Eitan Erez

Basic facts: 51 years old; graduated from Tel Aviv University Law School in 1980; specializes in rehabilitating and liquidating companies, bankruptcies and receiverships Eitan Erez comes to the election for chairman of the Bar with a detailed four-year plan for raising the total income of the law profession by NIS 500 million a year, or NIS 2b. over the chairman's full, four-year term. The increase in income is crucial, he told The Jerusalem Post, because of the huge influx of licensed lawyers over the past few years. Today, says Erez, there are already 35,000 licensed lawyers, another 3,500 about to enter their ranks, and 16,000 more in school or articling. Thus, in another four years there will be a total of 50,000 lawyers, by far the highest per capita ratio of lawyers to non-lawyers in the world. Erez says this is the key issue which the Bar must address. Taking positions on political issues or the tensions between the courts and the Knesset and government are not the Bar's business and are a waste of time. The first item on Erez's agenda is to stanch the flood of new lawyers. He calls for extending the articling period to two years, making tougher exams and turning law school into a second degree course of studies after students have obtained a first degree in undergraduate school. Erez says he hopes these obstacles and the substantially longer period of time it will take to become a lawyer will dampen the current enthusiasm to study law. The fact that there already are so many lawyers, coupled with recent Knesset legislation abolishing minimum mandatory fees for legal services, has caused severe damage to the profession, according to Erez. This is particularly true in real estate transactions, where fierce competition has lowered some fees that were once 1.5 percent of the value of the transaction to 0.15%. Lawyers are unable to do a thorough job at that fee, and it is no wonder that the number of negligence suits against lawyers has jumped to 1,200 a year, he says. Erez's four-year plan includes arranging for 1,000 new jobs for lawyers in the police force, 200 in the bailiff's office and the state attorney's office, and transferring the Bailiff's Office to lawyers. He also calls for reinstating the fee for handling estates to 6% after Meir Sheetrit cut it in half during his term as minister of justice. He said there are 1,000 estates administered by lawyers each year and the average value of each is $500,000. Reinstating the 6% fee will yield an additional NIS 60 million a year. Another idea is to change the system of small claims. According to Erez, 47,000 claims of up to NIS 19,000 are heard by judges in small claims courts each year. He suggests disbanding the courts, sending the judges to the magistrate's courts where they are badly needed, and allowing lawyers with at least seven years of experience to adjudicate the small claims cases. This would bring lawyers another NIS 13 million per year in income. According to Erez, lawyers receive 8% of the value of the settlement in compensation claims for traffic accidents if the case is settled before the suit is filed, 11% after it is filed and during the hearing, and 13% if the court hands down a verdict. He calls for increasing the lawyers' share to 15% if the court rules on the lawsuit because of the substantial difference in time and effort between the second and third situations compared with the first and second.