Legal Ethics, Remedial Law

Philippine Lawyers Association v. Agrava G.R. No. L-12426, February 16, 1959 Practice of Law

FACTS:

Respondent Director Celedonio Agrava of the Philippines Patent Office (PPO) issued a circular announcing that he had scheduled for an examination for the purpose of determining who are qualified to practice as patent attorneys before the PPO. 

The said examination to cover patent law and jurisprudence and the rules of practice before said office. According to the circular, members of the Philippine Bar, engineers and other persons with sufficient scientific and technical training are qualified to take the said examination. It would appear that heretofore, respondent Director has been holding similar examinations.

It is the contention of the petitioner Philippine Lawyer’s Association that one who has passed the bar examinations and is licensed by the Supreme Court to practice law in the Philippines and who is in good standing, is duly qualified to practice before the Philippines Patent Office, and that consequently, the act of the respondent Director requiring members of the Philippine Bar in good standing to take and pass an examination given by the Patent Office as a condition precedent to their being allowed to practice before said office, such as representing applicants in the preparation and prosecution of applications for patent, is in excess of his jurisdiction and is in violation of the law.

Respondent Director maintains that the prosecution of patent cases “does not involve entirely or purely the practice of law but includes the application of scientific and technical knowledge and training, so much so that, as a matter of actual practice, the prosecution of patent cases may be handled not only by lawyers, but also engineers and other persons with sufficient scientific and technical training who pass the prescribed examinations as given by the Patent Office.

ISSUE:

Whether or not appearance before the patent Office and the preparation and the prosecution of patent applications, etc., constitutes or is included in the practice of law.

RULING:

The Supreme Court has the exclusive and constitutional power with respect to admission to the practice of law in the Philippines1 and to any member of the Philippine Bar in good standing may practice law anywhere and before any entity, whether judicial or quasi-judicial or administrative, in the Philippines.

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or litigation in court; it embraces the preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and social proceedings, the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts, and in addition, conveying. In general, all advice to clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law corporation services, assessment and condemnation services contemplating an appearance before a judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of a creditor’s claim in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and conducting proceedings in attachment, and in matters of estate and guardianship have been held to constitute law practice as do the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work done involves the determination by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts and conditions. (5 Am. Jur. p. 262, 263).

It embraces conveyancing, the giving of legal advice on a large variety of subjects, and the preparation and execution of legal instruments covering an extensive field of business and trust relations and other affairs. Although these transactions may have no direct connection with court proceedings, they are always subject to become involved in litigation. They require in many aspects a high degree of legal skill, a wide experience with men and affairs, and great capacity for adaptation to difficult and complex situations. These customary functions of an attorney or counselor at law bear an intimate relation to the administration of justice by the courts. No valid distinction, so far as concerns the question set forth in the order, can be drawn between that part which involves advice and drafting of instruments in his office. It is of importance to the welfare of the public that these manifold customary functions be performed by persons possessed of adequate learning and skill, of sound moral character, and acting at all times under the heavy trust obligations to clients which rests upon all attorneys. (Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. 3 (1953 ed.), p. 665-666, citing In re Opinion of the Justices (Mass.), 194 N.E. 313, quoted in Rhode Is. Bar Assoc. vs. Automobile Service Assoc. (R. I. ) 179 A. 139, 144). 

In our opinion, the practice of law includes such appearance before the Patent Office, the representation of applicants, oppositors, and other persons, and the prosecution of their applications for patent, their oppositions thereto, or the enforcement of their rights in patent cases. In the first place, although the transaction of business in the Patent Office involves the use and application of technical and scientific knowledge and training, still, all such business has to be rendered in accordance with the Patent Law, as well as other laws, including the Rules and Regulations promulgated by the Patent Office in accordance with law. Not only this, but practice before the Patent Office involves the interpretation and application of other laws and legal principles, as well as the existence of facts to be established in accordance with the law of evidence and procedure.

In conclusion, we hold that under the present law, members of the Philippine Bar authorized by this Tribunal to practice law, and in good standing, may practice their profession before the Patent Office, for the reason that much of the business in said office involves the interpretation and determination of the scope and application of the Patent Law and other laws applicable, as well as the presentation of evidence to establish facts involved; that part of the functions of the Patent director are judicial or quasi-judicial, so much so that appeals from his orders and decisions are, under the law, taken to the Supreme Court.

For the foregoing reasons, the petition for prohibition is granted and the respondent Director is hereby prohibited from requiring members of the Philippine Bar to submit to an examination or tests and pass the same before being permitted to appear and practice before the Patent Office.

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