Our mission is to pursue at all times the path of excellence, to develop our capabilities to the fullest, and to extend ourselves to the limit.
Our vision is to faithfully adhere to the principles of dedicated service in the finest traditions and highest ideals of a learned and noble profession.
From a modest commercial law practice in downtown Manila at the turn of the 20th century, today we are one of the largest and most highly regarded law firms in the Philippines with a full offering of legal services, including advice and representation in banking and finance, capital market and securities, energy and infrastructure, immigration, intellectual property, labor and employment, litigation and arbitration, real estate and natural resources, taxation, and technology, media, and telecommunications.
We are composed of more than 90 lawyers – all of whom speak English fluently and a good number of whom have received training and graduate degrees from universities abroad. Our lawyers are also active officers and members of business and civic associations in the Philippines and around the world.
We are the sole Philippine member of Lex Mundi, a global network of about 160 independent law firms, with a combined total of more than 21,000 lawyers in all commercially significant jurisdictions throughout the world. We are also the TRACE partner firm in the Philippines and join other TRACE firms around the world in providing practical and cost-effective anti-bribery compliance to global businesses.
“First, we are lawyers above all else and, as such, we must be votaries of the law, and as integral parts of the legal system, we are committed to make it work. Second, we are advocates and, as such, we must within reason defend and protect the legitimate interests of our clients. Third, we are professionals and, as such, we owe it to ourselves and the clientele we serve to pursue at all times the path of excellence, to develop our capabilities to the fullest, and to extend ourselves to the limit. We must bear in mind that every right implies a responsibility, every opportunity an obligation, every possession a duty.
“I would like our firm to exemplify one of my favorite passages from Justice Holmes:
‘They carry no banners, they beat no drums; but where they are, men learn that bustle and push are not equal of quiet genius and serene mastery.’”
(Excerpt from remarks of Mr. Ricardo J. Romulo, Senior Partner, on the occasion of the firm’s Anniversary in 1982.)
ROMULO traces its roots to the law firm which Allison D. Gibbs and William Kincaid established in 1902. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Allison D. Gibbs and William Kincaid arrived in the Philippines as part of the Colorado and Nebraska volunteers, respectively. After the war, they decided to settle in the Philippines and engage in the practice of law. They hung their shingle in the business center of Manila in No. 9 Plaza Moraga.
The firm was reorganized several times until Charles McDonough was admitted into the partnership. Allison D. Gibbs’ sons, Findley and Allison J., would later join the firm as assistant attorneys while an upstart Filipino lawyer by the name of Roman Ozaeta was admitted as partner in 1931.
The firm, then known as Gibbs McDonough and Ozaeta, had an extensive practice in commercial law. It handled cases involving banking, corporation law, insurance, and public utilities. It pioneered in the law on intellectual property and successfully handled cases involving infringement of trademarks and copyright.
While Allison D. Gibbs became a well-known corporate lawyer, the firm also developed a reputation for outstanding trial work and appellate practice. Charles McDonough earned a name for himself as an outstanding trial lawyer while Roman Ozaeta earned renown for his meticulous and excellently composed pleadings and briefs.
In 1936, Roman Ozaeta resigned from the firm to become judge of the then Court of First Instance. He went on to become Solicitor General in 1938, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1941, Secretary of Justice in 1946, and again an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1948 to 1950.
After retiring from public service, Roman Ozaeta joined his son Herminio, Allan O’Gorman, and Carlos Romulo, Jr. in private practice. Following the plane crash that claimed the lives of Alan O’Gorman and Carlos Romulo, Jr. in 1957, Allison J. Gibbs joined the Ozaetas and formed the firm Ozaeta Gibbs and Ozaeta.
Carlos Romulo Jr.’s brother, Ricardo J. Romulo, would later become Senior Partner himself and, following a previous rule of practice which limited the name of a law office to those of its active and living partners, the firm was renamed Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & de los Angeles.
In October 2002, ROMULO celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding with the descendants of Allison D. Gibbs.
The firm handled several landmark cases, some of which developed into jurisprudence which is still studied in law schools today.
In 1910, the firm successfully won the acquittal of a fellow named Ah Chong and helped establish precedence for the use of mistake of fact sufficient to negate criminal intent [U.S. v. Ah Chong, 15 Phil 488 (1910)].
In 1926, the firm successfully challenged the constitutionality of Act No. 2792, the Chinese Bookkeeping Act, which prohibited Chinese merchants from keeping their books of account in the Chinese language. The case reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down the law on the ground that it violated due process and denied Chinese merchants equal protection of the law, noting that most Chinese merchants knew only the Chinese language and the effect of the law was to keep them in the dark as to the financial condition of their business [Yu v. Trinidad, 271 U.S. 500 (1926)].
In 1923, Charles McDonough handled the celebrated case of Ray Conley, a police detective charged with receiving a bribe from gamblers in Manila. Through his painstaking cross-examination, Charles McDonough caught the prosecution witnesses in a web of contradictions and improbabilities and won for his client an acquittal. The case was later attributed to have caused a cabinet crisis when, following Conley’s reinstatement by Governor General Leonard Wood, department secretaries who had differences of opinion resigned en masse.