MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
Former ACCRA lawyer, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, lawyers Ave Cruz and Rogelio Vinluan, Sen. Drilon, lawyers Patricia-Ann Prodigalidad, Victor Lazatin, Eusebio Tan and Emerico De Guzman.

Last year, the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW), the largest institutional law firm in the country, kicked off its 50th year of excellent legal service, which culminated just recently in an “Appreciation Dinner” at the Grand Ballroom of the Shangri-La at the Fort, Taguig City.

The prestigious law firm was founded in 1972, out of the shared vision of its five founding partners to establish an institutional law firm based on the highest standards of legal competence.

The firm was initially conceived by lawyers Edgardo J. Angara and Manuel G. Abello, who had known each other since their student days at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law. They were later joined by lawyers Teodoro D. Regala and Jose C. Concepcion, former classmates at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and then by Avelino V. Cruz, Angara’s classmate at the University of Michigan Law School and an alumnus of the San Beda College of Law.

The firm opened its doors to the public on Labor Day, May 1, 1972, in Makati City.

Just an anecdote: lawyer Ave Cruz, who continued Sen. Ed Angara’s leadership in the ASEAN Law Association, or ALA, was underaged at the time he was to take the Bar exams. He had to seek permission from the Supreme Court, and they granted him permission. He topped the Bar that year.

On its golden anniversary, ACCRALAW aimed to go “Beyond Legal Excellence,” as an expression of its gratitude to God and society. In line with this, ACCRALAW recently established a Corporate Social Responsibility Department to implement its expanded and structured pro bono programs that provide equal access to quality legal services to the poor and marginalized.

ACCRALAW firmly believes that the legal profession is imbued with public interest and aims to fulfill its role in society by partnering with key non-profit organizations in worthy social endeavors.

(Seated from left) Lawyer Lila Quirino, ACCRA alumni, former Senate President Franklin Drilon, former senator and Red Cross chairman Dick Gordon; (standing from left) lawyer Ave Cruz and the author.

A tribute to this most prestigious law firm would not be complete without giving honor to one of its founders, whom I look up to like a father, the late Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, who did so much for his country and for the international community as well.

He was my boss, my mentor, a colleague in government service and in several advocacies, a good and dear friend.

Back then, I already knew him as one of the founding partners of one of the fastest-growing and highly respected law firms in the country. I was a student at the University of the Philippines College of Law when he was the president of the state university.

Back then, the work ethics, legal skills, stellar academic achievements and idiosyncrasies of the ACCRALAW partners were the stuff of urban legend. They still are to date.

I knew then that I had to cut my teeth as a lawyer only from the very best — aware and never oblivious of the sacrifices to be made.

As fate would have it, after graduating, I was taken into the fold at ACCRALAW, where I became part of its much-vaunted Litigation Group — arguably, the best of the very best.

I waxed sentimental at the most recent and culminating event of the firm, as retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban delivered his keynote speech. CJ Panganiban revealed that one of the deepest regrets of his life was his “inability” to honor the invitation of Angara, ACCRALAW’s first managing partner, to join the firm at its inception because he had many commitments he could not ignore. He already had an ongoing law office, some family businesses, and was a director of a commercial bank, an insurance company, and a mining corporation, which all became clients of ACCRA.

(Seated from left) Lawyers Rod Nepomuceno and Ana Lourdes Teresa Arnaldo-Oracion, Hans Sicat, House of Investments Inc’s Lorenzo Tan, BPI president Jose Teodoro “TG” Limcaoco, BDO president and CEO Nestor Tan and lawyer Francis Lim; (standing from left) lawyers Chrysilla Carissa Bautista, Patricia-Ann Prodigalidad and Leland Villadolid, Jr.

Panganiban also narrated that when Angara, “together with some of the brightest lights of the legal profession here and elsewhere,” founded and headed the ASEAN Law Association (ALA) in the early ’80s, he could no longer decline his kind invitation. Since then, Panganiban has been active in the ALA. He has been ALA Philippines chairman and vice president of the regional ALA since 2015.

It was, indeed, an amazing and inspiring keynote of CJ Art, apropos of ACCRALAW’s golden anniversary.

The late, great Sen. Raul Roco (who was once described by legal eagle, the great Teddy Regala, as the “lawyers’ lawyer”) was the hiring partner when I joined ACCRALAW and former Senate President Frank Drilon, another legal luminary, was then managing partner. I honed my litigation skills under the guidance of the late Joe Concepcion. A brilliant legal mind.

Few are invited to join the fabled and vaunted ACCRALAW Litigation Group, but I was privileged to be part of it.

Grand times and grand memories. Law was taught to us in the grand manner, after all.

Today, ACCRALAW has some 160 lawyers (44 of whom are partners), around 130 support staff, and two branches in the two most important commercial cities in the country outside Metro Manila, namely Cebu and Davao.

Perhaps more than any other law firm in the Philippines, ACCRALAW has trained and produced an impressive list of top-tier government officials, including, among others, three executive secretaries, two Senate presidents, six senators, several congressmen, justices, judges, two SEC chairpersons, and a BIR commissioner.  A President of the republic? It is within the realm of possibility.

Truly impressive, and I am honored to have been part of the firm’s history and roster.

Congratulations, ACCRALAW, on your golden anniversary and on 50 years of outstanding legal service to the nation and its people!

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