Polish parliament softens its line on restricting foreign practices

THE POLISH parliament appears to be back-tracking over plans to force foreign firms to transfer their capital to Polish lawyers or shut down offices in the country.

Initial signs show the draft law, which has been before the parliament since late last year, will be altered to allow lawyers admitted as advocates or legal advisers in Poland to continue practising in the country.

But foreign practitioners awaiting news on the future of partnerships between Polish and overseas lawyers fear the changes may not enable them to maintain a strong presence in the country.

The expected alterations, which would affect firms including Theodore Goddard and Clifford Chance, would mean foreign lawyers could automatically become admitted in Poland if their home regulator maintained a reciprocal arrangement with Polish practitioners.

However, the definition of the arrangement would be narrow and would not include countries where Polish lawyers practice under their home title.

If such an arrangement did not exist, the legislation may allow foreign lawyers to become admitted after passing local Bar examinations to satisfy the same requirements as local lawyers. But many of the overseas lawyers who practise in Poland say they have no desire to qualify as a local lawyer.

Nick Fletcher, local partner in Clifford Chance's Polish office, said he feared the adaptations to the draft were not far-reaching enough.

“At present we've not seen any firm proposals on the law,” said Fletcher. “I understand that there is a proposal for the principle of reciprocity, but what I want to be able to do is what Polish lawyers can do in England, where the restrictions are minimal.”

The European Commission is believed to reject the idea of a reciprocal arrangement, preferring the most favoured nation policy which does not discriminate between countries.

The Law Society's Brussels representative Patrick Oliver confirmed the office had contacted the commission which had expressed “initial surprise” at the developments

“The developments are surprising given that there's an emerging consensus in Europe on establishment under home title,” he said.