"Let me start with administrative reform,” says Juri Raidla, the Senior Partner of Raidla Ellex in Estonia. “Now the state is in good shape, with no substantial problem at all — but the country has an aging population, and we need to figure out how to make the government more efficient and less costly.”
Raidla says he started talking about the need for reform back in 2009, and although he admits that “it didn’t fly for a few years,” he says the significant Administrative Reform passed last year represents a significant step.
In addition, the country elected both a new President and a new Prime Minister in 2016. “When the new government took office in November,” Raidla explains, “the coalition agreement contained a clear statement for State reform.” Raidla calls this “very important,” describing it as “a good time to go forward.” Raidla says the entire process will probably take some 10 years to really implement, “but now State reform is officially part of a political document called the Coalition Agreement, which is already significant."
Raidla is especially pleased with the results of the well-publicized challenge to the constitutionality of the new Administrative Reform Act, which will reduce the country’s 113 municipalities — “far too big a number, with many of them far too small to provide sufficient services”, according to Raidla, whose office and Raidla himself defended the Act in Court — to consolidate into approximately 70 by October 2017. Raidla calls the challenge “a landmark case in Estonia,” and says that, “from a professional point of view it was one of the most exciting events last year, not only for me and for the firm, but perhaps for the entire legal market.” He notes with pride that essentially all significant provisions of the Act were upheld, and he points out that, “if the court had ruled differently, then all the Administrative Reform could have been derailed, or at least made substantially more difficult.”
Turning to the legal market, Raidla calls the last two years, “perhaps one of the most interesting periods in modern Estonian history.” Raidla refers to his firm’s creation of the Ellex alliance with the former Latvian and Lithuanian offices of Lawin and the resulting fall-out across all Baltic markets as causing a “very very deep reshaping, especially in Estonia.” He says, “in Estonia a consolidation of the market, and a new level of maturity, was achieved.” The market has contracted, he explains, with the best legal talent increasingly drawn to the leading firms, noting that, as a result, “the functioning of the legal market in Estonia is much improved," and that “it’s really helped competition in Estonia,”
Raidla notes that Estonia — despite having only 1.3 million people — has six firms with over 30 fee-earners. He notes with a smile that this is the equivalent of China having six firms with over 30,000. Competition is really really stiff, he says. "The quality is better, and it’s known who is good and who is not."