General atmosphere in the legal profession
Life feels akin to hibernation - somehow we have to get through the hard times. The winter is coming. You have to keep moving somehow. But the lack of a goal is very demotivating. On the other hand, everyone has his or her own burnout barrier: someone gets depressed, and someone concentrates on their immediate tasks. Reading books on law helps; just the pleasure of seeing that law is not a dead science, at least in developed countries; individual cases that result in satisfied and grateful clients.
Thoughts of career change recur frequently, particularly as numerous examples abound. Hundreds of attorneys and business lawyers have become managers, real estate agents, and even flower sellers. Yes, there are some! It's hard to start over, but on the other hand, the moral weight and psychological pressure is lifted off your shoulders. If a good offer/opportunity to do something else comes up, I will consider it, including going abroad, including permanently, but I am not actively seeking them out. At least not until they revoke my licence. If they take it away, I'll look for them more deliberately.
Today's format of work, where an attorney — especially in criminal proceedings — is a somewhat conventional and irritating figure, is not new. There were political cases 10 and 20 years ago. The only difference is in the mass and cynicism of the pressure on attorneys, but some adapt to it. I can't imagine how they do it.
About legal advice offices and the atmosphere in the team
No two consultation offices are alike. Any organisation is made up of specific people. There were no special problems when I moved to a consultancy (note - after the elimination of practice in the bureau and individually), just the usual issues at the stage of getting to know each other, getting along and agreeing on solutions.
There is someone to talk to, what is called "in the kitchen". There is no discussion in messengers, and minimal discussion in public places. People have become more cautious. Among the things that are discussed: many are thinking of leaving, there are no prospects, no decent income, the prestige of the profession has fallen below the plinth, plus there are risks associated with the very exercise of profession.
The Ministry of Justice is constantly issuing orders to simulate activity: to lay flowers somewhere, to read a lecture for school children, and so on. It's like in the army: the main objective is to ensure everything looks orderly and impressive from the headquarters' perspective.
However, the real issues remain unresolved. A striking example is the rates for 'appointed' cases: if an attorney works on a criminal case by appointment for an entire month, the income is barely livable, as payments from the budget amount to around 800 rubles per month. Additionally, attorneys are required to cover part of their contributions, deductions to the Social Security Fund, and income tax, even with assistance from the Bar. This leaves them with a mere 300-350 rubles net, out of which they must pay for their ongoing expenses like phone bills, paper, and transport. It's no surprise that fewer people are willing to join the Bar.
The relationships among most attorneys are generally neutral. The ordinary working interactions. Those who were close in 'small groups,' so to speak, usually remain friends. However, the willingness to participate in celebrations, such as the next anniversary of the Bar, is declining. The common explanation is: 'There is no festive mood.'
Complaints against the heads of organisations are typical, involving day-to-day issues. This is with the exception of certain individuals, but such exceptions are found in any organisation.
Regarding changing attitudes towards attorneys on the part of authorities and clients
From the court staff's perspective, I haven't perceived any significant change in attitude compared to 2020. Even then, their attitudes varied individually — some were amicable, while others were not. The real shift, however, seems to have occurred earlier, around 2010-2015. That was when the judicial system started to become overburdened, formalised, and increasingly seen as an adjunct to the executive branch.
As to the prison staff, there are definitely problems. The authoritarian system tends to elevate opportunists and individuals with questionable moral standards.
As to the clients' attitude, there has been a steady decline in the volume of work. While it's challenging to quantify the decrease in physical terms, subjectively, it feels significant. In monetary terms, there seems to be a drop of up to 50% compared to the period before 2020. Court statistics in economic disputes over the last few years support this, showing more than a 50% reduction in court usage: businessmen are pragmatic, and if they avoid going to court, it implies they see little value in it. I am aware of several instances in criminal cases, mainly concerning tax issues, where even relatively affluent individuals either do not hire an attorney or opt for a court-appointed one. This pattern is evident in various cases. Regarding political cases, it's hard to assess the frequency of appeals. I believe the rate of such appeals is relatively low. Generally, attorneys appointed by the court can and do meet their basic obligations