Russian courts to admit foreign lawyers

Foreign lawyers will soon stop being an exotic thing within the court system in Russia, as the country’s Federal Chamber of Lawyers has abolished restrictions on the admittance of foreign specialists to domestic courts. Experts believe this will positively affect the image of Russia’s legal system, enhance the quality of legal assistance and the demand for specialist training. Voice of Russia’s Maria Vesnovskaya has more on the issue.

Pursuant to its regulations and as part of preparations for the country’s upcoming WTO accession, the Federal Chamber of Lawyers should do away with all work restrictions for foreign legal advisers at civil and arbitration courts. Until now, their scope of work was limited to providing consultations only on their homeland’s legal issues. Technically, the Russian act on the practice of law itself allowed foreign lawyers to obtain an associate status, but their further activity was banned by the Federal Chamber of Lawyers. Moscow-based legal adviser Alexander Zheleznikov praises the decision to officially abolish this ban:

“I believe this will definitely have a major impact on Russia’s international image. Healthy competition will inevitably lead to improvements in the quality of legal services, Alexander Zheleznikov is convinced.”

However, such a decision of the Federal Chamber of Lawyers does not necessarily imply that the nearest future will see dozens of foreign specialists flooding Russian courts. All claimants will have to pass an examination testifying to their knowledge of Russian civil and arbitration law, legal proceedings and other disciplines. This will also require them to take special courses at Russian law schools. Furthermore, the exam will be held in the Russian language, which, along with a lack of familiarity with local specifics, will become the main obstacle at the first stage, Alexander Zheleznikov pointed out.

“I personally know many foreign members of our chamber of lawyers. To render adequate legal assistance, one needs to not only be familiar with Russian laws but possess particular knowledge within the legal system and have certain experience as far as application of the law goes as well. Foreigners fall short on this, Alexander Zheleznikov said in conclusion.”

Experts are sure that the inflow of foreign specialists will substantially increase the overall professional standard of lawyers and make a difference to the quality of legal advice. Incidentally, Russia is becoming increasingly attractive for major western law firms that assist both successful Russians and Russian-based specialists from abroad. Western businessmen will feel most confident being able to entrust the defense of their interests to lawyers they know.