New rules designed to regulate Russia’s legal industry could soon spell trouble for expat lawyers.
Officially the aim of the reform is to close the doors to the profession against the unskilled legal specialists being bred by a new generation of low-standard Russian colleges.
“Many citizens use the services of these pseudo-lawyers who graduated from technical colleges and decided to engage in legal advising,” said Deputy Justice Minister Viktor Evtukhov. “This discredits the legal profession in the eyes of the population.”
Legal experts, however, warn the reform will also be unabashedly protectionist, targeting foreign specialists who have been successfully competing with their Russian colleagues in recent years.
In the past, foreign lawyers wishing to work in Russia did not have to confirm their qualification, unless they were planning to deal with criminal and constitutional cases, The Moscow Times reported.
Now the ministry is working on a set of new rules obliging all foreign law specialists to pass qualification tests. This will require deep knowledge of the Russian language.
The pretext for such changes is Russia’s plans to enter the World Trade Organization.
“Russia cannot enter into the WTO or any other serious foreign economic community with an unregulated legal profession,” Evgeny Reizman, a lawyer at Baker McKenzie, told RT. “The stakes are too high.”
Russian lawyers, however, point out that the WTO guidelines allow individual countries to tweak their legislation in whatever way they want. The Ministry of Justice, the experts say, is planning to use the situation to lower the number of foreign specialists practicing law in Russia.
“Foreign lawyers earn about 70 percent of all money in the Russian legal market,” Evtukhov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency. “This is incredible.”
Prominent Russian lawyer Genrikh Padva also believes that foreign law specialists should not be employed by Russian citizens unless the case is subject to international law.
“Foreigners don’t understand how Russian laws work,” Padva told RIA Novosti. “When they take such cases, they make so many mistakes that it takes several years to correct them.”