Guatemala International Trade in Legal Services

IBA Global Cross Border Legal Services Report:

National licensing requirements

Law on Enrolment in a Professional Association, Decree 72-2001 of the Congress of the Republic (Ley de Colegiacion Profesional Obligatoria Decreto 72-2001)

To be admitted as a lawyer it is necessary to hold a certificate of competence issued by the Supreme Court of Justice and be registered with the College of Attorneys and Notaries. To obtain a certificate the following requirements must be met: the applicant must be a Guatemalan national and have a professional qualification in law awarded by a recognized university. To practise as a notary it is necessary to be Guatemalan by birth, to be legally resident in Guatemala and to have obtained a professional qualification.

Only Guatemalan lawyers have rights of audience in court and can provide advice on Guatemalan law.

Guatemalan abogados may practise as individual practitioners or through limited liability partnerships. Law may not be practised through public limited companies.

Ethical requirements are set out in the Código de Ética Profesional del Colegio de Abogados y Notarios de Guatemala, 13 December 1994.

The Supreme Court of Justice issues licenses to individual lawyers.

Regulation of trade in legal services

Guatemala joined the WTO on 21 July 1995

Guatemala has made no sectoral GATS commitments on legal services

Guatemala is a party to the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). Guatemala has also signed bilateral or regional free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Taiwan, Panama, the European Union, Peru, and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with South Korea. Guatemala has also signed partial agreements with Belize, Ecuador, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela, which cover a reduced number of products and do not include chapters beyond trade. Guatemala is also a member of the Central American Economic Integration System (SIECA) along with Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Yes. The Central American law firm Arias, the international law firm Dentons, EY Legal and Deloitte Legal all have offices in Guatemala City.

Regulation of foreign lawyers

Under the terms of international agreements, foreign attorneys may provide consultancy services exclusively in relation to international law and the legislation of the jurisdiction in which the foreign attorney is qualified. These consultancy services may not include appearing before the tribunals, courts or judicial authorities.

This matter remains a “grey area” owing to silence on the issue from the Arbitration Act. Some hold the view that a foreign lawyer can serve as advocate in arbitral proceedings in Guatemala, whilst other experts consider that such activity needs prior bar registration as it is serving advocacy in Guatemala. In practice, it is better for foreign lawyers to work in a team with local lawyers, especially for written submissions.

Regulation of foreign law firms

There is no explicit foreign law firm licensing regime

Foreign companies setting up a branch or permanent establishment in Guatemala must register with the Commercial Registry: (www.registromercantil.gob.gt). The application to register must be published once in the Official Gazette and in one commercial newspaper, so that any potentially affected party can object to the registration.

Regulation of foreign and domestic lawyer partnership and employment

There are no additional requirements on law firms beyond those imposed on foreign companies in general.

Not more than 10% of a firm can be made up of foreign/non-Guatemalan workers

Other useful links / sources

Colegio de Abogados y Notarios de Guatemala (http://www.cang.org.gt)