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LUZVIMINDA C. LIJAUCO vs. ATTY. ROGELIO P. TERRADO A.C. No. 6317, August 31, 2006 YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.

FACTS:

The present was complaint was prompted by the alleged inability of the respondent lawyer to “meet his end of the bargain” after collecting excessive lawyer’s fees. He was the counsel of the petitioner who gave him P 70,000 for the recovery of P 180,000 from the Planter’s Bank and the release of the petitioner’s foreclosed lot in Laguna as well. It was also alleged that he only appeared as counsel for the petitioner for the recovery of the bank deposit and did not appear in the hearing of the Writ of Possession of the lot in Laguna. In his denial, the respondent claims that the amount he collected was only for the recovery of deposit and not for the recovery of the foreclosed lot. He claimed further that the amount was not excessive for it was the referral fees for two other individuals who were non-lawyers. Upon investigation, it was found that he was involved in the release of the foreclosed Laguna lot because he was the one who made the Compromise Agreement in favor of the client. The IBP- Commission on Discipline found his acts violative of the Code of Professional responsibility.

ISSUE:

Whether or not he indeed violated the Code of Professional responsibility.

HELD:

The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Commission on discipline that he violated the Code of Professional responsibility specifically Canon 9.2. By openly admitting he divided the Php 70,000.00 to other individuals as commission/referral fees respondent violated Rule 9.02, Canon 9 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that a lawyer shall not divide or stipulate to divide a fee for legal services with persons not licensed to practice law. The practice of law is a privilege bestowed on those who show that they possessed and continue to possess the legal qualifications for it. Indeed, lawyers are expected to maintain at all times a high standard of legal proficiency and morality, including honesty, integrity and fair dealing. Respondent’s claim that the attorney’s fee pertains only to the recovery of complainant’s savings deposit from Planter’s Development Bank cannot be sustained. Records show that he acted as complainant’s counsel in the drafting of the compromise agreement between the latter and the bank relative to LRC Case No. B-2610. Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives rise to the duty of fidelity to the client’s cause. The canons of the legal profession require that once an attorney agrees to handle a case, he should undertake the task with zeal, care and utmost devotion.