“The organization of courts and the admission to the legal profession in 1901 being under the Civil Government of the Unites States was obviously under Common Law influence”
After the capture of General Emilio Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901, the Americans established a Civil Government on July 4, 1901 (Bernardita Reyes Churchill, University of the Philippines, National Commission for Culture and the Arts).
The Philippine Commission of then President William McKinley of the Unites States enacted Act No. 136, which delineated the organization of courts in the Philippines Islands.
On June 11, 1901, the Philippine Supreme Court was established, with Cayetano Arellano as the first Chief Justice (Philippine Official Gazette) together with an additional six associate judges (justices as we know them today).
It was also in the same year that the first Philippine Bar examinations were conducted, with only thirteen examinees (Philippine Bar Examination, Wikipedia).
It is in the 1935 Constitution that the admission to the practice of law in the Philippines was expressly placed under the auspices of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, power, and control over the admission of aspiring attorneys to the Philippine Bar was restated in the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.
The organization of courts and the admission to the legal profession in 1901 being under the Civil Government of the Unites States was obviously under Common Law influence.
In turn, British influence on its original thirteen colonies in the Americas had a strong impact in the development of the Unites States Legal system.
According to Theodore F.T. Plucknett, it is very difficult to say at which date professional lawyers first appeared in the common law system.
He further said “[W]e could hardly expect to find them until there was a settled jurisdiction with regular courts; and, as we have seen, it took some time before these elementary conditions were reached.”
In fact, during the advent of courts, proceedings were informal and at times hardly distinguishable from a family quarrel.
The parties themselves presented their case as best they could before the King, and proceedings were also attended by nobles, clergy, and trusted advisers who happened to be in court at the moment (Plucknett, A Concise History of the Common Law).
The growth of the King’s intervention had the effect that the hearings were commonly delegated to a group of courtiers (who in time became the regular bench).
As soon as this happened, it became necessary to confine them to a routine, a strict procedure, a set of forms, and a system of pleading (A Concise History of the Common Law).
Under Henry II it was apparent that the parties can appear in person or by substitute, and this “responsalis” was particularly concerned with the procedural steps of the case.
In the next century a fuller type of representation emerged, in the person of the “attorney” as repeatedly mentioned in the Bracton Treatise (A Concise History of the Common Law).
The attorney is appointed by the party in court, under elaborate safeguards, and has the power to bind the principal.
His appearance or default is equivalent to that of his master; and he has the power to commit his master to a particular plea (A Concise History of the Common Law).
In the reign of Henry III there appeared signs of a new type of professional lawyer. A plaintiff no longer felt confident that he can even tell his story in court without slipping, so he resorted to an experienced narrator. Very soon the narrator became a regular profession (A Concise History of the Common Law).
It was difficult to say precisely when these two functions became the province of the professional lawyer.
It was easy to trace the attorneys as their names appear on the pleadings and the rolls of attorneys. The narrators or “narratores” are unfortunately more elusive and the existing lists are conjectural at best (A Concise History of the Common Law).
The attorney evolved into someone who has the knowledge of procedure and the ability to tell his client’s story. In the early part of the legal profession in the Philippines, legal practice was seen to be limited to pleading and motion writing, as well as examining witnesses in court.
In Cayetano v. Monsod et al., the Supreme Court was confronted with the question on what constitutes the “practice of law.”
In that case, Atty. Renato Cayetano opposed the nomination of Atty. Christian Monsod as the Chairman of the COMELEC, claiming that the latter does not possess the required qualification of having been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years (G.R. No. 100113, September 3, 1991).
Atty. Monsod worked in a law office, the World Bank Group, the Meralco Group, and rendered services to various companies as legal and economic consultant or chief executive officer.
He also pursued advocacies in various non-governmental organizations, acted as a member of the Davide Commission, a quasi-judicial body, and was a member of the Constitutional Commission (G.R. No. 100113, September 3, 1991).
Hence, “the modern concept of law practice… taking into consideration the liberal construction intended by the framers of the Constitution, [means that] Atty. Monsod’s past work experiences as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator… satisfy the constitutional requirement [of being] in the practice of law for at least ten years” (G.R. No. 100113, September 3, 1991).
“[The practice of law [therefore] means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill”. (Cayetano v. Monsod et al. citing 111 ALR 23).
The expanded definition of the “practice of law” adopted by the Supreme Court enabled the lawyer to engage in legal practice without necessarily conducting cases or handling litigation in court.
The modern lawyer performs legal work when drafting and negotiating contracts, giving legal advice and opinions in commercial transactions, mediating and conciliating cases, and making assessments in contemplation of a legal action.