Andrei Vashkevich

Advocate, Managing Partner

Legal services in Belarus.
Back to the future?

In November 2021 all law offices in Belarus stop its functioning. These are about 98 companies. Liquidation of law offices is a result of changes in the legislation on advocacy. [i]

What does this mean for clients?


Legal advice office and nothing else

From the end of 2021, Belarusian advocates are entitled to carry out their activities only through legal advice offices.

Legal advice office is a form of organization of advocates' activities historically developed since the USSR times. Legal advice office is not a legal entity.

The work of legal advice offices is organized by bar associations. A bar association is a non-profit association of advocates operating on a territorial basis. There are 7 bar associations in Belarus – 1 bar association in Minsk and 6 bar associations in regions.

The bar association creates legal advice offices, accepts money from clients, organizes the payment of income taxes and performs other organizational and technical tasks.

At the same time, the property of legal advice offices is the property of the bar associations. Advocates do not have any rights to the specified property.

Legal advice offices are designed to organize the individual activities of advocates. It is pretty hard to develop marketing, create a brand, invest in software, etc.

Until 2013, there were legal advice offices in Belarus.

Since 2013 after the reform of advocacy it became possible to create law offices. Law offices were legal entities with the rights to its property, managed by the law office partners.


    A contract with the advocate

    The contract for legal assistance is to be concluded between the client and the advocate of the legal advice office.

    The bar association, legal advice office, other advocates of the legal advice office are not a party to the contract and do not bear obligations and responsibility to the client.

    If several advocates deal with the case of one client, work together, a separate contract must be concluded with each of the advocates. And the client is obliged to agree on the fee for each advocate and pay separately from other advocates.

    There was a different regulation in law offices. The law office was a party to the contract. All partners and advocates of the law office were actually responsible to the client.

    Thus, the main change for the clients is the inability to work with one counterparty – the law office or a team of advocates – under one contract. It will be definitely inconvenient for clients.


    Lawyers and advocates

    In addition to advocates there are so-called "licensed lawyers" in Belarus. They are sometimes unofficially called "business lawyers".

    Business lawyers can create commercial organizations – LLC, for example. In this case, the contract for legal services is concluded with the LLC, which bears obligations and responsibility to the client. It is not required to conclude a separate contract with each lawyer of the LLC.

    The legal entity allows organizing work with the client in ways and methods convenient for the latter.

    Business lawyers have ethics rules established by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus.

    Traditionally, the business lawyers' field of activity is the creation and support of a business, contractual work, as well as the client's representation in government agencies, arbitration proceedings, including international arbitration.

    Until 2013 business lawyers had the right to represent entrepreneurs and legal entities in economic courts.

    Since 2013 only advocates have the right to represent clients in state courts. Also, only advocates have the right to represent clients in criminal and administrative cases.


    Why did business lawyers switch to advocacy after 2013?

    Traditionally, advocates dealt with criminal and administrative cases, litigation involving individuals.

    Business lawyers provided services to the business.

    After 2013 conditions were created for the transition from business lawyers to advocacy. Namely, the possibility of creating law offices, a simplified procedure for obtaining licenses.

    In addition, advocates have the right to an attorney-client privilege. This means that it is prohibited to interrogate advocates on the facts and circumstances became known to them from the client in connection with the provision of legal assistance.

    Therefore, during 2013-2015 many business lawyers became advocates. Advocates from legal advice offices also started to create law offices.

    By 2021 a majority of Belarusian law firms listed in the rankings and reference books of Chambers and Partners are, as a rule, law offices.

    They handle complex transactions with a foreign element, challenging litigation and advise foreign investors and international organizations.

    Liquidation of law offices in many ways returns the legal market to the state existed before 2013.



    There are about 2,000 advocates in Belarus. There is an assumption that by the end of the year about 300 advocates will stop their activity.

    First of all, these are advocates of large and medium-sized law offices working with the foreign business and not dealing with litigation.

    They are already setting up law firms to be licensed to provide legal services. In this way they are going to keep the brands known in the market and work with clients as a corporation, however, with no right to represent them in court.

    There are advocates who will stop their practice. The economic downturn and other circumstances made many advocates think about changing their profession. This process has already started.

    Advocates decided to continue dealing with litigation will switch to legal advice offices. They will have the right to handle any legal matter: corporate law, M&A, project financing, etc.

    Will large foreign clients and international organizations work with advocates? For some clients the above complexities may be not of utmost importance. Though, in case of a dispute in a state court clients will have no choice.

    As a consequence, the following is expected:

    1. A number of advocates will decrease.
    2. Recommendations will become more important for choosing a lawyer or advocate.
    3. The value of reputation will increase.
    4. Many brands existing in the legal market will survive, however, continue working as law firms, not law offices.
    5. The promotion and importance of personal brands will grow.

    One of the clients noted: "We will observe the individuals, evaluate the experience and cases of lawyers and advocates. We understand that in our conditions a formal date of a law company establishment is not a criterion for assessment. And we will have to conclude contracts with advocates individually".

    It is also possible to predict the rise in popularity of arbitration since business lawyers saved the right to represent the clients in arbitration. Therefore, they will more actively offer clients to resolve disputes in alternative ways, rather than in state courts.
    Law of the Republic of Belarus dated 27.05.2021 No. 113-З "On amendments to the laws on advocacy"
    Andrei Vashkevich, advocate, Managing Partner of Lex Torre Law Office, Head of Litigation practice
    Andrei Vashkevich,
    Advocate, Managing Partner
    Mob. +375 29 644 44 03
    Tel. +375 17 250 90 26

    Mr. Vashkevich has been practicing since 1990. Since 2013 – an advocate, managing partner of Lex Torre Law Office. Member of the Minsk City Bar Association. Member of the Board of the International Arbitrational Court "Chamber of Arbitrators at the Union of Lawyers" (Minsk, Belarus).

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