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Doing legal business in Russia
Russia is a country of significant interest to the UK legal profession. With several English law firms having a presence in Russia and a growing community of Russian businesses and law firms operating in London, the ties between legal practitioners from both countries are now stronger than ever.
There are almost 20 English law firms with a presence in Russia, either in Moscow or St Petersburg. Other firms and solicitors are active in the country on specific cases on a ‘fly-in, fly-out’ basis.
Six Russian law firms have a presence in London.
Russia continues to be an important market for the UK legal community.
Practising in Russia
The Russian Federation joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in August 2012.
Foreign lawyers can practise in Russia and provide advice on international law and their home law. However, they cannot work in the same way as an advocate. For example they are not permitted to work in criminal litigation.
The legal profession
A lawyer in Russia is called an advokat (Адвокаты).
In Russia, a licence is not needed to practise law and many lawyers practise under the title of ‘legal consultant’. However, legal consultants are not permitted to carry out criminal litigation in court. Only advocates who have completed legal education and training have the right appear in court on criminal matters.
Regulation and representation
The Federal Chamber of Lawyers was created in January 2003 following the adoption of the 2002 Advocacy Act. The Advocacy Act aimed to restructure a legal profession that was completely deregulated following Perestroika and the end of the Soviet Union.
Regulation is limited to advocates, who must register with one of the 83 regional bar associations. The Russian Federal Chamber of Lawyers is the umbrella organisation for these regional bar associations.
Legal system and courts
The Russian legal system is based on the civil law tradition.
To act in proceedings in the Constitutional Court you must be an advocate or have an academic degree in law. To act in administrative proceedings, you must have a higher degree in law. There are some exceptions:
- in-house lawyers and executives may appear in court on behalf of their employers
- non-lawyers can appear as representatives of individuals who may appoint any person to appear in court on their behalf
Foreign law firms
Foreign practices must register as firms with the Ministry of Justice.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has approved the Russian profession of ‘advokat’ for the purposes of multi-national partnerships (MNPs). This enables Russian advocates and solicitors of England and Wales to go into partnership with one another.
There are no restrictions on Russian non-advocates working as employees in English law firms but, unless they requalify as English solicitors, or are admitted by another recognised jurisdiction, they could not become partners with solicitors of England and Wales.
Under the UK Legal Services Act 2007, Russian non-advocates benefit from various forms of involvement in English law firms.
There are no restrictions to prevent advocates or legal consultants from practising Russian law in a foreign law firm. However, a Russian advocate must be working in partnership with a foreign law firm.
Qualifying as a foreign lawyer in Russia
To become an advocate, you must:
- have an academic or higher degree in law
- have at least two years of legal practice or apprenticeship at an advocacy bureau or body
- pass the advocate exam
- be registered with a regional bar association
Requalification in England and Wales
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has recognised the profession of Russian advocates for the purposes of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS). This enables Russian advocates to requalify as solicitors of England and Wales on the basis of a series of examinations instead of the longer route to requalification.
Solicitors Qualifying Examination
The QLTS will be replaced by a new route to qualification through the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) in autumn 2021.
The Law Society and Russia
We established the first English Law Week in Russia over 10 years ago. Since then we have run a number of these events, to promote English law in the region.
We also ran a Russian Law Week in England in 2018.