Regional Cooperation Network of Lawyers In EU Eastern Partnership Countries

Access to the Profession of Lawyer: how can we improve it?

Lawyers play one of the key roles in the administration of justice. The fundamental right to a fair trial guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is directly correlated to the free exercise of the profession of lawyer. Therefore, the independence and protection of lawyers should be a priority of the policy makers at international, European, and national levels. 



The two central elements of the independence of the profession in this context are: 

  1. comprehensive legal education, 
  2. proper, transparent, and non-discriminatory procedures for the access to the profession.

The issue of access to the lawyer’s profession has been discussed only in very few cases before the European Court of Human Rights. The Court has established that restrictions on registration as a member of a profession – including access to the profession – fall within the sphere of the right to private life. A refusal of admission to the profession on grounds not envisaged by the applicable legislation could potentially lead to a finding that the civil right of the person concerned has been violated.

The European Court of Human Rights in Kyprianou v. Cyprus case (15 December 2005) highlighted the importance of members of public having confidence in the ability of the legal profession to provide effective access to justice and to have confidence in the administration of justice would justify requirements regarding the knowledge and skills to act as a lawyer. Moreover, on another occasion in Hajibeyli and Aliyev v. Azerbaijan case from 19 April 2018 the Court stressed that the decision-making process of admission to the lawyer’s profession must satisfy the requirements of fairness and should be subject to review by an independent and impartial judicial authority.

A cross-country review initiated by the Council of Europe "Strengthening the profession of lawyer in line with European standards" project in 2021-2022 assessed the very degree of access to the legal profession in Armenia, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine and offered recommendation for improving the level of access to the profession. 

The review emphasised the main guarantees of the free access to the profession of lawyer:

  1. Independence of bar associations.
  2.  Absence of biases and corruption during bar examinations.
  3. Quality and accessibility of legal education.

The most significant area for improvement lies in increasing the quality of legal education. The respondents of the fact-finding interviews conducted within the Project voiced their concern that the legal education in their countries was too theoretical, students were required to know laws by heart and spend a lot of time memorising legal acts. The education could focus more on learning to reason, to apply logic, to think systematically, to speak publicly and to apply laws etc. Currently education reforms in the mentioned countries are ongoing to address these issues. 

Regarding the entry/bar exams, the bars in Armenia, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine strive to make them as transparent as possible to eliminate corruption and bias risks. For example, the bars in Armenia and Georgia have implemented computer-based multiple-choice exams for this matter. Even though the effectiveness of such multiple-choice solution to estimate the quality of the candidate is arguable, it is for sure an effective tool to eliminate corruption and bias from the examination process.

A positive tendency in all the bars of the mentioned countries is the fact that continuous legal education of their members- legal trainings are considered as an indispensable part of the licensed lawyer, thus, continuous improvement of professional qualities of the lawyer is set as a priority in Eastern Partnership countries. 

You can learn more about the issues of the access to the profession of lawyer in Eastern Partnership Countries by following this link. 

The present material is based on the Cross-Country Review on Access To Profession of Lawyer And Systems Of Training Of Lawyers in Armenia, Georgia, the Republic Of Moldova And Ukraine, prepared within the project "Strengthening the profession of lawyer in line with European standards".