The Regulation of International Trade in Legal Services

The IBA has created a database of information about the regulation of trade in legal services. This will provide individual lawyers and law firms with information to assist them in representing their clients internationally and developing their businesses. It will also assist bar associations, governments and other institutions that are looking to change the way they regulate practice by foreign lawyers.

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services Report

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services Report

As economies have become more global, the demand for global cross-border legal services has grown significantly. Increasingly governments are pursuing trade agendas designed to break down barriers to cross-border trade, including in relation to the legal profession. For over 15 years the International Bar Association (IBA) Council, the global voice of the legal profession, has responded to this trend by taking a leading role in providing guidance on the responsible delivery of cross-border legal services. IBA Global Regulation and Trade in Legal Services Report 2014 is part of that initiative.

The report is the result of an ambitious task undertaken by the IBA International Trade in Legal Services Committee to compile data on regulation of domestic and cross-border legal practice in over 90 countries, or over 160 jurisdictions. The result is a rich and detailed body of information. 

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IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services Regional Reports


IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services in Africa

Published 2018

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services in Asia

Published 2019

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services in the Balkan States and CIS

Published 2019

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services in the EU and EFTA

Published 2019

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services in Latin America and the Caribbean

Published 2019

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services in the Middle East

Published 2019

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services in North America

Published 2019

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services in Oceania

Published 2019

What the database contains

The database contains information broken down by country, and if relevant also by sub-national jurisdiction. Each country spreadsheet contains the following information:

  • Lawyer titles and the legislation governing legal practice
  • How lawyers from this country become licensed to practise?
  • What trade in legal services commitments the country has made in the WTO?
  • What other commitments in free trade agreements or other reciprocal arrangements the country has made?
  • Possibilities for foreign lawyers to provide transactional legal services, appear in court or undertake arbitration
  • Conditions governing practice in the country of individual foreign qualified lawyers, including licensing arrangements if relevant.
  • Conditions governing practice in the country by foreign law firms, including licensing arrangements if relevant.
  • Possibilities for foreign and local lawyers to work together formally in employment and partnership arrangements

There are two ways in which to search for information in the database: By Geography or Theme.

Searching by Geography
  • you may select individual countries on the basis of the alphabetical list by selecting display all
  • if the country you are interested in is a federal in structure, information will be displayed separately for each different jurisdiction only where there are significant differences between them
  • you may select a region which will display all the countries in the database within a region. This will additionally give you a brief synopsis of overall trade in legal services within that region.
Searching by Theme

You may choose to view the database by theme. We have selected a number of pertinent search options to cover the interests of both practitioners and institutions. These searches allow you to view by country:

  • who has made WTO/GATS commitments in legal services
  • who  offers preferential arrangements to lawyers from certain countries (ie. not on an MFN basis)
  • who has foreign lawyer or law firm licensing regimes in place
  • who allows foreign lawyers to provide services on a temporary basis, either with or without conditions
  • who allows foreign lawyers to appear in court
  • who allows foreign law firms to establish offices
  • who allows foreign and domestic lawyers to associate

Association means some form of fee sharing

Requalification means that some credit is given for an existing legal qualification in a lawyer’s home country and the full qualification route required of domestic lawyers is not required

The database draws on publicly available sources of information.

Information on legislation and lawyer licensing arrangements are taken from domestic legislation as indicated in the spreadsheet together with information from official sources such as Ministries of Justice or Bar Associations.

Information on the presence of foreign law firms draws on published commercial directories, where there is no publicly available official database of foreign law firms, and is likely to represent at least the minimum figure.

Information on trade in legal services commitments and commitments under free trade agreements is drawn from the WTO and the texts of agreements lodged with it.

Information on the regulatory regimes governing foreign legal service providers is taken from the relevant regulator/licensing authority.

Information on investment regimes facing foreign law firms is drawn from national information about the conditions for foreign investment provided, where possible, by national investment agencies.

Where possible, all of the above information has been checked against the information held in other publicly available databases and with official sources and practising lawyers in the countries concerned.

The trend for governments to revisit legislation governing the regulation of lawyers is growing and regimes governing foreign law practice are also becoming subject to definition where they do not exist, and reform, where they do.

This means that this database will need to be kept under regular review in order for it to remain both current and useful.  Whilst some effort can be devoted to this by the IBA centrally, we hope that this will be a tool that bar associations and practising lawyers will help to keep updated.

If you have comments on the accuracy of any particular country entry or if there are modifications you would like to suggest because of legislative, regulatory or other changes that have taken place, then please use the following link to alert us.

We are aware that legislative and regulatory changes are often presaged by many years of debate. The database is designed only to reflect the actual position as enacted.  If you are interested in updates on the state of play in foreign legal practice reform discussions, then please join our dialogue on LinkedIn.

Each country spreadsheet contains contact details of the national regulator and, if separate, the relevant national or local bar associations. Weblinks to these organisations are provided where possible within the database.

Beyond this information, the following links may also be useful to those seeking more information on this topic:

APEC - Legal Services Inventory

Contains information gathered under the auspices of APEC “to enhance transparency of requirements and procedures for professional legal services providers to practice foreign law across APEC economies, identify information gaps, and aid in the development of best practices for the regulation of foreign lawyers”.


OECD – Indicators of regulatory conditions in professional services

This study contains useful information on key regulatory conditions for legal services providers in OECD countries and a number of other major economies.  It contains a snapshot of the state of play in 1996, 2003 and 2008.


World Bank – Services Trade Restrictiveness Index

This provides a comparative index of openness to foreign providers of legal, and other, services. It focuses on 3 modes of delivery (cross-border, commercial presence and presence of natural persons.


World Trade Organisation – services database

Provides access to services schedules of member countries