HomeCommentaryLoyalty and honesty in the practice of the legal profession

Loyalty and honesty in the practice of the legal profession

A lawyer must determine his conduct by acting in a manner that would promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession

A lawyer, in some instances, is confronted with tricky cases that will test one’s knowledge of the law and the willingness to compromise honesty.

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is a Korean series that revolves around Woo Young-woo (Park Eun-bin), a neophyte lawyer working at the prestigious Hanbada Law Firm.

Her main challenge in the legal profession is that she has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication.

The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior.

Unlike other people with ASD, Young-Woo has a high IQ of 164, and she graduated at the top of her class from Seoul National University.

She has a creative way of thinking despite her low emotional intelligence and poor social skills.

Episode 5 is about the legal battle for patent infringement involving the “honesty cassette” in ATM machines that was meant to cut out embezzlement and financial crime.

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Her law firm’s client insists that they own the technology while the rival company argued that it belonged to another entity and was copied only by the client.

To substantiate their claim, she “fabricated” evidence by coaching the R&D manager (a former theater actor) to become a reference witness that the technology is really theirs.

The court issues an injunction against the defendant, preventing them from selling their products.

The defendant eventually finds an ATM that proves that the technology already existed before it was “developed” by the client.

Unfortunately, the client already won supply contracts with all the banks while the injunction was on, so the eventual cancellation of the injunction did not affect them.

The client submitted for the patent rights because it wanted to monopolize the industry.

The lawyer belatedly realized that it was the plan all along.

“Do you want to be a competent attorney who only wins in court? Or do you want to be an honorable attorney who reveals the truth?” a portion of the letter she received from the owner of the rival company.

Once a lawyer takes up the cause of a 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.

Image from Netflix

However, as officers of the court, lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing. (Go vs. Buri A.C. No. 12296, December 4, 2018)

A lawyer is enjoined to employ only fair and honest means to attain lawful objectives. (Pitcher v. Gagate, 719 Phil. 82)

Legal ethics are principles of conduct that lawyers are expected to observe in their professional and personal life.

In the Philippines, the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) sets out the duties lawyers have toward the courts, their clients, their colleagues, and the wider society. Canon 1 of the Code mandates a lawyer to “uphold the Constitution” and “obey the laws of the land,” while Canon 7 requires lawyers to offer legal services with “integrity.”

In a speech, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said that when lawyers took their oath, they “swore to do no falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in court.”

He added that the duties and responsibilities under the CPR actually “underscore our adherence to truth, to honor, to fidelity to the courts and to the public whom we serve. ”

In Saladaga v. Astorga (748 Phil 1), the Supreme Court said that to be “dishonest” means the disposition to lie, cheat, deceive, defraud or betray; be untrustworthy; lacking in integrity, honesty, probity, integrity in principle, fairness and straightforwardness.

On the other hand, “deceitful” means the proclivity for fraudulent and deceptive misrepresentation, artifice or device to the prejudice and damage of the other party.

In a legal article “Lawyers and Loyalty” published in William & Mary Law Review, lawyer Michael McChrystal noted that loyalty has been used to justify deception and unfairness.

He said that the lawyer’s duty of loyalty to the client is often conceived in terms of loyalty to a person, rather than to a cause or ideal.

Valid loyalty claims, McChrystal added, can give rise to loyalty dilemmas, in which the lawyer is compelled to do what, in the absence of the loyalty claim, one would consider wrongful.

A morally responsible lawyer must be concerned about the valid client loyalty claims to which he will be subject.

A lawyer must determine his conduct by acting in a manner that would promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession.

Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected], or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786

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