"I find it baffling that young attorneys join us after university. How are they going to live?"
Published on 31 October 2023
During the era of independent media, before the onset of active social media monitoring, attorneys often shared their concerns and views through personal blogs and media interviews.

However, in the current landscape, there are scarcely any public records or documents from the post-2020 period that capture and reflect the sentiments of attorneys or portray their contemporary lives. Recognizing this gap, we find it necessary to publish personal stories from attorneys about their current experiences.

With this publication, we continue a series of "sentiment surveys."
We extend an invitation to practising attorneys, as well as those who have been recently disbarred and still hold vivid memories of their legal careers, to contribute to this historical documentation. Your insights will help capture the prevailing mood for future generations of your colleagues. If you wish to participate and share your story, please contact us at defendersbelarus@gmail.com — we will provide you with a set of questions. Your anonymity will be fully respected and guaranteed.
The attorney that practises in Belarus
Regarding burnout and ways for attorneys to support themselves

Being an attorney, particularly when dealing with individuals in criminal cases, is a job that inevitably leads to burnout. The positive moments, such as assisting a client and receiving their gratitude, do offer some relief.

In 2020, there was a significant moral boost. I was driven to work, to assist, to file complaints, to provide support. However, maintaining the motivation to work on numerous cases is becoming increasingly challenging, especially when one is faced with blatant absurdities and legal violations. Currently, I am not actively seeking new work, but if my licence is revoked, I will have to. Despite the looming threat of disbarment, I continue to do my job. I believe most attorneys are contemplating a career change. It's hard to understand how young attorneys, who join us right after completing their studies, are planning to live their lives. On their parents' money? Earning a decent living is tough in this field, and there are obligatory contributions to the Bar and the Social Security Fund to consider.

Therefore, attorneys should certainly find time to engage in hobbies and take holidays, although work often follows them, even during their time off.

About legal advice offices and the atmosphere in the team

After transitioning from the bureau to a consultation office following the Bar reform in 2021, adaptation was swift: we were united with fellow attorneys who also lost the right to work independently. Regrettably, the heads of territorial legal aid offices were replaced as well.

What has changed? Now, meetings at the consultation are held monthly; previously, they were less frequent. Almost every legal advice office features a corner dedicated to the Great Patriotic War. Lectures and legal education for citizens have become a primary focus in an attorney's work.

There is no open dialogue on topics of public interest at work. However, you know or can sense those with whom you can converse. Thus, while communication persists, it is much more limited. Colleagues have become more reserved.

Regarding changing attitudes towards attorneys on the part of authorities and clients

The attitude of court staff has become cooler, attorneys are kept "at a distance". This is especially felt in Minsk City Court and the Supreme Court.

Everything is more or less normalised now on the part of prison staff. It is possible to get to the pre-trial detention centre without any problems, it is more difficult to get to the temporary detention centre (they often refuse to do so for far-fetched and fictitious reasons), and it is more difficult to get to the colony. First of all, this is due to the fact that the convicted person must write a statement that he wishes to be visited by an attorney. That is, if the relatives conclude a contract for a visit, the attorney may not get to the colony, where the convict is serving his sentence, if there is no application. Often, the colony staff is helpful and the issue with the application is resolved promptly, but it often happens that the attorney may not get in. It seems that the staff of the colony do not refuse the visits directly, but there are still obstacles.

As to the clients, there is a decline in the volume of work. People are reluctant to turn to an attorney for help. I think that individuals most often turn to the attorney who was recommended to them. Therefore, there are usually no problems with communication with the client, though there have always been isolated cases. Many people on the contrary are ready to share their problems and problems of their acquaintances, to discuss the situation, to resent and even empathise with the work of an attorney, understanding that now it has become more difficult to work.

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