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NOTARY DAYS: How did notaries acquire new functions and strengthened their role in the judicial system?

Baltic PR Awards 2012
Organization: Deep White
Client: Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates
Country: Latvia
Project name: NOTARY DAYS: How did notaries acquire new functions and strengthened their role in the judicial system?

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NOTARY DAYS: How did notaries acquire new functions and strengthened their role in the judicial system?

  1. 1. Category: PUBLIC AFFAIRSDeep White (Latvia)How did notaries acquire new functions and strengthened their role in the judicial system?Latvian Council of Sworn Advocates Summary Since the crash of the real estate market in 2008 the modus operandi of Latvian notaries has changed – the state has entrusted notaries the task to provide for undisputed divorce cases. Notaries have a functioning network of competent and open lawyers that provide high quality service and effectively cooperate with state institutions. Notaries have significantly strengthened their role in the judicial system. A carefully planned public affairs campaign was executed in order to turn this dream into reality. Back in 2008 the notaries found themselves in a situation, when the real estate business stopped producing regular income and problems of trust raised the question about the further development of the notaries`s system. Planned activities were put in place to gain trust of decision makers and gain a new function – undisputed divorce cases. A new initiative to organize Notary Days was started to demonstrate availability and openness. Procedures to increase quality of service were introduced. Notaries have developed a new image as open and competent lawyers and trustworthy partners to the state and judicial institutions. Situation Notaries in Latvia are an independent legal profession. While the State lays down notaries’ public functions, it doesn’t fund them. Notaries are chosen freely and citizens pay for services. When the real estate bubble burst, notaries lost a significant amount of work and revenue. Wholesale bankruptcy threatened. Notaries saw an opportunity in the long-overloaded court system. People had to wait years for their cases – acknowledged as a major problem by the European Commission and human rights experts. But, to increase their role in the judicial system, notaries had to change their public and political image as arrogant, "expensive rubber stamps". Objectives To secure work and revenue, notaries set out to PERSUADE DECISION-MAKERS – the President’s Chancery, MPs, Cabinet, Ministry of Justice – that they should trust Latvia’s notarial system and GRANT NOTARIES RIGHTS TO PERFORM NEW FUNCTIONS AND SERVICES. Analysing the options to reduce court congestion, it was identified that notaries could take over undisputed cases. Among other things, uncontested DIVORCE was a service that could be offered. It was also clear that to achieve this, the stereotypes prevailing among politicians and the public must change, the nature of notarial services be improved and the positive aspects of the notarial system communicated. Strategy The initial analysis defined notaries’ advantages and the main arguments for taking over certain court functions. These messages were combined in a strategy-based positioning: NOTARIES – THE LAWYERS CLOSEST TO THE PUBLIC. Thus, communication highlighted several distinctive features unique to notaries: Baltic PR Awards 2012
  2. 2. Category: PUBLIC AFFAIRS1. A professional, unified, accessible network covering every Latvian region;2. Belonging to the court system, that provides state-approved competence and trustworthy state-controlled legal assistance;3. Affordable, state-controlled prices. Communication was organised into three MAIN AREAS:1. Proactive and targeted direct COMMUNICATION WITH DECISION MAKERS.2. Building a supportive background IN COMMUNICATION WITH THE PUBLIC, establishing notaries as an accessible, open institution while raising the profile of court-overload issues.3. INTERNAL COMMUNICATION to strengthen notaries’ consciousness of their network, improving professional competence and notarial services throughout the network, in order to strengthen the perception of notaries as representatives of the law in their daily communication with their clients. Execution COMMUNICATION WITH DECISION MAKERS• Presentations of academic research on the competence of notaries, court congestion and functions placed issue on decision-makers’ agenda.• As an outcome, Ministry of Justice recommended law amendments to the government.• Facing resistance from courts and registry offices, notaries explained their position in media and to stakeholders.• Government accepted the law amendments.• During parliamentary debates a discussion was organised with the President’s Chancery, where representatives of the Saeima Law Office and party factions gained confidence in notaries’ willingness to handle divorces. PUBLIC COMMUNICATION• Annual Notary Days established a positive background. Notaries provided free legal advice and demonstrated competence.• Publicity of the research fostered opinion on the need for redistribution of functions in the court system. INTERNAL COMMUNICATION• The professional competence of the notarial systems was strengthened by implementing a common notarial identity, training, certification, honouring Notaries of the year, etc. Documented Results INCREASE IN AMOUNT OF WORK• UNCONTESTED DIVORCES HAVE BEEN ENTRUSTED TO LATVIAN NOTARIES.• 900 divorces in the first month, 9 773 since Saeima adopted the law, guarantees notaries a steady flow of additional work. RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PUBLIC, POSITIVE REPERCUSSIONS• Around 30 000 people have received free advice on Notary Days, several hundred positive articles• The success of notaries has inspired Advocate Days, Lawyer Days, etc.• In the public perception a "new slide" has been placed - notaries as reliable State partners, competent and accessible lawyers to the public. STRENGTHENING THE NOTARY NETWORK AND IMPROVING SERVICE LEVELS• 75% of notarial offices joined the common notary identity;• Every notary devotes at least 30 hours annually to improving competence;• A certification procedure introduced, providing for the exclusion of the weakest members. High level of service and participation in Notary Days are mandatory certification requirements. Baltic PR Awards 2012