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Moscow Conference Addresses Challenges for Advocates

A November 2009 conference addressed current legislative and ethical limits for Russian advocates practicing commercial law.

A November 2009 conference addressed current legislative and ethical limits for Russian advocates practicing commercial law.

December 2009

 The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) hosted a conference in Moscow under its Rule of Law Partnership Project (RLPP) in the Russian Federation. The November 27 event focused on obstacles faced by Russian advocates who seek to develop a practice oriented toward commercial law. The conference, the first of its kind since 2006, covered a particularly contentious topic within the Russian legal community, as it highlighted the need to amend an otherwise progressive legal framework governing the defense bar and to discuss problems surrounding the lack of regulation of jurists.

Traditionally, an advocate’s role under the Soviet legal system was to represent criminal defendants. There are currently about 60,000 practicing advocates in Russia, all of whom are licensed and regulated via advocacy laws and ethics codes. In contrast, Russia also has approximately 700,000 non-advocate lawyers (jurists), who are currently unregulated under the Russian legal system.

With the aim of maintaining the independence of advocates, provisions have required that advocates operate as autonomous providers of legal services. These laws have excluded them from any commercial involvement—including hiring and managing staff, engaging in commercial activity, being retained as a salaried employee, forming a legal partnership where the partners are unequal (e.g., no junior partners, staff advocates, etc.) or the inclusion of jurists in a partnership.

The conference addressed both legislative and ethical limits under the current legal framework for advocates practicing commercial law, including provisions limiting both the formation of law firms and the ability to conduct legal business and to manage a client’s property or commercial rights. Other challenges include engaging junior partners, hiring advocates, undertaking profit-making enterprises and advertising professional services. 

Fifty influential members of the Russian legal community attended the event, including the founding partners of the country’s most successful commercial law firms and the managing partners of foreign and international law firms with offices in Russia. Several representatives of the Federal Bar Chamber also took part, including President Evgeni Semenyako, several vice presidents and council representatives. Legal Advisor to the Minister of Justice Elena Borisenko used the forum to invite the Federal Chamber of Advocates to assist in the development of initiatives to address the noted problems.

To continue the progress begun during the event, ABA ROLI will facilitate a working group to develop legislative recommendations to present to the minister of justice.

To learn more about our work in Russia, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <