At the end of January a bill for amendment of the recent Lawyers Act, as prepared by the Supreme Bar council and supported by the local Bars, has been lodged at the related legal committee at the parliament – www.parliament.bg/bg/bills/ . It has been prepared to amend the provisions of the recent Lawyers Act, in order to respond better to the recent public and private relations in the society and also to harmonize our legislation with the European one. The submitted bill relates mostly to the description of the lawyer’s work, to the possibilities to become a lawyer, to the management and organization of the Bar. I would like to describe here these several and important milestones, related mostly to our work as practicing lawyers:
1) The bill establishes amendment in the procedure for becoming a lawyer, where it excludes the possibility for educated in law practitioners, who have worked as jurist-consultants, hired by institutions and private entities on labor contracts, to become members of the Lawyers Bar without taking the lawyers exam. This is a major change, because so far it is allowed for these who have 5 years practice on labor job as jurist-consultants, without taking the three-part lawyers’ exam covering all areas of Law, to be registered in the Bar and to become bona-fide lawyers. Such change is positive in opinion of the authors of the project, and in my opinion too, because it won’t allow eventual non-qualified and poorly educated candidates to practice as bona-fide lawyers.
2) Most aspects of the lawyer’s job have been precisely detailed in the new bill, which represents a step ahead in protection of our work. Firstly it separates the legal activities, to be performed by lawyers, from the business services, offered by trading companies and other types of practitioners who offer illegally competitioning legal services. Its second role is to enable the sanctioning by the Bar for performance of illegal lawyering (i.e. offering performance of legal service which they are not entitled to perform).
3) A right to access of the national register “population” will be granted for lawyers. This would be a great support in the work of a civil lawyer like me, who has for example to submit a civil claim against a defendant, whose address is unknown (and therefore it is unknown who should be the applicable court who to hear the lawsuit). With the recent legal regime we have in advance to apply to the court to issue to us a certificate (and to pay the related fee) and one issued, to visit the Registrar and to obtain the defendant’s official address. Once done, then to prepare and submit the civil claim at the related court of Law. Such changes will speed-up such lawsuit with at least couple of weeks, and will make our work lot easier on the matter.
4) The next proposed change will give us one very important right. It will enable lawyers to witness and verify various civil documents – powers of attorney, contracts, declarations, private protocols, etc. – which activities so far are done only by local notaries public. In my practice here in Bulgaria I have used thousands of powers of attorneys and other documents, witnessed by practicing solicitors within the Common Law System in the UK – who, in their capacity of registered members of the Law Society of England and Wales, have the same witnessing power as notaries public on the above matter. So I have always admired the attempts such change which will put equity between our job and the notary job in relation to such witnessing of private documents – like the practicing solicitors in the UK. And respectively will make our work a lot easier, as sometimes it may take couple weeks or even a month to get a power of attorney witnessed and legalized from abroad. Hope it goes through.
5) The amendments also entitle a lawyer to cancel their relations with the client, if important reasons are present. So far a lawyer, who has accepted to work for a client, is not legally able to pull out – even in situation where the client disappears on a pending job where the lawyer cannot take decisions instead of them. On the other hand, through the years I have been contacted by clients who claim they suddenly have lost connection with their previous lawyers without the job being completed. Now with the new regulation a termination of the relations lawyer-client may be performed officially and without silence, but in favor of both parties.
6) The legal fees applicable in the court process: As probably you know, lawyer’s job is paid; the minimal rates of the lawyer’s fees are fixed in the Lawyers Tariff 2004. In a standard civil lawsuit a lawyer who acts on behalf of client in court, usually applies to receive for their client together with the decision also remuneration by the judgment debtor for the paid by the plaintiff lawyer’s fee. With the proposed change in case of objection by the defendant for unreasonable high lawyers’ fees, now the court won’t be able to reduce these below the amount, equal to twice the minimal rate, as stipulated in the Lawyers Tariff 2004.
7) For first time there are administrative provisions for sanctioning business practitioners and other people with law diploma, who offer legal services without being lawyers, without being registered in the Law Society, without indemnity insurance, etc. Mostly in the civil practice you could see some real estate agents who offer performance of the activities related to property conveyance, including preparation of Title Deeds (contracts); or jurist-consultants who never took a lawyer’s exam or not willing to cover the expenses paid by a lawyer for Bar membership, indemnity insurance, capital gains, etc., but offering legal representation for out-of court procedures or conveyance services to foreigners; where usually only acting as hidden intermediaries or proxies, charging money for legal representation which they actually can’t perform legally. Hopefully if these particular changes are adopted by the Parliament, it will stop and avoid in the future such illegal competition and non-regulated lawyering.
In conclusion, on the base of my knowledge and professional experience, my personal opinion only is, that these changes, if adopted, will improve our practice and will protect better our job in the future. It will be beneficial for the clients as well, because it will provide better protection against non-regulated and poor legal services.