Law practice: reduced to ‘a game of one-upmanship’
IN A seminar (conducted under the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education program) she recently attended, my stepmother, a corporate lawyer, related how one of the male lecturers was proudly introduced as among the high-caliber lawyers who defended the only member of the Supreme Court of the Philippines (a chief justice at that) who was impeached and convicted for dishonesty. As a law student, I found that rather odd; I thought it was cause for embarrassment, given the lofty ideals of the law profession. Instead, my stepmom said, there he was, strutting and walking up to the rostrum like a peacock!
I have studied legal ethics and it pains me to know that in the real world of law practice, principles don’t count for much. It is no different from any dog-eat-dog business. It’s a game of one-upmanship. Esteem is often measured by the kind of client a lawyer represents: The bigger the crook (with millions stashed away to buy the “smartest” defense lawyer), the more “respect” he gets—and the bigger his bragging rights if he gets him off the hook! That really sucks!
Imagine then having a chief justice no less for a client! So what if he was deemed unfit to be in the judiciary by an almost unanimous vote of the impeachment senator-judges! What mattered most was the higher level of “recognition” and “distinction” the defense lawyer got for that “extremely rare privilege”; or, to be really honest about it, the entitlement he could now claim to a “judicial connect” (for gapang opportunity?) that other practitioners can only dream about. Thus, if there was ever any plaque or certificate issued to that effect, I’m sure that would be laminated and hung conspicuously on the wall behind that lecturer’s office desk.
He was not alone. Many other high-profile lawyers were falling all over each other to be counted as part of that “dream team.” Considering that practically all judges and justices were shamelessly rooting for them during that impeachment trial, one’s imagination can really run wild about the “cutting edge” they may now be enjoying in their law practice. I won’t be surprised if some of them are later put in harness by the Binay camp to defend the Binay family in the plunder cases. And legal ethics can go hang! I cannot help but agree with a letter-writer who likened lawyers to “prostitutes” who do or say anything for a client “if the price is right” (“Best that money can buy,” Opinion, 7/1/15)!
Lawyer Lorna Kapunan once said: “Law practice is an honest profession.” I think she may be “the last of the Mohicans”! Which makes me wonder: Why am I taking up law again?
—CARMELA N. NOBLEJAS,
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.