Cambodia International Trade in Legal Services

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services Report:

Verified by: SokSiphana & Associate

National licensing requirements

Law on the Bar 50 RKM June 1995

Other governing legislation:

  • Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors of the Kingdom of Cambodia dated 16 July 2014 (the “Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors in Cambodia”)
  • Law on the Status of Lawyers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (1995);
  • Decision on The Management of the Practice of the Legal Profession of Foreign Lawyers dated 08 January 2016 (the “Decision on the Management of Foreign Lawyers”); and
  • Code of Ethics for Lawyers Licensed with the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (the “Code of Ethics”);

A person may engage in the profession of lawyer, provided that he or she has fulfilled the following conditions:

  • 1.Has Khmer nationality.
  • 2. Has a Bachelor of Law degree (Licence en Droit) or an equivalent law degree.
  • 3. Has a Certificate of Lawyer's Professional Skill. This Certificate of Lawyer's Professional Skill is issued by the Center for Training of the Legal Profession.
  • 4. Has never have been convicted of any misdemeanor or felony, nor received any disciplinary sanction or administrative penalty, such as removal from any function, or dismissal for any act contrary to honor or any act of moral turpitude. Has not have been declared personally bankrupt by a court.

An individual lawyer must become a member of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (hereinafter referred to as “BAKC”) and must first be registered in the Training List of the Bar for one year of training unless he or she has received an exemption. The training consists of: Training organized by the Bar or working as an associate in a law firm.

Following the training period, the Bar Council shall make a decision to register the lawyer in the Bar list based on a report of supervising lawyer and following a determination that all the conditions have been fulfilled in conformity with the Law on the Bar and in the opinion of the General Prosecutor to the Appeal Court. The Bar Council may decide to order continued training, not to exceed one year, for a trainee who does not have sufficient competence. A decision not to register the lawyer’s name on the Bar List shall be considered a rejection of such lawyer.

Only lawyers who are members of the Cambodian Bar Association may act as lawyers, provide legal consultation or prepare judicial documents for compensation, except when such legal consultation or preparation of documents is an ancillary part of another profession or is a function permitted by law.

Yes, however, foreign lawyers are permitted to practise their profession in the territory of the Kingdom of Cambodia with authorisation from the BAKC. This authorisation will depend on the sufficiency of qualifications of the foreign lawyer and will only be granted when the country of origin of the foreign lawyer provides reciprocal access through a Memorandum of Understanding (the “MOU”) or similar understanding between BAKC and the bar of a foreign country (Article 6 of the Law on the Bar). To date, no MOUs have been signed. Even with authorization, for a foreign lawyer to advise on Cambodian law, they will need to be associated with a Cambodian lawyer and/or Cambodian law firm. "

Cambodian lawyers may practise their profession individually or within the context of a group or a Law Firm which is lawfully established. A firm must be formed as a civil company in which all of its members are lawyers. Lawyers shall be allowed to sign agreements with members of other independent (libérales) professions in order to combine their abilities. However, such agreements should respect the ethical rules of the legal profession.

The ethical requirements for Cambodian lawyers are laid down in the law and in the ethical rules made by the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Law firms have to register with and receive authorisation from the BAKC in order to provide legal services within Cambodia.

The Bar Association of Cambodia issues licences and/or authorizations for both individual lawyers and firms

Regulation of trade in legal services

Cambodia joined the WTO on 13 October 2004

Cambodia has scheduled commitments in legal services (CPC 861) for modes 1 and 2. Mode 3 access is permitted to foreign service providers but must be through commercial association with a Cambodian lawyer or Cambodian law firm and direct representation of clients in court is prohibited. Mode 4 is unbound for legal services except to the extent provided in horizontal commitments. Cambodia has also scheduled commitments in modes 1-3 for foreign legal consultancy in the law of jurisdiction where service supplier is qualified as a lawyer (including home country law, third country law, and international law)

Cambodia is a member of ASEAN and party to the ASEAN FTAs with Korea, Japan, Australia-NZ, China and India

Cambodia has reiterated its GATS commitments on legal services in its bilateral FTAs

Yes. There are a few regional South East Asian law firms (Zico Law from Malaysia, DFDL from Lao PDR, and Tileke & Gibbins from Thailand) with associated or subsidiary offices in Cambodia

Regulation of foreign lawyers

No. There are currently no provisions in Cambodia’s Labour laws and regulations that accommodate a short-term, temporary practice of law for foreign lawyers. The current practice for foreign employees entering Cambodia for a short-term assignment (i.e. less than one month) is to obtain a Tourist Visa, as it is unlikely that they will enter into an employment contract with a local entity which is required to qualify for a Business Visa. In such a case, it is not necessary to obtain authorization from BAKC.

"A foreign lawyer may obtain a Tourist Visa to visit clients on a short-term basis (i.e. less than a month) but it is recommended that under this visa, they limit their “hands-on” work or activities specific to any particular legal cases and proceed with prudence. A foreign lawyer under this visa cannot sign judicial documents in their capacity as a lawyer, represent a client in court or advise on Cambodian law.

A foreign lawyer is prohibited under Article 57 of the Law on the Bar from carrying out any marketing activities in his or her capacity as a lawyer.

A foreign lawyer may only practice law in this jurisdiction with authorization from the BAKC, which shall only be granted when the bar of the foreign lawyer’s country of origin provides the same possibility to Cambodian lawyers in the form of an MOU or reciprocal agreement with BAKC. A foreign lawyer without a valid license may only render legal services in this jurisdiction under the logo of a Cambodian-Foreign law firm or a Cambodian law firm but shall not be considered admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction or hold himself or herself out as a member of the bar of this jurisdiction.

"Yes. Pursuant to the Cambodian Labour Law, in order for a foreign national to be legally employed in any establishment, firm or enterprise in the country, they must have both a valid Business Visa issued by the Ministry of Interior (the “MoI”) and a Work Permit duly issued by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (the “MLVT”).

With respect to residency requirements, the government has not yet issued any residency cards, therefore, a copy of a lease agreement is sufficient.

Foreign lawyers who meet the reciprocity requirement and wish to be authorized by BAKC shall also fulfil the following conditions, under Article 5 of the Decision on the Management of Foreign Lawyers: (1) Be a lawyer and have at least five (5) years’ experience in the lawyer profession at the Bar Association where he or she is registered; (2) He or she shall have physical capabilities and good standing; (3) He or she shall never have been punished with administrative punishment or charged with any felony or misdemeanor offenses; and (4) He or she must never have been declared bankrupt.

A foreign lawyer may only requalify as a local lawyer if they are originally of Khmer nationality but have been registered as a member of the Bar of a foreign jurisdiction.

Regulation of foreign law firms

Cambodian laws and regulations are silent with respect to foreign law firms opening and operating in Cambodia, limiting its scope to foreign (individual) lawyers. However, pursuant to our no-name checks with the BAKC, opening a foreign law firm is not permissible under Cambodian laws, because to do so, the foreign lawyers who own that firm must first be granted a license to practice in this jurisdiction. In order to be granted to practice, the bar of their country of origin must have an MOU or any kind of understanding with BAKC. As no country has this type of understanding with the BAKC, no foreign lawyer is able to obtain such a license. Opening a foreign law firm can only come after fulfilling this condition.

Notwithstanding the fact that a foreign law firm must obtain authorization or a license from the BAKC, all law firms are under the jurisdiction of the BAKC and are restricted from registering elsewhere.

In practice, the BAKC has not yet issued any license for foreign law firms to open and operate.

Regulation of foreign and domestic lawyer partnership and employment

Yes. Should a foreign law firm be permitted to operate in the Kingdom of Cambodia, they may only provide a legal service on foreign law and are prohibited from providing a legal service on Cambodian law, unless they are cooperating with a Cambodian-Foreign law firm or a Cambodian law firm.

However, in practice, the BAKC has not yet issued a license or authorization for a foreign law firm to operate in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

There are only restrictions in place when the foreign law firm wishes to advise on Cambodia law as they are not permitted to do so without affiliation with a Cambodian law firm.

If legal services are being provided in foreign law (including home country and third country law) and international law, commercial association with a Cambodian law firm is not required. However, for prudence, in order for a foreign law firm to be granted authorization to operate in Cambodia, the owner of the firm must be a bar-authorized foreign lawyer whose country of origin meets the reciprocity requirement. To date, the BAKC has yet to issue a license or authorization for a foreign law firm to operate in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The Bar Assoiciation of the Kingdom of Cambodia

Yes. A foreign lawyer may own shares in a Cambodian-Foreign law firm; however, as Cambodian lawyers are entitled to hold shares and to vote with at least a 51% interest, foreign lawyers may not own more than 49% of the firm’s shares.

Yes. There is nothing that prohibits a domestic lawyer from employment by an authorized foreign law firm.

Yes, however, pursuant to Article 3 of the Prakas on Employment of Foreign Manpower, a domestic lawyer and/or domestic law firm shall be subject to a foreign employee quota of ten percent (10%). The quota restriction may be lifted in exceptional cases, as stipulated above. Additionally, this foreign lawyer is not authorized to advise on Cambodian law or conduct any activities restricted to registered lawyers.

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