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Bulgaria International Trade in Legal Services

Bulgaria International Trade in Legal Services

HOME COUNTRY LICENSING QUESTIONS

Is there legislation governing the legal sector

The Bulgarian Bar Act 2004

Under what title do lawyers practise?

???????? or advocate

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

 

According to the Bar Act 2004, Article 4. (1) Any Bulgarian national with civil capacity may become an attorney-at-law, provided he or she satisfies the following condition, He/She: 1) has a higher degree in law; 2) has competency to practise law; 3) has at least two years of legal practice experience; 4) has passed the Bulgarian Bar exam, except for the special cases listed under Article 6, Paragraph 3 of the Act; and 5) exhibits the required ethical and professional qualities to exercise the legal profession.

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

The licence to practise in Bulgaria is a national one.

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

The practice of law in Bulgaria is defined in Article 24 of the Bulgarian Bar Act ""(1) The exercise of the legal profession shall include
1. oral or written consultations and opinions on legal issues; 2. drafting of all types of papers - petitions, complaints, applications, appeals, etc., in relation to the assignment made by the client; 3. Representation of clients and protection of their rights and legal interests before bodies of the judiciary, administrative authorities and services, as well as before individuals and legal entities." Practice before the Supreme Administrative Court or Court of Cassation requires five years’ experience as a Bulgarian attorney.

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

Full rights of practice require Bulgarian or EU nationality. Other nationalities may obtain limited rights.

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

The legal profession may only be exercised by an attorney-at-law, practising alone or as a member of a partnership. An attorney-at-law may only be an individual who has taken oath and is inscribed in the register of the Bar Association.

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

E????? ?????? ?? ???????? (the ethical code for lawyers) available at www.vas.bg (the website of the Supreme Bar Council)

 

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

 Law firms must register the 'contract' between an attorney at law and a law firm with the Bar. Article 58 sets out that 'A law firm shall be established by virtue of a contract between two or more attorneys-at-law. The contract shall be made in writing and set out:
1. The name of the firm; 2. The names and addresses of the offices of associate attorneys-at-law; 3. The seat and address of the firm; 4. Objects; 5. The type and amount of contributions of each associate and an assessment of non-monetary contributions; 6. The manner of distributing income and expenses; 7. The manner of managing and representing the firm; 8. The conditions of admission of new associates; 9. The conditions in compliance with which associates may leave; 10. Grounds for the exclusion of an associate; 11. Grounds for termination of the firm; 12. The manner of liquidation of the firm.  Article 61 (1) A law firm shall be inscribed at the Bar Council, in a special register, by virtue of a decision, based on an application, signed by all attorneys-at-law who have executed the Articles of Association. The Articles of Association shall be attached to the application for inscription.

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

The Supreme Bar Council has the power to admit, strike off and maintain the list of all practising lawyers in Bulgaria. It also maintains the register of offices in which attorneys work (www.vas.bg)

   

INDIVIDUAL FOREIGN LAWYERS

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?

EU, EEA and Swiss lawyers who hold recognised professional titles and European nationality may provide temporary services in Bulgaria on an unrestricted basis without registering with the Bar (though in order to appear in court they must be introduced by a Bulgarian lawyer). Lawyers from other countries must open an office if they want to provide services in Bulgaria but they may appear in court on specific cases.

 

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

Bulgaria grants business visas to foreign lawyers but these visas to not permit direct sales to the public.

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?

Non EEA and Swiss foreign lawyers can register with the Supreme Council of the Bar to practise as a foreign attorney. This status permits them to practise the law of the country in which they are qualified and international law. EEA and Swiss lawyers may additionally practise European law and Bulgarian law in association with a Bulgarian lawyer.

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

A foreign lawyer must use his home professional title and register his office with the Supreme Bar Council.

 

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

A foreign lawyer must provide evidence from their home licensing authority that they are suitably qualified and have a clean disciplinary record.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation? Mediation is governed by the Mediation Act (State Gazette No. 110/17.12.2004, amended and supplemented, SG No. 86/24.10.2007) and permits any natural person to be a mediator, other than a judge or individual involved in the administration of justice. Arbitration is governed by the Law on International Commercial Arbitration (Published in the State Gazette (SG) No. 60 of 05.08.1988, amended in SG No. 93 of 02.11.1993, amended in SG No.59 of26.05.1998, amended in SG No. 38 of 17.04.2001, amended in SG No. 46 of 29.04.2002, amended in SG No. 59 of 20.07.2007, in effect from 01.03.2008). Many foreign lawyers are registered with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as arbitrators.
Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

Only those holding Bulgarian nationality, or registered European lawyers may appear in court. Lawyers from other countries may appear on specific cases following Article 10 of the Bulgarian Bar Act "(1) A foreign country national who has competency to practice law in accordance with the legislation of his or her own country, may appeal before judicial bodies of the Republic of Bulgaria as defence-counsel of a national of his or her own country, acting on a specific case, together with a Bulgarian attorney-at-law, in cases where this has been envisaged in an agreement between the Bulgarian and the respective foreign state, or on the basis of mutuality, making a preliminary request to this effect to the Chairperson of the Supreme Bar Council".

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers? European lawyers who wish to requalify as Bulgarian lawyers may requalify under article 10 of Directive 98/5/EC but must have been established as a Registered European Lawyer in Bulgaria for a minimum of three years and have obtained experience in local law.  Alternatively. Lawyers from other the EU, EFTA or Switzerland without three years' experience and residency in Bulgaria may sit an aptitude test.

FOREIGN LAW FIRMS

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

Foreign firms must register all their partners in Bulgaria and they must also continue to be licensed and qualified in their home countries. Foreign law firms are not entered on the unified register of 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)

Not applicable
Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)

Foreign law firms can only practise in the forms provided by the Bulgarian Bar Act. In effect, given that all partners must be registered in Bulgaria, a foreign law firm can only establish a Bulgarian subsidiary and cannot open a branch office.

Is there a quota on the number of licences available? No - a law firm may open offices in more than one location in Bulgaria provided they are all registered with the Bar.
Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have? No
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? There are no scope of practice rules that apply to firms as opposed to individual lawyers
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? EEA law firms would need to adhere to the provisions governing Bulgarian law firms contained in the Bar Act: Article 59. (1) The name of the firm shall include the words ""law firm"" and the names of one or more partners. All papers of the firm, including powers of attorney for the court, shall mandatorily read the names of all partners. (2) No other words or names shall be used in the name of a law firm other than the names of the partners (3) Where the firm name indicates the name of a partner who is about to leave, it may be kept with his or her consent. Where a partner has died, the name may be kept with consent of his or her heirs.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? NThe name of a law firm can only include the names of the partners, so a foreign firm would not be able to use its name unless the names of the partners were registered in Bulgaria as well.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL Only individual foreign lawyers are registered by the Supreme Bar Council (www.vas.bg)
   

EMPLOYMENT AND PARTNERSHIP

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

Yes - unless they are EEA or Swiss lawyers, a foreign lawyer may not be a partner in a law firm registered in Bulgaria.

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

Bulgarian lawyers may be employed by EEA or Swiss law firms  - see article 77 of the Bulgarian Bar Act

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

No - all partners must be Bulgarian lawyers

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

Yes

   

OTHER USEFUL LINKS/SOURCES

Other useful sources or comments or links

Supreme Council of the Bar: www.vas.bg