Serbian Lawyers have ended their strike. The adoption of the Law on Notary Public on 1 September 2014, introduced the notarial system to the Serbian judiciary. The purpose of this new law was to ease the burden on the judiciary and to improve efficiency, by allowing the Notary Public to provide legal services such as drafting certain documentation, conducting court proceedings as a court trustee and providing deposit operations.
The Law on Notary Public, which was adopted in 2011, provided the Notary Public with a limited range of activities, giving them the exclusive right to draft certain documents. However, amendments to the Law on Notary Public in 2013 additionally provided the Notary Public the exclusive right to draft sale and purchase agreements for real estate.
Serbian Laywers Decide to Strike
As a consequence of the implementation of the exclusive rights granted to the Notary Public, on 17 September 2014 lawyers began striking in the Republic of Serbia. The legal professional felt that notaries should not have been granted the exclusive right to draft legal documents, primarily because this prevented the usage of the public right to legal aid provided by the legal profession, as well as the freedom of individuals to conclude these types of agreements in general. A key demand causing the legal profession to strike was that documents requiring verification may be drafted by Notary Publics, individuals or lawyers, but not exclusively by notaries.
An Agreement is Reached
After more than four months on strike, on 21 January 2015, the Serbian Assembly conceded to the demands of the legal profession and amended the disputed provisions of the Law on Notary Public, as well as the set of accompanying laws. The legal professions request to reduce the taxation of the profession was met as well.
The latest amendments have reduced the role of the Notary Public within the Serbian judiciary so that they maintain exclusivity for drafting only three types of legal documents:
- Sale and purchase agreements regarding real estates of persons without legal capacity;
- Agreements on legal support, in accordance with the law;
- Mortgage Agreements and pledge statements if they contain an explicit statement of the obliged person that for fulfilment of the owed due obligation, enforcement may be conducted on the basis of the mortgage agreement or pledge statement, whether through court or out of court proceedings.
The persistence of the legal profession has resulted in over twenty legal affairs being excluded from the exclusive competence of the Notary Public, re-establishing the public's right to choose whether they would like to draft legal documents themselves, or have these documents drafted by a lawyer or Notary Public.
Amendments of the law also provide that the following legal affairs must be certified before a Notary Public:
- Sale and purchase agreements regarding real estates;
- Mortgage Agreements and pledge statements if they do not contain an explicit statement of the obliged person that the enforcement may be directly conducted, based on mortgage agreement or pledge statement, for fulfilment of the owed due obligation, and
- Agreements which create real and personal easement rights;
This certification (solemnisation) represents verification of the content of a private document drafted by an individual or a lawyer. It is reflected in such an examination whether or not the document corresponds to the will of the parties and if such legal affair is permissible.
The strike, although resulting in a positive outcome for the profession, did not pass without its consequences. As of September 2014, more than 250,000 trials were postponed, significantly affecting the Serbian judiciary in the long-term.
The strike also put various pressures on the profession and attracted negative media coverage, while simultaneously affecting individual lawyers financially due to the suspension of work. Despite these problems which lasted several months, great unity and solidarity was present within the profession in respect to the collective determination to have the demands of the profession met.