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Not a few male lawyers have been disbarred for committing

The struggle to become a lawyer is real. Yet, not a few lawyers bigamy, concubinage or adultery—committed with a married
squander the privilege of being a lawyer by committing acts woman. In these cases the Supreme Court said that “A lawyer
that cost them their license to practice law. Consider what one shall not engage in unlawful, immoral or deceitful conduct and
has to go through to become a lawyer. First, after hurdling a shall at all times uphold the integrity of the bar.” The Supreme
four-year course, the journey to finish a law degree in at least Court added that the commission of such offenses by lawyers
four years begins. Some take it for as long as seven to eight exhibit a deplorable lack of degree of morality because they
years; others, even longer. Then a six-month review ensues. make a mockery of the institution of marriage.
Finally comes the most grueling licensure exam in the country, In another case, this time involving money, a lawyer
the bar exams. Thousands have to take the bar exam several who was entrusted by his client with the sale of his real estate
times before they finally take their oath as lawyers. property did not remit to his client the proceeds of the sale.
It is therefore unsettling, to say the least, how some When sued by his client and ordered by the court to return to
lawyers brazenly commit acts that merit their suspension or his client the proceeds of the sale, he ignored the court’s
even disbarment. In one recently decided case for example, a order, resulting in his disbarment. The Supreme Court said
notary public notarized a deed of absolute sale fully knowing that the highly fiduciary nature of a lawyer-client relationship
that his notarial commission had expired. He was permanently imposes upon the lawyer the duty to account for the money
barred from becoming a notary public again and suspended or property collected or received for or from his client.
from law practice for two years. In another recent case, a In several cases, lawyers failed in their duty to their
lawyer desiring ardently to help her male client obtain a clients, that is, they failed to do what was incumbent upon
declaration of nullity of marriage advised him that it would be them. Some missed numerous deadlines for the filing of
best if the wife were the one to file the petition to ensure that required pleadings; others filed wrong pleadings; still another
she would not oppose it. What made the situation utterly kept filing motions for extension of time to file the needed
wrong was that, upon payment by the husband of her fees, submission only to fail in filing any. The Supreme Court
she made the petition as lawyer for the wife; forged the stressed that, as embodied in the Code of Professional
signature of her supposed client; and then filed it. She even Responsibility, a lawyer shall serve his client with competence
obtained a residence certificate for the wife from a place she and diligence. He shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to
never lived at. The wife filed a disbarment case against her. him and his negligence in connection with it shall render him
The Supreme Court reminded her as well as all other lawyers liable.
that a lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the The practice of law commands such a high degree of
doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead or allow the Court responsibility, integrity and morality that it is considered as
to be misled by any means. She was disbarred. one of the most challenging and noble professions of all time.
Generally, the three most common grounds why Yet, because many lawyers do not take their oath as lawyers
lawyers get either suspended or disbarred are: women (with seriously, there has been a proliferation of jokes that insult
respect to male lawyers); greed for money; and gross and denigrate lawyers and their profession. There has also
negligence and incompetence. There are other grounds, of been a spate of scandals and wrongdoings involving lawyers
course, for which lawyers are sanctioned such as the use of not only in recent events but in the past many years.
foul and gutter language in pleadings submitted to the courts This should make law schools rethink the way they
and disrespect for the courts as shown by a refusal or failure teach law students. What should the thrust of their curriculum
to comply with orders. be? Is emphasis given more to producing lawyers that will
succeed in prominence and financial standing? Do law schools destroyed under the pretext of saving it, law is not only
make students understand that the profession they have denied–it is perverted.
chosen to pursue demands of them uprightness, fairness, a And what need do our people have for men and women who
sense of justice and utmost sense of responsibility to society, would practice perversion?
the courts and their clients? As for those who have been
disbarred or suspended from the practice of law, should not Yet the truth remains true that never have our people had
their mentors and their parents ask themselves where they greater need than today for great lawyers, and for young men
went wrong? and women determined to be great lawyers.
Great lawyers–not brilliant lawyers. A scoundrel may be, and
often is, brilliant; and the greater the scoundrel, the more
A Lawyer’s Letter to His Son (written in detention by Sen. brilliant the lawyer. But only a good man can become a great
Jose W. Diokno to his eldest son, Jose Ramon, on 23 October lawyer: for only a man who understands the weaknesses of
1972) men because he has conquered them in himself; who has the
courage to pursue his ideals though he knows them to be
unattainable; who tempers his conviction with respect for
Dear Popoy, those of others because he realizes he may be mistaken; who
When you asked me about a month ago, for a list of books deals honorably and fairly with all, because to do otherwise
that you could read to start studying law, I was loathe to would diminish him as well as them–only such a man would
prepare the list because I felt that you would be wasting your so command respect that he could persuade and need never
time studying law in this “new society.” resort to force. Only such a man could become a great lawyer.
I am still not sure that it would be worth your while to do so. A Otherwise, “what you are speaks so loudly, cannot hear what
few days ago, while chatting with a soldier, he asked, in all you say.”
seriousness and sincerity, “Pero sir, kailangan pa ba ang mga For men and women of this kind, our country will always have
abogado ngayon?” And in a way that perhaps he did not need–and now more than ever. True, there is little that men
intend, he raised a perfectly valid question. of goodwill can do now to end the madness that holds our
A lawyer lives in and by the law; and there is no law when nation in its grip. But we can, even now, scrutinize our past;
society is ruled, not by reason, but by will–worse, by the will try to pinpoint where we went wrong; determine what led to
of one man. this madness and what nurtured it; and how, when it ends, we
can make sure that it need never happen again.
A lawyer strives for justice; and there is no justice when men
and women are imprisoned not only without guilt, but without For this madness must end–if not in my lifetime, at least in
trial. yours.

A lawyer must work in freedom; and there is no freedom when We Filipinos are proverbially patient, but we are also infinitely
conformity is extracted by fear and criticism silenced by force. tough and ingeniously resourceful. Our entire history as a
people has been a quest for freedom and dignity; and we will
A lawyer builds on facts. He must seek truth; and there is no not be denied our dreams.
truth when facts are suppressed, news is manipulated and
charges are fabricated. So this madness will end; the rule of force will yield to the rule
of law. Then the country will need its great lawyers, its great
Worse, when the Constitution is invoked to justify outrages engineers,its great economists and managers, the best of its
against freedom, truth and justice, when democracy is men and women to clear the shambles and restore the
foundations of that noble and truly Filipino society for which orderly fashion. They will become invaluable to you as you
our forefathers fought, bled and died. mature.
So, there are two sides to the question of whether it is worth After you have read enough to give you an idea of what a
your while to study law; and, in the end, it is a question that lawyer is and does, but before you firmly commit yourself, one
only you can answer. way or the other, discuss the matter with your wife and your
Just be sure, that, whatever be your decision, it is truly yours, friends, always bearing these things in mind:
that it is truly what you want, not a choice dictated by a sense – That the law is a demanding profession, exacting a constant
of duty to follow in my footsteps. and unswerving devotion that is always a thinking obedience
To help you decide, I suggest that you read: to its ideals, and that is much harder to give than blind
(a) The Attorney’s Oath, Form No, 28 appended to our Rules
of Court; and the duties of an attorney, Rule 138, sec. 20 of – That the rewards of the law as a profession are not in wealth
the Rules of Court, which you can ask from my office; or even in fame, but in the respect of your peers, in the
(b) “The Five Functions of a Lawyer” in Arthur T. Vandervilt’s excitement of the chase after justice, and in the satisfaction
“Cases and Materials on Modern Procedure.” not only of service to your clients but of having somehow
(c) “The Chicago Lawyer’s Pledge” on p. 395, and “The Crafts shaped the future by molding the law of today.
of Law Re-valued” on pp. 316-322 of Karl Llewellyn’s This has been a long letter on a short question–whether to
“Jurisprudence.” study law–and is not an example to be emulated should you
(d) “The Lawyer from Antiquity to Modern Times” by Roscoe decide in favor of law. My excuse is that time lies heavy on my
Pound. hands in these days of detention, and since we can talk only
(e) “Men of Law” by William Seagle. in snatches when you visit, I have written at length in the hope
These should give you an idea of what a lawyer should be and of anticipating some of your questions.
what he has been in the past. What he is in our country, you You may suspect that, by stressing the difficulties of the law
have an idea; profession and by suggesting that you read some eight books
(f) Martin Mayer’s “The Lawyers”, tells you what he is in the before making up your mind, I am trying to discourage you
United from studying law. I am not. In a rather heavy-handed way, I
States; and am trying to paint the lawyer’s role as accurately as I can and
(g) Brian Abel-Smith’s “Lawyers and Courts”, what he is in show you that, if you do decide to become a lawyer, you must
England. prepare yourself for a lifetime of study,reading, weighing and
Read either and compare with our practice. And for a critique deciding, while at the same time acting and doing. It sounds
of lawyers, of courts, and even of law, read, impossible–but every day it has been and is being done.
(h) “Law against the People,” by Robert Lefcourt.
I have loved the law; and I have always been proud of being
As you read, cultivate the habit I have never been able to a lawyer. But I have never been prouder than the day, five
school myself to do of taking notes of your reading–not only Sundays ago, that you told me that you wanted to study law.
of the gist of what the author says, or quotations of thoughts Regardless of what you may finally decide, the fact that you
he felicitously expresses, but also of your reactions to his work even thought of becoming a lawyer, despite my arrest and
(where you agree or disagree or suspend judgment, and why) detention, allows me to hope that I have not failed as a lawyer
and of the thoughts he arouses in you. File your notes in and as a father.
For that, son, thanks.
Your father, PEPE