Lawyers in Poland
- judge (Polish: sędzia);
- prosecutor (Polish: prokurator), legal representative of the State, with the exception of trials involving the Treasury, their primary duties include prosecution, supervision over police investigations and acting on behalf of public interest in all trials;
- solicitor of the Treasury (Polish: radca Prokuratorii Generalnej Skarbu Państwa), legal representative of the Treasury where significant State property is at stake, their representation is also mandatory in all trials involving the Treasury at central courts,
- advocate (Polish: adwokat), whose main function is to provide legal assistance, prepare legal opinions and drafts of legislative acts, and represent persons before court in civil, administrative and criminal trials;
- legal advisor (also translated as: legal counsel, Polish: radca prawny), whose main function is to provide legal assistance, prepare legal opinions and drafts of legislative acts, and represent persons before courts in civil, administrative and criminal trials;
- notary (Polish: notariusz), whose job consists of mixture of civil law notary and notary public duties;
- bailiff (Polish: komornik), a public officer (but not an official) whose main function is to execute court's decisions concerning civil claims.
Some legal professions may also be performed by graduates in other specific disciplines, such as economics or engineering. They require an appropriate admission examination to be passed, as such jurists are authorised to represent persons before courts in matters related to their profession. Such occupations include inter alia:
- tax advisor (Polish: doradca podatkowy), whose main function is to advise persons in tax matters, represent them before courts and State authorities in tax matters and perform other activities related to tax law;
- patent attorney (Polish: rzecznik patentowy), whose job consists of rendering legal assistance in industrial property matters.
The distinction between advocates and legal advisors
The division adwokat / radca prawny was created by a 1959 law which forbade advocates from advising socialised economy units (primarily state enterprises, and cooperatives, which were the dominant form of economic activity in the People's Republic of Poland), and introduced the new profession of radca prawny for that purpose.
1. Advocates and legal advisors have their own independent bar associations (both are members of CCBE - The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe); membership is obligatory for those willing to practice the respective profession:
- Advocates: The Polish Bar Council (ca 7,600 members);
- Legal advisors: National Chamber of Legal Advisors (ca 20,200 members).
Currently, admission to the Polish Bar Council is open to the members of the National Chamber of Legal Advisors, and vice versa. Lawyers can be members of both bar associations at the same time, however they cannot practice both professions concurrently.
2. Currently, the position and rights of advocates and legal advisors are identical in almost all matters, leading to public discussion on the unification of the two professions. Legal regulations regarding the two professions slightly differ:
- Legal advisors can enter into any employment contract while practicing their profession; however if they defend persons charged in criminal trials they cannot remain employed under employment contract;
- Advocates cannot enter into any employment contract while practicing their profession (this includes being hired as an in-house lawyer or as an associate attorney or salaried partner at a law firm, although it is commonly evaded through self-employment);
- legal advisors are allowed to publish information about their services (advertisement being forbidden); advocates' rules in this matter are much stricter;
- advocates are subject to important limitations applying to the kind of business activities that they are allowed to undertake; the following actions are forbidden by the Advocates' Code of Ethics as colliding with the advocate's profession, while they are fully allowed to be performed by legal advisors:
- - holding the manager's position in another person's business entity;
- - holding the position of a member of the management board or proxy in commercial partnerships and companies, with the exception of law firms;
- - acting as a regular commercial agent;
- - running the same office with a person rendering other services, if they collide with advocates' ethical rules.
Admission to practice law
There are no bar associations for judges and public prosecutors - the Ministry of Justice is in charge of the administration of the professions (judges are appointed by the President). Advocates, legal advisors, notaries, bailiffs, patent attorneys, and tax advisors do have their bar associations.
- Master's degree in Law followed by bar training (Polish: aplikacja) and bar exam;
- Master's degree in Law followed by 5 years of legal professional experience and bar exam;
- Ph.D. in Law followed by either bar exam or 3 years of legal professional experience;
- High academic qualification in legal sciences (habilitated doctor, professor).
Bar training (aplikacja)
An examination for admission to bar training for advocates and legal advisors is a written test, 100 out of 150 points guarantee admission. The examination covers: 1) criminal law and criminal procedure; 2) infraction law and infraction court proceedings; 3) financial criminal law and financial criminal proceedings; 4) civil law and civil procedure; 5) family law; 6) public business law; 7) commercial companies and partnerships law; 8) labour law and social security regulations; 9) administrative law and administrative procedure; 10) administrative court proceedings; 11) European Union law; 12) constitutional law; 13) organization of justice in Poland.
Bar training for advocates and legal advisors lasts for three years and consists of theoretical and practical classes. Each trainee (Polish: aplikant) has his/her individual tutor, who must be a practitioner from the respective bar. Bar examination is a written exam which lasts 4 days and consists of preparing various documents and briefs in following areas: criminal law, civil or family law, commercial law, administrative law, ethics.
Bar training for notaries is slightly shorter (2,5 years) and covers different areas of law.
Professional training for judges and public prosecutors
The body in charge of training for future judges and public prosecutors is The National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution in Kraków. After one-year general training, the candidates proceed to a specialised training (judge/public prosecutor) for another 30 months. Then, trainee judges serve internships as law clerks (12 months) and as referendaries (Polish: referendarz). Similar internship is provided for public prosecutors.
Only judges, public prosecutors, notaries, professors and habilitated doctors of laws can write certoriaris to the Constitutional Tribunal in cases in which they themselves are sides. All others must use services of advocates or legal advisors. Certioraris to the Supreme Court must always be prepared by an advocate or a legal advisor.
Lawyers who are not members of any bar association
Many jurists do not practice law in the strict sense. They may work in public administration (which has its own highly legalized proceedings), the police (which prosecute small crimes), tax services and similar governmental agencies. Additionally, since a company can be represented in civil court by its own employees, some small and medium companies do not employ barristers or counselors, but instead rely on in-house lawyers not admitted to bar.
Because under Polish law an agent can act for any person therefore some lawyers do what in the UK is done by solicitors. Thus, specialized persons write legal agreements, perform negotiations, or execute debts. Polish law specifically permits persons with Magister's degree in Law to give legal advice.
Sample law firms in Poland
There are numerous law firms in Poland, both small local firms and affiliate or branch offices of international law firms. Most international law firms have their Polish offices in Warsaw.
- Article in "Rzeczpospolita" newspaper (21 July 2016) - "Advocates and legal advisors prefer to function separately, the Ministry does not preclude a merger"
- Summary by the National Chamber of Legal Advisors (online)
- Advocate's Code of Ethics (online)
- Legal Advisor's Code of Ethics (online)
- Act of 26 May 1982 - Law on Advocates
- Act of 6 July 1982 on Legal Advisors
- The Polish National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution
- Act of 23 January 2009 on The National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution
- Art. 48 of the Act of 1 August 1997 on the Constitutional Tribunal
- Art. 526 of the Act of 6 June 1997 - Code of Penal Procedure