LexisNexis

Columbia International Trade in Legal Services

 

QUESTION Columbia
  Back to map
HOME COUNTRY LICENSING QUESTIONS
Is there legislation governing the legal sector Lawyers are bound by Law 1123 of 2007, "Lawyers Statute".
Under what title do lawyers practise? Abogado/a - lawyer
How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law ? How often must this be renewed? The process begins by enrolling for an undergraduate degree in law at a Colombian university.   Generally, the law degree consists of 5 years of theoretical learning with a practical component.  During the final year, all law students in the country sit a government examination (called ECAES) to assess the quality of law schools and the individual performance of students.  After termination of the last year of law studies, the student has to write a final dissertation and sit a final preparatory exam which covers all areas of law contained in the curriculum. As an alternative requirement to the dissertation, the law student can opt to take a practical placement called "judicature" which lasts nine months or one year in one of the approved institutions authorised by law.  In order for law graduates to act before a court or government authority as lawyers, they are required to be included in a National Lawyers’ Registry (Art. 4 Law-Decree No. 196/1971). This is a public record of all lawyers in the country. To be included in the registry, graduates must submit an application, a certificate from their university evidencing the award of the law degree, and payment of an inscription fee.  There is no requirement to renew the 'licence'.
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 Yes
Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction? Only Colombian lawyers have rights of audience in court and can provide advice on the law of Colombia.
Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law? No
What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation) Colombian lawyers may work as sole practitioners, in general partnership, in limited liability partnership or as incorporated companies.
What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? The disciplinary code for Colombian lawyers is contained in Statute 1123 of January 22 2007 (Official Gazette No. 46519 of January 22, 2007)
Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law? There is no explicit law firm licensing regime which regulates these arrangements. 
Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? The Consejo Superior de la Judicatura awards 'licences' to individual lawyers.
GENERAL TRADE IN LEGAL SERVICES QUESTIONS
Is the jurisdiction a member of the WTO? Colombia has been a member of the WTO since 30 April 1995
Has it made any WTO commitments on legal services? Colombia has made commitments in modes 1 and 2 for legal advisory services in foreign legislation and international legislation. It is unbound with respect to commercial presence.
Is the jurisdiction party to bilateral agreements which offer special treatment to businesses or individuals from particular countries? Colombia has bilateral trade agreements with: Canada, Chile, Colombia, Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatamala, Honduras), EFTA, US.  Colombia is an associate member of MERCOSUR.
Do these currently include legal services or are there plans to include them in future? None of its bilateral agreements include legal services. 
Are foreign lawyers from different jurisdictions treated differently as a result of any such agreements? No
Are there any 'foreign law' firms present in this jurisdiction? There are a few foreign law firms (Baker McKenzie, Norton Rose and Holland and Knight) with a presence in Colombia.
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? There is no requirement to register for activities permitted on a fly-in, fly out basis.
Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice? Yes, lawyers can apply for a business visa.
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? A foreign lawyer does not need to obtain a limited license entitling him/her to offer advisory services in foreign and international law (i.e. become 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? There are no restrictions on foreign lawyers conducting international arbitration
Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances? No, not without requalifying
Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers? A qualified lawyer from a different jurisdiction wishing to qualify as a lawyer in Colombia must submit an application for requalification to the Ministry of Education. An applicant must evidence the awarding of an undergraduate degree in law along with details of the specific content studied and certification of knowledge of specific areas of Colombian law is required (Colombian Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Procedural Law). This evidence can either be achieved by undertaking academic courses at an approved Colombian university or by obtaining satisfactory results on the government examination for law students on their final year.  The requalification process lasts between 2 and 4 months (Law-Decree No. 19/2012). Once the non-nationals have completed the accredited subjects they must request recognition of their qualification by the Ministry of Education. Once the Ministry has issued the Resolution, which validates the qualification in Colombia, they can apply for registration in the "Consejo Superior de la Judicatura".
FOREIGN LAW FIRMS
Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office? There is no explicit foreign law firm licensing regime and foreign law firms will need only to comply with the standard requirements for foreign investors.
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 must register with the Colombian Central Bank. Foreign investment is considered to include: "The contributions by investors in respect of joint ventures and concessions, among others, when they do not represent company’s capital contributions and the income obtained is related to the businesses’ properties". Foreign firms may establish either as branch offices or as standalone Colombian companies, including limited liability companies.
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 beyond the requirements on individual foreign lawyers
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? There are no additional requirements on law firms beyond those imposed on foreign companies in general.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? There are no additional limitations on names for foreign law firms beyond those imposed on companies in general.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL Not applicable
EMPLOYMENT AND PARTNERSHIP
Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?  
May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm? Yes
Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer? Yes
Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer? Yes
Other useful sources or comments or links For links to useful bodies:   Bar Association of Colombia (Representative): http://www.colabogado.org/index/.   Supreme Court Registration of Lawyers website (Regulatory): http://www.ramajudicial.gov.co/csj/publicaciones/index/categoria/368/REGISTRO-DE-ABOGADOS .   There is useful information on setting up a foreign company on the ProExport Colombia site: http://www.investincolombia.com.co/how-to-invest/step-by-step-to-establish-your-company.html
  Back to map