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Law Firm Management News May 2013 -

Advocate entities in Russia


IBAIn a previous article in this newsletter we described two types of legal firms that exist in Russia: commercial law firms ('CLFs') and advocate entities. In this article, we would like to pay more attention to advocate entities.

Generally, the advocate society in Russia is an independent union of professionals with the constitutional justice mission. As is known, Russia is a federation with several federal subjects. In each subject of the Russian federation, the advocate society has its own regional advocate chamber, for example, Moscow has the Moscow Advocate Chamber and Rostov-on-Don has the Rostov-on-Don Advocate Chamber. Partners at the law firm "Gary Mirzoyan & Partners" are members of the Moscow Advocates Chamber. In fact, every licenced advocate in Russia is a member of its advocate regional chamber.

According to the Advocacy and Advocate Activity Act No 63FZ, advocates in Russia provide legal assistance using different types of advocate entities. Generally all types of these entities may be called law offices or, as is usually the case, called law firms. The difficulty, as usual, is in the translation of Russian legal definitions from Russian to English. This is why in this article we have decided to use the English transcription of the Russian definitions. So according to the Act, three main types of advocate entities may be defined: advocate 'cabinet', advocate 'colleague', and advocate 'bureau'. To clarify, the differences between them are described as defined by the Advocacy Act No 63FZ.

Advocate 'cabinet' is the form of advocate entity where an advocate solely provides legal assistance. In this case, he or she will hold private practice. Advocate 'cabinet' is not a legal entity.

According to the Advocacy Act, two or more advocates may found an advocate 'colleague'. The members of one regional advocate chamber may found an advocate 'colleague' only. Advocate 'colleague' is a non-commercial legal entity registered in the Russian United State Register for Legal Entities. Members of an advocate 'colleague' are solely responsible for their clients while providing legal assistance. Of course an advocate 'colleague' is a partnership. Founding 'colleague' advocates conclude founding agreements, which are in fact a partnership agreement. In other words, in such types of an advocate entity, the liability of advocates is limited by their personal obligations in front of the client. If it is possible to compare, it looks like a limited liability partnership.

According to the Advocacy Act, two or more advocates may found an advocate 'bureau'. It is, as with a 'colleague', a non-commercial legal entity registered in the Russian United State Register for Legal Entities. It is a partnership. It differs from the 'colleague' by the scope of advocates' liability. In a 'bureau', all advocates are responsible for the obligation of their 'bureau'.

Concerning the question of advocates' personal liability, it is necessary to mention that each candidate must pass through the examination for the status of advocate and for becoming a member of a regional chamber. So in a case of non-professionalism or in a case of breaching ethics rules, which are prescribed by the Ethics Advocates Code, an advocate may lose their licence. This is the main type of professional liability. Of course, we do not talk about criminal liability as it is not a subject of this article.

So, as we have already said, the main professional liability for an advocate is losing their status. They may lose their licence in cases where such decision was held by their regional chamber. Only regional advocate chambers are entitled to strike advocates off the rolls. No state authorities are involved and this is key for the idea of an advocate's independence. And it does not depend if an advocate holds a private practice or is a member of any advocate legal entity.

That is why, from our point of view, and we guess factually, it does not depend what kind of advocate entity an advocate, who is about to be struck off, chooses.

What is interesting is the fact that only in an advocate 'colleague' may one advocate protect one client yet at the same time another advocate may protect another client while these clients have a conflict of interests, for example. Some people say that this can sometimes be useful and such situations have historical roots. During the times of the Soviet Union, all advocates were members of advocate colleagues. At that time, there were many advocate colleagues as many territorial administrative subjects in Soviet Union. In Moscow, for example, there was the Moscow Advocates Colleague only; in Stavropol region, there was the Stavropol Regional Advocate's Colleague only. In such situations, there were clients in one territorial administrative subject with conflicts of interests. And of course they were legally assisted by the advocates of one regional colleague.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many new advocate colleagues appeared. After adopting the Advocacy and Advocate Activity Act in 2002, a new advocate legal entity appeared: bureau.

It must be understood that every advocate in Russia is individually professional responsible and it does not depend to what advocate entity he or she belongs to. However, one interesting fact is that if a conflict of interests appears between potential clients, it is not a block for these clients to be legally assisted by the members of the same advocate colleague.


Link to original article



Mikael Porokhov

Gary Mirzoyan & Partners, Moscow

[email protected]



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