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Duty to update the client, C4S6 CPRA

Section 6, Canon IV

SECTION 6. Duty to update the client. – A lawyer shall regularly inform the client of the status and the result of the matter undertaken, and any action in connection thereto, and shall respond within a reasonable time to the client’s request for information. (2023 Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability or CPRA)

1. Duty to update the client

Under this section, lawyers are required to “regularly inform the client of the status and the result of the matter undertaken, and any action in connection thereto, and shall respond within a reasonable time to the client’s request for information.”

a. Information asymmetry

A problem arises whenever agents, entrusted to manage the interests of another, use their authority or power for their benefit or fail to discharge their duties. In many agencies, there is information asymmetry between the principal and the entrusted agent. That is, there are facts and events that the agent must attend to that may not be known by the principal. (Ramrize v. Buhayang-Margallo, En Banc, A.C. No. 10537, February 3, 2015, Per Leonen, J.)

This information asymmetry is even more pronounced in an attorney client relationship. Lawyers are expected not only to be familiar with the minute facts of their cases but also to see their relevance in relation to their causes of action or their defenses. The salience of these facts is not usually patent to the client. It can only be seen through familiarity with the relevant legal provisions that are invoked with their jurisprudential interpretations. More so with the intricacies of the legal procedure. It is the lawyer that receives the notices and must decide the mode of appeal to protect the interest of his or her client. (Ramriez v. Buhayang-Margallo [2015], supra.)

Ramriez v. Buhayang-Margallo, En Banc, A.C. No. 10537, February 3, 2015, Per Leonen, J.:

• Respondent Atty. Margallo was unjustifiably remiss in her duties as legal counsel to Ramirez.

The lack of communication and coordination between respondent Atty. Margallo and her client was palpable but was not due to the lack of diligence of her client. This cost complainant Ramirez his entire case and left him with no appellate remedies. His legal cause was orphaned not because a court of law ruled on the merits of his case, but because a person privileged to act as counsel failed to discharge her duties with the requisite diligence. Her assumption that complainant Ramirez was no longer interested to pursue the Appeal is a poor excuse. There was no proof that she exerted efforts to communicate with her client. This is an admission that she abandoned her obligation as counsel on the basis of an assumption. Respondent Atty. Margallo failed to exhaust all possible means to protect complainant Ramirez’s interest, which is contrary to what she had sworn to do as a member of the legal profession. For these reasons, she clearly violated Canon 17 and Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of [the old Code of Professional Responsibility].

1) Client updates

When a client requests for a follow-up on his case, the update from the lawyer must not only be prompt, but also full and effective. The lawyer must not merely brush aside the client’s request without even perusing the case records. For the client is entitled to a full-disclosure on the material developments on his case. To be clear, a lawyer need not wait for their clients to ask for information but must advise them without delay about matters essential for them to avail of legal remedies. (Katipunan, Jr. v. Carrera, A.C. No. 127661, February 19, 2020, Per Lazaro-Javier, J.)

A lawyer’s duty to keep his client constantly updated on the developments of his case is crucial in maintaining the client’s confidence. The lawyer needs to inform his client, timely and adequately, important updates and status affecting the client’s case. He should not leave his client in the dark as how to he is defending the client’s interest. (Gabucan v. Narido, Jr., En Banc, A.C. No. 12019, September 03, 2019, Per Carandang, J.)

Katipunan, Jr. v. Carrera, A.C. No. 127661, February 19, 2020, Per Lazaro-Javier, J.:

• Here, complainant requested for an update on the case twice, first in March, and second in May 2010. But instead of being truthful to complainant, respondent lied through his teeth, claiming that the case was still pending resolution even though he was already aware that it already got dismissed as early as February 25, 2010. When complainant eventually uncovered the truth, he confronted respondent who simply shrugged it off saying there was nothing more he could do.

• When respondent repeatedly failed to apprise complainant of the decree of denial of the latter’s petition, respondent is deemed to have failed to fulfill his duties under Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of [the old CPR].

Sison v. Dumlao, A.C. No. 11959, April 28, 2021, Per Leonen, J.:

• While respondent may later refuse to represent complainant, as in this case when she wes requested by complainant’s mother-in-law to refrain from interfering in complainant’s domestic issues, it was still incumbent upon respondent to inform complainant that she would no longer be able to represent him…

• When complainant asked respondent for an update on his case on February 26, 2014, respondent did not inform him that she would no longer be connected with the case due to conflict of interest, even though she was approached by complainant’s mother-in-law sometime before November 2013. It was only when she filed her Answer35 before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines that complainant learned of the reason why respondent would not be representing him.

• This Court has stated that “[t]he fact that one is, at the end of the day, not inclined to handle the client’s case is hardly of consequence.” Respondent’s duty as a lawyer compels her to act not only with diligence, but with candor as well. She should have been upfront with complainant once she decided that she would no longer interfere in complainant’s troubles…

Gabucan v. Narido, Jr., En Banc, A.C. No. 12019, September 03, 2019, Per Carandang, J.:

• In this case, Atty. Narido, Jr. claims that he has constantly updated complainant through his representative Almonia. However, Atty. Narido, Jr. did not present any document establishing such fact. It is logical that Atty. Narido, Jr. should have at least a document formally informing the complainant of the status of the case. He stated that he knew that the complainant was hardly in the Philippines, then it would have been more prudent, in keeping with his duty to inform his client of the status of the case, to formally inform the complainant in writing and not merely verbally through Almonia, which Atty. Narido, Jr. has not proven.

• Here, Atty. Narido, Jr. admitted that he did not file any comment or memorandum before the CA, since he was already confident that it was no longer necessary because the CA will affirm the findings of the MCTC and the RTC. This is arrogance on the part of Atty. Narido, Jr. He has no way of knowing that the CA will indeed rule in favor of his client. In fact, the CA reversed the rulings of the MCTC and the RTC. The least that Atty. Narido, Jr. could have done was to file a manifestation stating that his client, complainant, is waving his right to file a comment or memorandum, since the pleadings he filed before the lower courts sufficiently established the cause of complainant. Atty. Narido, Jr. should not have simply disregarded the filing of the comment or memorandum. He owes it to his client to exert his best and diligent efforts to protect the client’s interest. His failure to file the comment or memorandum required by the CA, especially in an arrogant and presumptuous way, and his failure to inform the complainant of the status of the case constitutes inexcusable negligence which entails disciplinary sanction.

References

Canon IV, 2023 Code of Professional Responsibility

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