A well informed customer is a safe customer. However, when seeking legal advice in Poland you will most likely encounter a lot of titles used by Polish lawyers: radca prawny, adwokat, prawnik, specjalista ds. prawnych, doradca prawny… This may likely get you confused. The question is: are they any different?
Everyone can call themselves „lawyer”
In Poland, every entepreneur can use the term „lawyer” (prawnik) or call their company „lawfirm” (kancelaria) – regardless of the scope of services or competences. Because of this, there are many service providers on the market that do not have to meet any requirements to provide customers their assistance.
Restricted professional titles
However, there are professional titles with restricted access to them – limited only by those who meet necessary requirements to provide quality services.
The two main legal titles for professionals are: radca prawny (attorney-at-law) and adwokat (Advocate).
Both attorney-at-law and advocate are experts with qualifications confirmed by an official entry on the list of one of the Bar Associations. Both are called by any Polish act and any court as “professional attorney (proxy)”.
The differences between these two are minor and it is commonly said that the existing division into two legal institutions is artificial and has mainly historical significance. For this reason, there are ideas of combining legal advisers with lawyers in one common institution. Still, it has not happened so far.
What are the actual differences between lawyers?
The differences can be summarized as follows:
|Attorney-at-law (radca prawny)||Advocate (adwokat)||„lawyer” (prawnik), „agent” (agent), „legal expert” (specjalista ds. prawnych) „advisor” (doradca) etc.|
|Required education||– master’s degree in law (4,5 years) – entrance exam for apprenticeship – attorney-at-law legal apprenticeship (3 years, 3 groups of exams) – state exam||– master’s degree in law (4,5 years) – entrance exam for apprenticeship – advocate legal apprenticeship (3 years, 2 groups of exams) – state exam||No formal education required|
|Training obligation||Yes – 40 points required every 2 years||Yes – 12 points required annually||No obligation|
|Specialization||Any (usually they prefer civil, commercial and administation law)||Any (usually they prefer criminal and family law)||Any|
|Professional secrecy (obligation of confidentiality)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Disciplinary responsibility||Yes – professional liability before Disciplinary Court||Yes – professional liability before Disciplinary Court||No|
|Right to advertise||No (have only limited right to inform about services and write articles)||No (have only limited right to inform about services and write articles)||Yes (can advertise his/her services the same way as any entrepreneur)|
Since this is a complex topic, covering all characteristics of legal professions would require much more space and might not be an easy read. Especially since there are other legal professions intended for specific areas of law, like „doradca podatkowy” (tax advisor) or „rzecznik patentowy” (patent attorney). But this may be a story for another time.