France International Trade in Legal Services

Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Law no. 2011-94 of 25 January 25 2011 and Law no.2011-331 of 28 March 2011 modify Law 71-1130 of 31 December 1971 and decree n° 91-1197 of 27 November 1991. New legislation came into force on 1 January 2012 merging of the professions of Avocat and Avoué.

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Avocat. A recent change in the law has ended the distinction between “avocat”, “avoué” (lawyers for courts of appeal) and “conseil juridique

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

In order to become an avocat, an individual needs to have a maitrise in law (4 year law degree), hold the certificat d’aptitude à la profession d’avocat CAPA (certificate of aptitude for lawyers) which is granted on passing the Bar exam (examen du barreau), and to have completed a 2-year internship with a fully qualified lawyer. Nationals of a EU or a EEA member state who are fully qualified lawyers in their own jurisdictions do not need to hold the CAPA certificate but must pass an exam on French law (article 11 of the Act).

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

Article 5 of the Act states that lawyers may practise law without territorial limitation in the country. However they must establish their professional residency and register in one of the bar associations (barreau) of the country. When lawyers plead before Courts or disciplinary bodies with which their barreau is not registered they must introduce themselves to the judge, public prosecutor, and lawyers of the opposite party. There are 180 barreaux in France. Article 8-1 allows lawyers to register with one or more secondary barreau(x). To do so, the lawyer must seek the permission of the council of order of the bar association (le conseil de l’ordre du barreau) where he or she wants to establish. In any case, this permission will only be given where the lawyer has an actual professional.

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

Article 4 of the Act mentions that only lawyers may represent clients, plead before jurisdictions or disciplinary bodies (there are exceptions for disputes on labour laws and for proceedings before the Conseil d’Etat and the Cour de Cassation i.e. French Supreme courts). Only lawyers may assist parties in the “participative procedure” addressed by the Civil Code and carry out assistance and representation of clients in courts of justice.

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

Local nationality is not a requirement for practice.

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

The legal forms in which lawyers may work are set out in Article 7 of the Act. Lawyers may be self-employed (Entreprise individuelle EI), or practise in an association of lawyers (association) in which liability may be limited. They may also practise in a “professional civil company” (société civile professionnelle, SCP) which is the equivalent of a partnership; a “liberal labour company” (société d’exercice libéral, SEL), either as a collaborator or as a salaried lawyer. Lastly lawyers may be members of an “economic interest grouping” and of a “European economic interest grouping” (groupement d’intérêt économique and groupement européen d’intérêt économique) which provides a vehicle for sharing overheads.

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

Lawyers must also comply with “Règlement Intérieur National de la profession d’avocat” (issued by the National Bar) and the Code of Conduct for European Lawyers.

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


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

Licences to practice in France are issued by local Bar Associations (see the Conseil National des Barreaux for details Law firms do not need separate licensing.

Is the jurisdiction a member of the WTO?

France joined the WTO on 1 January 1995

Has it made any commitments under GATS in legal services?

France has signed up to the European Union's GATS commitment of modes 1-3 in home country and public international law, subject to the following qualifications: Unbound in mode 1 for the drafting of legal documents and subject in mode 3 to the qualification that provision must be through the company structure SEL (anonyme, à responsabilité limitée ou en commandite par actions) or SCP only.

Is the jurisdiction party to bilateral agreements which offer special treatment to businesses or individuals from particular countries?

As a member of the European Union, France extends special treatment to individuals and businesses from other EEA states (EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. France is also party to the EU's many bilateral agreements with other countries and free trade areas ( a full list of these can be found at ( )

Do these currently include legal services or are there plans to include them in future?

The EU has comprehensive provisions covering the free movement of lawyers from EEA countries (EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland. These include the Establishment Directive for Lawyers (98/5/EC), the Lawyers' Services Directive (77/249/EC), the Framework Services Directive (2006/123/EC) and the Professional Qualifications Directive (2005/36/EC). Collectively these directives permit EEA lawyers to provide services freely cross border within the EEA, to establish and provide legal services in host as well as home country and international law and to requalify as a host country lawyer. There are limitations on the applicability of the Establishment Directive to EEA and Swiss lawyers holding specific legal titles and EEA (or Swiss) nationality. Provisions covering trade in services are included in the EU's Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Africa, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Central America and Korea. Of these, only the agreement with Korea contains newly liberalizing measures on legal services on the Korean side, and on the EU side offers no concessions beyond those offered to other members of the WTO. Legal services have also been included in the EU’s recent agreement with Canada and bind previous autonomous liberalization. The other agreements simply contain a commitment from both sides to 'progressive liberalization' of trade in services. Negotiations for future FTAs which might include provisions on legal services are ongoing with: Mercosur, Gulf Cooperation Council, India, Japan, Morocco, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Singapore, Malaysia, the US and Vietnam.

Are foreign lawyers from different jurisdictions treated differently as a result of any such agreements?

Lawyers from the EU, EFTA or Switzerland are covered by the various EU directives covering legal services (The Lawyers' Establishment Directive 98/5/EC, the Lawyers Services Directive 77/249/EC). The result of these directives is that any EU, EFTA or Swiss lawyer can provide legal assistance in French as well as foreign and international law and can requalify as a French advocat.  Foreign lawyers from outside these countries are more restricted in their scope of practice and may not requalify.

Are there any 'foreign law' firms present in this jurisdiction?

There are over 60 foreign firms in France, mostly based in Paris and including US, UK, German, Spanish, Canadian, Indian and others  

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?

Fly-in fly-out practice is only allowed for nationals of States which have concluded bilateral conventions with France covering this issue.
For nationals of an EU, EFTA member State or the Swiss confederation, the temporary practice of law is permitted for all holders of any title listed in the décret n°91-1197 of November 27th, 1991 (Article 201). All activities reserved to lawyers are open to them. There is no particular formality to comply with, except in relation to appearing in court when they must be introduced by a licensed French lawyer (article 202-1 décretn°91-1197 of November 27th, 1991: in civil matters when representation by an "avocat" is required). They must comply with the French professional rules in addition to the rules of their home bar.

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

France is one of the 25 countries in Europe that has signed the Schengen agreement. This allows a non-EEA national to obtain a visa to enter one or more of the Schengen countries for business or tourism purposes on a single visit of up to 90 days, or to make multiple entries to the Schengen area on any number of occasions over a 180 day period, provided none of these is for longer than 90 days.  A number of non-EEA countries are exempt from visa requirements

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 such thing as a “limited licence” in France. An EU lawyer practicing under his home title or under the French title of “avocat” after registering with a French Bar can practice fully in French law. The same goes for a Foreign lawyer practicing under the French title of “avocat” after registering with a French Bar.
An EU and a EEA lawyer (associate member) must register with the local Bar for a permanent practice under the French title of “avocat” (article 99 décret n°91-1197 of November 27th, 1991) or under his home title within the framework of the 1998 Directive. When practicing on a permanent basis or on a temporary basis under his or her home professional title, he or she must use this professional tile, comply with the French lawyers' code of conduct and maintain adequate professional indemnity insurance. Foreign lawyers may establish to provide legal services in their home country law and in international law.  EEA and Swiss lawyers may additionally provide services in EU law and in French law, provided this is in association with a member of the French Bar.

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

Services must be provided from a lawyer’s office whether in France or in the country of origin.

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

No conditions are formally laid down but registration is dependent on each local bar.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?

A new décret on arbitration came into force in 2011 (Décret n° 2011-48), nothing in the legislation prevents foreign lawyers to undertake arbitration.
On mediation: the legislation on mediation is integrated in the Civil Procedure Code (Titre VI bis); nothing prohibits a foreign lawyer from undertaking mediation (article 131-5 of the CPC)

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

EEA lawyers who practise in France on a temporary basis may appear in civil courts but must first give an address or elect a domicile with a local lawyer who is a member of the bar association (barreau) of the jurisdiction in which the foreign lawyer will appear (Article 202-1 §3 of the décret n°91-1197 of November 27th, 1991).

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?

EU, EEA and Swiss qualified lawyers seeking to requalify in France can do so in two ways:

• Through Art. 10 of the Establishment Directive 98/5/EC, under conditions of nationality and after three years of regular and effective practice of French law in France. Applicants need to submit a ""dossier d'assimilation"" along with relevant documents (listed in the form) and send it to their Barreau of registration.

• Through the Diplomas Directive 89/48/EEC, now incorporated into the Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36/EC, by sitting the relevant equivalence examination administered by the Conseil National des Barreaux

Other foreign lawyers can requalify in France, under conditions of reciprocity, by sitting the relevant equivalence examination administered by the Conseil National des Barreaux. Applicants must become members of the French Bar. They must meet certain conditions. 1) Education: a university law degree plus a CAPA course are required. Not all foreign university degrees may be recognised. 2) Passing a local examination is necessary, but foreign lawyers are offered the possibility of passing a reduced examination. There is no residency requirement, but a professional address where files are held and kept must be provided for registration.

Full details are set out at

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

There are no separate rules on licensing 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)

The Conseil de l’ordre of the bar association where the foreign lawyer is registered must be informed of his/her establishment. A full list of local bars can be found at
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?


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


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? Foreign lawyers established in France may work under any of the legal forms provided for in Articles 7 and 8 of the Law.  If they wish to work under the legal entity of their country of origin they may do so but under certain conditions: capital and voting rights must only be held by persons who hold any of the titles provided for in article 83 of the Act (EU, EEA and Swiss confederation); more than 50% of the capital and voting rights must in addition be held by people who practice in or for this legal entity. They also need to inform the council of Ordre of their bar association (conseil de l'Ordre du barreau).
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? Non-EU firms are not permitted to establish branch offices in France under their own names.  EU, EEA or Swiss lawyers may mention the name of the legal entity in which he or she practises in the country of origin even though this entity could not meet the requirements set forth in Article 87 to be admitted to register as a local legal entity.  Non-EU firms are not permitted to establish branch offices in France under their own names.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL A licence is not required for a law firm but any legal form of practice for lawyers must be registered with the bar association (barreau) together with notification of their intended place of establishment.
Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?

In a SEL or SCP providing legal services on French or EC law, at least 75 percent of the partners holding at least 75 percent of the shares shall be lawyers fully admitted to the bar in France. Also, depending on the form of establishment, majority ownership/control may be required to be held by professionals active in the firm.

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

There are no restrictions for EU, EEA, and Swiss confederation nationals beyond those required by the self-employed status of avocats. Lawyers from other jurisdictions may not employ French avocats.

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

There is no restriction on the creation of partnerships (as well as other legal entities) between French lawyers and lawyers registered in another EU or EEA member State as well as in the Swiss confederation (see Article 87 Loi n° 71-1130 of December 31st, 1971).  Non-EU lawyers and firms are not permitted to form partnerships with or hire French lawyers.

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

There are no restrictions on French avocats hiring lawyers from EU or EEA member States or Switzerland. Other foreign lawyers must be admitted to practise law in France before they could be employed as lawyers.

Other useful sources or comments or links

Legislation on Legal Sector available at:;jsessionid=912B3B9A363C26F7D8F04E7302244A1B.tpdjo08v_2?cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006078311&dateTexte=20120712

Useful information on registration as an avocat: