LexisNexis

Latvia International Trade in Legal Services

Latvia International Trade in Legal Services

HOME COUNTRY LICENSING QUESTIONS

Is there legislation governing the legal sector

The Law On the Bar of the Republic of Latvia April 27, 1993.

Under what title do lawyers practise?

 Zv?rvinats advokat translated “Sworn advocate”

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

 

 

According to Article 14 of the Act, in order to become a sworn advocate one must:be a citizen of the Republic of Latvia or another EU Member State; have a faultless reputation; have reached the age of 25; have acquired advanced legal education of law recognized by the state, and have received qualification of a lawyer; be fluent in the official state language; have acquired working experience in one of the following posts: a) judge; b) at least two years as a prosecutor, sworn law enforcement officer, the sworn notary; c) at least three years as the assistant of sworn advocate; d) at least three years as a lecturer on any of the subjects of law in the university; e) at least five years in any other position of juridical specialty;  and have passed the examination of sworn advocate. Doctors of law are not required to take the examination of sworn advocate. All sworn advocates must however take an oath (Article 46 of the Act).

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 no mention of sub-national limits for lawyers in the Act. However, Article 45 mentions that “upon admittance into the sworn advocates, the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates determines in which regional court these sworn advocates shall work and in which court district these sworn advocates shall practice”.

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

Chapter 1, Article 3 of the Law on the Bar describes the activities of advocates: “An advocate is independent and professional lawyer who provides legal assistance by defending and representing the lawful interests of the persons in court proceedings and preliminary investigation, gives legal advice, prepares legal documents and performs other legal actions”. Criminal cases may be handled by foreign lawyers admitted to practice in Latvia only jointly with an advocate of the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates.

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

Latvian nationality is required to be admitted as a sworn advocate. However foreign lawyers may practice in Latvia under their country of origin if they are citizens of EU Member States who have obtained the qualification of a lawyer in one of the EU Member States or if there is an international agreement on legal assistance binding between the Republic of Latvia and their home country (article 4 of the Act). To receive recognition that their professional qualifications are adequate for permanent activity in Latvia, a foreign lawyer must obtain certification of his or her knowledge of the Latvian language and Latvian laws and professional qualifications in order to have the same right to professional activity and duties as a sworn advocate of Latvia and to be admitted to provide legal services in Latvia (article 130 of the Act).

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

The only provisions on the legal form for lawyers is article 116 of the Act which states that “sworn advocates practise individually or also in cooperation only with other sworn advocates. Sworn advocates may create offices of sworn advocates, which are registered by the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates.” Article 117 states that “sworn advocates practice directly and personally” which implies that they may not be employed by another advocate.

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

The Code of advocate ethics published by the Latvian Collegium of Sworn Advocates.

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

There is no mention of licence for law firm in the Act. However, sworn advocates must inform the State Revenue Agency permanent address of their law office (article 109). According the Statutes of the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates, offices of sworn advocates are registered with the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates (rule 2.3.6).

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

The Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates is the competent authority for the registration of individual sworn advocates as well as their practising addresses.

   

INDIVIDUAL FOREIGN LAWYERS

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?

There is no mention of temporary practice in the Act as far as foreign lawyers are concerned. However lawyers from the EU, EFTA and Switzerland are covered by the provisions of the Lawyers Services Directive which permits fly in-fly out practice without any formal registration requirements.

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

Latvia 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?

Foreign advocates may practice in Latvia in accordance with Latvia’s international agreements on legal assistance and according to the requirements prescribed in those agreements (Article 4 of the Act).  Persons allowed to practise law in Latvia (i.e. advocates) are listed in Article 4 of the Act. They are: sworn advocates; assistants of sworn advocates; citizens of the member states of the European Union who have acquired the qualification of an advocate in any of the member states of the European Union. Foreign lawyers from outside the EU can practise in Latvia in accordance with international agreements.

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

A European lawyer must register with the Latvian bar, practise under his home title, comply with the Latvian code of conduct and must 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)

Foreign advocates may practice in Latvia in accordance with the international agreements on legal assistance binding to the Republic of Latvia and according to the requirements prescribed in those agreements. An EEA lawyer must hold EEA nationality and an EEA legal qualification.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation? Nothing in the Rules of Arbitration of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry forbids foreign lawyers from undertaking arbitration. Mediation is still at an early stage of development in Latvia, there are no specific regulations or codes of conduct governing the activities of mediators.
Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

A lawyer from an EU Member State who practices under their home-country professional title is entitled to participate in court proceedings in criminal cases only together with an advocate of the Latvian Collegium of Sworn Advocates. Other nationals are not permitted to appear in court.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?

 

 

Foreign lawyers may practice in Latvia but they may not requalify as sworn advocates because there is a nationality requirement.  EU lawyers who have operated in Latvia under the professional title of their home country qualification for at least three years may be admitted on the basis of an application demonstrating evidence of their professional qualification and experience gained in Latvia. EU lawyers may also sit a qualifying examination organised by the Council of Sworn Advocates. Upon successful passing of the examination, the advocate shall be issued a professional qualification admission certificate (Article 133 of the Act).

FOREIGN LAW FIRMS

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

Law firms from EEA countries are permitted to establish commercial presence in Latvia. Article 126 of the Act mentions that:  “The advocates of the European Union member countries shall be entitled to form branches of advocates’ unions of their countries of residence in Latvia as well as use names of advocates’ unions of their countries of residence, if full-fledged advocates of the European Union member countries are joined into the advocates’ union of the country of residence.”

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 would need to register with the company register and complete the necessary tax and employment formalities.
Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)

No

Is there a quota on the number of licences available?

No

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

No

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? EEA law firms are subject to the same rules on corporate form as local law firms.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? The Establishment Directive (98/5/EC) makes it clear that EU law firms may use the name of their law firm they use in their home country. The host Member State may require that, in addition mention is made of the legal form of the grouping in the home Member State and/or of the names of any members of the grouping practising in the host Member State.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL Law firms from EEA jurisdictions must register with the Latvian Bar.
   

EMPLOYMENT AND PARTNERSHIP

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 a Latvian law firm.

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

Article 117 of the Law on the Bar states that “sworn advocates practice directly and personally”, implying that as advocates must be self-employed the condition of employment is not permitted.

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

Yes, Article 125 of the Act mentions that: “The advocates of the European Union member states practicing in Latvia under profession name of their country of residence shall be entitled to form a joint practice under the same conditions as sworn advocates of Latvia”.

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

The employment of lawyers is not allowed in Latvia. Articles 118 of the Law on the Bar states:  "On the basis of an employment contract, sworn advocates may employ technical, managing or advisory personnel for the activity of which the advocate shall be responsible and who shall be forbidden to be involved in providing legal assistance".

   

OTHER USEFUL LINKS/SOURCES

Other useful sources or comments or links

Latvian Bar  http://www.advokatura.lv/