Each year, the legal profession contributes significant efforts. Overall, lawyers provide free legal aid, free initial legal advice, and free victim counseling to approximately 40,000 residents each year. However, “First Legal Advice” has now been discontinued as it was not approved.
INNSBRUCK. The legal profession has important demands for politicians, including the modification of the flat-rate compensation for legal aid services provided and, most importantly, the preservation of the current rate values.
According to Armenak Utudjian, President of the Austrian Bar Association (RAK), “These are prerequisites of the rule of law, which are clearly controlled by statute and serve to preserve the independence of the legal profession and hence the maintenance of the rule of law.”
However, in certain courts, procedural assistants are no longer even given free copies of files so that they can discuss difficulties with their clients, according to Utudjian. “The fact that our services are free is good for the nation, but the cost for the rule of law itself is high. But neither this situation nor the price is reasonable. We will not accept it in this form,” was the clear message from the Federal Government and the Minister of Justice.
However, the fact that they have been inactive there for a year and a half and thus inflation has averaged more than 20% since the last adjustment makes it questionable that there is no automatic inflation adjustment and the legal profession must continuously make representations to the Minister of Justice on behalf of the law-seeking public and its legal independence.
“We are prepared to take the necessary steps to partially restore the justice policy. We are committed to the rule of law and our citizens and ourselves, even though this may not be the preferred way of the legal profession. We will resolutely fulfill this commitment,” Utudjian said.
All citizens who successfully assert themselves in legal proceedings are those who have suffered a loss of value. Their costs are covered according to the permitted rates.
“Citizens who successfully argue their cases in court are currently receiving fees 20% lower than what the law should demand. Just because the Ministry of Justice has been inactive for a year and a half, so to speak, and refuses to make long-needed inflationary adjustments to the rates,” Utudjian criticized.
The free “First Lawyer Information” offered by lawyer organizations on Monday, September 26, 2022, was suspended as the first act of protest, and citizens seeking the law were instead directed to the courts.
We believe that we should take the first step to let legislators know how bad this problem is, according to Utudjian.
He went on to say that the current circumstances make it impossible to continue providing this service. Therefore, it is inevitable that the free “First Legal Advice” will be discontinued. “We earnestly appeal to the Minister of Justice to put an end to this intolerable state of affairs. Otherwise, we will have to take more drastic measures,” Utudjian continued.