Independent legal profession a key priority

THE CREATION of an independent legal profession is seen as an urgent task by the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates (KCA), according to its president, Musa Dragusha. This brought him and three of his colleagues to Ireland as part of an ongoing relationship with the Law Society and the Bar Council.

“In Kosovo the legal profession was always tied into politics,” he said. “After the war, in 1999, we started trying to build an independent legal profession. The experience of western democracies was especially important to us.

“Over the past four years we have been drawing up a new code of ethics for our members, with the help of international experts. We now have a very advanced code of ethics in comparison with others in the region.”

Over the past two years the KCA has been working on a new disciplinary system, and came up with a model similar to that of the Law Society and the Bar Council. It has proved to be much more effective than the previous one, he said.

“The old disciplinary system could not manage more than six cases a year. In the first 13 or 14 months of the new one we have processed 46 cases.”

The kind of offences that have caused lawyers to be disciplined includes not respecting professional confidentiality, disloyal competition with other lawyers and negligence in representing a client, he said.

The other issue the KCA faces is the professional training of its members. Unlike Ireland and the UK, in Kosovo there is only a single unified profession of advocates who do the work of both solicitors and barristers. They study law for four years in university, qualifying with a law degree. Graduates then spend a year in a law firm of the prosecutor’s office, after which they sit the bar exam. If they pass, they receive a licence to practise from the KCA and register as members.

This process does not include any element of professional training, other than what is received on the job. The KCA therefore spent a week in Dublin earlier this month looking at the professional training provided by the Law Society and the King’s Inns, and this will provide the basis for the provision of legal professional training in Kosovo.

They also saw how the legal system and the courts worked in Ireland, and met judges at every level of the judiciary. “We were very interested in how the courts are open to the public here,” he said. “Theoretically they are open in Kosovo, but in reality they are not.”

CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor, The Irish Times

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