Junior v. Grupo A.C. No. 5020, December 18, 2001

Facts: Complainant alleged that she engaged the services of respondent for the redemption of a parcel of land. Complainant entrusted to respondent the amount of P25,000.00 in cash to be used in the redemption of the aforesaid property. Respondent received the said amount as evidenced by an acknowledgment receipt. Notwithstanding the foregoing and for no valid reason, respondent did not redeem the property; as a result of which the right of redemption was lost and the property was eventually forfeited. Because of respondent’s failure to redeem the property, complainant had demanded the return of the money which she entrusted to the former for the above-stated purpose. Despite repeated demands made by the complainant and without justifiable cause, respondent has continuously refused to refund the money entrusted to him. In his Answer, petitioner admitted receiving the amount in question for the purpose for which it was given. However, he alleged that The subject land for which the money of complainant was initially intended to be applied could really not be redeemed anymore. By the time that complainant was to return to Manila, it was already a foregone matter that respondent’s efforts did not succeed. And so, when transaction failed, respondent requested the complainant that he be allowed, in the meantime, to avail of the money because he had an urgent need for some money himself to help defray his children’s educational expenses. It was really a personal request, a private matter between respondent and complainant, thus, respondent executed a promissory note for the amount, a copy of which is probably still in the possession of the complainant. Respondent did not ask for any fee. His services were purely gratuitous; his acts [were] on his own and by his own. It was more than pro bono; it was not even for charity; it was simply an act of a friend for a friend. It was just lamentably unfortunate that his efforts failed.

Issue: Whether respondent who is not paid for extending legal assistance to the complainant constitutes a lawyer-client relationship and the non-payment of his debt of the former to the latter violates his oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility?

Held: Yes, To constitute professional employment it is not essential that the client should have employed the attorney professionally on any previous occasion. It is not necessary that any retainer should have been paid. promised, or charged for; neither is it material that the attorney consulted did not afterward undertake the case about which the consultation was had. If a person, in respect to his business affairs or troubles of any kind, consults with his attorney in his professional capacity with the view to obtaining professional advice or assistance, and the attorney voluntarily permits or acquiesces in such consultation, then the professional employment must be regarded as established. The court ordered the respondent suspended for one month from the practice of law and directed him to pay the amount given him by his clients within 30 days from notice for his failure to return the money in question notwithstanding his admission that he did not use the money for the filing of the appellee’s brief, as agreed by them, because of an alleged quarrel with his clients.

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