Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Opening the legal professions in Poland...

Legal services, which have so far been very expensive and difficult to obtain in Poland, may become much cheaper and more widely available with the introduction of the new law opening the legal professions! 'Access to justice' may be a more realistic notion for the ordinary Polish citizen with the estimated 100 percent increase in the number of lawyers entitled to offer legal services ('Gazeta Wyborcza, 16.08.05 www.gazeta.pl).

Yesterday the president of Poland signed the Act which will in effect abolish the exclusive control of access to legal professions for law graduates by professional organisations such as the Bar Council or the Council of Solicitors. The legal profession in Poland, consisting most of all of: barristers (adwokaci), legal advisors/solicitors (radcy prawni), judges (sedziowie), notaries (notariusze), prosecutors (prokuratorzy), has so far remained under virtually sole control of these organisations. They organised entry exams, examined candidates, planned and carried out the training for the prospective lawyers, and were in charge of the final exams for accessing the professions.

The main changes introduced by the Act are:
1. Instead of the entrance and the final exam organised by the organisations - a state exam,
2. Possibility of becoming a barrister, a solicitor or a notary without having to go through the formal training by the organisations (only upon passing the final state exam) - using two routes:
i. having performed legal services for five years in an unqualified status, or
ii. having a PhD in law.
3. Possibility of becoming a barrister, a solicitor or a notary without the training and without having to pass the final exam for professors of law and habilitated doctors of law.
4. Possibility of becoming a barrister or a solicitor after qualifying in another legal

The professional organisations of lawyers have stood firm against these changes, arguing that they will mean decrease in the quality of legal services. The policy of these organisations was however widely criticised (even by the Constitutional Tribunal) as enabling favoritism of family members and simply keeping the numbers of lawyers in the market under strict control for fear of competition. It is this very competition which is hoped to ensure the quality of legal services is not compromised.

For further information about the new Act, the legal profession or the cost of legal services in Poland - please contact magdalena.sengayen@csls.ox.ac.uk

Monday, August 15, 2005

New Regulation of Conditional Fee Agreements - DCA publishes the summary of the responses to Consultation Paper!

The DCA published the summary of responses to the Consultation Paper 'Making Simple CFAs a reality' on 10/08/2005. The summary can be found at the website of the DCA: www.dca.gov.uk.
It appears that extensive changes within the conditional fee regime are imminent. The present regime was found overly complex by all respondents to the Consultation Paper. It also led to numerous technical challenges (for instance: Sharratt v London Central Bus Company Limited and other appeals (the accident Grooup Test Cases), Hollins v Russell and other appeals [2003] ECWA Civ 718). Although some doubts were voiced by the respondents regarding the scope of the changes, one ought to see the transformation of the regime proposed by the DCA as the step in the right direction (towards simplicity and away from technical challenges and confusion). Let us analyse what changes were outlined in the summary:

1. The Conditional Fee Agreement and Collective Conditional Fee Agreement Regulations, now in force, were declared "not necessary or effective". These will be revoked from 1 November 2005 (they will not be applicable to all agreements concluded on or after 1 November 2005).

2. The conditional fee and collective conditional fee agreements shall be governed by a number of legislative mechanisms (some already in force, others to be introduced or amended):
i. Section 27 of Access to Justice Act 1999 - to provide regulatory requirements for CFAs (the Act to be found at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1999/19990022.htm).
ii. Law Society's professional rules to regulate solicitor-client matters (to be developed).
iii. Civil Procedure Rules to regulate costs issues between the parties.

3. The Law Society, APIL and FOIL are to develop model agreements and supporting guidance in line with the new regime.

The tendency is to simplify and deregulate CFAs, to render the lawyer - client matters the responsibility of the Law Society and its members. One can observe the will to further privatise the CFA system - instead of extenstive regulation, the market forces are to ultimately help determine the quality of the agreements and the protection for clients.

The doubts of the respondents concerned, among others, the ability of the Law Society to effectively control the conduct of solicitors in these matters, or the remaining complexity of Section 58.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Conference on 'Costs of Litigation' in England and Wales!

As part of our research on Costs and Funding of Litigation in Europe and beyond, we are organising a Conference on 'Costs of Litigation in England and Wales'. This Conference is the first in a series of Conferences - stay tuned!

The Conference will take place on 9 December 2005 at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Manor Road, Oxford
Registration 9 am, Start 9.30 am, buffet lunch included, finish 4.30 pm

Issues to be addressed:

Is there a compensation culture in the UK?
Does the litigation system deliver value for money?
Have the Woolf reforms led to a decrease in costs and shorter cases?
How predictable are litigation costs?
Are these features valuable: Legal Aid; the CFA system; fixed fees?
Are costs proportionate to sums recovered?
How many claims are spurious?
Do we have enough, or not enough, access to justice?

The speakers will include judges, lawyers, representatives of the Government and academics.

The exact programme and list of speakers will appear on our blog soon!