The Slovak Republic has a population of approximately 5.5 million and 6000 lawyers (in 2015). The Slovak Bar Association was set up in 1990 and has been a full member of CCBE since 2005, after being an observer member since 1990 (until 1992 as part of Czechoslovakia, later on representing Slovak legal profession).
Key information about the profession:
- Initial training of lawyers: Both Bachelor (3 years) and Master (2 years) in legal studies are required. 5 year traineeship period with compulsory attendance on seminars is organised four times a year plus seminars on legal ethics and office management. The bar exam at the end of the traineeship period consists of a written test and an oral exam.
- Continuous training: Continuous training is not mandatory but offered on a voluntary basis to all lawyers by the Bar three times a year in a form of a 2 day conference on various legal aspects, further training activities depend on the actual need and offer (workshops, seminars, conferences).
- Specialisation: This is not part of the university studies nor is it covered by the Act on Legal Profession. Any “specialisation” in relation to lawyer´s occupation is only in practical sense and stems from the experience acquired in the course of lawyer´s work. In 2012 a list of professional subject fields was introduced on the Slovak Bar Association official website and in the registry as additional search criterion. The list serves clients in order to find lawyers according to their experience.
- Discipline: The disciplinary proceeding is conducted by a three member disciplinary panel appointed by the Chairman of the Slovak Bar Association Disciplinary Committee from among its members. All members are lawyers. The Disciplinary Committee of Appeal decides about the appeals in disciplinary proceedings.
- Legal Aid: National Centre for Legal Aid established by the Ministry of Justice is responsible for the provision of legal aid in civil, family, labour law and asylum cases (in cross-border disputes commercial law is included) by way of its employees as well as lawyers who expressed their will to be on the list of legal aid lawyers. Lawyers´ fees are reimbursed according to their statement of accounts by the Centre which acts as a state budgetary organisation. In criminal law matters lawyers are assigned ex offo to persons in material need and expenses are reimbursed by courts.
Current concerns of the Bar and main challenges in the coming years:
- Trainee lawyers – Slovak Bar Association took various steps in order to improve the quality of the traineeship period. The traineeship was prolonged to five years.
- Ethics and office management – Law firms as well as Slovak Bar Association are beginning to focus more on the issues related to firm management itself, its ethics and accompanying practical problems that might have partially led to the some negative developments in legal practice. Slovak Bar Association responded to this development by the introduction of lectures and seminars on ethics in legal profession that take place throughout the whole traineeship period.
- Illicit trading – the Slovak Bar Association is concerned with a widespread form of unauthorised trading in the course of which legal services are provided in an unauthorised way (eg. legal representation under the guise of civil representation, an extension of officially claimed services to legal services). The Slovak Bar Association organises meetings with the representatives of courts and prosecutors in order to discuss how to tackle this problem in the future. It suggests courts not allow the presence of these self-proclaimed legal representatives during the court proceedings and it urges that this criminal offence be properly prosecuted as crime of unauthorised trading.