Future of the legal professions: International debate in Warsaw

The main trends on the legal services market, the strategies followed by the legal professions to respond to the impact of these trends in the future, the deregulation of the legal market in Poland and other countries, the significance of modern technologies and the changing expectations of clients—all of these major issues were discussed by the participants at an international seminar held by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) in Warsaw on 20 March 2015. Representatives of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Warsaw Bar Association also took part in the seminar, including vice chair Anna Tarasiuk and, as a panellist, chair Piotr Płachta.

The seminar was opened by legal adviser Maria Ślązak, CCBE president and vice chair of Poland’s National Council of Legal Advisers. The speakers included Polish and foreign lawyers.

Thierry Wickers, head of the French delegation to CCBE, spoke about the application of new technologies in the work of lawyers and how they help make access to justice easier and cheaper. Dr Péter Homoki from Budapest, chair of the CCBE New Technologies Committee, described the new tools available to lawyers and their competitors in Europe and worldwide.

The remarks by Thierry Wickers were followed up by Piotr Płachta, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Warsaw Bar Association, who pointed out that one of the Asian offices of Allen & Overy now generates about 15% of its revenue from standardized legal services provided to clients at a distance using new technologies.

Advocate Evgeny Zhylin discussed changes in the situation of lawyers in Russia. He stressed that the market has been strongly liberalized, with much improved access to the legal professions by women and greater availability of legal education. But he complained that the unauthorized practice of law by disbarred attorneys has become widespread.

Advocate Dominika Stępińska-Duch, chair of the Foreign Cooperation Committee of the Polish Bar Council, discussed the consequences of deregulation on the legal services market in Poland. She argued that lawyers must keep up with the changing times but should also do all they can to ensure that the legal services they provide meet the highest possible standards.

The participants in the seminar also discussed clients’ awareness and expectations for future lawyers and for the policies of national and European regulators. Legal adviser Jędrzej Klatka, head of the Polish delegation to CCBE, presented a picture of the evolving expectations of clients and proposed possible paths for law firms to adapt their services to meet those needs.

Lawyers from Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Poland and Spain took part in the debate.


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