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:


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

How to use it

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

Help us keep it updated

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.

Useful Links

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