Kazakhstan: Members Of Kazbar Took Part In The Opening Of The Legal Year 2017 In London As Organised By The Law Society Of England And Wales
Last Updated: 23 November 2017

Sofiya Zhylkaidarova, a member of the KazBar Board, SIGNUM's Managing Partner, and Gaukhar Kudaibergenova, SIGNUM's Senior Associate, represented KazBar at the 52th annual event, 'Opening of the Legal Year' in London.

Tell us more about the event.

Traditionally, the Opening of the Legal Year is one of the most celebrated events in the legal calendar of England and Wales that starts in October and marks the beginning of four court sessions during the year. Historically, the tradition of inviting lawyers from around the world to the opening of the legal year dates back to 1966.

To discuss the current issues of regulation of the legal profession and share experience, the Law Society of England and Wales brought together leaders of bar associations and legal practitioners from more than 30 countries for a three-day event.

The first day saw the Bar Leaders Discussion being held. The event was held in Middle Temple Hall, where the Law Society of England and Wales is based. The heads of bar associations from Poland, the United States, Germany, and Kenya delivered their reports. The polemic was very engaging as the issues in question were equally relevant to lawyers from around the globe, in particular the extent to which lawyers are engaged in the 'protection' of the representatives of the judiciary; the lawyers' actions in social networks, including comments on court decisions; and the issues of the status of the legal profession.

On Day Two, the Opening Ceremony of the Legal Year was held. Traditionally, it consists of a religious service and reception, known as the Ceremony in Westminster Abbey, followed by the Lord Chancellor's Reception. The service begins at 11:30 sharp. Only a selected few – the honorary representatives of the legal profession of England, Australia, Europe, and America – were invited to attend.
The service was conducted by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (comparable to the Minister of Justice in Kazakhstan), who encouraged praying not only for lawyers and attorneys of Great Britain, but also for lawyers from other countries and even convicts. This shows deep respect for the legal profession, lawyers, attorneys, and civil representatives.

We would like to note the impressive organisation of the service. Special brochures featuring a step-by-step description of the ceremony, prayers, and songs were handed to each of those present and, accordingly, all of us were aware of the process via the words of prayers and hymns. Legal representatives of England and Wales wore traditional robes and wigs, which they continue to use in the administration of justice. The judges were dressed according to their rank or court association.
Day Three gathered all participants together at three round tables to deal with the issues of international trade in the legal services and the rule of law; gender equality; involvement of the disabled and sexual minorities in the profession; and technological innovation aimed at enhancing access to justice.

What did you find especially interesting?

We were excited to get acquainted with the experience of the states where the legal profession is firmly embedded to learn about the past and the present in legal profession regulation. For instance, in England, lawyers are divided into barristers and solicitors (solicitors are lawyers who attend court in almost all cases, save for criminal ones, and advise clients in business). The so-called Legal Services Board manages barristers and solicitors, and – and what is most noteworthy – is the members of this Office include both barristers and solicitors represented in equal numbers as well as representatives of state bodies (judges and prosecutors). The members of the organisation jointly approve the requirements and the universal code of conduct for the representatives of the legal profession, both those that are independent along with those engaged in the public sphere.
In the United States, each state has a Bar – an association of state lawyers which consolidates attorneys, in-house lawyers, professional consultants, and government officials. In most states, membership in the association is compulsory for all those admitted to legal practice, i.e., rendering legal services or court representation is impossible without such state association membership. A national organisation of lawyers with voluntary membership is the American Bar Association, which deals with professional ethics and development of its members, announces legislative initiatives and performs a number of other important tasks.

Were the matters of the legal profession regulation in the CIS a subject of separate discussion?
Yes, a special round table dealt with legal profession regulation in the CIS with representatives of the legal profession from Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Russia as the speakers. The session was also attended by English lawyers who shared their experience and vision of the matters in discussion. The discussion revealed that practically all the CIS countries, Kazakhstan among others, require legal reforms. All the participants noted that lawyers in the post-Soviet space face similar problems: in particular, the activities of commercial lawyers are governed exclusively by civil law, and the laws on lawyers and the principles of the advocacy are either heavily obsolete or need improvement. From the international experience, one can conclude that the legal profession should be regulated and legal organisations should be independent.
We, in turn, shared the state of affairs in our market, namely, the draft law, support from the leading commercial lawyers in Kazakhstan for creation of a self-regulatory organization of lawyers, and the adoption of a law that would provide for the code of conduct for lawyers and a disciplinary system that regulates other important long-pending issues, however provided that the state does not interfere in the governance of the profession.

Why do you believe that the reforms and law on regulation of the legal profession are timely and necessary?

We believe that the activities of lawyers, including commercial ones, should not be governed by the state but by a self-regulating organisation.

This vision is based on the best world experience, which, in our opinion, should be acknowledged and applied to the extent necessary at this stage, accounting for our specifics and unique civil society development. In prospect, our country will require a powerful self-regulatory organisation that would promote an open and transparent legal services market and fair competition; increase the prestige of the legal profession in Kazakhstan; and educate lawyers in a spirit of respect for professional ethics.

We hope that in the long-term, it will be possible to engage not only commercial lawyers and attorneys in such organizations, but absolutely all lawyers, including judges, prosecutors, and state company representatives.

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