Pinoy lawyer who graduated from Harvard gives free legal services to the poor

Having completed his Juris Doctor degree from Ateneo de Manila University and further law studies at Harvard University, lawyer Juan Fidel Felipe Nograles is certainly in an easy position to work in top law firms in the Philippines or even abroad, earning a lot of money. Yet this 32-year-old lawyer chose to lay low and simply give free legal services to the poor!

The younger Nograles, nephew of former speaker Prospero Nograles, had spent a year at a law firm in Manila and was later appointed court attorney at the office of former Supreme Court associate justice Martin Villarama Jr.

With lawyers earning a lot of money from their profession, especially top names who handle big-time clients, it was easy to say that Nograles had his life mapped out in front of him. It was easy for him to get much richer in this career, but his stint in government service opened his eyes to the problems of the poor.

When Nograles was appointed as assistant provincial administrator in his home province of Rizal, he was exposed to the many challenging situations that the poor have to face.

Without representation because they can’t afford to hire a lawyer, many of these poor folks end up in prison for crimes they did not really commit or are forced deeper into problems that could have been easily solved if they only had a good lawyer.

“I have seen how meager their resources are and honestly, I can’t turn a blind eye anymore. The more time I spend with them each day, the more I appreciate how lucky I am to be in a position to help,” Nograles explained.

To help the underprivileged people of Rizal live better lives, Nograles decided to offer free legal services to poor folks in the area.

Pinoy lawyer who graduated from Harvard gives free legal services to the poor
Photo credit: PhilStar

“If I give an hour and help three to five people, these are three to five people out of the list. This is good enough for me,” he added.

Knowing he can’t do this by himself, he rallied his friends to help. His pro-poor programs would include other lawyers, including law students, and also members of legal organizations.

The group went to many barangays to set up legal clinics. At first, the villagers were a bit confused and were quite reserved in dealing with these rich-looking lawyers offering free services, but they would soon warm up to the idea after realizing these people were really there to help.

Today, the group continues to help impoverished people in the province of Rizal, particularly in the towns of Rodriguez and San Mateo. They usually handle family disputes, land grabbing cases, and domestic violence against women and children. But the group does not back down from major cases as well!

— Joy Adalia, The Summit Express

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