Where to find legal aid
Legal aid is available from several representatives of independent professions (including notaries and bailiffs), law firms and advocate’s law offices and the state.
A notary is not a national official, but a holder of office in public law, an independent official acting with sole responsibility, to whom the state has delegated the duty of ensuring the security of performing public tasks within competence established pursuant to special laws. A notary shall be appointed to office for life. Pursuant to subsection 14 (1) of the Notaries Act, a notary shall be liable for damage arising from wrongful violation of his or her official duties. A notary as a public authority shall be liable on the bases and in the extent specified in the State Liability Act. Claims for the compensation of damage shall be heard in an action in county court.
In general terms, the notaries’ official duties include notarial certification, notarial authentication and conducting succession proceedings. Notarial acts are laid down in subsection 29 (3) of the Notaries Act. The primary notarial act is notarial authentication of transactions, e.g., agreements for the acquisition or transfer of a registered immovable; memoranda of association of companies; merger and division agreements; agreements for the transfer of a company’s own share and pledge contracts; powers of attorney, etc. In addition to notarial acts, notaries also provide notarial services, which are laid down in subsection 32 (3) of the Notaries Act, e.g. legal counselling, counselling in the field of taxation, conducting of auctions, conciliation, etc. The list of services provided by a specific notary is available on the website of the Chamber of Notaries.
A bailiff is also a member of the impartial liberal profession, who is not an entrepreneur or a national official. A bailiff levies the execution of enforcement instruments, including administrative acts (e.g., tax arrears, parking fines), court decisions subject to immediate execution, decisions enforced in committees (e.g., decisions of the labour dispute or traffic insurance committee), agreements (e.g., notarized agreements, in which the parties undertake, in the event of failure to perform the agreement, to be subject to immediate compulsory execution).
Among other things, bailiffs can give legal counsel as a professional service. Information about which bailiff provides this professional service is available in the menu item Contacts of Bailiffs on the website of the Estonian Chamber of Bailiffs and Trustees in Bankruptcy. In general, bailiffs provide legal counselling in the fields of insolvency and civil execution proceedings.
Law firms and advocate’s law offices
In more complicated legal matters, contact a law firm or an advocate’s law office. Many enterprises that are actively engaged in economic activity have concluded a contract for legal services with an advocate’s law office or a law firm or an advocate, who operates as a sole proprietor, which simplifies solving current legal matters. Before finding a suitable legal partner, it is advisable to pay attention to the areas in which the candidate specializes – most lawyers and advocates focus on specific topics and may not be up-to-date with the field of your interest. However, if your enterprise needs legal support on a daily basis, it is advisable to create an in-house lawyer position.
State legal aid
State legal aid means that the state initially pays the bill for a legal service. This does not mean the service is free of charge, but rather that a court may order you to pay a part of the costs for legal aid, or to repay the costs in part or in full after the dispute is resolved.
State legal aid is available for legal persons that are entered in the list of non-profit associations and foundations entitled to income tax incentives or that are insolvent and apply for state legal aid in the field of environmental or consumer protection, or there are other overriding public reasons for granting state legal aid.
State legal aid is granted:
- In criminal proceedings;
- In pre-trial proceedings in a criminal case and in court;
- In extrajudicial proceedings in a misdemeanour case and in court; In pre-litigation proceedings in a civil case and in court;
- In administrative court proceedings;
- In administrative proceedings;
- In enforcement proceedings;
- In judicial review proceedings in drawing up legal documents; other legal counselling or representing of a person.
Grounds for refusal to grant state legal aid are laid down in section 7 of the State Legal Aid Act. For example, state legal aid will not be granted if the applicant is able to protect their rights on their own, state legal aid is applied for in order to file a claim for non-pecuniary damages and there are no overriding public reasons in the case.
From the state, one can apply for:
- financial aid to pay for legal services;
- procedural aid to cover court costs;
- exemption from paying notary fees (section 40 of the Notary Fees Act).
To receive legal aid, a legal person shall submit a written application to the court, and annex thereto a memorandum of association or foundation resolution, a registered copy of the statutes, copy of the registry card, and the certified copy of the annual report for the previous financial year. Information about the state legal aid options is available on the website of the Estonian Bar Association. In addition, the Association of Lawyers provides free legal aid to persons with solvency problems.
What are the costs?
Legal costs depend on the severity of the problem and who you decide to address. For instance, the Estonian Competition Authority does not charge fees for answering inquiries. Notary fees for providing professional services agreed between the notary and the applicant for service before the provision of services in a written form that can be reproduced. If you have a contractual partner in legal matters, remuneration is based on an agreed hourly fee.