What does “pro bono” stand for?
Pro bono (Lat.) refers to the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means “for the public good” or professional work performed as a public service for the public good and free of charge or for smaller fees than the ones normally charged. In the legal profession, the term is used in the context of professional legal counselling or representation without receiving fees from the client. In the context of the right to free legal aid it constitutes a part of the public service and professional obligation of attorneys towards persons who cannot afford the services of attorneys.
Who can exercise the right to “pro bono” representation?
Under the Act on the Legal Profession and the Attorneys' Code of Ethics, the Croatian Bar Association ensures free legal aid to socially disadvantaged persons and victims of the Croatian War of Independence in legal matters in which those persons exercise the rights arising from their position. The Croatian Bar Association does not ensure the provision of legal advice and opinions of attorneys within the framework for the delivery of pro bono representation.
How to exercise the right to free legal aid?
Free legal aid is exercised when the Croatian Bar Association appoints an attorney for representation without the right to fees. The attorney is appointed by a Decision.
To exercise the right to free legal aid, it is necessary to deliver a Request for the Appointment of an Attorney without the Right to Fees to the Croatian Bar Association (address: Koturaška 53/II, Zagreb). The Croatian Bar Association will issue a Decision in which it will decide on individual requests in accordance with the law and legal acts.
The request has to be signed personally and it should be stated for what type of proceedings the attorney is required. If the proceedings are already in progress at the moment the request is made, the reason for conducting the proceedings should be stated, as well as under which reference number and before which court they are conducted. A copy of the submission or other decision of the competent body under which the proceedings were initiated has to be delivered as well. Since free legal aid is provided for socially disadvantaged persons, the following has to be enclosed with the request:
- copy of a certificate of assets from the competent tax administration office;
- copy of a certificate of monthly income, unemployment certificate from the Croatian Employment Service or certificate of regular student status;
- copy of a certificate of nationality;
- if the proceedings involve denial or acknowledgment of paternity, a copy of the birth certificate of the minor involved in the case also has to be delivered.
If the proceedings involve child support, the request is submitted by a legal representative, who has to state the first and last name of the child and what type of maintenance proceedings they wish to initiate (determining the right to maintenance, enforcement of the recovery of maintenance or an increase of maintenance). A copy of the representative’s certificate of nationality and the child’s birth certificate have to be enclosed.
Submitting a request for the appointment of an attorney for representation without the right to fees to the Croatian Bar Association does not interrupt the expiration and the course of legally or otherwise prescribed deadlines.
Free legal aid ensured by the Croatian Bar Association does not include the provision of legal advice.
Can attorneys provide free legal aid to other persons that are not socially disadvantaged or do not have the status of victims of the Croatian War of Independence, that is, when this is not determined by a Decision of the Croatian Bar Association?
No, they cannot. If free legal aid is provided to persons that did not obtain that right in the prescribed manner, the Croatian Bar Association can qualify such behavior as unfair business, more precisely, as obtaining clients in an unfair manner. If we want to help persons who do not fall into the category of socially disadvantaged or who are not victims of the Croatian War of Independence exercising their right to free legal aid, we are obliged to charge the minimal hourly wages prescribed as the lowest fees for counseling or representation or the minimal prescribed fees calculated for performing a certain legal action.
How are hourly wages and fees for representation determined?
When calculating hourly wages or fees for representation, we are obliged to apply the Tariff for Lawyers' Fees and Cost Compensation valid at the moment of a particular legal action or incurrence of a particular cost. The Croatian Bar Association is responsible for the application and interpretation of the Tariff for Lawyers' Fees and Cost Compensation. All information about the current Tariff for Lawyers' Fees and Cost Compensation, its application, amendments, interpretation of particular provisions and the manner of calculating fees and costs can be found on the official website of the Croatian Bar Association (www.hok-cba.hr).