Estonia International Trade in Legal Services

Estonia International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

The Bar Association Act March 21 2001

Under what title do lawyers practise?

 Vandeadvokaat translated as "sworn advocate"

How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?




In order to become a sworn advocate in Estonia, an individual must comply with all the requirements specified in the Act and have passed the attorney’s examination in order to become a member of the Bar (Chapter 3, article 22, (2)). Requirements for attorneys are laid down in article 23 of the Act: 1) Oral and written proficiency in Estonian; 2)  At least two years practice experience as an assistant of a sworn advocate, or one year's experience as a senior assistant of a sworn advocate. On admission, sworn advocates must take an oath. The internal rules of the Estonian Bar Association provide that there is no need for renewal of registration.



Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

There is a single national licence to practise in Estonia.



Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?











Chapter 3, section 22 (3) of the Bar Association Act prescribes that “In Estonia, only members of the Estonian Bar Association may provide legal services as attorneys, unless otherwise provided in this Act”. Legal services are defined in the Act (Chapter 4, section 40, (1)) as: “providing legal counselling, representing or defending a person in court or in pre-trial proceedings or elsewhere, preparing a document for a person or performing other legal acts in the interests of a person as professional activity”.  In addition, Chapter 4, section 40, (3) mentions that “legal service[s] cannot be provided by persons, who are not members of the Bar Association, except the patent attorneys under [certain] conditions (…)”. Section 41 mentions that: “(1) A sworn advocate is competent to: 1) represent and defend a client in court, in pre-trial proceedings and elsewhere in Estonia and in foreign states; 2) collect evidence; 3) in the provision of legal services, freely choose and use the means and methods which are in conformity with law; 4) receive information necessary for provision of legal services from state and local government agencies, have access to documents, receive copies of and extracts from such documents, unless the receipt of the information or documents by the attorney is prohibited by law; 4(1) process the personal data of a person other than the client obtained under a contract or law, among others delicate personal data without consent of those persons, if that is necessary to provide the legal service 5) in the framework of provision of legal services to a client, to verify for the client transcripts of and signatures on documents to be submitted to the court and other state offices; 6) act as an arbitrator or conciliator under the procedure specified in the Conciliation Act; 7) act as a trustee in bankruptcy, if he or she is member of the Chamber.


Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?

Local nationality is not a requirement. But according to Paragraph 23 (2) of the Act, to be admitted to the Bar Association a person must reside in Estonia or be a citizen of the Republic of Estonia or of a Member State of the European Union. However, having oral and written proficiency in Estonian is also required.

What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)

Chapter 4  paragraph 49 of the Act permits sworn advocates to provide their services through a law office  which may be a company of advocates or a single advocate operating as a sole proprietor. Sworn advocates and law firms may have one or more law offices.  Individual sworn advocates may enter into association contracts in order to operate secondary law offices and  law firms may operate as a general partnership, limited partnership, private limited company or public limited company. An advocate may be a shareholder of only one company of attorneys.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

Additional requirements for lawyers are found in the Internal rules of the Bar Association.

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

§ 50 (3) of the Bar Association Act provides that the provisions of law concerning a particular type of company apply to a company of attorneys unless otherwise provided by law.  Law firms are not required to obtain a specific law firm licence but must comply with the same requirements as other companies.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

The Estonian Bar Association licenses  individual lawyers. There is no separate licensing process for law firms. 



Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

Only EEA lawyers are entitled to provide legal services on a temporary basis.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?

Estonia is one of the 25 countries in Europe that has signed the Schengen agreement. This allows a non-EEA national to obtain a visa to enter one or more of the Schengen countries for business or tourism purposes on a single visit of up to 90 days, or to make multiple entries to the Schengen area on any number of occasions over a 180 day period, provided none of these is for longer than 90 days.  A number of non-EEA countries are exempt from visa requirements.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

There are two ways for foreign lawyers to practise in Estonia. They can practise as associate members (see Chapter 5 of the Act) or as attorney of a foreign state (See chapter 6 of the Act). In both cases, foreign lawyers must be nationals of an EU member state.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

An EEA lawyer (associate member) must register with the Bar, use his or her home professional title when practising, comply with the Estonian Bar code of conduct and maintain adequate professional indemnity insurance

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

A foreign lawyer (associate member) must hold EEA nationality and qualification.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation? Nothing in legislation prohibits foreign lawyers from undertaking arbitration in Estonia.
Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

An associate (EEA lawyer) member has the right to represent or defend a client in court only together with an Estonian lawyer.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?



The Bar Association Act provides for associate members of the Bar Association (see § 73 of the Bar Association Act: Granting the professional title of an attorney-at-law to an associate member). This states that (1) If the associate member has practised Estonian law on a permanent basis for at least three years in Estonia, he or she has the right to a professional title of an attorney-at-law; (2) If an associated member has practised in Estonia on a permanent basis for at least three years but has practised Estonian law for less than three years, he or she may be granted a professional title of an attorney-at-law subject to consideration of the nature of his or her professional activities, knowledge and experience of Estonian law and his or her individual development activities. The Board of the Bar Association is responsible for receiving applications and granting titles.


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

A foreign law firm must have shareholders who are European lawyers.

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

A foreign (EEA) law firm establishing in Estonia must register with the commercial register (depending on form of business) and with the VAT and other authorities.
Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)


Is there a quota on the number of licences available?


Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have?


Are there "scope of practice" rules that apply directly to foreign law firms (as opposed to lawyers themselves)? (e.g. home, host, international law), if so, what are they? There are no scope of practice rules that apply to firms as opposed to individual lawyers.
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? § 49 (6) of the Estonian Bar Act states that branches or equivalent of foreign law firms are not permitted. A separate law firm must therefore be established in Estonia.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? The general provision on business names of companies of attorneys or pf an attorney operating as a sole proprietor mentions that they shall contain the words “law office” or “attorney” (§ 52 of the Act).
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL The Estonian Bar Association licenses  individual lawyers. There is no separate licensing process for law firms.


Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?

There are no restrictions on the ownership share of EEA lawyers in an Estonian law firm.

May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

An Estonian lawyer may be employed by an EEA lawyer or law firm.

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?

An Estonian lawyer may enter into partnership with an EEA lawyer.

Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?

An Estonian lawyer may employ an EEA lawyer



Other useful sources or comments or links


 Estonian Bar: for translation of acts and other texts in English