Courts decimate bar exam bill | News

A representative of the Estonian Bar Association said that the changes and measures mandated by the law would do more harm than good for both the legal profession and society as a whole.

“Based on analysis and conclusions from debates, we can say that the [justice ministry’s] solution is neither justified nor suitable,” wrote the acting union chairman Heino Junolainen.

“It is questionable whether the goals of the draft law must also have an impact on the quality of legal education. The curricula are constantly evolving.

He noted that there are known ways of promoting the professionalism of lawyers. This includes additional funding and training to enable legal professionals to develop skills to meet the demands of the labor market.

Courts: Bar exams would not solve problems

Tiina Pappel, President of the Tartu District Court, wrote in her feedback that the court considered the problem of incompetent non-professional legal representatives to be rare. “There is more of this in civil litigation, while the issue should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, using the court’s right to remove incompetent lawyers. On the other hand, mistakes that harm the client are by no means rare lawyers. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that a bar exam would fix the problem,” Pappel said.

She added that the ministry had not assessed to what extent a mandatory exam would reduce the number of people who would qualify as legal representatives. “Squeezing out competent legal aid providers in court proceedings carries the clear risk of higher legal aid costs in a situation where litigants already have difficult access to legal aid.”

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Harju District Court Judge Kai Härmand noted that the constitutionality of the bill had been analyzed at a rather primitive level, highlighting only positive considerations, glancing at how it violated fundamental rights such as freedom of association and the right to free self-realization would be violated.

“Impact analysis and target group determination are of regrettable quality. If the professional examination requirement is applied to all traditional legal professions, it will have a significant impact on the functioning of the state as a whole, both at the judicial and executive levels, will definitely affect all lawyers or those working in traditional legal professions, and will cover the largest part of the target group,” wrote Härmand.

The judge added that the analysis of whether the draft law is compatible with the EU principle of economic freedom and in particular the freedom to provide services is also unclear.

Ministry of the Interior refuses to approve the draft law

The Interior Ministry refused to approve the bill. Among other things, the Ministry justified this with the fact that the explanatory memorandum to the law does not indicate whether the Ministry of Justice had thought about more cost-effective and faster solutions.

“The explanatory memorandum of the draft law mentions the problem of insufficient availability of legal aid in Ida-Viru County. ​​We consider it questionable whether adding a mandatory examination requirement for legal aid lawyers would help solve the quality problems of services in Ida-Viru County,” Internal Affairs Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) wrote in his response.

Läänemets added that while passing the exam is described in the explanatory memorandum as testimony to a professional level, there is no reason to believe that a law student’s five-year study cannot ensure the same level of quality as an exam of just a few hours .

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The planned introduction of a bar exam had previously been criticized by lawyers and Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise.

Attorney General Andres Parmas supports the plan to have lawyers sit an exam. “However, we would like to note that a separate bar exam is not a perfect solution and that the prosecution would prefer a complex post-graduate exam to a separate national post-graduate exam,” Parmas clarified.

The Justice Department said last March that people who want to work as lawyers, prosecutors, judges, assistant magistrates, notaries, bailiffs or bankruptcy trustees will want to take a bar exam. You would also have to pass the exam to represent people in court.

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