Structures, Facts and Figures
Lawyers - Independent Counsel and Advisors
Lawyers are independent representatives and advisors who are responsible and liable exclusively to their clients. They protect and defend the rights of individuals, including towards the government, and enforce these rights. The special relationship of trust between the lawyer and the client is based on the lawyer's statutory professional secrecy, independence and freedom from conflicts of interest.
Sound professional training: university degree and five years of practical training
The prerequisites for practising the legal profession are a degree in law, plus five years of practical training.
Practical training includes several months of court internship (since 1 July 2011: 5 months) plus at least three years' work as a trainee lawyer in a law firm. In addition, prospective lawyers must take the bar examination before a board of examiners of the Higher Regional Court. Passing the exam and a positive assessment of trustworthiness are required for admission to the bar and entry in the register kept by the bar.
6,138 lawyers and 2,129 trainee lawyers
As of 31 December 2015, 6,138 lawyers (thereof 81 established European lawyers) and 2,129 trainee lawyers were registered in Austria. Approximately 20 per cent of the lawyers and 50 per cent of the trainee lawyers are women.
As public-law corporations, the nine bars are autonomous self-administered professional associations of the lawyers and trainee lawyers in the Austrian Provinces. Some of their business is managed directly at Plenary Meetings and some indirectly through their committees. In addition to fulfilling tasks such as the administration of entries in the register of lawyers and trainee lawyers, membership fees, old-age and surviving dependants' pensions for members of the legal profession and other services, the bars are entitled to review and express an opinion on draft bills concerning their Province. The bars and the Disciplinary Boards, which are directly elected by the Plenary Meetings of the bars, monitor compliance by the lawyers and trainee lawyers with their professional duties.
The Presidents of the bars form the Council of Presidents. Currently, the Council members are: Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Burgenland), Dr. Gernot Murko (Carinthia), Dr. Michael Schwarz (Lower Austria), Mag. Dr. Franz Mittendorfer (Upper Austria), Dr. Wolfgang Kleibel (Salzburg), Mag. Dr. Gabriele Krenn (Styria), Dr. Markus Heis (Tyrol), Dr. Birgitt Breinbauer (Vorarlberg) and Dr. Michael Enzinger (Vienna). The Council of Presidents is primarily responsible for establishing the principal professional rules and regulations and the legal policy to be pursued.
The Austrian Bar
The umbrella organisation of all bars is the Austrian Bar, a public-law corporation with its seat in Vienna. The Austrian Bar is responsible for safeguarding the rights and interests of the Austrian community of lawyers as a whole and for their representation. In particular, the Austrian Bar Presidents have the duty to represent and enforce the professional rules and regulations and the legal-policy positions defined by the Council of Presidents vis-à-vis political decision-makers and the public. In so doing, the Austrian Bar speaks on behalf of lawyers with one voice and implements the resolutions passed by its bodies.
Since 2011, the office of the President of the Austrian Bar has been held by Dr. Rupert Wolff, his Vice Presidents are Dr. Josef Weixelbaum, Dr. Marcella Prunbauer-Glaser and Dr. Armenak Utudjian. The Secretariat General of the Austrian Bar is headed by the Secretary General Bernhard Hruschka Bakk. and is responsible for preparing and implementing the projects and measures resolved by the bodies of the Austrian Bar.
The Presidents of the bars, the additional delegates elected by the Plenary Meetings of the bars from among the community of lawyers and the trainee lawyers on the bars' committees, constitute the Representatives' Meeting of the Austrian Bar. The Representatives' Meeting decides on budgetary matters and issues the guidelines defined in Section 37 Rechtsanwaltsordnung. The Representatives elect the Austrian Bar President, the three Vice Presidents and the auditors of the Austrian Bar. The number of delegates depends on the number of members of the relevant bars. The auditors of the Austrian Bar are Dr. Michael Schwarz and Dr. Peter Posch.
The Austrian Bar and Europe
As a member of the CCBE (Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe) the Austrian Bar actively contributes to the rules of the legal profession and legislation in Europe. In 2012, Austrian Bar Vice President Dr. Marcella Prunbauer-Glaser was the President of CCBE.
In 2004, the Austrian Bar established a representative office in Brussels. The Brussels office is headed by Britta Kynast.