Colombia International Trade in Legal Services

Colombia International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Decree 196 of 1971 (Statute for the Practice of Law)
Decree 1137 of 1971 (This Decree regulates some provisions of Decree 196 of 1971)
Law 1123 of 2007 (Disciplinary Code of the Legal Profession)

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Abogado (a) (attorney)

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








Under Colombian Law an individual must meet the following requirements in order to obtain the professional licence:
1) Have a law degree from a Colombian School of Law dully recognized by the Government.
Foreign lawyers can apply to obtain the professional licence by homologating his/her law degree. For that purpose the academic title obtained in a foreign University must be subject to an administrative proceeding carried out before the Colombian Ministry of Education in order to obtain recognition. In addition, the applicant must take several tests on local law.
2) To have legal residence in Colombia.
When requirements 1 and 2 are met, the applicant will be eligible for the registration before the National Registry of Attorneys (held by the Consejo Superior de la Judicatura).
The applicant must provide a copy of his/her ID and pay the official fees – currently approximately USD$27.
There is no expiry date for a Lawyer Professional License.

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

Holders of a professional licence are entitled to practice throughout the country.



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



Under Article 24 of the Statute for the Practice of Law, the exercise of the legal profession is reserved to licensed lawyers. However there are some exceptions to this general rule, for instance: (i) arbitrators in international arbitration proceedings conducted in Colombia; (ii) arbitrators ruling on local arbitration proceedings related to disputes that not involve the use and interpretation of law (i.e. technical disputes, ex aequo et bono decisions);  (iv) individuals litigating their own causes as long as the claim’s value does not exceed the amount permitted by law (US $12.410 aprox.); (iii) Judges of Peace (“Jueces de Paz”).

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

The Colombian legal system does not provide the requirement to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law, but legal residence in Colombia is required.
Arbitrators dealing with local arbitration proceedings must hold local nationality.

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

Lawyers in Colombia are not subject to restrictions on the legal form in which they can exercise the legal profession.

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

Articles 71, 72, 73 and 74 of the Colombian Code of Civil Procedure (duties of the attorneys, liability of the attorneys before their clients, general prohibition to act in bad faith -mala fe o temeridad-).

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

Colombian law firms are not deemed to obtain a licence, permission or approval in order to “practise law”.
Partnerships constituted by licensed lawyers to practice law, must comply with the pertinent legal local requirements according to its nature, as any other commercial partnership.  

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

The “Consejo Superior de la Judicatura” is the national authority in charge of issuing licenses for individual lawyers. Firms are not required to obtain a licence to practise law. 



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?

Foreign lawyers are allowed to practice law in Colombia only if they obtain their Professional Licence before the Consejo Superior de la Judicatura.

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

Yes. The foreign lawyer will need to apply for a “Permission to Enter and Remain PIP-6” before the Special Administrative Unit Migración Colombia according to article 21 of the Decree 834 of 2013.

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?

Under Colombian Law there is no requirement for a limited licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant.

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? Colombia has an International Arbitration Law based on the UNCITRAL model which entered into force on October 12 of 2012. Regarding mediation proceedings, Colombia has not adopted a special law on that regard.
Foreign lawyers are entitled to act (as counsel or arbitrators) in international arbitration proceedings conducted in Colombia.
Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?

Foreign lawyers are able to practice law in Colombia only if they obtain their Professional Licence before the Consejo Superior de la Judicatura.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?

Foreign lawyers can requalify as local lawyers.


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

Under Colombian law, firms do not require a “licence”. The Colombian legal market is permitted only for local firms and licensed lawyers that comply with the requirements set forth by local law. International law firms may carry out business in Colombia throughout the establishment of local partnerships or subsidiaries duly constituted and recognized by local authorities. Lawyers, who are members of those local partnerships or subsidiaries, and intending to practice law in Colombia, must hold a local professional licence.

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)

In order to establish a legal business in Colombia foreign law firms must establish a local partnership or subsidiary in the country. This subsidiary or local company must comply with all the legal requirements set forth by local law according to the nature of the partnership intended.
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? Not applicable
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?

No.  However, foreign investments in the legal sector in Colombia would need to comply with local regulations.

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


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


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

Yes. But if the foreign lawyer intends to practice law in Colombia, he/she must hold a local professional licence.



Other useful sources or comments or links

National Registry of Attorneys website:
Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. Section of bilateral and multilateral agreements which offer special treatment in Colombia to businesses or individuals from particular countries:

Verified by

Prieto Carrizosa:   (October 2013)