Next ILAG Conference - Johannesburg, South Africa 14th - 16th June 2017

The Finnish legal aid system is a mixed model system. Legal aid is provided by both private lawyers (solicitors and licensed legal counsel) and public legal aid attorneys from State Legal Aid Offices. Legal aid is primarily intended for those who do not have insurance for legal expenses and cannot afford to buy legal services by themselves.

 

In Finland, the strategic aim is to enhance overall economic functionality of legal aid (cost-effectiveness). Due to societal development, the aim is also to provide effortless access to legal aid for all citizens through different channels (on-line counselling, telephone, remote services, negotiations on the spot etc.). The vision for the future is to provide every natural person a possibility to obtain necessary legal aid at the earliest stage of his/her process in adequate time, regardless of his/hers economic status.

As a concrete example of putting the strategy into action, a new law has been proposed to the Parliament to enhance administration of legal aid (Government proposal 26/2016). The administration of all judicial actors - courts, prosecutors, and civil law enforcement - is being reformed in Finland. Administration of Legal Aid Offices is also being reformed. Consequently, Finland shall have six Legal Aid Bureaus lead by district directors. The districts will be responsible for the administration of local Legal Aid Offices. The aim is to make administration and management of legal aid offices more professional. Centralised administration brings savings and enables more intensive development of local legal aid offices. On the other hand, the reform enables local offices to focus on the substance. The reform should come into force 1st of October 2016.

Due to increased amounts of asylum seekers, Finland is also renewing its Aliens Act and in relation to this, it’s Legal Aid Act. The Parliament is working actively with the Government proposal (32/2016). The aim of the reform is to intensify and speed up the legal processing of asylum seekers. Legal processes in courts will also be simplified as in certain cases appeal times shall be shortened and composition of administrative courts eased. Regarding legal aid, it has been proposed that legal aid attorneys shall not be present in asylum interviews unless exceptional reasons demand otherwise. On the other hand lawyers with a basic law degree are no longer entitled to represent asylum seekers. The right is reserved to solicitors, licensed legal counsels and public legal attorneys. The reward system for assisting asylum seekers will also be changed from hour-based to case-based. Finally, in order to create savings, increased efforts are being made in order to direct asylum seekers to use the services of state Legal Aid Offices instead of private practitioners.