Friday, March 5, 2010

Something Rotten in the State of France - How Politicians Are Given Special Treatments to Become Lawyers!

If you have any doubt that France is a country where privileges remain and where success depends on your network and carnet d'adresse (address book), here's some news for you:

French politicians can become lawyers without taking the Bar Exam.

This is what I found out a few weeks ago when I read that Dominique Villepin became a lawyer by "special application" [my rough translation of "sur dosssier"] without taking the Bar Exam. It turns out that this is actually a very common thing that French politicians do, (see here or here) although usually with utmost discretion.
It is legal of course, since a law (l'article 11 de la loi du 31 décembre 1971) in very ambiguous wording allows "some people with professional experience" (« certaines personnes justifiant d'une expérience professionnelle ») to become lawyers without taking the exam.
More "precisely", this concerns people "who have held certain jobs or activities in France, and who have at least a Master's in law or titles or diplomas with the same recognition" (« Les personnes ayant exercé certaines fonctions ou activités en France, [titulaires] d'au moins une maîtrise en droit ou de titres ou diplômes reconnus comme équivalents pour l'exercice de la profession. »). It's even easier for those who graduate from ENA (Ecole National d'Administration).

It is really all about you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours - while the politicians who become lawyers are given a well-paid job, they bring in their contacts in high places, their so-called address book to the firm that hires them.
Who cares if there's a conflict of interest between being a lawyer for a firm and voting laws (see here)!

While I was googling on this topic, I came across a great illustration of what's rotten in the state of France :
The bio of Rachida Dati who held the prestigious post of Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice in the Sarkozy administration is exemplary of this problem of cronyism in France. As you can read in her French bio, she was a mediocre student, and failed many times but fate changed when she met Albin Chalandon, himself an influential politician at a party in the Algerian Ambassy in Paris and this was the beginning of her rise to the top thanks to a series of "special appointments" by different mentors (Jacques Attali and Simone Weil, among others) who would help her rise to the topn despite her obvious lack of qualifications.
Now, she's no longer a Minister as she unwillingly accepted running for a (safe) seat at the European Parliament. Unhappy and bored there, she has now become a lawyer without ever taking the exam!

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