Code of Conduct

CODE OF CONDUCT OF THE ESTONIAN BAR ASSOCIATION

Adopted on 8 April 1999 by the General Assembly of the Estonian Bar Association
Amended on 05.05.2005 by the General Assembly of the Estonian Bar Association
Amended on 13.03.2007 by the General Assembly of the Estonian Bar Association
Amended on 21.02.2008 by the General Assembly of the Estonian Bar Association
Amended on 01.03.2013 by the General Assembly of the Estonian Bar Association

Chapter I
General Provisions

§ 1. Field of Application

The Code of Conduct consolidates attorneys’ rules of professional conduct and good practice. (05.05.2005)

§ 2. Respect for the Rules of Professional Conduct

(1) The legal profession binds attorneys to respect the rules of professional conduct.
(2) Respect for the rules is ensured by the awareness of each and every attorney of the obligations inherent to the profession as well as by public opinion prevalent at the Bar.
(3) If the attorney hesitates over a choice of mode of conduct, he shall seek advice from a senior colleague in order to prevent a breach of the rules of professional conduct.
(4) Breach of any of the rules of professional conduct specified in this Code of Conduct may result in the institution of proceedings in the Court of Honour and in a disciplinary sanction being taken against the attorney.

§ 3. Interpretation of the Rules of Professional Conduct

(1) The rules of professional conduct shall be interpreted on the basis of legislation, decisions of the General Assembly and Board of the Estonian Bar Association, judgments of the Court of Honour, recommendations of the Ethics and Methodology Committee, the practice established in the Estonian Bar Association, the opinions of senior colleagues, and the attorney’s conscience. (05.05.2005)
(2) (Repealed 05.05.2005)

Chapter II
General Principles

§ 4. Independence of an attorney

(1) When rendering legal services, an attorney shall observe law, legal acts and decisions of the Bar authorities, rules of professional conduct, as well as good practice and his conscience.
(2) When rendering legal services, an attorney may not submit to the pressure of public opinion, public or local authorities or public office or officers, nor to any other direct or indirect influence, which may affect the attorneys` independence in his professional activity.
(3) An attorney may belong to a political party and non-profit organisations or the governing bodies thereof, but they may not be guided from political, religious, philosophical or other views and beliefs of their membership in political parties when providing legal assistance. (05.05.2005)

(4) An attorney may not be engaged in a sphere which contravenes the rules of professional conduct of attorneys or the principles of independence or which is inappropriate to the legal profession in any other manner.
(5) An attorney shall choose, within the power and authority given by the client, the best lawful measures and means to protect the interests of the client.
(6) An attorney may not be identified with the client or the client’s case as a result of performing the client’s assignments.

§ 5. Confidentiality

(1) The relationship between the attorney and his client is founded upon trust. Therefore, all information given or received by him in the course of rendering legal services, is confidential.
(2) An attorney shall maintain the confidentiality of any information that they have received in relation to providing legal assistance as well as the source of such information unless legislation explicitly provides the obligation to disclose such information or the authorisation or assignments provided by the client set out the client’s approval for the disclosure of the information. (05.05.2005)

(3) The confidentiality requirement shall also extend to include the fact of seeking legal assistance from the advocate, as well as to the content of such legal assistance and to the fees. Disclosure of the amount of a fee charged by the advocate to court for judging the payment of legal fees shall not be deemed a violation of the confidentiality obligation.
(4) An attorney shall ensure that no third person had access to his client’s documents, correspondence or other information, or to any documents drafted by the advocate in the course of rendering legal services to the client, which are in his possession in connection with handling the client’s matter.
(5) An attorney may not give an account of or testify as a witness about the facts which have become known to him in the course of rendering services to his client.
(6) An attorney may not submit documents or other data media related to their professional activities to any third parties, including authorities to whom the respective documents and data media are not addressed, unless legislation explicitly provides the obligation for the submission of such data media or the authorisation or assignments provided by the client set out the client’s approval for the submission of such data media. Submitting the abovementioned documents and data media and disclosing the data contained therein to the Board upon the latter’s exercising supervision or the Court of Honour conducting disciplinary proceedings with regard to an attorney shall not constitute a violation of the confidentiality obligation. (05.05.2005)

(7) The confidentiality obligation shall not be limited in terms of time. An attorney shall continue to comply with the confidentiality obligation after concluding their professional activities. Any violation of the confidentiality obligation cannot be justified by public interest or the fact that it would allow better protecting the interests of the client. (05.05.2005)
(8) Only the client or their legal successor can release an attorney from the confidentiality obligation by providing a written approval. (05.05.2005)

§ 6. Personal Publicity

(1) Law office may provide publicly available information concerning its activities, including information about the business name, areas of activity, location and office hours of the law office, as well as the names, previous professional activities, areas of activities and academic degrees of attorneys operating in the law office, and the price list of the legal services. (13.03.2007)
(2) Commercial notification of the activities of an attorney and a law office shall take place in compliance with the rules of professional conduct, including the independence of the attorney, obligation of confidentiality, and principles of dignity and collegiality.(05.05.2005)

§ 7. Unfair Competition

(1) An attorney may not prospect for clients in an unfair way by inducing a client of another advocate to change his advocate, or for the same purpose disparage his colleagues or other law offices or the legal services rendered by them.
(2) An attorney may take over a client in the case which has been earlier handled by another advocate only after he has notified the other advocate of such take over. The advocate will be released from the obligation of notifying the other advocate of a client take-over if such notification may harm the interests of the client.
(3) Should an attorney accept the assignment of representing or protecting a person for whose representation or protection another attorney has been assigned by means of state legal aid and the attorney is aware of that, they shall immediately notify the attorney assigned for providing state legal aid thereof. (21.02.2008)
(4) When communicating with a client or a person seeking legal assistance, the advocate may not make disparaging evaluations or comparisons of other law offices and advocates.
(5) An attorney may not make any assertions which disparage his colleagues or which question their expertise.
(6) (Repealed - 13.03.2007)

§ 8. The Client’s Interests

(1) An attorney must always act in the best interest of his clients and must put those interests before his own interests or those of third parties, including the interests of fellow members of the legal profession. Subject to due observance of all rules of law and professional conduct, the advocate shall use all means and methods for the benefit of his client such that the personal honour, honesty and integrity of the advocate are beyond doubt.
(2) When performing a client’s assignment, an attorney shall use the manners and methods in compliance with legislation that best help protect the interests of the client. An attorney shall thereat be guided by legislation, their knowledge and skills, and their conscience. An attorney shall also take into consideration the wishes of the client when choosing their manners or methods of protection or representation if the aforesaid are not in contradiction with legislation, the rules of professional conduct or the interests of the client. If the client has restricted the rights of an attorney to use certain methods of protection or representation in the contract of legal assistance, such restrictions shall be mandatory for the attorney. (05.05.2005)
(3) An attorney may carry out only such instructions of the client which do not contravene the law or harm the advocate’s personal honour, honesty and dignity. If a client’s wishes are contrary to the actual interests of the client, law or to the personal honesty, honour or integrity of the advocate, the advocate shall explain to the client his position and all possible consequences of the client’s demands which are unreasonable or inconsistent with law. If the client refuses to desist from making demands, the advocate shall have the right to terminate the contract for legal assistance with the client.

§ 9. Personal Honour, Honesty and Dignity of an attorney

(1) An attorney shall communicate with his clients, court, colleagues and the public honestly and conscientiously in a way consistent with good professional practice and the rules of professional conduct. An attorney must avoid behaviour which may compromise or damage the reputation of legal profession or the Bar.
(2) The provisions of paragraph 1 shall apply also to the conduct of an attorney beyond his professional activities.

Chapter III
Relations in Law Office

§ 10. Supervision Over the Observance of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

(1) Supervision over compliance with the rules of professional conduct shall be exercised by the manager of the law office. (05.05.2005)
(2) A patron attorney shall observe that the clerk attorneys under their instruction comply with the rules of professional conduct. (01.03.2013)

§ 11. Confidentiality in the Law Office

(1) Compliance with confidentiality requirements in the law office shall be ensured by the manager of the law office. (05.05.2005)
(2) The manager of the law office shall organise the preservation of confidential documents and other data media related to the professional activities of attorneys such that they shall not be accessed by any third parties. Data media received upon the provision of legal services may not be given to any third parties. (05.05.2005)
(3) The manager of the law office shall ensure that the forms and printed matter or other documents of an attorney or the law office and the insignia of the law office are not used by any third parties. (05.05.2005)

Chapter IV
Relations With Clients

§ 12. Acceptance of assignment

(1) An attorney shall have the right to decide on the acceptance of the assignment from a person seeking legal assistance.
(2) (Repealed – 05.05.2005)
(3) An attorney shall not accept an assignment if it is apparent that legal advice is sought for the protection of interests which are contrary to law or if the client’s claim is not based on law or if there is no procedural way to protect the interests of the client.
(4) An attorney shall not accept an assignment unless he can discharge those instructions promptly having regard to the pressure of other work, nor handle a matter which he knows he is not competent to handle in the best interests of the client.
(5) If so requested by a person seeking legal advice, the attorney shall inform the person of the grounds for his refusal to accept an assignment.
(6) An attorney shall be deemed to have accepted an assignment if a relevant contract of legal assistance has been effected in compliance with the law.

§ 13. Conflict of Interest

(1) An attorney may not advise, represent or act on behalf of two or more clients in the same matter if there is a conflict between the interests of those clients. An attorney shall not provide legal services to a client if there exist circumstances that affect or may affect the attorney’s ability to observe the requirements set out in Article 8 (1) of this Code and act only in the interests of the client (conflict of interest), unless the attorney has notified his client of such circumstances and the client does not desist from demanding provision of legal services by the attorney. (05.05.2005)

(2) An attorney shall not accept an assignment from a person seeking legal advice if a conflict of interest arises. An attorney shall terminate the contract if the circumstances arise that would have excluded the acceptance of assignment on the basis described in the paragraph above. (05.05.2005)
(3) An attorney may render legal services to several persons in the same matter, provided that there is no conflict of interest. Among other things there is no conflict of interest when all clients agree and require that the attorney shall render legal services to other clients in the same matter. Should there arise any dispute in that matter later on, the attorney shall not render legal services to any of the aforesaid clients. (05.05.2005)

§ 14. Rendering Legal Services

(1) When accepting or refusing an assignment, or discharging or refusing to discharge an assignment, the attorney shall treat fairly and equally all persons regardless of their citizenship, nationality, race, skin colour, sex, language, origin, religion, political or other convictions, as well as of their financial or social status or other similar factors.
(2) Legal services rendered by the attorney must be professional and based on the investigation of underlying circumstances, evidence, legal acts and court practice. The premise of professional advice is constant advancement by an attorney of his professional knowledge and skills. The attorney may not employ any means or measures which are inconsistent with law to protect the interests of his clients.
(21) An attorney shall explain to the client the opportunities and prerequisites for reaching the solution expected by the client. The client will decide on the commencement of proceedings. (05.05.2005)
(3) An attorney shall fulfil the assignment of his client within a reasonable time period or by the deadline designated in the contract of legal assistance, and shall save the client from any groundless costs and expenses.
(4) An attorney shall keep his client informed as to the progress of the matter entrusted to him and respond to the inquiries of the client when due and as appropriate and, if possible, in the language of inquiry.
(5) An attorney has no obligation to check the truth and correctness of the information entrusted to him by the client. An attorney is not responsible for the authenticity of the data supplied to him by his client.
(6) The manager of the law office shall ensure that the money, securities and other assets trusted to the attorney or received on behalf of the client in performance of the assignment, shall be kept separately from the assets of the law office or attorneys and it shall be subject to separate accounting. (05.05.2005)

§ 15. Contract of Legal Assistance

An attorney shall fulfil the assignment given by the client with due care and accuracy according to the contract of legal assistance made with the client. The assignment which has not been covered by the contract of legal assistance and have been given by the client to the attorney or which are necessary to protect the interests of the client, may be fulfilled by the attorney by the agreement with the client or the attorney may refuse to fulfil any such assignments.

§ 16. Documents of Client`s Assignment

(1) The materials supplied by the client shall include documents furnished by the client to the attorney in the course of handling the matter, correspondence and legal documents drafted by the attorney on the instruction of the client. An attorney shall keep separate records of his clients’ materials and ensure their preservation and confidentiality. (05.05.2005)
(2) The information recorded by the attorney for his personal purposes shall not be deemed to be a part of the matter, to which, however, the obligation of confidentiality shall apply.
(3) The original copies of the documents supplied to the attorney shall be returned to the client on the request of the latter following the fulfilment of the assignment as well as following the termination of the contract of legal assistance or refusal to fulfil the assignment provided that such documents are not kept on a court file.
(4) An attorney is entitled to withhold the documents supplied by the client or drafted by the attorney on the instruction of the client, if the client has failed to pay for legal services rendered to him. (05.05.2005)

§ 17. Retaining Fees

(1) The amount and form of the fee charged by the attorney(retaining fee) shall be determined by the agreement with the client and shall be specified in the contract of legal assistance.
(2) If the client fails to pay the retaining fee on the terms and conditions agreed upon, the attorney shall be entitled to refuse to render legal services to that client and terminate the contract of legal assistance.
(3) An attorney may render pro bono legal services.
(4) If a person may be entitled to state legal aid, an attorney must provide notice thereof where possible. (05.05.2005; 21.02.2008)
(5) Where the state has paid for the legal assistance, the attorney shall not be justified in charging any retaining or other fees as compensation for any of his costs or expenses from the client.

§ 18. Termination of Legal Services

(1) An attorney shall cease to discharge the instructions specified in a contract for legal assistance and terminate the contract if the client:
1. submits falsified evidence and the attorney is aware of such falsification;
2. notwithstanding the attorney`s explanations, the client demands the attorney to use means or methods which are inconsistent with law to protect the interests of the client;
3. demands the attorney act in a manner which is inconsistent with the honour and dignity of the attorney or with the rules of professional conduct.
(2) An attorney may cease to discharge the instructions under the contract for legal assistance or terminate the contract on his own initiative, if:
1. a conflict of interest specified in Article 13 above arises;
2. the client fails to discharge or is in material breach of any provision of the contract for legal assistance;
3. the client acts contrary to the advocate’s instruction or expresses his loss of confidence in the attorney in any other explicit manner;
4. the client gives the attorney instructions which harm the interests of the client or are clearly useless for the discharge of the instruction and, despite the attorney`s explanations, the client does not desist from demanding the discharge of such instructions.
(3) (Repealed 21.02.2008)
(4) Termination of legal assistance shall not deprive the attorney of the right to charge a fee for legal assistance rendered.

§ 19. Relations with Clients in Criminal Proceedings

(1) An attorney may not withdraw from any agreed or court-assigned obligation to protect the suspect or the accused.
(2) The obligation described in paragraph 1 above shall apply within the limits of proceedings which obligation has been negotiated under a contract for legal assistance or has been assigned to the attorney by the court. The instruction to represent a client in the court of first or second instance shall also extend to include the obligation of the advocate to contest a judgement or decision if the client so requires and the legal grounds exist.
(3) If the client denies the accusations made against him the position of the client shall be binding upon the advocate. The advocate shall not be bound by the position of his client when rendering a legal opinion on the accusations made against his client, however, he shall inform the client about the defence position.
(4) When protecting a client whose interests contravene the interests of any other party in the same criminal proceedings the advocate shall avoid making unfounded accusations against such party without prejudice to the interests of his client.

Chapter V
Relations With the Courts

§ 20. Communication With the Courts

(1) An attorney shall show due respect and courtesy towards the court both in his speech, writing and demeanour. An attorney shall avoid inappropriate criticism of the courts’ activities or decisions. An attorney shall not criticise the activities of the courts or effective judgements in the media or in public. The expression of an opinion on the theoretical position and reasoning contained in a judgement shall not be deemed criticism.
(2) An attorney shall notify the court when due of an out-of-court settlement, as well as of the circumstances which may bring about the postponement of legal proceedings.
(3) An attorney shall not influence the judge in any extrajudicial manner.

§ 21. Protection of the Client’s Interests in Legal Proceedings

(1) An attorney shall not provide evidence or make assertions which harm the interests of his client.
(2) An attorney shall never knowingly give false or misleading information to the court, or impede in any other wilful manner due and speedy review of a case.
(3) An attorney shall not make assertions which refer to any racial, religious, nationalistic or sexual bias.

§ 22. Communication With the Parties and Witnesses

(1) An attorney shall show due respect and courtesy towards the opposing party and other parties to the proceeding both in his speech, writing and demeanour. An attorney shall not disparage the parties to the legal proceedings.
(2) An attorney shall never knowingly give false or misleading information to the parties to the legal proceedings.
(3) An attorney shall not in any extrajudicial manner influence the witnesses or exert pressure on other parties to the legal proceedings, nor wilfully mislead them or take unfair advantage of his rights of procedure.

§ 23. Communication with other Institutions and Persons

The rules governing the attorneys` relations with the courts apply also to his/hers communication with court of arbitration and with any other institution and person.

Chapter VI
Relations Between Attorneys

§ 24. Relations Between Colleagues

(1) The relations between an attorney and his colleagues are based on mutual respect and trust. An attorney shall treat his colleagues in benevolent, fair, courteous and correct manner and shall be prepared to provide assistance and cooperate with them. Observance of these requirements may not affect the interests of client. (05.05.2005)
(2) Any personal dispute of a professional nature between attorneys should, if possible, be settled by way of negotiation. Failing agreement, the attorney may refer the dispute for settlement to the Board or to the Court of Honour.
(3) An attorney shall use legal remedies against his colleagues only in the cases where all other ways to settle the dispute have been exhausted.
(4) An attorney shall not settle the disputes between colleagues in the media or in public.
(5) When rendering legal assistance in a matter, where the opposing party is also advised by an attorney, the attorney shall in general communicate with the opposing party by mediation of or under informed consent of the attorney of the opposing party. If, in execution of the matter of the client, the attorney addresses directly to the opposing party, he will immediately inform the attorney of the opposing party thereof. (05.05.2005)

Chapter VII
Relations With the Public

§ 25. Relations With the Public And Media

(1) When communicating with the public, an attorney shall take into consideration the rules of professional conduct. (05.05.2005)

(2) An attorney may act in public or in the media only on his own behalf, except in the cases where he is justified or authorised to act on behalf of the Bar.

Chapter VIII
Implementation of Code

§ 26. Effective Date of the Code

The Code of Conduct of the Estonian Bar Association shall take effect as from 1st of June 1999.