Updated: Aug 24
By: Romer Yadao and Archiebald Faller Capila
The practice of law has always been about specifics—on how a certain field of practice is highlighted in the regular course of things. While a lawyer may be knowledgeable of a multitude of facets of what the law provides, it is safe to say that most lawyers have their own field of specialization. After all, the practice of law is a profession that banks on certain legal problems requiring certain legal solutions.
In the many fields of specialization a lawyer can engage in, the practice involving property seems to be one of the most popular in the country. Considered as one of the most sought after a legal engagement, clients and practitioners alike have worked hand in hand in order to elevate the status of property law, especially those involving real properties.
Accordingly, one of the more specific facets of the same revolves around real estate practice. Coupled with the concept of possession, ownership, and even the process involved in between, this specific practice involves expertise and a deeper understanding of the procedure. Among the few practitioners who ventured into the said field of expertise is Atty. Arbin Omar Carino. In an exclusive interview with Barrista Solutions, Atty. Carino shares with us what it’s like to conduct the practice under the new normal, and how the real estate practice could be considered as a now developing and improving trend in the country.
Barrista Solutions: Now that we have this so-called “New Normal”, how is real estate practice right now?
Atty. Carino: Real Estate practice is really affected by the pandemic. The pandemic slowed down the court processes, the scheduling of hearings, the processes of the government agencies that we are transacting with such as the Register of Deeds, LRA, Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development, Human Settlement Adjudication Commission, and the local government units, among others. However, we are coping with the current situation. Online processes are being introduced to speed-up the resolution of cases in court.
Hearings are done via videoconference. Pleadings are filed thru email. Government agencies have given their contact details and email addresses where we can contact them.
Barrista Solutions: Can you compare how real estate practice is before and after this pandemic? Atty. Carino: There is really a big difference. Before, we can just send our staff to the courts/government agencies (like the HLURB, LRA, Register of Deeds etc.) to personally follow-up on our concerns. Right now, the courts/government agencies are either closed/working on a skeletal workforce depending on the type of quarantine being imposed. There are delays in the scheduling of hearings, the promulgation of decisions, processing of documents, releasing of titles, execution of final and executory judgments, etc.
Barrista Solutions: At this period of time, are there key developments that were made or implemented so as to address the pandemic?
Atty. Carino: Yes. The courts now conduct hearings via videoconferencing. This is a major development considering the risks involved in face to face hearings. As a lawyer for a real estate developer, we always hope for faster court processes considering the nature of the cases that we are handling. Delays will result in losses on the part of the developer. We are hoping the other government agencies will follow suit. Time is really of the essence in real estate practice.
Barrista Solutions: As a lawyer, what major adjustments did you make in order to cope with this unforeseen and abrupt change in legal processes and routine?
Atty. Carino: We made sure to know the email addresses and contact numbers of the courts and other government agencies that we are transacting with. The pandemic made it difficult for us to follow-up on our concerns. We likewise filed appropriate Manifestations in the cases we are handling whereby we informed the courts/government agencies of our email addresses and contact details. We did this so that if there are orders that will be released, we will be informed immediately thru email.
Barrista Solutions: What are the advantages and disadvantages of practicing law in this time of the so-called “New Normal” especially in the field of Real Estate Law?
Atty. Carino: Advantage is that for Metro Manila courts and nearby areas, we no longer need to go to courts and park our vehicles since the hearings are now via videoconferencing. The disadvantage is that not all courts have the capacity to conduct videoconferencing especially those courts located in the provinces. In such instances, we have no choice but to just wait for the courts to physically open.
Right now, there are no scheduled hearings yet on most of our cases pending with the Human Settlements Adjudication Commission. For government agencies, one disadvantage is that we need to wait for those agencies to physically open before we can transact. Not all government agencies have email addresses/contact details where we can raise our concerns.
Barrista Solutions: At this time of the new normal, what would be the changes that we will be expecting in the field of Real Estate? (prices, shifts from commercial to home offices, etc.) Atty. Carino: Definitely, the pandemic hurt the real estate industry. Sales of housing and condominium units considerably dropped. Our company is doing everything to cope with the current problem. Work from home arrangements are currently in place. We sent notices to the buyers encouraging them to just pay thru online channels rather than go to our office to settle their accounts. We have likewise devised methods to minimize face to face interactions such as the electronic signing of documents and the submission of loan application requirements via email. The management has really given the health and safety of its employees and customers paramount consideration.
Barrista Solutions: Moving forward, how do you see the profession of the law changing its regular course or structure because of the current pandemic everyone is experiencing? Atty. Carino: Yes. The practice of law will be geared towards “online transactions”. Hearings and meetings will be via conferencing. The filing of pleadings and documents will be thru email. Government transactions will be through their respective websites. Payment of taxes and fees will be made available thru online channels. I think the government will introduce measures to adjust to the current situation.
Barrista Solutions: Do you think there is still a chance that the processes everyone are accustomed to will eventually return at some point in time? If so, what do you expect from the same? Atty. Carino: I think not in the near future. People are afraid to go out. I think unless an effective vaccine is introduced, we will never be able to return to the processes we were previously accustomed to.
Barrista Solutions: What are you looking forward to at this time of the new normal as a member of the legal profession?
Atty. Carino: The day that this pandemic will end.
Barrista Solutions: Batch 2019 is the first wave of new lawyers who will be practicing in the time of the new normal. What is your message and advice to them? Atty. Carino: As lawyers, we are trained to adapt to different challenges thrown our way. I am sure the new lawyers will be fine. They just have to always go back to the Lawyer’s oath and treat the same as their guide.
Barrista Solutions: What is your message to your colleagues in the profession of law who are frontliners as well in this time of pandemic?
Atty. Carino: We salute you as you are our heroes. I think that all the other lawyers will do everything to help in whatever way they can, our colleagues who are frontliners. Barrista Solutions: What is your final word to all law students trying to survive one day at a time while trapped in the new normal?
Atty. Carino: Just be patient. All your hardships will pay-off. You will all become lawyers. Being a lawyer is not a condition. It is a period.