The Republic of Estonia has a population of approximately 1.3 million and 984 lawyers registered with the Estonian Bar Association (as of 24.10.2016). The Estonian Bar Association was set up in 1919 and has been a full member of the CCBE since 2004.
Key information about the profession
- University education: A person must have a Master’s degree in Law in order to take an exam to become a sworn advocate’s clerk or a sworn advocate.
- Initial training of lawyers: A candidate can register with the Bar after completing a Master’s degree in Law followed by an exam for a sworn advocate’s clerkship. After 3 years work as a sworn advocate’s clerk, one can take an exam in order to obtain the status of a sworn advocate. If a person, immediately prior to admission to the Bar Association, has worked for at least two consecutive years in an office or position which requires at least a nationally recognised Master’s degree in Law or a foreign qualification equal thereto, the Board of the Bar Association may allow the person to take the sworn advocate’s examination if he or she has practiced as a clerk of a sworn advocate for at least one consecutive year. This exam is not compulsory – a person may work as a sworn advocate’s clerk for an indefinite period of time.
- Continuous training: Continuous training is mandatory. During a five-year period (five years is a trial period for all advocates), an advocate has to obtain 80 points of continuous training. One point equals one academic hour and 10 points per year is a minimum. Continuous training is provided by the Estonian Bar Association but it is also allowed to take training courses offered by other private organisations (in this case it is the Bar that decides if the training obtained from a private organisation can be taken into account for the calculation of training points).
- Specialisation: Specialisation is not mandatory. After passing the Bar exam, an advocate is free to choose the field of law in which he/she will start his/her practice.
- Discipline: The Court of Honour (Estonian equivalent of the Court of Ethics) of the Estonian Bar Association is in charge of disciplinary proceedings. The Court of Ethics has seven members and four substitute members. Five members and three substitute members must be sworn advocates with at least ten years of professional experience as sworn advocates. Two members, professional judges, are elected by the general assembly of judges. One of the members is an expert in law appointed by the Department of Law of the University of Tartu. An appeal against the decisions of the Court of Ethics may be filed with the Administrative Court. (See more on disciplinary practice in Estonia and other Member States here)
- Legal Aid: The state legal aid is financed from the state budget. The state legal aid is organised by the Bar. At the request of the court, the Prosecutor’s Office or the investigative body, the Bar Association will promptly appoint an advocate to provide state legal aid. Appointing an advocate is done via state legal aid electronic system, which is administered by the Bar. Orders for the state legal aid become visible in the electronic system for the advocates who have marked themselves as providers of state legal aid (it is not compulsory for advocates to offer state legal aid) and an advocate who wishes to take the case accepts it electronically.
Current concerns of the Bar: The main concern is how to maintain an effective state legal aid system with limited financial means provided by the state.