Regulation of legal services

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This is one of the largest dossiers of the Brussels Office as it comprises several large policy areas:

  • free movement of lawyers and education and training;
  • Legal Professional Privilege (LPP); and
  • regulation of legal services in three UK jurisdictions.

Free movement of lawyers

At EU level, there are four key pieces of legislation that affect the legal profession:

  • the 1977 Lawyers’ Services Directive;
  • the 2005 Professional Qualifications Directive;
  • the 1998 Lawyers’ Establishment Directive; and
  • the 2006 Framework Services Directive. Although it is not specific to legal services, it contains provisions which have a direct effect on the legal services industry.

Article 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the 1977 Lawyers Service and 1998 Lawyers Establishment Directives allow lawyers to practise cross-border on a temporary and/or permanent basis in another member state using their home title. The framework currently applies to EU and EEA Member States as well as Switzerland. Among the rights are:

  • Ability to practise home state law;
  • Ability to practise host state law, and have access to reserved activities of the host state legal profession subject to certain conditions, e.g. the ability to litigate in host state courts in conjunction with a local lawyer;
  • Ability to requalify without equivalence examination after three years of regular and effective practice of host state law, including EU law;
  • Ability to work with, employ and be employed by local lawyers (subject to local rules on business forms);
  • Ability to set up a branch of a home state law firm using the firm title or to use one of the legal forms of the host state to set up a new entity.

The Professional Qualifications Directive enables UK lawyers to requalify into any of the EU/EEA and Swiss equivalent legal professions through an equivalence examination.

We regularly monitor the latest developments related to the above directives and provide support to our members on the practical questions concerning the rights of practice.

Legal professional privilege (LPP)

Legal professional privilege (LPP) allows the clients to refuse disclosure of confidential information to courts, tribunals, regulatory bodies or enforcement agencies. It recognises the client’s fundamental human right to be candid with his legal adviser, without fear of later disclosure to his prejudice. It is an absolute right and cannot be overridden by any other interest except in cases of crime.

There are many pieces of legislation that affect the LPP as they regulate disclosure of information to various authorities. These include data protection legislation, anti-money laundering and tax regulations or surveillance of communications. There are also different provisions concerning the LPP for those in private practice and those in house (especially at EU level). Therefore, we monitor the relevant legislative developments to ensure that the voice of the profession is heard and that solicitors are prepared for regulatory changes.

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