The Legal System:
The Kyrgyz legal system is a civil (continental) law system.
The Legal Profession:
The legal profession in Kyrgyzstan is divided into:
- non-regulated lawyers (solo practitioners, in-house counsels of companies, lawyers at law firms, etc.) who are subject to general civil, tax and business legal issues and cases; and
- regulated advocates who are only legal professionals authorised to represent clients in criminal proceedings in court, besides being allowed to deal with general legal issues and civil cases.
An advocate license is voluntary and may be granted to a national of the Kyrgyz Republic who has completed higher legal education, has at least one year of experience in legal practice, and has passed the state-run qualification exam. Under certain circumstances the license cannot be granted.
Individuals with five years of professional experience in the following fields shall be issued licenses without having to pass the qualification exam: as an investigator of a law-enforcement body; as a judge; as a member of the staff of the President, Parliament or Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, in a position that requires higher legal education; and as a member of the Parliament, who has higher legal education degree.
A person who meets the requirements mentioned above may lodge a request with the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic to be admitted to the qualification exam. The procedure for the qualification examination is adopted by the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic. The examinee is considered to have passed the qualification exam if (s)he has answered seventy per cent or more multiple choice questions correctly. The candidates who fail the exam may retake it only after six months.
Regulation of Legal Profession:
In order to create an independent, self-regulated profession capable of ensuring integrity and high professional standards, Kyrgyzstan recently established a new bar association, “Advokatura”. It was registered upon a decision of the congress of advocates held on November 26, 2014. The unified Advokatura is an important step both for advocates and the whole legal system.
The Law “On the Advokatura of the Kyrgyz Republic and Advocates’ Activity” defines the “Advokatura” (Advocacy) as a self-governed professional community of advocates that requires membership of all advocates, which is established on the basis of their common professional interests. The Advokatura should express and protect the interests of advocates, facilitate their professional development and facilitate the promotion of advocates’ work.
The Advokatura exercises the following functions, among others:
- consolidating advocates into one professional association and coordinating the activities of the territorial divisions of the Advokatura;
- promoting recognition, respect and protection of human rights and freedoms;
- defending the legitimate interests, honour and dignity of advocates and their social and professional rights;
- promoting continuing education of advocates and developing guidance for training and retraining of advocates and assistant advocates;
- outlining common principles and standards of professional ethics applicable to advocates and the operation of the Advokatura;
- representing lawyers before municipal and public authorities; and establishing the procedure for being admitted to the Advokatura.
Since its establishment, a number of standards and procedures of the Advokatura have been adopted. These include such key documents as the Charter of Advokatura, the Code of Professional Ethics, Regulations on the Ethics Commission of Advokatura, and the Strategic Plan for 2015–2017.
The Qualification Commission of the Advokatura is established under the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic. It has the following functions:
- holding a qualification exam to obtain a license to practice law;
- deciding whether a candidate should be allowed to take a qualification exam or not, following a verification of documents.
The number of individuals who have received licenses to practice advocacy, according to the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic (November 2014), is approximately to 3,500, with about 1,300 practising.
There is no special requirement for foreign law firms to obtain licences. In order to set up an office in the Kyrgyz Republic a foreign law firm may either set up a representative office/ branch or incorporate a local company (limited liability company or any other legal form permitted by Kyrgyz law). In both cases a local registration with the public authorities of the Kyrgyz Republic is required.
There is no requirement for a foreign lawyer to obtain a licence to practise law as a foreign legal consultant in Kyrgyzstan. Foreign lawyers cannot act as advocates and provide representation in criminal cases unless the Kyrgyz Republic and the respective foreign country are parties to an international (bilateral) agreement which provides a mutual recognition of advocates’ licences. The nationality requirement for local advocates makes it impossible for non-Kyrgyz citizens to requalify as local advocates.