The Civil Procedure Code of Lithuania (the CPC) states a common rule that the losing party pays the successful party's legal costs. The wining party is entitled to recover reasonable lawyers’ fees, which can include costs for provided consultations, representation at the hearing, preparation writs, etc.
However, the recent judgment of the Supreme Court of Lithuania (the Court) (15.04.2015, case No. 3K-3-212-219/2015) clarifies that when an individual (natural persons), during civil litigation, has paid costs for representatives other than attorneys or their assistants, these costs cannot be awarded. Thus, the CPC establishes the civil process party, on behalf of which the judgment is ordered, the right to require that the litigation fees shall be granted only if the party was represented by an attorney or attorney’s assistant, i.e. lawyers admitted to the Bar Association.
It should be noted that according to Lithuanian laws, it is not restricted to provide legal services by other lawyers (who are not necessarily appointed to the Bar). However, the CPC clearly and mandatorily establishes an exhaustive list of possible representatives in civil proceedings. For example, the individual can be represented by their spouse or next-of-kin if she/he has a university education in law; trade unions may represent their members in employment disputes or public associations may represent their members in disputes by the goals set in the articles of associations. Nevertheless, the overriding rule is that the representatives of individuals in civil litigation shall be attorneys at law (or their assistants).
As the Court emphasized in the above-mentioned judgment, such strict regulation is due to the fact that the proper leading of civil proceedings requires a high level of legal knowledge and this can be assured by an attorney and their assistants because their legal qualification is determined by law, in that they must meet the requirements laid down in the law and pass the advocate’s qualification examination in order to comply with the certain ethic requirements, to cover, by insurance, their professional civil liability, etc.
It is important to point out that labour disputes in Lithuania are dealt with by civil courts as well. Therefore, the foregoing Court’s decision – establishing that only representative fees suffered for attorneys or their assistants (but not other representatives) can be awarded - shall be relevant for employment litigants worried about the paying and recovering of lawyers’ fees.
Author: Inga Klimašauskienė, GLIMSTEDT Senior Associate
The article published in eela.org