Thursday, February 08, 2007

Problems of Specializing Legal Practices in Moldova

I recently came across the post by Aidan Ellis at The Barrister Blog called "The danger of specialisation" The name of the post says for itself. The author reveals some problems that may face too narrowly specialized practicing lawyers and describes the benefits of having a good basis of general legal knowledge:

Nevertheless the core skills of the lawyer apply to any area of law. Legal research, drafting and most importantly communication are substantially the same in any branch of the law. There is no substitute for a broad range of experience in terms of being able to offer a complete service to clients. Often clients have legal problems that are not easily pigeonholed into a particular specialism. Personal injury itself may overlap with employment, health and safety or criminal law.

On a personal level, occasionally being thrust into the melee of an unfamiliar area of law is useful experience. It teaches, or perhaps reminds, how to research novel points swiftly and accurately. It is useful practice for the advocate to appear unflappable in any situation because even on home ground new points can occur.

Unfortunately these gentler benefits look set to be swamped by the onrushing tide of specialisation.

And these ideas of a British lawyer led me to the thoughts on specialisation of practices among Moldavian lawyers. And here they are:

In contrast to England facing the problem of overspecialized lawyers many Moldavian lawyers sometimes seem to be "specialists" in all areas of law. There are quite few law firms that have good specialists in certain particular fields (though many affirm they do). You'll hardly find a lawyer who would deal exclusively with M&As, personal injury, etc.

OK, maybe I'm too categorical. Of course, there are specialist in certain areas of practice. But this doesn't seem to be a norm among Moldovan lawyers.

But another question that arises is - will the tendency for specialization evolve among lawyers in Moldova?. I'm sure it will. BUT, not so fast as has to be. Here are some of the reasons that will impede the process, as I see it:

1. (One of the most important) The quality of legal teaching at Moldavian Universities is still too low. In order to develop particular (and narrow) practices of law we need highly prepared teachers of law in such areas as corporate law, customs regulations, land law, personal injury, securities, etc. (the list can be very long indeed) who know not only the theory (though it is really important) but also practicalities of particular areas. Most of them do not tend to teach law at universities. And the ones who do are not always enough prepared to TEACH. And I see this as one of the top priorities for our universities to FIND and PREPARE such specialists.

2. Another problem is the actual prospects for the specialists in some narrow niches of Moldavian legal "market". Let me explain what I mean. Moldova is a very small country. And let's speak frankly - not truly democratic. So, the prospective clientele is not large enough. And people don't really trust authorities in general and courts in particular. Moldova is not an "Overlawyered" country. So you can be a greatest specialist in an area where people do not tend to seek a legal advice (even when they need it)... I'm notgoing to develop this idea. I hope you've caught the point...

3. (Related with the second issue). Law is too often "forgotten" about. Many things are done despite certain legal prescriptions. You can know law perfectly well and not be able to implement it. Because it's simply not observed...

4. Inconsistency and vagueness of many laws. Many procedures (especially administrative ones) are carried out according to internal regulations that are adopted within certain administrative bodies. And nobody, except the employees of those institutions, know about the rules that are applied. There's a regulatory reform being implemented in order to eliminate such practices, the so called "Guillotine reform" (more on this read here and here), however it is still far from being finished (if ever will completely). Particularly, the situation is complicated at the level of local public administration. So, you can't always rely on law when there can be a set of unknown regulations that make a law useless or hard to implement...

However, I am an optimist. Despite all the problems that exist I think that the process of specializing practices among Moldavian lawyers will continue, probably not too fast, but we definitely have to expect more and more narrow specialists to appear...

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At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 3:13:00 AM, Blogger Lyndon said...

I think your point #2 may be the most relevant long-term. The others are all correct as well, but the size of the market for legal services will be important. In the US, legal work for individuals and small corporate entities in smaller towns (and even simpler work in large cities) may be done by the classic "solo practitioner," who may specialize in a certain kind of law but who often knows how to do a number of things. Since Moldova will remain a smaller market for legal services, one can imagine that the situation there might be similar (solos or small groups of generalists).

Another factor to keep in mind is client sophistication - in the US, people want the lawyer who knows the most about their specific problem (whether it is an individual with divorce issues, a personal injury claim or a need for criminal defense; or a corporation trying to complete a merger) - obviously, this means the highest-qualified specialists (or, in the case of lawyers for unlucky individuals, the ones with the best advertising) are in the greatest demand and command the highest fees.

Of course, America is overlawyered, in part because there is such a high demand for legal services, so maybe it does get back to the size of the market / overall demand for legal services.

Anyway, it's an interesting question.

At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 9:48:00 AM, Blogger Alexei Ghertescu said...

Your remark about point # 2 may be absolutely relevant for solo practitioners or small firms dealing with natural persons' problems (divorces, wills, certain types of contracts, etc.). However, there are companies that seek for resolution of their complex problems. And such problems are unlikely to be resolved by lawyers with too general specialization (you can't be a great specialst in capital markets, M&As, banking, IP, international transactions, etc.) and many clients want to get all services at one place (of course, the number of them is not so big. but they exist).

So, I think all factors should be seen together.

At Thursday, March 22, 2007 12:59:00 AM, Blogger Lyndon said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that there aren't sophisticated and demanding clients on the Moldovan legal services marketplace. I guess there are enough large corporations in Moldova that need such a one-stop firm with multiple practice areas. I wonder which you think are the areas in greatest demand today, and what you think might be the situation in the future. Have you considered going to the US or UK (or anywhere else in Europe) for an LL.M to specialize more in one area? Is this something that young Moldovan lawyers are interested in?

I have met a couple of Moldovans in LL.M. programs in DC, the US LL.M. is really more useful if you want to work with US law in the future, so maybe something in Europe would be more useful for someone planning to return to Moldova. But I'd be interested in your thoughts on that.

At Thursday, March 22, 2007 5:25:00 PM, Blogger Alexei Ghertescu said...

Your first question is quite difficult to answer. It's about finding your niche in the market and not everyone does it successfully...

I thought about going abroad in order to get an LLM degree in a foreign university. Still it's unlikely opportune for me right now cause I'm just in the process of launching my solo practice as an attorney...

However I'm highly interested in short-term legal studying opportunities abroad (like seminars, summer schools, professional trainings, etc.). Speaking more generally about Moldovan students I think that in the coming years international LLM programs in European and American universities will become more and more popular among young Moldovan lawyers.

At Sunday, August 09, 2009 12:03:00 PM, Blogger AMIT said...

Oh its bad that this type of problems comes.

Legal forum

At Monday, June 20, 2011 11:49:00 AM, Anonymous digital certificate said...

You are right that the core skills of the lawyer apply to any area of law and Often clients have legal problems that are not easily pigeonholed into a particular specialism. Personal injury itself may overlap with employment, health and safety or criminal law .


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