Number of Members: 4,000 (approx)
Annual Cost: D.kr. 7000,00
Membership is: Compulsory
The Society was established in 1919, and at present there are approx 3,800 members. The Society is governed by a Board consisting of 15 members. The Chairman is elected by the direct vote of all practicing lawyers for a four year term. The 14 other members are elected in 11 local districts. The number of members from each district depends on the number of advokater practising in the district.
For practical purposes the Law Society has got two main functions. On the one hand the Society represents the profession and tries to promote the interests of its members by influencing legislation, by negotiating with other professions and public authorities and by establishing courses and seminars of interest to members. On the other hand, the Society also has certain disciplinary functions and the right and obligation to control the conduct of the members.
The day-to-day business of the Danish Bar and Law Society is entrusted to the Secretariat which has approximately 40 employees including the employees of the service company. The Secretariat is headed by a Secretary General who is also responsible for the service company. The staff consists of lawyers and clerical staff. The lawyers dealing with complaints are employed on a permanent basis, whereas most of the rest of the legal staff are on temporary leave from various posts in the civil service.
The purpose of this system is to obtain close contact with government departments so as to make sure that information and views can always be exchanged on an informal basis. Since the senior employees of the Secretariat are employed on a permanent basis the system does not influence the independence of the organization. When urgent information must be relayed, the Secretariat communicates through a fax-service, which makes it possible to fax letters to all lawyers having a telefax. Faxes to all 3,800 members may be sent within 10-12 hours. Contact with the members is also maintained by the Chairman and the Secretary General through participation in meetings in local districts at least once every year.
Statement of Purpose
The Danish Bar and Law Society (Advokatsamfundet) is an organization in which all practising lawyers (every one holding the Danish title advokat and thus a Danish license to practise) in Denmark are organized. Advokater practicing outside Denmark are also members. Membership is mandatory according to law for every one holding the title of advokat. According to the Articles of Association of the Danish Bar and Law Society it is the purpose of the Society to promote justice in general and to promote the interests of the profession and enforce the performance of the duties incumbent upon members of the profession.
Continuing Legal Education
On a more commercial level, the Law Society has established a service company, Advokaternes Serviceselskab A/S, which provides various goods and services to members on a subscription basis. The company is responsible for most of the post-graduate education offered by the Law Society. Further the company offers subscribers pension arrangements, books and computer equipment. The company is able to obtain discounts from various suppliers due to the volume of customers.
Code of Ethics
According to law a Complaints Board has been established by the Society. This Complaints Board is wholly independent from the Board of the Law Society. The Complaints Board is chaired by a judge. The other members of the Complaints Board are representatives of the consumers and business interests as well as lawyers. In case of a tied vote, the vote of the judge is decisive. Complaints are handled directly by the Complaints Board if they concern the general behavior of the lawyer in question. If they concern his fees they are initially handled by a local Complaints Board consisting only of lawyers. The decision of this local Board may be appealed to the Complaints Board.
Practice by Foreign Lawyers
As a member of the EU Denmark is also a signatory to the Diplomas Directive, Directive no. 89/48/EEC. According to this Directive it should be made possible for anyone who has obtained a diploma in an EU member state to pursue his profession in another member state.
In Denmark, the general legal framework necessary for the implementation of the Diplomas Directive has been established through the Act No. 291 of May 8, 1991 concerning the access to certain professions in Denmark for citizens of the European Community and the Nordic countries. This Act states that citizens of other EEC countries (now EU countries) who fulfill the conditions laid down in the Directive concerning the mutual recognition of diplomas awarded on completion of professional education and training, will be granted access to exercise a professional activity subject to the same conditions which apply to Danish citizens.
The competent authority in each individual case (in the case of lawyers, the Ministry of Justice) will control that the conditions have been fulfilled. Government proclamation No. 292 of May 8, 1991 contains a specific reference to the Diplomas Directive and states that anyone who fulfills the conditions of Article 3 of this Directive and has obtained a certificate or other evidence of qualification issued in one of the other EU countries in accordance with Article 1 A of the Diplomas Directive, will be allowed to perform a regulated profession in Denmark as an independent professional, or as an employee subject to the same conditions which apply to Danish citizens.
Given the fact that various professions are subject to the control of different ministries and agencies it has been decided, that the Commerce and Companies Agency will coordinate the implementation of applicable directives and agreements as stated in Article 9 of the Diplomas Directive. As far as the legal profession is concerned it is up to the Ministry of Justice to specify exactly the demands which may be made of persons from other EU countries wishing to Practice as advokater in Denmark.
The Ministry has, in a memorandum of September 19, 1994 laid down the major conditions which will apply to persons from other EU countries wishing to obtain a license to practice in Denmark. According to the Diplomas Directive it is possible to demand either that the foreign applicant passes an aptitude test or works for specific period in the host state before he can obtain the license. The Danish Ministry of Justice has decided to opt for an adaptation period instead of an aptitude test. The conditions are as follows: The length of the adaptation period will not be stated generally but will be determined individually for each applicant. The length of the adaptation period may not, according to the Directive, exceed three years, see Article 4 (b), but the Ministry has chosen not to go into any further details as to the length of this period.
During the adaptation period the applicant should seek to obtain the qualifications which he/she does not possess and which it may be assumed that those who have graduated from a university in Denmark already possess. This means that anyone who has obtained a license to practise in a country covered by the Diplomas Directive may file an application and obtain the title of advokat after having completed the adaptation period which the Ministry will decide upon in each case. The Ministry will demand that the applicant already has or will obtain some knowledge of the Danish language since the language used in court is Danish and since this is regarded as being basically reasonable. At present, no further details have been laid down. Applications will - as has hitherto been the case - be considered on a discretionary basis in each individual case. In some cases it may not be necessary for an applicant to complete an adaptation period at all.
The term of office is 4 years for the ordinary members as well as for the Chairman, and they may be re-elected for a further 2 year term. Every second year an Ordinary Meeting of all members is convened. Usually about one fifth of the entire number of practising lawyers takes part. At this meeting the election of Chairman takes place, if the Chairman's term of office expires, and the new Council with new members takes office immediately afterwards.
The obligation of the Danish Bar and Law Society to promote justice in general means that the Society will not take a political stand directly but will always try to influence legislation in such a way as to protect the rights of the individual, respect for the Constitution and respect for basic human rights. Also the Law Society is involved in promoting the establishment of independent legal professions in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe and developing countries. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Danish Bar and Law Society in 1994, a Human Rights Programme was issued containing a number of recommendations for changes in the legislation in Denmark. The influence on legislation is exercised directly since it is the custom of government departments to ask the Society for its opinion on any important piece of legislation which is being prepared. Although of course the politicians may not take into account the comments of the Danish Bar and Law Society in every case, the general influence of the Danish Bar and Law Society on the technical aspects of legislation is quite substantial.
Journal or Newsletter
The Law Society publishes two journals. The Advokaten is published once a month and its articles and notifications are mainly directed towards members of the profession. Lov Ret (Law Justice) is issued 8 times a year dealing in each issue with a topic of more common interest and is therefore also often quoted in the medias.