Will lawyers get into citizens’ pockets even for certification of documents?
Citizens will pay a notary from hundreds to hundreds of thousands Euros for a service if parliament adopts the bill, in future, any certification of a document, despite the seal of a notary authorized, to have a stamp of a lawyer that they choose themselves. Notaries say that it is an intrusion into their profession, lawyers say they want an equal relationship with notaries. And the fact that these changes will get into citizens’ pockets does not concern anyone
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Lawyer services are independent services, but unlike notaries, to be a lawyer it is enough to ask for entry in the Directory of Macedonian Bar Association. For their work lawyers are not accountable to any state institution, but only to the bodies of the Bar Association. Notaries are obliged all their incomes and expenditures to report to the Ministry of Justice, while lawyers report their financial performance only to the Bar Association.
Government prepares amendments under which citizens will not be able to literally move without a lawyer during certification of documents, raising fears how it will affect citizens’ pockets. The details of the anticipated amendments are still far from the public eye. Neither involved parties are fully informed and many things are unclear, but one thing is certain-that the mandatory presence of a lawyer during the certification of documentation is planned to be introduced without leaving space for the citizens to decide themselves whether they need such service that will have to be paid too much. Proposed amendments to the Notary Law that were quickly launched in the public and the concerns about their implementation alarmed the International Union of Notaries based in Rome, which expressly pleaded against the announced legislative changes and for this issue they sent a letter to the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice.
“Inbox 7” consulted stakeholders in order to point out more details to the citizens about the amount of charges, but in the Notary Association and the Bar Association for now they do not have any specific information about the new draft – Notary Law, which caused reactions even though it has not been released by the Ministry of Justice yet. And not just because of the additional expenditures that will fall on citizens’ backs, but also the introduction of a novelty, which experts say, neither exists as a condition in the Macedonian legal system, nor citizens will benefit from it.
Pulejkova: Legislative changes will only bring confusion and problems
In future if citizens want to buy or sell an apartment, if they buy a car worth over 10,000 Euros, if they want to get a loan, to divide parents’ property or give it as a present, to certify the document before a notary they will necessarily have to hire a lawyer. This is the essence of the new amendments to be found in the draft Notary Law being prepared in the Ministry of Justice. The same applies to all payment orders and any objections to them. Obligatory presence of a lawyer during certification of documents before a notary will apply to all companies, but will not apply to leasing companies, banks, insurance companies and the Republic of Macedonia, when it occurs as a party to the proceedings.
“Something will be introduced that does not exist in our legal system, that is compulsory representation in undeniable procedure, given that in our legal system there is mandatory representation by a lawyer only in criminal proceedings and for the most serious crimes. Such amendments will only bring confusion and problems. It is infringement of the principle of citizens’ will to decide themselves whether to hire a lawyer”, says Zorica Pulejkova, president of the Notary Chamber of Macedonia.
They will get into citizens’ pockets
From the Notary Chamber for now they cannot say whether and how much the costs for certification of the documents will increase. From the Bar Association they say they still have no information whether the price of the services for certification of documents will increase.
“The same amount will need to be divided to notaries and lawyers. Everything would be paid at the notary, so half of the paid service would be given to the lawyer”, says for Inbox 7 Nikola Dodevski, President of the Bar Association, who is a lawyer of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
Minister of Justice, Adnan Jashari says it is early to talk about anything.
“So far it is only Government’s decision. A working group has been formed to analyze the decision and give its opinion. Then the Ministry will review the opinion of the group and after that a draft law can be prepared on amendments to the Notary Law”, says Jashari.
For notaries less money, for lawyers money without efforts
If Parliament adopts the bill on amendments to the Notary Law it will mean that in future either the parties will have to pay double more than now or notaries’ profit will have to be halved.
The eventual adoption of this law will further complicate relations between notaries and lawyers. This rivalry between the professions results from their position in the system with the question how much they are in an equal position in terms of pay and responsibilities? Namely, according to the Notary Law, notary services are independent, free public services which perform public authorities. However, notaries are elected and dismissed by the Minister of Justice. Despite this, lawyer services are independent services, but unlike notaries, to be a lawyer it is enough to ask for entry in the Directory of Macedonian Bar Association. For their work lawyers are not accountable to any state institution, but only to the bodies of the Bar Association. Another reason that widens the gap is the profit. Notaries are obliged all their incomes and expenditures to report to the Ministry of Justice, while lawyers report their financial performance only to the Bar Association. It is similar with insurance against damage. Notaries are required to ensure at least 50,000 Euros and lawyers 10,000 Euros unless they are associated in a law firm. For them insurance costs 50,000 Euros. What connects the two public services is that both lawyers and notaries must report the profit to the PRO and in case of any dispute, both may require justice before the Administrative Court.
And while notaries and lawyers lead a legal battle to better promote the interests of their profession, Minister Jashari conciliates.
“We will see if there is a conflict of jurisdiction between notaries and lawyers when the bill is put on the table”, says Jashari.
Protecting citizens or protecting their own interests
Dodevski says this idea for mandatory presence of a lawyer at notary is several years old and hopes for its successful implementation.
“We hope for recent realization of this idea to be transformed into a legal decision, lawyers obligatorily to participate in proceedings before notaries when it comes to two-sided legal cases. We are confident that we will get support from all, because it will be support not just for lawyers, not just the Bar Association, but for strengthening the rule of law”, Dodevski said at the celebration of 68 years of lawyer services in Macedonia.
For Inbox 7 he says that with this lawyers just want to be equal with notaries and claims that the only purpose of this bill is to protect the citizens.
“Notary public cannot both compile a legal act and verify it. Their job is only to put a seal and formalize this act. With the fact that a lawyer will compile such legal acts and put a seal, clients will get double protection”, says Dodevski.
President of the Notary Chamber, Pulejkova disagrees that the mandatory presence of lawyers during certification of documents will be to the benefit of citizens and companies.
“The Notary Chamber thinks that with such amendments citizens will not have some benefits, because even now if they want, they can hire a lawyer for all proceedings before the notary, but it should not be mandatory. If we exclude the famous cases “Bacilo” and “Fikom” that occurred at the beginning of the work of notaries, they proved with their work that they provide a high degree of legal certainty, especially in the turnover of property where fraud is minimized as a result of close cooperation of notaries and the Agency for Real Estate Cadastre, says Pulejkova.
Minister Jashari conciliates again and says that with the preparation of the amendments we will know if there is a conflict of competences between notaries and lawyers.
Who will pay the damage to citizens?
In this legal battle between lawyers and notaries, Pulejkova asks how responsibilities will be shared. Whether in cases when a citizen or company have suffered a damage responsibility will be shared mutually by notaries and lawyers as the prize or only the notary will bear responsibility and the money will be divided in half.
“Many controversial moments will occur with these changes in terms of responsibility for legal work, compensation for damages, obligation to report suspicions of money laundering, as notaries must necessarily be insured, but lawyers not”, says Pulejkova.
According to the Notary Law, before the commencement of work a notary shall get insured against liability for damage that may be caused to third parties in the performance of notary service. Minimum insurance amounts to 50,000 Euros.
Dodevski claims the opposite, saying that the rules for insurance and liability are the same for both notaries and lawyers.
“There is nothing controversial in determining the responsibility of lawyers. If damage is caused, then parties have the right to sue the lawyer”, says Dodevski.
Under the Law on Lawyers, a lawyer is obliged to get insured against liability of damage that he may cause to others with the intent when performing lawyer activities. Minimum amount of insurance is €10,000 for individual lawyers and 50,000 Euros if two or more lawyers are associated in a law firm. Neither in the Notary Law, nor in the Law on Lawyers there are specific rules set out how the responsibility of the notary or lawyer is established if, with their work, they cause harm to citizens or businesses, nor how damages will be paid if it is determined.
Editor: Stojanka Mitreska