The global legal and business elite are meeting in St Petersburg this week at one of the most important annual legal events in Russia. At the International Legal Forum, they will discuss recent developments in the Russian legal market as well as its interaction with other jurisdictions.
Being rebuilt from scratch after the fall of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, the Russian legal system is still undergoing changes, the most important recently being the reform of the Supreme Court. The system still needs to make its courts more credible, to unify interpretation of the law, to raise the morals and ethics of some of the judges and to fight corruption.
In the meantime, the flaws of the current state of affairs are being exploited as arguments in jurisdictions outside of Russia in cases involving defendants from the CIS countries.
In disputes involving high profile and wealthy Russians, the most frequent argument offered by their lawyers is that the cases brought against their clients are politically motivated. They also maintain that the current state of the system means that their clients may not experience a fair trial there.
While these arguments might still be true, the fact they hold sway with judges in Europe and the U.S. proves that the Russian legal system still has to go a long way to prove it has developed to a level where it will be as respected and trustworthy as the English system.
As the Russian government is dealing with the issues at hand, it might benefit more from explaining its needs to the global community to win over its sympathies and gain its support. Assistance will surely be given once Europe and the U.S. have a better understanding of the tortuous and time-consuming processes the Russian legal system is currently undergoing.
Thus, Russia’s legal system needs support not only through healthy criticism. It needs efficient PR that will help it to become more open and transparent. Legal PR based on reputation management of the system outside of Russia will help it recruit more supporters from the global legal and business community. It will dispel a few myths and illusions and will build a strong narrative around the issue of its current state.
Through this and other PR and regulatory efforts combined, we shall see the Russian legal system secure both feet on the ground for even more meaningful and positive development.