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COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE

Canon 18. A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
[cited in the ruling of the SC in the assigned case Ignacio v Alviar]
In Voluntad-Ramirez v. Atty. Bautista, the Court citing Santiago v. Fojas expounds:
It is axiomatic that no lawyer is obliged to act either as adviser or advocate for every
person who may wish to become his client. He has the right to decline employment,
subject, however, to Canon 14 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Once he
agrees to take up the cause of [his] client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and
must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve the
client with competence and diligence, and champion the latter's cause with
wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes entire devotion to
the interest of his client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's rights,
and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing be taken or
withheld from his client, save by the rules of the law, legally applied. This simply means
that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is
authorized by the law of the land and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such
remedy or defense. If much is demanded from an attorney, it is because the entrusted
privilege to practice law carries with it the correlative duties not only to the client but also
to the court, to the bar, and to the public. A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence
and candor not only protects the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of justice,
does honor to the bar, and helps maintain the respect of the community to the legal
profession.
COLLABORATIONG COUNSEL
Rule 18.01. A lawyer shall not undertake a legal service which he knows or should know
that he is not qualified to render. However, he may render such service if, with the
consent of his client, he can obtain as collaborating counsel a lawyer who is competent
on the matter.
WHEN A LAWYER ACCEPTS A CASE, WHETHER FOR A FEE OR NOT, HIS
ACCEPTANCE IS AN IMPLIED REPRESENTATION:
1) That he possesses the requisite degree of academic learning, skill and ability
necessary in the practice of his profession;
2) That he will exert his best judgment in the prosecution or defense of the litigation
entrusted to him;
3) That he will exercise ordinary diligence or that reasonable degree of care and skill
demanded of the business he undertakes to do, to protect the client’s interests and take
all steps or do all acts necessary thereof [Uy v. Tansinsin, A.C. 8252 (2009)]; and
4) That he will take steps as will adequately safeguard his client’s interests [Islas v.
Platon, G.R. No. L-23183 (1924)]
A lawyer should not accept an undertaking in a specific area of law which he knows or
should know he is not qualified to enter. [Agpalo (2004)]

ADEQUATE PREPARATION
Rule 18.02. A lawyer shall not handle any legal matter without adequate preparation.
Jurisprudence:
[Hernandez v Padilla]
The supposed lack of time given to respondent to acquaint himself with the facts of the
case does not excuse his negligence. Rule 18.02 of the Code provides that a lawyer
shall not handle any legal matter without adequate preparation. While it is true that
respondent was not complainant’s lawyer from the trial to the appellate court stage, this
fact did not excuse him from his duty to diligently study a case he had agreed to handle.
If he felt he did not have enough time to study the pertinent matters involved, as he was
approached by complainant’s husband only two days before the expiration of the period
for filing the Appellant’s Brief, respondent should have filed a motion for extension of
time to file the proper pleading instead of whatever pleading he could come up with, just
to “beat the deadline set by the Court of Appeals.”
NEGLIGENCE
Rule 18.03. A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his
negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
If by reason of the lawyer’s negligence, actual loss has been caused to his client, the
latter has a cause of action against him for damages. [Callanta]

General rule: A client is bound by the attorney’s conduct, negligence and mistake in
handling the case or in management of litigation and in procedural technique, and he
cannot be heard to complain that result might have been different had his lawyer
proceeded differently.

Exceptions: He is not so bound where the ignorance, incompetence or inexperience of


lawyer is so great and error so serious that the client, who has good cause, is
prejudiced and denied a day in court [People v. Manzanilla, G.R. No. L-17436 (1922);
Alarcon v. CA, G.R. No. 126802 (2000)]

Jurisprudence:
[In re: Reso dated Aug 14, 2013 of the CA v Mortel]
The lawyer’s incompetence, neglect, and failure to update his client, in addition to his
misappropriation of his client’s money, led to his disbarment from the practice of law.
The case, instead of being closed and terminated, came back to life on appeal due to
his neglect and lack of diligence. As the Court of Appeals correctly found: Failure of
Atty. Mortel to comply with the Resolutions of [the Court of Appeals] has prejudiced the
right of his client, herein respondent-oppositor-appellant, to a just determination of her
cause. His failure or obstinate refusal without justification or valid reason to comply with
[the Court of Appeal’s] directives constitutes disobedience or defiance of the lawful
orders of [the Court of Appeals], amounting to gross misconduct and insubordination or
disrespect. The foregoing acts committed by Atty. Mortel are sufficient cause for his
suspension pursuant to Sec. 28, in relation to Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court. Respondent’s “negligence shows a glaring lack of the competence and diligence
required of every lawyer.”

[Egger v Duran]
Once a lawyer takes up the cause of his client, he is duty-bound to serve the latter with
competence, and to attend to such client’s cause with diligence, care, and devotion
whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. He owes fidelity to such cause and must
always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed upon him.

[Hernandez v Padilla]
It must be emphasized that the primary duty of lawyers is to obey the laws of the land
and promote respect for the law and legal processes. They are expected to be in the
forefront in the observance and maintenance of the rule of law. This duty carries with it
the obligation to be well-informed of the existing laws and to keep abreast with legal
developments, recent enactments and jurisprudence. It is imperative that they be
conversant with basic legal principles. Unless they faithfully comply with such duty, they
may not be able to discharge competently and diligently their obligations as members of
the bar. Worse, they may become susceptible to committing mistakes.
[Camara v Atty. Reyes]
The act of receiving money as acceptance fee for legal services in handling
complainant’s case and subsequently failing to render such services is a clear violation
of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that a lawyer
shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Specifically, Rule 18.03 states: A
lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable.

[Solidon v Macalalad]
The circumstance that the client was also at fault does not exonerate a lawyer from
liability for his negligence in handling a case. In Canoy, we accordingly declared that the
lawyer cannot shift the blame to his client for failing to follow up on his case because it
was the lawyer’s duty to inform his client of the status of the case. Our rulings in
Macarilay v. Seriña, 458 SCRA 12 (2005) in Heirs of Ballesteros v. Apiag, 471 SCRA
111 (2005) and in Villaflores v. Limos, 538 SCRA 140 (2007) were of the same tenor. In
Villaflores, we opined that even if the client has been equally at fault for the lack of
communication, the main responsibility remains with the lawyer to inquire and know the
best means to acquire the required information. We held that as between the client and
his lawyer, the latter has more control in handling the case.

[Gone v Ga]
Respondent Atty. Ga breached these duties when he failed to reconstitute or turn over
the records of the case to his client, herein complainant Gone. His negligence manifests
lack of competence and diligence required of every lawyer. His failure to comply with
the request of his client was a gross betrayal of his fiduciary duty and a breach of the
trust reposed upon him by his client.

SUMMARY OF EXAMPLES OF LAWYER’S NEGLIGENCE:


1) Failure of counsel to ask for additional time to answer a complaint resulting in a
default judgment against his client (Mapua v. Mendoza, G.R. L-19295 (1923)];
2) Failure to bring suit immediately, as when it was filed when the defendant had
already become insolvent and recovery could no longer be had;
3) Failure to ascertain date of receipt from post office of notice of decision resulting in
the non-perfection of the appellant’s appeal [Joven-De Jesus v. PNB, G.R. No. L-19299
(1964)]
4) Failure to file briefs within the reglementary period [People v. Cawili, G.R. No. L-
30543, (1970)];
5) Failure to attend a trial without filing a motion for postponement or without requesting
either of his two partners in the law office to take his place and appear for the
defendants [Gaerlan v. Bernal, G.R. No. L-4039 (1952)];
6) Failure to appear at pre-trial [Agravante v. Patriarca, G.R. No. L-48324 (1990)];
7) Failure of counsel to notify clients of the scheduled trial which prevented the latter to
look for another lawyer to represent them while counsel was in the hospital [Ventura v.
Santos, 59 Phil. 123 (1993)];
8) Failure to appear simply because the client did not go to counsel’s office on the date
of the trial as was agreed upon (Alcoriza v. Lumakang, A.M. No. 249 (1978)];
9) Failure to pay the appellate docket fee after receiving the amount for the purpose
[Capulong v. Alino, A.M. No. 381 (1968)]

DUTY TO APPRISE CLIENT


Rule 18.04. A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall
respond within a reasonable period of time to client’s request for information.
[Somosot v Lara]
The interrogatories/admission issue happened in August 2001, which tells us that the
respondent at about that time was already very sensitive about his billing issue against
his client as he had not been paid from May to August 2001. Assuming the non-
payment to be true, such failure should not be a reason not to inform the client of an
important development, or worse, to withhold vital information from her. As the court
held in Luisito Balatbat v. Atty. Edgardo Arias, 521 SCRA 1 (2007), a client must never
be left in the dark for to do so would destroy the trust, faith and confidence reposed in
the retained lawyer in particular and the legal profession in general.

Client has a duty to inform her counsel of change of address and contact her lawyer.—
More than these reasons and as Commissioner Limpingco correctly noted, the
complainant never made any effort to contact the respondent to follow up the status of
her case, expecting instead the respondent to take full and complete initiative in this
regard. While the respondent, as counsel, has the obligation to inform his client of the
material developments in the case, particularly of the aspects of the case that would
require the client’s instructions or participation, this obligation is balanced by a
complementary duty on the part of a party-litigant to remain in contact with his lawyer in
order to be informed of the progress of the case.

CLIENT SHOULD MAKE PROPER INQUIRIES


The client should not, however, sit idly by. It is also his duty to make proper inquiries
from his counsel concerning his case, in keeping with that standard of care which an
ordinarily prudent man bestows upon his important business.