.00 thereof since the said amount was his appearance fee. On the other hand,
the P8,000.00 was paid to him as part of the acceptance fee. He denied requesting from the complainant
the amount of P4,000.00 as appearance fee, alleging that it was the latter who insisted on depositing the
same in his bank account.

Atty. Bayot claimed that he is not the counsel of record of the complainant in the case before the RTC. He
pointed out that he had no part in the retainer agreement entered into by the complainant and Atty.
Espejo. Thus, Atty. Bayot claimed, the complainant had no cause of action against him.

ISSUE:

Whether or not a lawyer-client relationship exists between Atty. Bayot and the complainant?

RULING:

YES.

It is undisputed that Atty. Espejo was the counsel of record in the case that was filed in the RTC. Equally
undisputed is the fact that it was only Atty. Espejo who signed the retainer agreement. However, the
evidence on record, including Atty. Bayots admissions, points to the conclusion that a lawyer-client
relationship existed between him and the complainant.

Atty. Bayot was the one who prepared the complaint that was filed with the RTC. He was likewise the one
who prepared the motion to serve summons through publication. He likewise appeared as counsel for the
complainant in the hearings of the case before the RTC. He likewise advised the complainant on the
status of the case.

More importantly, Atty. Bayot admitted that he received P8,000.00, which is part of the acceptance fee
indicated in the retainer agreement, from the complainant. It is true that it was Atty. Espejo who asked the
complainant to give Atty. Bayot the said amount. However, Atty. Bayot admitted that he accepted from the
complainant the said P8,000.00 without even explaining what the said amount was for.

The foregoing circumstances clearly established that a lawyer-client relationship existed between Atty.
Bayot and the complainant. "Documentary formalism is not an essential element in the employment of an
attorney; the contract may be express or implied. To establish the relation, it is sufficient that the advice
and assistance of an attorney is sought and received in any matter pertinent to his profession."28 Further,
acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship.29 Accordingly, as regards
the case before the RTC, the complainant had two counsels Atty. Espejo and Atty. Bayot.

Accordingly, Atty. Bayot owes fidelity to the cause of the complainant and is obliged to keep the latter
informed of the status of his case. He is likewise bound to account for all money or property collected or
received from the complainant. He may be held administratively liable for any inaptitude or negligence he
may have had committed in his dealing with the complainant.
LYDIA CASTRO-JUSTO vs. ATTY. RODOLFO T. GALING
A.C. No. 6174, November 16, 2011

Facts:

In April 2003, Complainant Justo engaged the services of respondent Atty. Galing in connection with
dishonored checks issued by Manila City Councilor Arlene W. Koa (Ms. Koa). After she paid his
professional fees, the respondent drafted and sent a letter to Ms. Koa demanding payment of the checks.

The complainant filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Koa for estafa and violation of Batas Pambansa
Blg. 22.

On 27 July 2003, complainant received a copy of a Motion for Consolidation filed by respondent Atty.
Galing for and on behalf of Ms. Koa, the accused in the criminal cases, and the latters daughter Karen
Torralba. Further, the respondent appeared as counsel for Ms. Koa.

Complainant submits that by representing conflicting interests, respondent violated the Code of
Professional Responsibility.

The respondent denied the allegations against him. He admitted that he drafted a demand letter for
complainant but argued that it was made only in deference to their long standing friendship and not by
reason of a professional engagement as professed by complainant. He denied receiving any professional
fee for the services he rendered.

Respondent contended that he is a close friend of the opposing parties in the criminal cases. He further
contended that complainant Justo and Ms. Koa are likewise long time friends, as in fact, they are
"comares" for more than 30 years since complainant is the godmother of Ms. Torralba. Respondent
claimed that it is in this light that he accommodated Ms. Koa and her daughters request that they be
represented by him in the cases filed against them by complainant and complainants daughter

Respondent also argued that no lawyer-client relationship existed between him and complainant because
there was no professional fee paid for the services he rendered. Moreover, he argued that he drafted the
demand letter only as a personal favor to complainant who is a close friend.

ISSUE:

Whether or not a lawyer-client relationship was present between respondent Atty. Galing and complainant
Justo?

RULING:

YES

A lawyer-client relationship can exist notwithstanding the close friendship between complainant and
respondent. The relationship was established the moment complainant sought legal advice from
respondent regarding the dishonored checks. By drafting the demand letter respondent further affirmed
such relationship. As observed by the Investigating Commissioner, by referring to complainant Justo as
"my client" in the demand letter sent to the defaulting debtor, respondent admitted the existence of the
lawyer-client relationship. Such admission effectively estopped him from claiming otherwise.

Likewise, the non-payment of professional fee will not exculpate respondent from liability. Absence of
monetary consideration does not exempt lawyers from complying with the prohibition against pursuing
cases with conflicting interests. The prohibition attaches from the moment the attorney-client relationship
is established and extends beyond the duration of the professional relationship.

We held in Burbe v. Atty. Magulta that it is not necessary that any retainer be paid, promised or charged;
neither is it material that the attorney consulted did not afterward handle the case for which his service
had been sought.

Under Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, "[a] lawyer shall not represent
conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts."
Respondent was therefore bound to refrain from representing parties with conflicting interests in a
controversy. By doing so, without showing any proof that he had obtained the written consent of the
conflicting parties, respondent should be sanctioned.

There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two or more opposing
parties. The test is whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the lawyers duty to fight for an issue or
claim, but it is his duty to oppose it for the other client.