The profession of an attorney at law in Poland
The profession of an attorney at law in Poland
Our bar is the largest bar association in Poland with almost 50,000 members as of 2015.
The profession of an attorney at law is a profession of public trust and is organised within the professional bar according to the Act of the Polish Parliament under the authority of the Polish Constitution with the aim to protect public interest. The profession of an attorney at law is one of the legal professions recognised in Directive 249/77/EEC on temporary provision of legal services in another EU Member State and Directive 98/5/EC on permanent provision of legal services in another EU Member State.
The aim of the activities of attorneys at law is to provide legal services and legal assistance to individuals and legal entities, in particular by providing legal advice, preparing legal opinions, drafting legislative proposals and representing clients before courts and public bodies as a legal representative or a defence counsel, including before the Supreme Court, Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Administrative Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.
Attorneys at law can practise in a law office on the basis of a civil-law contract but also in a civil-law partnership, general partnership, limited liability partnership, limited partnership and limited joint-stock partnership as well as in the form of an employment contract. Partners of attorneys at law in the companies referred to above may be other attorneys at law, advocates, patent attorneys, tax advisors and foreign lawyers, and the only purpose of these companies may be to provide legal assistance.
Attorneys at law are obliged to respect the rules of professional conduct adopted by the National Assembly of Attorneys at law and protecting the core values of the profession, such as independence, protection of professional secrecy, avoidance of conflicts of interest, protection of the dignity of the profession in professional, public and private life, as well as loyalty to clients. The Code of Ethics of attorneys at law regulates also the provision of information on carrying out professional activities, relationship with the courts, government agencies, local government and colleagues, and it also includes the obligation of continuing legal education. Failure to comply with ethical principles can bring attorneys at law and trainee attorneys at law before special disciplinary bodies of the bar.
How to become an attorney at law
An attorney at law can be anyone who has completed a Masters of Law degree in Poland or an equivalent foreign law degree recognised in Poland. Such a person should enjoy full public rights, he or she should have full capacity to act, be of impeccable character and have completed his or her legal training with an exam in Poland. Some people may gain entry into the profession without the need for legal training and an examination or they can gain entry after passing an examination for attorneys at law but without undertaking the legal training.
The legal training lasts three years and is run by the Regional Bar Associations. The intake for the legal training occurs after passing a written state exam. The final examination after undertaking the training is also a written state exam.
Foreign lawyers from the European Union Member States may provide permanent legal assistance to the same extent and in the same ways as Polish attorneys at law, subject to their entry onto the list of foreign lawyers run by each of the Regional Bar Association.
The bar is made up of all attorneys at law and trainee attorneys at law, whereby their membership is obligatory. The Law on Attorneys at law ensures that the bar is autonomous in carrying out its tasks, which include, inter alia, cooperation with state authorities in the formulation and application of law, ensuring conditions for carrying out the statutory tasks of attorneys at law, running legal training and continuous education, supervising proper practice of the profession, exercising the disciplinary functions and representing members of the bar before external institutions as well as researching on the functioning of legal aid.
The highest authority of the bar is the National Assembly of Attorneys at law, which meets every four years and sets the direction of activities of the bar, elects other national organs of the bar, including the President of the National Council of Attorneys at law, adopts rules of professional ethics and conducts financial management of the bar. In matters of particular importance the Extraordinary National Assembly of Attorneys at law can be convened.
Between the conventions of the National Assembly, the National Council executes the highest powers within the bar, inter alia, coordinates the activities of Regional Bar Associations, regulates the activities of the bar and its bodies as well as the principles of legal training and continuous education of attorneys at law; it can also create new Regional Bar Associations, repeal resolutions of the Regional Bar Associations that are contrary to law, and it can also determine the amount of the membership fee. The National Council is a member of a few international organisations of lawyers, such as the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), International Bar Association (IBA), the European Association of Lawyers (AEA-EAL) and the European Company Lawyers’ Association (ECLA).
There are 19 Regional Bar Associations at law and they are responsible primarily for representing the professional interests of its members, running legal training and continuous education of attorneys at law, supervising the practice of the profession by attorneys at law and trainees and keeping the lists of attorneys at law, foreign lawyers and trainees. A number of Regional Bar Associations belong to the European Bars Federation (FBE).
Attorneys at law and trainees are held responsible for any conduct which is contrary to law, ethical principles or the dignity of profession. The disciplinary bodies at the regional level are regional disciplinary ombudsmen, who carry out investigations, and regional disciplinary courts, which hear cases. At the national level there is the Main Disciplinary Ombudsman and the Higher Disciplinary Court. The decisions of the Higher Disciplinary Court may be appealed to the Supreme Court.
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