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Bar Association and Legal Profession: Reality and Prospects

 Mr. Ali Muhanna, Head of Palestinian Bar Association, outlined the reality and prospects of the Bar Association and legal profession. He first tackled the legal profession, its historical origins, its identification as being a mission, not merely a profession. Thus the Palestinian Bar Association has considered this job a message-bearing profession.
The lecturer pointed out that Advocacy in Palestine is an old time profession. In 1948 the Palestinian lawyers were divided into three categories:
  • Lawyers in pre 1948 areas
  • West bank Lawyers
  • Gaza Strip Lawyers

Such a division left its effects on the reality of the profession, creating difficulties and multiplying contexts representing Palestinian lawyers.

Since its inception the PA has strived to unify the Union and legal framework of this group. Serious and strenuous negotiations were launched, ending up in establishing a Council of the Bar Association on 9/7/1997. This council was entrusted with many prerogatives, most importantly to identify who is a lawyer, who is not, in order to sort out the Union’s General Association. As a matter of fact, 890 lawyers were sorted out. The Council prepared a draft law to organize the Lawyers Union. A law was issued in March 1999.

Although the Law has involved a lot of problems, modified by another Law no. 5/1999, yet the Lawyers Union is the old union enjoying a special statute, contrary to other Unions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Union’s Council started preparing for elections, laying several regulations organizing the election. Cooperation was ensured with different institutions to come up with a special archive for the Union, in addition to a library and training halls. On 11/7/2003 the first elections were held, the latest being those in April 2007. 

The lecturer further pointed out that the lawyers’ action is accumulative. All previous efforts led to the situation of the Union at the present stage.

The lecturer has defended all criticism to the Union, that its priorities are concentrated on general concerns, without any concern to matters relating to lawyers and to the profession itself. In his view, the purpose of the Union is to create a state of equilibrium between these two types of concerns, as it is not possible to dissociate the Lawyers Union from any general situation.

Talking about the obstacles facing the Bar Association, the lecturer outlined some of them, mainly the lack of Palestinian experience in the Bar Association performance, with less than 10 years experience, compared to the 65 year experience of the Jordanian Association, and the 100 year experience of the Egyptian Association.

The Association lacks computerized system as well as data and archives.  There are no systems ruling the ethics of the profession, remunerations or training process.

On the general level, the role of the Association does not live up to the standard and status of the legal profession.  The general circumstances and concerns, especially after partitioning the country between West Bank and Gaza Strip, leave their impact on the Association.  According to the lecturer, there should be a prominent role for the Association regarding the current concerns.

The lecturer considers the occupation as the main obstacle in promoting both the Association and the Profession, impeding the easy and safe access of the lawyer and the judge to his place of duty.