REPRESENTATION BEFORE THE COURTS IN POLAND AND IN THE EU IN CIVIL AND FAMILY MATTERS – APPOINTED PROXY OR FREE LEGAL AID?
Running a case in Poland is costly (filing a court case in civil and family proceedings requires a fee and only a few categories of cases are exempt from it). The use of a lawyer as a legal representative in the proceedings is also a cost borne by the party.
To obtain the free legal assistance in Poland in civil and in family proceedings, and to benefit from a representative appointed for this purpose by the Court, whose fees are not paid by the party, but by the State, a special form must be completed: a declaration on the family status, possession of property, income and sources of income – the form is available here: https://www.gov.pl/web/sprawiedliwosc/formularze-pism-procesowych-w-postepowania-cywilnym.
And how does it work in the European Union? Poles applying for free legal assistance in the European Union and foreigners applying for such an assistance in Poland should also complete a special standarized form.
Note – foreigners outside of the European Union do not benefit from the unified european amenities for obtaining free legal assistance. It should be remembered that these documents work only in relation to citizens of the European Union and within the European Union.
Therefore, if a foreigner from outside the EU wants to take advantage of free legal assistance – he or she must complete the Polish form, and if a Pole wants to take advantage of free legal assistance in a non-EU country – he or she must apply the provisions in force in the country in which he or she spears before the Court.
In Poland, by applying for free legal assistance in civil (or family) proceedings, the applicant has no influence on the person who will be appointed for him as a representative. This person will be appointed by the District Adwokat’s Bar (Okręgowa Rada Adwokacka) or the District Chamber of Legal Advisers (Okręgowa Izba Radców Prawnych) from among their members. Therefore, if a foreigner asks for such help, it may turn out that the attorney appointed for him (her) does not even speak his (her) language or any other foreign language, which may be a barrier in conducting the case. In addition, such a representative appointed ex officio may not be a specialist in a given type of case – but yes, he (she) will conduct such a case fairly and prepare for it, even if it is new to him (her).
The attorney established ex officio is paid by the State Treasury after the case is completed. Salary rates are very low and unfortunately they are not motivating to conduct such cases, although certainly advocates and legal advisers treat these matters with due commitment (we were taught during our professional training that this is an important part of our service to the public).
However, it is worth emphasizing that there is a special kind of bond between the principal (client) and the proxy (attorney or legal advisor) in a given case. It is a bond based on deep trust, backed by a guarantee in the form of rules of professional secrecy, which is why a personally selected and personally paid representative gives the principal greater confidence and security in what the running of the case will look like. The relations between the principal and the attorney are then regulated by an agreement in which the details of conducting the case, fees and all matters that both parties consider important, e.g. the conditions for establishing substitution as a lawyer or issues related to trips outside the court before which the case is concluded (e.g. hearing of witnesses in a different court by means of judicial assistance).
Hence, therefore, both for a lawyer and for a client who can afford it, obtaining the paid legal assistance based on a contract gives reciprocally a better basis for cooperation, creating a legal framework and guarantees of good collaboration for both parties and specifying individual conditions and needs for the provision of legal assistance. It is therefore convenient and motivating both for the proxy and for the principal, and as such much more preferred in legal profession.