Seeing as Wendy and Ben are both well provided for in Manuel’s will, and that their respective legitimes are protected under Articles 892, 894, and 897 of the New Civil Code, contesting the will simply to deprive Cora of Manuel’s bequeathal may be considered frivolous. For Louie to advise Wendy to sue based on unfairness may not be enough to justify the amount of time and energy that Wendy may expend in contesting Manuel’s will, a feat that may not prosper in the first place.
Art. 892. If only one legitimate child or descendant of the deceased survives, the widow or widower shall be entitled to one-fourth of the hereditary estate.
In case of a legal separation, the surviving spouse may inherit if it was the deceased who had given cause for the same. If there are two or more legitimate children or descendants, the surviving spouse shall be entitled to a portion equal to the legitime of each of the legitimate children or descendants.
In both cases, the legitime of the surviving spouse shall be taken from the portion that can be freely disposed of by the testator. (834a) Art. 894. If the testator leaves illegitimate children, the surviving spouse shall be entitled to one-third of the hereditary estate of the deceased and the illegitimate children to another third.
The remaining third shall be at the free disposal of the testator. (n) Art. 897. When the widow or widower survives with legitimate children or descendants, and acknowledged natural children, or natural children by legal fiction, such surviving spouse shall be entitled to a portion equal to the legitime of each of the legitimate children which must be taken from that part of the estate which the testator can freely dispose of. (n) In each of the instances in the articles reproduced above, Wendy will be well provided for in relation to Ben’s legitime, regardless of how he is recognized in relation to Manuel’s will.
Louie may withdraw his legal services under Canon 22. 01(e) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Canon 22 – A Lawyer Shall Withdraw His Services Only For Good Cause And Upon Notice Appropriate In The Circumstances. Rule 22. 01 – A lawyer may withdraw his services in any of the following case: (e) When the client deliberately fails to pay the fees for the services or fails to comply with the retainer agreement; Seeing as Wendy finds his standard fees unreasonable, and that she is not indigent (which would qualify her to demand equal treatment under Canon 14 and Rule 14. 4), that is, she is capable of paying his fees, there can be no reason for him to be stopped from removing himself from the case.
Canon 14 – A Lawyer Shall Not Refuse His Services To The Needy. Rule 14. 04 – A lawyer who accepts the cause of a person unable to pay his professional fees shall observe the same standard of conduct governing his relations with paying clients. Similarly, there is nothing unfair or unreasonable regarding Louie’s fees as this is his standard service fee. There is absolutely no reason to be entangled in a situation enunciated in Canon 20. 04.
Canon 20 – A Lawyer Shall Charge Only Fair And Reasonable Fees. Rule 20. 04 – A lawyer shall avoid controversies with clients concerning his compensation and shall resort to judicial action only to prevent imposition, injustice or fraud. Of course, Louie cannot invoke, as a reason for charging Wendy his fees, that the case would take too much of his time and skill as an attorney. Santiago vs. Fojas is specific in stating that a lawyer who accepts a case should “serve his clients with competence and diligence, and champion the latter’s cause with whole-hearted fidelity…” Manuel’s will meant for P500,000. 0 to be given to Cora. If Wendy litigates for its recovery with the promise to turn over the same to Louie, it defeats the purpose of said money as inheritance.
Clearly the money was meant for someone else. Louie would appear to be fighting in court for his interests rather than that of Wendy’s alleged better right over Cora to the money. More importantly, such an agreement would constitute a champertous contract, which, as defined in Bautista vs. Gonzales: An agreement whereby an attorney agrees to pay expenses of proceedings to enforce the client’s rights is champertous [JBP Holding Corp. v. U. S. 166 F. Supp. 324 (1958)].
Such agreements are against public policy especially where, as in this case, the attorney has agreed to carry on the action at his own expense in consideration of some bargain to have part of the thing in dispute [See Sampliner v. Motion Pictures Patents Co. , et al. , 255 F. 242 (1918)]. This would not constitute a contingency fee, which is defined in Taganas vs. NLRC: A contingent fee arrangement is an agreement laid down in an express contract between a lawyer and a client in which the lawyer’s professional fee, usually a fixed percentage of what may be recovered in the action is ade to depend upon the success of the litigation. This arrangement is valid in this jurisdiction. It is, however, under the supervision and scrutiny of the court to protect clients from unjust charges.
Section 13 of the Canons of Professional Ethics states that “[a] contract for a contingent fee, where sanctioned by law, should be reasonable under all the circumstances of the case including the risk and uncertainty of the compensation, but should always be subject to the supervision of a court, as to its reasonableness”. Likewise, Rule 138, Section 24 of the Rules of Court provides: Sec. 4. 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. When it comes, therefore, to the validity of contingent fees, in large measure it depends on the reasonableness of the stipulated fees under the circumstances of each case. The reduction of unreasonable attorney’s fees is within the regulatory powers of the courts. A contingent fee is dependent upon a fixed rate agreed upon by both lawyer and client, dependent on the outcome of the case, albeit with a lower rate if they lose than if they win.