Bar associations have a crucial role to play in a democratic society to enable the free and independent exercise of the legal profession and to ensure access to justice and the protection of human rights, in particular due process and fair trial guarantees. They protect individual members of the legal profession, particularly in situations where they are not able to adequately defend themselves; elaborate and implement requirements and procedures to gain access to the legal profession; develop codes of professional conduct; and handle disciplinary proceedings against lawyers. Professional associations of lawyers also cooperate with state institutions in providing legal aid services to poor and disadvantaged persons and legal education and training to lawyers throughout their careers.

The report analyses various forms of interference with associations’ independence, ranging from legal or administrative obstacles to prevent lawyers from establishing or joining independent professional organizations, to different forms of control by the executive or judicial branch on the entry into or continued practice within the legal profession, and threats of disciplinary action and intimidation against the members of bar associations.