Why Use the Help of a Lawyer When Filing a Claim?

Can I represent myself when filing a claim?

It is possible to represent oneself when filing a claim in civil procedure, with the exception of the Supreme Court. Filing a lawsuit is therefore a matter where you can represent yourself and also prepare documents for the court yourself. If you do that, however, you must honestly assess your own competence. You may know the circumstances of the case and may be familiar with, for example, the rules on compensation, but do you also have a good understanding of the rules of court proceedings? If you lack this knowledge, it is wise to seek legal assistance from a law firm. Check out Lepmets & Nõges lawyers here.

What do you need to know about civil court proceedings?

Civil proceedings are competitive. This means that although the judge directs the proceedings and informs the parties of their primary rights and obligations, it is ultimately the circumstances and motions that the person has presented and filed to the court that determine the outcome of the claim. The court is not required, and usually does not have the right, to independently identify the circumstances and gather evidence. The court will not tell you which circumstances to describe in more detail or which to leave out entirely, nor which evidence is suitable for proving the circumstances. The court will not help you use all your rights.

For example, did you know that if the claim made against you has expired, you may use the corresponding objection? However, you must clearly state this to the court yourself, even if the court can see from the date of the contract that the claim is clearly expired. The court not only cannot use the objection of expiration on your behalf, but based on the principle of equality of the disputing parties, the court is not even allowed to do so or draw your attention to it. The same applies if an unreasonably large penalty clause is included in the contract. The court has the right to reduce it, but it will only do so at your request if you explain to the court that the penalty is too large and ask for it to be reduced.

What to consider when filing a lawsuit?

In addition to legal argumentation, it is important to also think about practical circumstances when filing a lawsuit, such as whether the satisfaction of the claims will have consequences in real life or only on paper. Even a straightforward lawsuit can take at least three months from the time it is filed in the county court until the judgment becomes final, not to mention a more complex situation or if either party appeals the decision. In this case, it may turn out that after a legal battle lasting several years the benefits gained have been lost in the meantime: the defendant has lost ownership, cut down the forest, emptied the company's assets, moved to America, etc. The court has the power to prevent such a risk from materializing by granting interim relief, for example by placing a judicial mortgage on the defendant's property or prohibiting the defendant from making certain transactions, regulating the legal relationship of the matter (such as the right to use the property) during the duration of the court proceedings, etc. Again, the court does not do this on its own initiative. A lawyer can identify the right circumstances here and choose the right application and measure to help ensure the preservation of property even during a long court process.

Filing a law suit

Use professional legal assistance

Finally, it may seem that at least you know the factual circumstances of the dispute better than anyone else. In actuality, it is a double-edged sword. While everything may seem obvious to you, it is necessary to have the critical eye of a professional third party to assess whether you will be able to successfully prove these circumstances to the court, how credible one or another claim is, what the possible responses of the opposing party are, and, based on previous court practice, what the possible outcome of such a dispute is. Lawyers themselves use another lawyer as their representative in disputes that are more complex, or which entail a larger claim. There is the well-known saying that if a lawyer represents themselves, they have a fool for a client.

Should you use any legal advisor instead of a lawyer?

Legal services in Estonia are generally not regulated by law. This means that anyone can provide legal advice services, including drafting a lawsuit or a response to a lawsuit and, within certain conditions, also represent you in court. Absolutely anyone can create a company which provides legal aid and call themselves a legal expert regardless of education, work experience, or even basic Estonian language skills. This does not mean that there are no such competent law firms in Estonia (usually called "õigusbüroo" in Estonian), but the responsibility for doing the preliminary work and evaluating competence rests with you.

It’s a different case when talking about a lawyer – "advokaat "in Estonian. Only a person who has obtained a corresponding higher education, passed the Bar exam, and been deemed honest, ethical, knowledgeable, and competent to provide legal assistance by the Bar’s exam committee can call themselves a lawyer and provide legal services through a law firm. Lawyers are required to periodically pursue continuing legal training. They are supervised by the Estonian Bar Association, to which you can also file a complaint against a lawyer who has behaved improperly. Lawyers must have professional liability insurance that compensates for damage caused by the lawyer. The words "advokaat" and "advokaadibüroo" are therefore like a brand assuring quality that must stand in front of the name of the provider of a legal service. Lepmets & Nõges Law Firm is, of course, advokaadibüroo.

Lawyers offer a high-quality service

Lawyers have several legal obligations in their client relationships, such as the requirement to maintain confidentiality. Firstly, this means that a lawyer must not gossip about your case to a friend in a restaurant. This, however, should probably be expected from any other ethical professional. More importantly, in the lawyer’s case the obligation to maintain confidentiality is guaranteed by law. A lawyer should not provide information about the client, but the lawyer also cannot be required to provide such information. For example, a lawyer does not have to provide the court with documents obtained during the provision of legal services and cannot be examined as a witness or required to provide explanations on this topic.

Law firms can only be legally searched through a court order. Since other legal service providers such as an õigusbüroo are not regulated services, they also cannot have these legal safeguards. For example, if you were advised by any other person on how to terminate your company, the court can examine your advisor as a witness. Your adviser may not want to do it, but in such a case they are required to provide true statements about any matter related to you in the same way as a business partner, neighbor, bystander, etc. would be. 

Finally, you should also consider the costs of legal proceedings. The hourly rate of an advokaat is generally higher than that of an unregulated law firm. On the other hand, legal costs are generally imposed on the losing party in court, so there is the possibility of getting back the money you paid for legal aid. If, however, you have been advised or your lawsuit has been prepared for you by a person who does not meet the requirements for a representative in civil proceedings, such as not having a higher education in the field, then, according to court practice, the court cannot order the other party to reimburse you the money you paid to that person. Out of other law firms in Estonia, we provide professional and personal solutions. Learn more about the lawyers of Lepmets & Nõges here.