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July 09, 2007

Roundtable Recommendations Prompt Increase of Fees for Ex-officio Lawyer


Kosovo government authorities recently increased ex-officio lawyers’ monthly fee for their services from 250 EURO to 500 EURO - doubling the original fee amount.  This decision follows significant pressure mounted by Kosovo judges and lawyers both individually and through their membership organizations, the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates (KCA) and the Kosovo Judges Association (KJA).  The goal was to secure decent compensation for ex-officio lawyers for their legal services.  

The issue of low fees for ex-officio lawyers was initially discussed in a "bench-bar" roundtable that was held in Mitrovica in January, one of a series of bench-bar roundtables to take place in Kosovo from December 2005 to January 2007.  The roundtables were sponsored by the Kosovo Judges Association (KJA) and the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates (KCA), in partnership with the ABA Rule of Law Initiative and US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Rule of Law Initiative provided the technical and professional assistance and USAID provided funding.

During the Mitrovica roundtable, both lawyers and judges agreed that the monthly fee of 250 EURO that the government provided to ex-officio lawyers was a major obstacle to providing proper legal representation to court-appointed parties.  Participants pointed out that the fee was too low to motivate lawyers to engage in serious and professional representation of ex-officio clients.

To persuade the appropriate government bodies to take the issue of low fees for ex-officio lawyers with due seriousness, the KCA and KJA launched a dual campaign.  KCA leadership took the issue up directly with the appropriate authorities.  Judges, meanwhile, published the recommendation for higher fees, along with other conclusions of the bench-bar roundtables, in the KJA Bulletin, a quarterly newsletter of the Kosovo Judges Association.  The KJA Bulletin is distributed to all KJA members and KJA partners, including government institutions.  The approach of the KCA and KJA brought the issue of ex-officio lawyers’ fees needed visibility and attention from the appropriate UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and government bodies. 

There is a shared belief that the increased fees will motivate ex-officio lawyers to provide higher quality services to their clients, which in turn, will lead to increased confidence in the legal profession.