Two young law graduates took their fraternity ties beyond the walls of the Ateneo Law School (ALS) to start their own firm, the Paulino & Custodio Law Offices and Accounting Firm (Palcus Law), in 2008.
Carlo Paulino and Niersen Custodio, both members of the Aquila Legis Fraternity, met when they were taking undergraduate accounting courses at the De La Salle University (DLSU). After the two had passed the bar exams some half a decade later, Mr. Paulino invited Mr. Custodio to start a law firm with him—an idea that was initially frowned upon by his father, who is himself a lawyer.
“He was hesitant because he knew that I still didn’t have enough experience,” says Mr. Paulino, who worked for a medium-sized law office a year before Palcus Law was set up. The older Mr. Paulino soon found himself chipping in to the capital needed to set up the law firm.
While scouting for a viable location, Mr. Paulino, perhaps through a stroke of beginner’s luck, chanced upon a vacant space in Ortigas which happened to be owned by an acquaintance. “I asked him if I could lease it, and we agreed on a very reasonable price,” he says. Both the Paulino and Custodio families helped the start-up cut back on its initial expenses by contributing pieces of furniture to the new office.
Palcus Law’s first year was marked by heavy networking to build up its clientele. “I informed most of our [fraternity brothers] that we had already formed our law office—they were the ones who referred clients to us,” says Mr. Paulino.
But the firm wasn’t going to have its heyday just yet. “Sometimes I would spend the whole day at the office doing nothing,” says Mr. Paulino. “[I would] wait for calls from clients and call my friends up [to ask] if they had legal concerns that we could help with.”
Indeed, settling their monthly P100,000 overhead expenditure was a regular headache for the two young lawyers. “If we didn’t earn enough to cover these expenses, we paid for them using our personal money,” says Mr. Paulino, who had been quick to realize just how much risk they had taken by setting up their own agency fresh out of law school. “We don’t have an elder or more experienced lawyer to guide us and correct us,” he says.
But the rush that the partners get from being their own bosses and working with a flexible schedule was enough to offset these initial bumps. “I am responsible for everything I do. I don't have a superior in case I default or make a mistake, [so] I only have my partners to rely on,” says Mr. Paulino. Profit distribution, he adds, also becomes an easier affair when working with people one already trusts. “[The] profit goes to us directly,” he says.
And then there’s the prestige that comes with private practice. Mr. Paulino recalls how some of his former classmates who are now employed in older and larger law firms would sometimes call him up to congratulate him on his venture. “[They would say,] ‘That’s impressive. You have your own law office,'” he says.
At two years old, Palcus Law caters mostly to banking and corporate clients. It also recently took in a new partner: lawyer Mauro Cabading III, a fellow Aquila Legis member who, like the two, is a certified public accountant. “We have the same attitude toward work,” says Mr. Paulino. “[He] also handles labor, special projects, corporate rehabilitation, corporate registration, mergers, acquisitions, and immigration.”
The firm plans to migrate to Makati, closer to the majority of its clients, and is set to change its name to Paulino, Custodio and Cabading Law Offices.
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