Crisis takes toll on lawyers too

The economic crisis in Greece appears to have had an impact on the legal profession -- a sector that has been relatively cosseted along with several other so-called closed professions -- with cash-strapped Greeks seeking legal representation less frequently and a growing number of lawyers giving up their firms to work as employees in larger companies, Kathimerini understands.

According to recent statistics, around one in three lawyers working in the capital -- that is 7,097 of the 21,711 practicing law in Athens -- did not appear in court at all last year, six in 10 did not attend a signing of a property transfer (one of the most common legal transactions) while more than 80 percent witnessed the signing of less than two property transfers.

The outlook for young law graduates is less than rosy. Some 8,500 aspiring lawyers are reportedly working with law firms for between 500 and 700 euros and without social security cover.

Greece’s international creditors -- the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund -- had included lawyers in a list of dozens of privileged professions, which also includes pharmacists and truck drivers, that must be liberalized if Greece is to start becoming competitive.

But Greek lawyers were among the most vociferous in their opposition to the proposed reforms. In August 2010, the Athens Bar Association (ABA) and smaller legal guilds from around the country appealed to the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court, to annul the first debt deal with the foreign creditors, which is known as the memorandum.

The president of the ABA, Yiannis Adamopoulos, spoke to Kathimerini Friday of a broader attempt to stigmatize the legal profession, complaining about the frequent criticism of lawyers as tax evaders. “Most respect the law,” he insisted.

Greece has a disproportionately large number of professional lawyers in relational to its population with 366 lawyers per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to a ratio of 168:100,000 in Germany and 290:100,000 in Italy. 

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