The Aim of the Ministry of Justice Is to Leave Everyone Unsure About Their Ability to Pass the Exam and to Be Able to Manipulate Lawyers at Any Moment
Published on November 14, 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."
If you are a practising attorney (lawyer), or have recently lost your licence (certificate) and your memories of the legal profession are fresh, we invite you to participate in recording the current atmosphere for future generations of your colleagues. To do this, write to us at, and we will send you a list of questions. Anonymity is guaranteed.
Deprived of the certificate, currently working in Belarus
Psychological State

Working as a lawyer is psychologically challenging. The work is always related to law. One of my acquaintances, an attorney, before the 2020 events used to joke when a client told him their view of the situation, not supported by documents, "Law is a hard science, much more precise than physics, and everything must be documented."

After 2020, this is not the case at all. First, we were waiting for a system to hit a new low in political [judicial] processes, but there turned out to be no bottom. After some time, we understood that there is no bottom in any other processes connected with the state as well. In such a situation, the work of a lawyer becomes increasingly devalued. It becomes harder to work on projects, and harder for clients to understand the importance of properly documenting and engaging lawyers.

On the positive side, there is still the opportunity to reveal oneself in presentations, webinars, where you feel the feedback and gratitude of the audience.

Lately, it has become more difficult to communicate professionally – many lawyers have gone abroad or are deprived of the opportunity to continue their professional practice, and a few acquaintances are imprisoned. In such situations, professional conferences, where you can shake hands, hug long-time acquaintances, or Telegram chats on professional topics, become a salvation.

Work and Clients

Working has become more difficult. There's a belief that a lawyer is always well off – regardless of the state of the business, they will always find work – if not in registration, then in liquidation or debt collection matters. But this is not the case.

Firstly, the situation "sometimes the law doesn't matter" [A phrase the president of the country addressed to prosecutors in 2020] has really devalued the work of lawyers. The actions of state bodies that hinder business development and the one-sided interpretation of legislation (including demonstrative imprisonments for price increases, "voluntary" payment of fines and tax adjustments to avoid criminal prosecution, etc.) render lawyers' work useless when businesses understand that everything depends not on the lawyer, but on the stance of the state body, and the position of the state body is always exclusively aimed at protecting the interests of the state, not at truly understanding the situation and developing the business.

Secondly, clients always pay much better for "positive cases" (supporting the conclusion of new contracts, investment projects, registration in the Hi-Tech Park) than for "negative cases" (liquidation, debt collection). Understandably, when you see your business developing, it's easier to part with money – you'll earn it back.

Thirdly, the most solvent clients have always been foreign clients, holding companies, and the IT business. Both are either leaving Belarus or winding down their business.

Every time, the legislature comes up with new ideas when working becomes harder and harder, for example, after Regulation No. 713 on pricing, several importing companies we serviced decided to leave the market; after the decree introducing a 25% fee on the sale of shares by participants from unfriendly states, several deals we were accompanying or planning to accompany were suspended.

Lawyer Certification and Licensing

The first half of 2023 among licensees was marked by certification.

The exam, on one hand, was understandable and familiar to those who are acquainted with the bar exam, or to those who experienced the certification of lawyers about ten years ago – testing and oral examination.

However, the exam program included a multitude of legal matters that a commercial lawyer might not only be unaware of but also is not authorised to apply – it included questions on criminal procedure and civil procedure codes, though practising in courts is directly prohibited for commercial lawyers; criminal law was included, though again, it is prohibited for commercial lawyers to practise; constitutional law was included, though it is not used in practice at all. Oral questions also included those never used in practice by commercial lawyers – there were many about processes, criminal law, and from constitutional law, the All-Belarusian People's Assembly was very popular, but even from labour and civil law, there were many questions not applicable to practise: "state associations," "inheritance," "collective labour disputes."

The testing was based solely on memory training, requiring knowledge of all grounds for refusing to initiate proceedings, accepting a claim, leaving the claim without consideration, rights and obligations to suspend proceedings, according to both codes, where these grounds differ. The testing included questions on sanctions in administrative proceedings and the bodies authorised to consider cases; there were many questions about deadlines, and questions on the grounds for exemption from criminal liability. In general, it was all about memory training – nothing more. Everything that any lawyer could find in 5 minutes, as it's obvious in which act it is located and easily searchable, had to be memorised.

The oral exam was entirely unpredictable. Many said they were confident in passing, but received a 3 (insufficient), while others mentioned that their colleagues spoke with uncertainty and received a 4 (sufficient). Many were convinced of the commission's lack of objectivity.

Many discussed the exam process in other countries, or even the one in Belarus for tax consultants, where a person can use literature and solve practical tasks. But it's important to understand that the exam for a lawyer, and even for an attorney, now in Belarus fully matches the level of tasks set by the licensing authority. The licensing authority does not aim to check the professional knowledge of candidates. The Ministry of Justice's goal is to create uncertainty in everyone about their ability to pass the exam and to have the ability to manipulate people at any moment by revoking the certificate (or lawyer's licence).

Lawyers became very united in 2023 when it was time to take the exam, creating chats where they exchanged information, made joint summaries, recorded audio with rules of professional ethics (which, like the Licensing Law, had to be memorised) and shared this information.

Unfortunately, this did not help because even scoring 20 out of 20 on the test, there was always the oral exam, the result of which always depended on the commission's subjective opinion.

The average pass rate for the exams was 30%. Considering that some lawyers did not attend the exam at all, the market narrowed sixfold or more (currently, there are just over 300 certified lawyers, though before certification, the market was estimated at 2-3 thousand).

Thoughts on the future

We must look ahead. It's essential to evolve, acquire different skills, to be ready to change professions or move abroad. Those who do not wish to develop or leave must be ready to tighten their belts to survive amidst a dwindling client base and falling prices for legal services.

There will be no bottom.

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