Is initial training offered, if yes is it compulsory?
The initial training is not compulsory to become a Sworn Advocate, however, it is possible to undergo initial training as an apprentice, i.e., as an Assistant to Sworn Advocate. Assistants to Sworn Advocates have more rights and obligations (almost same rights as sworn advocates with certain exceptions and limitations) than ordinary lawyers and they are considered as a part of the Latvian Bar Association.
Does initial training differentiate between categories of trainees, e.g. for in-house lawyers and advocates?
In-house lawyers cannot undergo the initial training, as assistants to sworn advocates have to train under supervision of sworn advocates and practice independently (e.g., in law firms). An in-house lawyer is economically dependent on their employer and not their patron (the sworn attorney appointed to supervise the assistant to sworn attorney). Assistants to sworn advocates can work as in-house lawyers, but to do so they have to suspend their activities as an assistant to sworn advocates and such employment would not be considered as initial training.
Which entities are responsible for organising initial training?
In general, and according to Article 104 of the Advocacy Law of the Republic of Latvia, the direct supervision of the activities of an assistant to a sworn advocate shall be performed by a patron whose instructions shall be binding to the assistant.
However, the Professional Preparedness, Activity Supervision and Examination Commission of Assistants of Sworn Advocates also organise and supervise the initial training of Assistants of Sworn Advocates – the commission organises compulsory seminars, organises two compulsory exams (not to be confused with the Sworn Advocate examination), as well as review practical tasks carried out by the Assistants of Sworn Advocates.
In addition to that, one of the tasks of the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates is to manage the training of Assistants to Sworn Advocates.
What is the statutory basis for initial training?
- Advocacy Law of the Republic of Latvia (available in Latvian);
- Articles of Association of the Latvian Collegium of Sworn Advocates (available in Latvian);
- The Code of Ethics of the Latvian Sworn Advocates (available in Latvian);
- Operating rules of Assistants of Sworn Advocates (available in Latvian);
- Rules and training program for the training and examinations of Assistants to Sworn Advocates (available in Latvian).
Access to the initial training
Are there conditions for accessing the training?
To access the initial training of an assistant, they must comply with the obligations set out in Article 83 of Advocacy law of the Republic of Latvia, namely:
- comply with the requirements set out by the law (e.g., age, qualification, etc.);
- have indicated which of the Sworn Advocates has agreed to be their patron ( the person who has undertaken to guide, teach, employ and supervise the assistant);
- have successfully passed the admittance examination of an Assistant to a Sworn Advocate.
What is the main recruitment procedure? If it is competitive - who runs it?
The applicant must follow the obligations stipulated in Article 89 of Advocacy law of the Republic of Latvia. The Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates decides whether the the applicant is added to the number of assistants to sworn advocates.
Are there alternative access routes to the training?
A person seeking alternative routes to practicing as an advocate in Latvia must:
- have a record of at least 5 years of service in the legal profession; after this stage, they have to pass the Advocates Qualification Examination; or
- undergo induction period training of at least 2 years as an apprentice (as an advocate's assistant). After this stage, they can take the Advocates Qualification Examination; or
- have a record of at least 7 years of working as a judge or hold a degree of doctor or doctor habilis in social sciences (law), or has worked as member of academic personnel in a Law Department at an institution of higher education or in any other position with juridical specialisation, then he/she does not have to pass the qualification examination in order to practice as an advocate.)
Format and content of the initial training
What is the duration and time frames of the training?
In general, an Assistant to Sworn Advocate has to carry out the initial training for at least 5 years. In addition to that, there are different obligations stipulated in Advocacy law and regulations/decisions of the Council of Sworn Advocates:
- during all years – attend monthly seminar (1,5 hour);
- during 1st year – contribute to work of the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates;
- after the 1st year – take the first exam;
- during 2nd year and after successfully passing the first exam – practice a certain amount of criminal, administrative and civil cases with authorisation of their patron;
- during 2nd year - publish an article on a legal issue or contribute to work of the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates;
- after the 2nd year – take the second exam;
- after 2nd year and after successfully passing the second exam – practice a certain amount of criminal, administrative and civil cases independently;
- take the Sworn Advocate exam after the 5th year.
How is the training organised?
It is done in two ways: seminars, exams and practical work bt the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates is organised centrally by the Professional Preparedness, Activity Supervision and Examination Commission of Assistants of Sworn Advocates. While the practicing of cases is decentralised, under the supervision of a patron.
Who are the trainers?
Patrons - a sworn advocate who has practiced as a Sworn Advocate for at least seven years and is capable of guiding, employing and supervising the assistant. The Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates shall make a case-by-case judgement regarding this.
The Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates is organised centrally by the Professional Preparedness, Activity Supervision and Examination Commission of Assistants of Sworn Advocates. The Commission has 12 members – sworn advocates, one of whom performs the duties of the Chairman of the Commission and one the duties of the Vice Chairman of the Commission. Chairman of the Commission, Vice Chairman of the Commission and Members of the Commission are appointed by the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates for 3 years.
What is the content and objectives of the initial training?
The objective is to learn all the topics which are covered in the examination in order to become a Sworn Advocate.
Who designs the initial training programmes?
The Professional Preparedness, Activity Supervision and Examination Commission of Assistants to Sworn Advocates develops and approves the questions and procedures for the entrance examination for an Assistant to Sworn Advocate, as well as accepts this examination.
What methodology is used for the training?
What practical elements of the training are applicable to the trainees?
The Assistant shall, on their own initiative, become involved in the work of the institutions of the Latvian Bar Association and perform tasks on behalf of the head of the relevant institution or a responsible employee;
Later on, the assistant must:
- Attend as a listener in at least two criminal proceedings;
- Provide defense in at least two pre-trial criminal proceedings and in at least two criminal courts;
- gain sufficient experience in civil cases and in cases arising from administrative proceedings.
How are trainees evaluated/assessed? How often and by whom?
Refer to section 3.1.
Are there any training activities carried out in conjunction with other legal professionals? If yes: How does it work?
No, the initial training is only for Assistants to Sworn Advocates and concerns only the Sworn Advocate profession.
What are the specificities regarding EU law training, linguistic training and European components of initial training, for example participation in CCBE or ELF activities?
Linguistic training: no.
EU law: There might be reference to EU law when certain topics are presented.
How many trainees are accepted for training? Are the numbers of trainees adjusted annually and by who?
There is no limit on trainees accepted, as it depends on the number of applications submitted and approved, as well as the persons passing the admittance examination.
Termination of the initial training and qualification process
Does the initial training conclude with a final exam? How is it organised? Who is responsible for the exam?
Yes, the initial training concludes with the Sworn Advocate examination organised by the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates.
Is there a further recruitment procedure to become a lawyer upon completion of the initial training?
There is no further recruitment procedure to become a Sworn Advocate except for passing the exam and receiving a positive decision from the Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates. After completing the initial training and passing the examination, the Sworn Advocate must undergo continuous training of at least 16 academic hours per year to raise qualification.
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