Ministry of Finance also rejects proposed lawyer's exam

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Law. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

In addition to the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Finance did not approve the Ministry of Justice's draft introducing an industry-wide lawyer's exam.

Along with Finance Minister Annely Akkermann (Reform), Minister of Public Administration Riina Solman (Isamaa) also signed under the Ministry of Finance's disapproval.

They believe that the lawyer's exam draft law does not address the disparity in quality of legal education.

"A mismatch is created when a lawyer's exam evaluates a candidate for a legal office or a judicial vocation's capacity to apply the law in effect in Estonia at the master's level but anyone with any master's degree can sit for the lawyer's exam," Akkermann and Solman wrote to the "honorable mrs/mr minister" at the ministry of justice, emphasizing that the measure effectively abolishes the master's degree in law conferred by universities.

The ministers of finance and public administration believe that the organization and evaluation of a standardized legal exam are not substantively proportional.

"On the one hand, the exam is overly weighted toward civil law and, on the other, it fails to account for professional specialization, which, given the increasing complexity of the legal system, is an unavoidable ongoing trend, not only across sectors, but increasingly within sectors. Some law companies offer affordable, sector-specific, high-quality legal advice in areas such as intellectual property, public procurement, data protection, divorce law, etc. If the examination is broad and straightforward, it may not improve the quality of the services or contribute to the draft's goals."

However, if the examination would be rigorous and demanding in every subject area, Akkermann and Solman said, this will lead to a crisis of services, price hikes in society and a deterioration in the provision of legal aid.

"Hence, the goal of conveniently regulating the whole field with a single exam should be abandoned and additional evaluation should be arranged either with area-specific exams or to increase the quality of master's studies by adding a midterm exam prior to the master's thesis."

The draft and its explanatory memorandum are also contradictory, as it is unclear whether or not officials or employees who represent their institution in a service or employment relationship are required to take the lawyer's exam.

In addition, the explanatory memorandum does not show that the draft has been subjected to linguistic analysis. It is also unclear whether a lawyer has reviewed the legality of the document.

In addition to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance, the chancellor of justice, the Lawyers' Association, the courts and the universities have criticized the legal test fiercely. Only Andres Parmas, the state's persecutor general, has endorsed the proposal.

In March of last year, the Ministry of Justice sent the European Parliament a draft proposal requesting an opinion mandating bar examinations for lawyers, prosecutors, judges, judge's assistants, notaries, bailiffs and bankruptcy administrators.

The same need would apply to individual court representation.

Solman: I did not sign this

The ERR portal found the stance signed by Akkermann and Solman in the Ministry of Finance's public document register. Following its publication, Minister of Public Administration Solman contacted ERR and requested assistance in correcting the news.

"We checked in-house and found no signature from me on this coordinated response. So I cannot figure in the news as it stands. Annely Akkermann signed the document, but I did not. How this letter of agreement even got off the ground without my signature is baffling," Solman said.

ERR called the minister's attention to the fact that the letter from the Ministry of Finance reads," Riina Solman, minister of public administration (digitally signed)," in black and white.

"How the document got out of the house in this form is under investigation," Solman responded. "The letter of agreement sits neatly in my letter box, unsigned. I can also send you a copy of it to you. Our official confirmed that I am not seeing ghosts, so to speak, and that I did not sign that document."

Afterwards, the head of the ministry's communications division, Elina Kink, said that the document sent out had not been approved by the minister of public administration and that the letter should not have been released in its current form.

"We apologize to Riina Solman, minister of public administration, and others involved, and will be investigating how this could have happened. It was most likely a technical error," Kink said, adding that the document had been removed from the register and would be restored once the necessary approvals and signatures were obtained.

ERR included an extract of the signatures as well as the entire document in their update.

This article has been updated to include comments from Riina Solman (Isamaa) and ERR's response.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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