Andrei Vashkevich

Advocate, Managing Partner

Who is who among the lawyers in Belarus

Do you start a business in another jurisdiction? Do you hire top managers in a subsidiary company abroad? Did you win a tender for construction in a foreign country? Do you resolve a dispute in a foreign court? You will definitely need local lawyers.

It is most likely that lawyers you know and trust will not know in detail the law and practice of another country. Sending your lawyers abroad is difficult and expensive. Therefore, you have to rely on people you do not know and have never seen before.

Belarus is sometimes confused with Russia. The country is a tough nut that many people associate with IT and Lukashenka.

In our practice, there have been several cases when German, French, Japanese and other companies hired Russian lawyers to work in Belarus. Indeed, Russian lawyers feel quite comfortable in Belarus. All laws and court judgments are drawn up in Russian. The legal systems of Belarus and Russia are similar. There is a similar mentality.

However, "similar" does not mean "the same".

Lawyers and Advocates

In Belarus there are two terms in use: "lawyer" and "advocate".

A bar is a special institution for the provision of professional legal assistance. Each advocate is a member of a bar association. Bar associations deal with various issues of self-government and the activities of the bar, including admission and exclusion from the bar, disciplinary proceedings, etc.

To work as an advocate, you must obtain a license, which is issued after an internship in the bar and passing an exam.

The activities of advocates are regulated by special law. The law entrusts advocates with a number of responsibilities, including the prevention of conflict of interest. A client does not need to stipulate the relevant conditions in the contract, as this rule is established by law.

Advocates have the right to an attorney-client privilege. This means that advocates are protected from questioning on facts and circumstances became known to them from the client in connection with the providing legal assistance.

In addition to advocates, historically in Belarus so-called "licensed lawyers" exist. Sometimes unofficially they are called "business lawyers." Obtaining a license for a business lawyer is simple, even a graduate of a law faculty can do it. In the near future, this license is planned to be canceled.

Licensed lawyers do not have the right to an attorney-client privilege, that is, the right to refuse to testify on facts and information received from the client. Conflict of interest requirements are substantially simpler than those for advocates.

However, law firms often develop their own rules containing high requirements for the services, including requirements on conflicts of interest.

There are more than 2100 advocates in Belarus. Advocates have assistants, the exact number of which is not known.

The number of practicing licensed lawyers is not known too. Many of them have received a license, but do not conduct activities. According to some estimates, only 300-400 business lawyers provide legal services.

Almost a half of all advocates work in the capital, Minsk. Minsk is a major economic and financial center; more than 20% of the population of Belarus live in the capital.

All large and well-known law firms and law offices are located in Minsk.

Business Environment and Mentality

Indeed, Belarusian law is complicated and sometimes contradictory. Often fines are imposed for violating the rules of conducting business; and fines can be sizable.

In Belarus, there is a large number of officials who quite effectively control the economy, payment of taxes, compliance with environmental standards, etc.

Belarusian businessmen pay taxes, as the liability is high; including fines and imprisonment.

Gentlemen agreements with officials and promises of senior officials has matter, but much less than in other post-Soviet countries.

If you have entered into a contract with a state or a state organization, then the contract will have to be fulfilled. It will not be possible to postpone the deadline or increase the price in the absence of any obvious and legal grounds.

Personal contacts and connections with a high probability will not help. You need to know the law and practice of its application.

Belarusian lawyers believe that at least five years of experience after graduation are required to become a specialist.

As a rule, well-known professionals are the lawyers with at least 10 years of experience.

It is not customary among professionals to present themselves as specialists in all legal issues. An advocate, as a rule, has 3-4 specializations that may change throughout the life.


There are few large infrastructure projects or M&A deals in Belarus. Therefore, law offices and law firms are usually small. A law office with 10 advocates is considered as huge law office.

Big law firms provide legal services to business: corporate law, taxes, antitrust law, real estate and construction – this is not a full list.

Law offices associated with such law firms handle commercial disputes in state courts and arbitration, deal with disputes related to taxes, unfair competition, etc.

Individual advocates, small law offices and legal advice agency offices deal with family and inheritance law, housing law, criminal law.

Big law firms rarely work in these specializations (in exceptional cases only).

Handling Cases in Courts

Advocates have the right to represent clients in all Belarusian courts, state and law enforcement agencies, including criminal and administrative cases.

Licensed lawyers do not have the right to represent clients in courts, handle criminal cases, they are limited in providing legal services to individuals.

In 2013 a reform was implemented. A large number of licensed lawyers joined the bar, in particular, those who wanted to be engaged in litigation. Therefore, all Belarusian lawyers nominated in Chambers Dispute Resolution rating are advocates.

However, part of lawyers did not receive an advocate's license. Some of them continue to illegally represent clients in courts. This is a risk, as these lawyers may be held criminally liable for unlicensed activities. Nevertheless, in practice, no one has been held liable yet.

The second risk is that the judgment may be cancelled. The reason: the representative does not have the right to handle a case in court. This happens, although not often.

Therefore, this is the client's choice whether to take the corresponding risks.

There is no advocate monopoly in Belarus. A head of the company or an employee with a power of attorney have the right to represent the interests of the company in court.

The situation with foreign lawyers and advocates is more complicated. According to the Belarusian law, foreign advocates have the right to handle cases in Belarusian courts, if a corresponding international agreement is concluded.

In commercial disputes, courts generally admit foreign lawyers and advocates. For example, in our experience, courts have admitted Ukrainian and Russian lawyers to the case, but this practice is not based on law and may be discontinued at any time.

The Bar and Law Firms

Advocates work:
- individually;
- in law offices;
- in legal advice agency offices.

A legal advice agency office is a form of organization of the advocates' activities that has historically been formed since the times of the USSR. The work of legal advice agency offices is organized by bar associations. Bar associations, in particular, accept money from clients, organize the payment of taxes and remunerations to advocates. However, a contract is made between a client and advocate. The bar association and legal advice agency office are not responsible to the client.

A law office is a legal entity. A client enters into a contract with the law office and the latter is responsible to the client. However, the contract with the client indicates a precise advocate or advocates, who work with the client. The client has the right to insist that legal assistance must be provided by only advocates specified in the contract.

Licensed lawyers work as individual entrepreneurs or establish commercial companies (generally, limited liability companies).

As indicated above, in 2013 there was a reform of legal assistance provision, when many Belarusian lawyers became advocates.

At the same time, several lawyers became advocates, but did not close law firms.

Let's look at Chambers Europe Belarus. In most cases, a law firm and law office are listed under the same name. Sometimes there is even no a law office. For instance, a partner in a law firm receives a license and acts as an individual advocate.

It causes serious controversy in the Belarusian bar. There is a concern that this situation potentially threatens an attorney-client privilege. Especially when the law firm accepts the assignment from the client and then transfers it to advocates.

Most lawyers and advocates try to control such situations and as clearly as possible specify all the details in advertising and contracts with clients.

However, there are some law firms, usually small ones that allow unfair advertising. For example, they indicate that handling cases in courts, but in reality, they do not have the right to do so.

Indication of the status of a "partner" or "law firm" in an advertisement or on a business card does not necessarily mean that a lawyer has the status of an advocate.

Foreign and International Law Offices

Foreign law firms are traditionally underrepresented in Belarus.

Chambers Europe 2020 nominated 4 law firms with foreign participation. All other nominees are national law firms.

In Dispute Resolution 21 persons are noted. They represent 12 companies. 19 persons – from 10 national law firms. Only 2 nominees are from companies with foreign participation.

In other areas, the share of foreign firms is higher. For example, in Corporate/M&A, out of 15 law firms 4 are with foreign participation.

In Dispute Resolution all nominees are advocates.

In other specializations some lawyers do not have the advocate's status since for consulting and other legal services not related to courts this status is not obligatory.

There are also legal departments in the Belarusian offices of international audit firms. Not much is known about their activities, they are mainly engaged in advising foreign clients.


Information about advocates is open. Unfortunately, most of the information is provided in Russian.

Particularly, these are the websites of the Belarusian National Bar Association, territorial bar associations.

Here you can get information about whether an advocate is practicing, about his/her work experience, find out the address of the office and other data. At the same time, the information is given in the shortest form.

On the website of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus, you can get up-to-date lists of advocates, law offices, legal advice agency offices, licensed lawyers, but also only in Russian.

The most complete information about certain lawyers can be found on the websites of law firms and law offices. The largest and most famous firms provide information in several languages. As a rule, advocates and law offices fully disclose information about themselves. On the websites you can find information about personal composition of a law office.

Some law offices and advocates keep pages in LinkedIn and Facebook.

There are no national rankings of lawyers and advocates in Belarus. This is the difference from Russia and Ukraine.

Belarusian lawyers focused on foreign clients submit information to international rankings, Chambers, Legal 500, IFLR1000, etc.

Chambers is considered to be the most respected and reliable among Belarusian lawyers.

In general, without being fluent in Russian, it is rather difficult to form an opinion about a Belarusian lawyer. Most professional materials, including articles, audio and video podcasts, are published in Russian.

Therefore, the majority of specialists, respected and known in the professional environment, fall out of sight of non-Russian-speaking clients.

References of clients and colleagues remain one of the most important ways to find a lawyer in Belarus. However, national peculiarities of Belarusians should be taken into account: Belarusians are extremely stingy with recommendations and enthusiastic comments.
Andrei Vashkevich, Advocate, Managing Partner​ at Lex Torre Law Office
Andrei Vashkevich,
Advocate, Managing Partner
Mob. +375 29 644 44 03
Tel. +375 17 25 090 26

Andrei Vashkevich has been practicing since 1990. Since 2013 – an advocate, managing partner at Lex Torre Law Office, member of the Minsk City Bar Association. One of the initiators and developers of generalizing practices and recommendations on the issues of conflict of interest and advertising of legal services.

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