Democratic Republic of the Congo International Trade in Legal Services

Democratic Republic of the Congo International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Ordonnance-loi No 79-028 du 26/09/1979 portant organisation du Barreau, du corps des défenseurs judiciaires et du corps des mandataires de l’Etat (Law on the on the organisation of the Bar, judicial defenders and State representatives).

Under what title do lawyers practise?

“Avocat” or “Défenseur judiciaire”

How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?



Unlike some civil law countries, where there is a separate legal education for judges and lawyers, the Congolese basic law degree (licence) entitles its holders to practise as judges or advocates, as they may wish. Conditions to practise law as an “avocat” (=lawyers) or as a “défenseur judiciaire” (judicial defenders) are different because the scope of practise they are entitled to is different: a “défenseur judiciaire” has a limited scope of practice and may only plead before local courts. Conditions for “Avocat”: To access the legal profession one needs to (Article 7 of the Act):  a) hold DRC nationality; b) hold a degree in law or a doctorate in law issued by the National university of Zaire (or the former National school for legal and administrative studies) or an equivalent diploma issued by a foreign university ( the applicant must in this case justify that he or she has knowledge in DCR law); c) complete a 2-year internship (stage) with a registered local lawyer (section II of the Act); d) pass the final exam after completion of the internship (certificat d’aptitude professionnelle).
Lawyers must be registered in the list of the Bar association of their place of establishment (Article 3 of the Act).
Conditions for admission as a “défenseur judiciaire”: a) hold DRC nationality;  To have graduated in law at the National University of DRC or hold an equivalent degree.

Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

“Avocats” can automatically practise before all jurisdictions in DRC (except for the Supreme Court see below) according to Article 5 of LAw no 79-028. There is no jurisdictional limit.  However, before pleading in a court outside the area covered by his or her bar association, lawyers must introduce themselves to the judge heading the trial (président de l’audience ), to the public prosecutor, to the head of the local bar association (bâtonnier), and to the lawyer of the opposite party (Article 78 of the Act).

Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?



According to Article 6 of the Act, only lawyers (avocats) are allowed to assist and represent clients, to make procedural acts on the behalf of clients, to file conclusions and plead before courts.
Judicial defenders have the same rights but their activity is limited to local bars (Tribunal de paix and tribunal de grade instance); they may not appear in Courts of appeal.
Only lawyers admitted to the Supreme Court (avocats à la Cour suprême de justice) may plead before it and need to have practised for 10 years and have published several legal articles in order to be  eligible to do so (Article 105).

Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?

Local nationality is a requirement, however there is the possibility of reciprocal access for foreign lawyers (article 7).

What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)


Lawyers may practise in several legal forms which are laid down in article 64 of the Act.
They may be self-employed (exercice à titre individuel), in an association of lawyers, as a collaborator of another lawyer, or in a group of lawyers.
The contract of collaboration is the contract by which a lawyer commits himself to work for another lawyer in exchange of a salary. 
An association is a contract between 2 or more lawyers who decide to practise together in the same law firm (cabinet) or different law firms and share benefits and losses.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

The national Bar Association (Conseil National de l’Ordre) has issued the Règlement Intérieur du Barreau which elaborates on the basic ethical requirements contained in the law.

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

There is no licensing procedure for law firms, however article 70 of the Act says that copies of contracts between lawyers (association and collaboration) must be sent to the “Conseil de l’Ordre” not more than fifteen days after they are entered into.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

“Conseil de l’Ordre” of each local bar association is the authority in charge of contracts between lawyers as well as the register of individual lawyers (tableau de l’ordre).



Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

There are no explicit rules on fly in fly out practice.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?

Business invitations require prior approval by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

There is no foreign legal consultancy regime.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

Not applicable


Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

Not applicable 


Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?

DRC has recently acceded both to OHADA and to the New York Convention and foreign lawyers are permitted to act as arbitrators in DRC.

Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

Exceptionally a foreign lawyer may appear in a specific case without first being registered in the DRC. However, this requires prior authorization from the president of the local bar and assistance from a local lawyer.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?

Registration is subject to reciprocity.  Foreign degrees may be recognized if deemed equivalent to a DRC diploma. Candidates must also pass an examination to show proof of sufficient knowledge of Congolese law.


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

There is no licensing regime for foreign law firms.

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

Foreign law firms are not permitted in DRC.
Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)

Not applicable

Is there a quota on the number of licences available?

Not applicable

Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have?

Not applicable

Are there "scope of practice" rules that apply directly to foreign law firms (as opposed to lawyers themselves)? (e.g. home, host, international law), if so, what are they?

Not applicable

Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take?

Not applicable

Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? The name of a law firm in the DRC may consist only of the names of its local partners. But it is acceptable for a local firm to mention that it is an affiliate or member of an international firm/network.  
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL Not applicable


Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?

Not applicable.

May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

Not applicable.

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?

Not applicable.

Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?

There is a limit on the percentage of foreign employees (one to four percent) who may be employed depending on the type of position.



Other useful sources or comments or links

Bar Association: