Reasonable legal fee for services rendered

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I want to make sure if my elderly parents were not deceived in paying a certain lawyer for a job he did for them. My parents own a parcel of land in Quezon City that they wish to transfer to us, their children, via Deed of Donation. They secured the services of a lawyer who merely made a “Manifestation” in court regarding our property and yet asked for a portion of it. My parents never knew how much to pay him but wanted to pay him in cash. The lawyer, however, insisted that he would only get a part of the land as payment as he will give it to his wife. Is this fair?
Sincerely yours,
EJ

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Dear EJ,
The Supreme Court in the case of Spouses Emilio and Alicia Jacinto vs. Atty. Emelie P. Bangot, Jr. (A.C. No. 8494, 5 October 2016), touched on the meaning of “reasonable fees.” In this case, Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin clearly stated:

To determine the reasonableness of attorney’s fees, the following factors as enumerated in Rule 20.1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility may serve as a guide, to wit: (a) the time spent and the extent of the services rendered or required; (b) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; (c) the importance of the subject matter; (d) the skill demanded; (e) the probability of losing other employment as a result of acceptance of the proffered case; (f) the customary charges for similar services and the schedule of fees of the IBP [Integrated Bar of the Philippines] chapter to which he belongs; (g) the amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the client from the service; (h) the contingency or certainty of compensation; (i) the character of the employment, whether occasional or established; and (j) the professional standing of the lawyer. (Emphasis supplied)
Bersamin further stated:

“Considering that a contingent fee arrangement is susceptible to abuse, the courts should closely scrutinize it to
protect the client from unjust charges. The court looks in large measure at the reasonableness of the stipulated fee under the circumstances of each case.

xxx xxx xxx

Section 24, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court explicitly provides:

Section 24. Compensation of attorneys; agreement as to fees. – An attorney shall be entitled to have and recover from his client no more than a reasonable compensation for his services, with a view to the importance of the subject matter of the controversy, the extent of the services rendered and the professional standing of the attorney. No court shall be bound by the opinion of attorneys as expert witnesses as to the proper compensation but may disregard such testimony and base its conclusion on its own professional knowledge. A written contract for services shall control the amount to be paid therefor unless found by the court to be unconscionable or unreasonable. (Emphasis supplied)

Please be guided that as a general rule, if your parents have consented to a written contract of service, the same shall be honored unless the court finds it unconscionable or unreasonable. Hence, if you believe that the fee asked by the lawyer hired by your parents is excessive, you may seek the court’s intervention to temper the same, after all, it is also important to note that:

A lawyer shall observe candor, honesty and fairness in dealing with his clients, and shall only charge fair and reasonable fees for his legal services. He should not excessively estimate the value of his professional services.
In drawing up the terms of his professional engagement, he should not practice deceit. The clients are entitled to rescind the written agreement, on official business and on his professional fees if the terms thereof contravened the true agreement of the parties. (Spouses Jacinto vs. Atty. Bangot, Ibid.)

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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