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Russia International Trade in Legal Services

Russia International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

The Law "On Legal Practice and Advocacy in the Russian Federation"  of 31 May 2002, the Federal Constitutional Law "On The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation" (21 July 1994), Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation (18 December 2001).

Under what title do lawyers practise?


How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?



Article 9 of the Law 'On Legal Practice and Advocacy' sets out the requirements for an individual to obtain the status of advocate: An undergraduate degree in law and a postgraduate Law or Jurist Masters degree  and two year's experience as a trainee.  In addition, candidates must be competent in the law of the Russian Federation and not have any unspent criminal convictions. Admission as an advocate is undertaken by written and oral examination conducted by the Qualification Commission of the Chamber of Advocates and on admission the advocate must swear an oath. Advocates must then register with the relevant branch of the Federal State Registry.

Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

The licence to practise law in the Russian Federation is national although an advocate may only be registered with one local state registry.

Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?

The activities reserved to advocates are provided for in the Federal law "On Legal Practice and Advocacy" of 31 May 31 2002, the Federal constitutional law "On The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation" of 21 July 1994), the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation of 18 December 2001.  Only licensed advocates may act as representatives of organizations, bodies of state authority, bodies of local government in civil justice and administrative court proceeding and proceeding connected with administrative infraction cases and only advocates may represent individuals in criminal defence cases.  Lawyers who wish to act outside of these areas do not need to be licensed as advocates.

Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?

There is no nationality restriction on the practice of law in the Russian Federation

What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)

Russian advocates  can exercise their activity through one of four forms: As an individual, in an Advocates 'college' which is a non-profit vehicle; in a law office or law firm or in a legal consultative office which primarily exists to offer legal aid.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

In addition to some ethical requirements in the law, there is also a code of professional ethics for Advocates which was adopted by the Federal Chamber of Advocates on 31 January 2003. This code states that advocates 'shall have the right to be governed in their activity by the norms and rules of the General Code of Rules for Lawyers of countries of the European community insofar as these rules do not contravene the advocacy legislation and the provisions of this Code'.

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

Law Colleges of advocates must also register with the local State Registry firm legal licensing procedure.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

Licences for individuals, colleges of advocates and foreign law firms are issued by the local branch of the Federal State Registry under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice. This is based on submission of the required documentation including evidence that the advocate has been admitted by the Qualification Commission of the relevant local Chamber of Advocates.



Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

There is no requirement for a foreign lawyer to obtain a license for temporary legal practice.
However there is a general rule that any foreigner who is going to provide any services (not only legal) in Russia during even a temporary stay in Russia must obtain permission from immigration authorities to provide such services.
There are many exceptions to this general rule which may be applicable to foreign lawyers.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?


Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

A foreign lawyer may practise in the Russian Federation as a jurist without requiring any particular licence, however he/she may also seek to be recognised as a foreign advocate.
A foreign lawyer may become a foreign advocate and be entered in the special Russian register maintained by the Ministry of Justice provided that his/her status in his/her home jurisdiction is similar to that of a Russian advocate (inter alia requiring equivalent education, experience, and the passing of an examination).
The Ministry of Justice generally deems that a foreign advocate is entitled to provide legal services only on the law of his/her home country.  Alternatively a foreign lawyer may be self-employed or be employed as a foreign legal consultant in a domestic or foreign law firm. In these instances there are no restrictions on scope of practice.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

No, only compliance with the rules applicable to all foreigners in Russia on their stay and activities.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

To be entered in the register of foreign advocates maintained by the Ministry of Justice, a foreign lawyer must provide documentation of his/her status in his/her home jurisdiction, which must be similar to the status of a Russian advocate (as evidenced inter alia by education, experience, and examination).
If a foreign lawyer is providing services as a jurist there are no prior conditions to be satisfied.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?

Yes.  Arbitration or mediation institutions are permitted to provide special provisions in their rules on the involvement of foreign lawyers in arbitration or mediation.
However, any foreigner who is going to provide services in Russia, even on a temporary basis, must obtain permission from immigration authorities to provide such services.

Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

 Yes – there are very few restrictions: Some criminal cases and some cases involving minors are restricted to advocates. There are also specific rules on legal assistance for mentally handicapped persons (only by advocates or by an officer/representative from a special State legal bureau); and, with limited exceptions, only advocates can make representations in the Russian Constitutional Court.
Foreign lawyers can appear in court either as jurists or by obtaining the status of a Russian or a foreign advocate in Russia.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?

Yes. But if a foreigner wishes to become a Russian advocate they must comply with all requirements applicable to local lawyers (including education in Russia and the passing of the exam).
Under the Agreement on Trade in Services and Investments in States – Members of the Common Economic Space (Moscow, 2010) Russia has reserved the right to deny advocates from Belarus and Kazakhstan the right to qualify as Russian advocates because these states impose a nationality requirement for advocate status.


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

No license is needed.

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

Yes. A foreign law firm must comply with the general registration rules applicable to all foreign companies wishing to open an office.  An office may be established either by incorporation as a Russian commercial company (registration is undertaken with the revenue authorities) or in a form of a branch or representative office of a foreign law firm. In the latter case the application must be made to the State Registration Chamber at the Ministry of Justice).

Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)


Is there a quota on the number of licences available?


Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have?

There are no restrictions on the number of branches.
Under the special Russian Government Decree there are 19 geographical areas in Russia which foreigners can only visit with prior permission and thus no offices of foreign firm can be established there.



Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?


May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

Yes, although advocates may not be employees subject to an employment contract. They may however be engaged by a foreign lawyer or law firm under a services contract.

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?

Advocates can form partnerships with foreign lawyers through cooperation contracts.
Russian jurists may enter into any type of partnership (contractual or in a form of a legal entity) with a foreign lawyer.  If the foreign lawyer is recorded in the special Russian registry as a foreign advocate then the rules for Russian advocates apply.

Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?

Advocates can employ a foreign lawyer provided that this foreign lawyer is not recorded in the special Russian registry as a foreign advocate.



Other useful sources or comments or links

The Russian Ministry of Justice – www.minjust.ru;
The Federal Chamber of Advocates – http://www.fparf.ru;
The Moscow Chamber of Advocates – http://www.advokatymoscow.ru;
Research on legal profession in Russia – http://www.osce.org/odihr/36312.

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Muranov, Chernyakov & Partners Law Firm