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Advocacy (articles), PART 1:

We offer you the article written by Genry Markovich Reznik concerning the history of the Russian advocacy prepared by him specially for the Moscow Lawyers Digest published in 1996 under the guidance of A. Sidorin:

                Publishing the first volume the commission hopes that the bar
                which has organized the issue of its history will facilitate
                success of the publication as it must remain as
                the monument of ethic solidarity of the Russian advocacy
                and the precept of departing generations to these coming ones blessing
                the hard but honored work for the triumph of law and justice.

                Moscow, 20 November, 1914

Moscow Lawyers and Their Associations

The legal profession provides for rendering legal assistance to these who need it. Though the goals of the advocacy in all countries and in all times are the same, its history differs. In Russia, the professional advocacy was established by Great Reforms implemented by emperor Aleksandr II. There is no doubt that the need for legal services existed earlier in the country. But it was satisfied on a rather low level. The Russian tsars from Peter the Great to Nikolai I were firm opponents of creation of the professional law corporation. During the whole period preceding the reforms the legal assistance to the population was rendered by so called prolocutors and solicitors which represented an amorphous group without special training, organization and name.

The Judicial Statutes of 1864 decisively broke with the past with regard to the legal profession striving to make it, ad exemplum of Western Europe, one of the most prestigious professions. The level of the requirements to lawyers (solicitors) which had to take professional oath in order to enter the corporation was very high from the very beginning: persons with university finished legal education and the work experience not less than five years in the judicial establishment which had met the competition became lawyers. A young graduate in law could pretend only to the position of assistant solicitor and only after five years of probation having proved to be a successful specialist he entered the lawyers corps. The Russian advocacy became a self-regulating organization in which all questions were solved by the board and the general meeting of regional colleges of solicitors. As a rule, lawyers worked individually, received their clients at home but there also existed lawyers collectives in the form of legal consultation offices. Payment for the work of the lawyer was effected by agreement with the client.

Solicitors based their activity on the principles of confidential relations with their clients, unconditional adherence to professional lawyers secrecy, legitimacy and ethicality of methods of defense. Certified lawyers gained a great authority in the society within a short period of time. Names of outstanding Russian lawyers such as V. Spasovich, F. Plevako, A. Urusov, S. Andreevsky and N. Karabchevsky resounded all over the country. However the certified advocacy, especially at the beginning, cold not satisfy the needs of the population in the legal assistance by reason of its small number. In 1874, the Government had to admit private attorneys, i.e., the same pre-reform prolocutors and solicitors to the legal practice. Restrictions were imposed on the activity of private attorneys; they had no right to appear before the court without special certificate, they did not incur the obligation to conduct cases by appointment of court. The requirements to private attorneys were materially reduced respectively: neither special education, nor probation were compulsory for carrying on private advocacy. In the course of time the correlation between the two groups of lawyers had been steadily changing: the profession of private attorney was gradually dying away. Thus, there were 3 407 private attorneys, 1830 solicitors and 1052 probationers in 1890 and in 1913, the number of the first mentioned reduced to 2099, but the number of the second and the third mentioned respectively ran to 5 658 and 5 499 persons. Another tendency showed that, in view of springing up of capitalism in Russia, more and more certified lawyers, along with conduct of lawsuits, began to render legal assistance to private business: joint-stock companies, trading houses, banks, etc.

The process of development of the Russian advocacy was interrupted by the bolshevist revolution. One of the first normative acts of the soviet power the Decree on the Court dated 24 November, 1917 terminated the activity of soviets of solicitors. The Bolsheviks had strong reasons for liquidation of certified advocacy. The regime which directly declared superiority of the collective over the individual set the goal of dissolution of the individual in the commune and could not put up with the independent autonomous organization the essence of existence of which was in representation of interests of private persons. There were also reasons of more concrete nature. Whereas certified lawyers for the most part approved the February Revolution and began to cooperate closely with the Provisional Government Kerensky, the recent solicitor, was in charge of it and all five ministers of justice as well six members of the department of the Senate, for example, were also appointed from the lawyers the certified advocacy condemned the October coup detat and refused to obey the bolshevist laws.

No wonder that the certified lawyers were declared «confounded counter-revolutionary class» and activities of the Bar was terminated. During all subsequent years the regime tried to form special «soviet advocacy» amenable to the regime and fully controlled by the state.


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Copyright Law bureau, 2007.
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