Sayidkomil Ibodullaev

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Advocacy institution in Uzbekistan being not the most popular area of career embark on comparison to other government or non-government bodies though, numbers of attorneys are rising gradually within the Uzbek legal market. One may clearly note that the latter is getting more diversified being in the same shoes of international trade development, with rising flow of international investments into Uzbekistan. Advocacy is called upon to serve in the name of justice by providing legal assistance to population in its various forms. When it comes to litigation, advocacy institution is usually posed against prosecution institution by means of which equality of parties is provided.

Freedom and independence of advocacy is provided by the new 2023 Constitution of Uzbekistan, however in previous editions thereof there were no norms to regulate advocacy affairs separately. In other words, from now on advocacy is officially recognized in Uzbekistan as a fully-fledged counterbalance to the prosecution.

In the present blogpost, I will primarily focus on a new Charter for the completion of internship of legal interns and paralegals approved by Order of the Minister of Justice of Uzbekistan. This multifaceted document has been warmly welcomed by the legal community of Uzbekistan, as it provides for a more simplified and convenient procedure for the completion of internships by interns of attorneys. Due to this new procedure, the number of licensed attorneys in Uzbekistan may significantly increase in the near future and share of attorneys in legal market may improve.

I. Advocacy in Uzbekistan: is it enough?

Attorneys can render their professional services in one of the forms of advocacy units permitted by legislation as follows:

  • Legal Office: A legal formation constituting a non-profit organization, established by an attorney for the purpose of engaging in individual legal practice.
  • Law Firm: A legal formation constituting a non-profit organization, based on partnership and established by attorneys for the purpose of engaging in legal practice.
  • Collegium of attorneys: A legal formation constituting a non-profit organization, based on membership and established by attorneys for the purpose of engaging in legal practice.
  • Legal consultation office – a form of attorneys’ association established by the territorial administration of the Chamber of Attorneys for the purpose of conducting legal practice and not possessing the status of a legal entity.

As of today, the numbers are as follows:

  • 6025 attorneys;
  • 3285 offices;
  • 592 firms;
  • 91 collegiums.

According to calculations, that would mean one attorney per 6,141 individuals, in other words only 0,02 % of the overall population. Indeed, not that much, isn’t it?

This acute dearth of attorneys in Uzbekistan urges to increase its numbers by training new employees to pass bar exams to get attorney license.  This policy commitment of the Uzbek government can be well-illustrated and confirmed by Development Strategy of the New Uzbekistan. However, as an apogee of a brand new and more completed mechanism easing license-getting procedure has become an amended Charter for the completion of internship of legal interns and paralegals.

Many students graduate from higher educational institutions every year with specialization of jurisprudence. However, this will not mean all of them are to start attorney career in future, which means number of attorneys in general may not increase significantly in comparison to what was referred to above. Potential ‘factories’ of new lawyers that still hold monopolistic right to render education services in law at bachelor’s level are the Tashkent State University of Law (TSUL), the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED) and the Westminster International University in Tashkent (WIUT).

Graduates may apply to law firms so they can get a job as a paralegal or intern. It may sound rather strange, however intern is higher in its professional position than paralegal. Interns are entrusted with more responsibilities with attorney having at least 3 years of attorney experience being attached as a supervisor thereto. Interns may apply to get their license following at least 3 months and maximum 2 years of such internship period. In the meantime, paralegal has no such responsibilities, and he can be attached to several attorneys. The main difference in his position is that he cannot apply to get license until he gets intern status and passes internship.  However, both of them are connected with a common goal – to become an attorney.

With what being argued above, one may clearly note vivid disproportionality of graduates who tend to apply for internship from one side and number of acting attorneys from the other. Number of freshmen employed at law firms may vary significantly with those who are employed at courts, prosecution offices and etc.

II. From past to future: what challenges and hardships attorneys struggled with till now?

Let’s assume you work at university and has a salary of $ 1,000. You would like to apply to law firm so you plan to get an attorney license soon. In order to do so, you need to resign from university (leaving $ 1,000 salary) and start your position at law firm from paralegal/intern with a salary of $ 400-500 approximately. You will be compelled to live with such an income during at least 3 months and when it comes to applying back to university there is no guarantee to be reinstated.

Until recently, to become an intern and doing internship has been followed with a huge obstacle, in particular intern had no choice but to do this in single advocacy unit without having an opportunity to work anywhere else. Can you imagine this situation?

What drawbacks pose such bizarre situation in real life? This may well-illustrated by the following:

Restriction of professional development opportunities for young legal professionals (there can be no full nexus between theory and practice);

Diminished accessibility of legal services for the general population due to personnel shortages (which means not all contingent of population may have an access to legal service);

Reduction in the influx of new entrants to the legal profession (it may keep away some potential lawyers from intention of getting license).

Financial hardships for entry-level legal practitioners who may struggle to subsist solely on intern/paralegal remuneration (they will try to search for other alternative sources of living at the same time).

Deprivation of valuable cross-disciplinary legal experience for novice professionals deprivation of an opportunity to formulate valuable skills).

Decreased competition in the market for legal services (adverse impact on legal services’ quality).

Potential exodus of talented individuals to alternative professional sectors (lack of allure may change potential lawyers’ mind to apply for internship).

Curtailment of freedom of choice in professional pursuits for legal practitioners (having no other choice rather than doing internship without any other alternatives).

III. Changes yet to come: is it revolution?

From now on intern may complete his internship at advocacy unit and work at his main work-place simultaneously. It may seem as a minor amendment introduced to the internship procedure, but entails huge implications and begets several consequences, in particular:

Here are some potential benefits and positive consequences of permitting concurrent employment as a legal assistant or trainee:

1. Enhancement of professional development (opportunity to acquire diverse experience across various legal domains and accelerated acquisition of practical skills);

2. Financial advantages (supplementary income source for early-career legal professionals and capacity to invest in continuing education and professional advancement);

3. Improvement in the quality of legal services (cross-pollination of expertise between diverse areas of legal practice and having much broader perspective on legal issues)

4. Expansion of legal aid accessibility (increase in the number of practitioners within law firms and potential reduction in service costs due to enhanced competition);

5. Talent attraction to the legal profession (creation of more appealing conditions for young legal professionals and opportunity to “test the waters” in legal practice without full departure from primary employment);

6. Enhancement of labor market flexibility (more efficient allocation of human resources and possibility of combining various types of legal practice);

7. Enhancement of legal market competitiveness (encouragement of continuous professional growth and improvement in service quality through diversification of practitioners’ experience)

IV. Conclusion

Each potential candidate who soberly analyzes the current situation and has been willing to apply for the internship to any advocacy unit must do it right now. There is no doubt that even lecturers at universities, lawyers at government and non-government bodies – everyone who is now employed for full-time job and has at least bachelors law degree will give it a try to commence his/her internship. As a result, starting from upcoming fall we may witness significant rise in new attorneys getting their licenses, which, in turn, would positively impact the access of population to legal services and health competition in providing such services in Uzbek legal market. 

Cite as:  Sayidkomil Ibodullaev, “Attorney boom: how the lifting of the ban on part-time work will change the legal landscape in Uzbekistan”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 10.07.2024.