Panama International Trade in Legal Services

Panama International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Law 9 (April 18, 1984), as amended by Law 8 (1993)

Under what title do lawyers practise?


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



Admission as a lawyer is open to Panamanian citizens holding law degrees from a Panamanian law school (or a law school from a Spanish-speaking country recognized by the University of Panama) who have been accepted by the General Affairs Section of the Supreme Court.   Membership of a Panamanian bar association is a requirement for the practise of litigation but not for the general practise of law.

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



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

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

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


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

The practice of law through a corporation (limited liability company) or other commercial entities is prohibited. Lawyers may only practise law through partnerships, which shall be incorporated solely for this purpose by duly qualified lawyers.

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

The National Law Society [Colegio Nacional de Abogados] has adopted a code of ethics

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 Supreme Court of Justice



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 are no regulatory restrictions on foreign lawyers working on 'fly in/fly out' transactions.

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


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?

Foreign lawyers can advise exclusively on international law and the laws of the jurisdiction in which the foreign attorney is qualified, in the territory of the Republic of Panama . A foreign lawyer does not need to obtain a limited licence 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? According to Panamanian Law 9 of 18 April 1984 which regulates the profession of lawyers only
Panamanian citizens can practise Panamanian law.  Representing a party in arbitration  is considered as acting as a lawyer, according to article 4(1) of the mentioned law. The Arbitration Law is mute in this topic but generally held opinion is that foreign lawyers may act as co-counsel to Panamanian attorneys.

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


Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?

No, only Panamanian nationals can qualify as Panamanian lawyers


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

There is no explicit foreign law firm licensing regime which regulates these arrangements. 

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)

It is necessary to hire a local lawyer to serve as Resident Agent of the corporation and prepare its Articles of Association and then register at the Mercantile Division of the Public Registry.
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? Foreign lawyers can only advise on their home country law and international law.
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? Panama has a liberal regime for foreign businesses who do not need to obtain licenses in order to commence operations, only complete the requirements set out in the government business portal Panama Emprende:
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? See above
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 - although foreign lawyers are not permitted to be partners in law firms containing abogados.

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 although the foreign lawyer would not be regarded as a lawyer and would have no right to appear before the Panamanian courts. Outside of the courts, the general practice of law is not restricted.



Other useful sources or comments or links

Colegio nacional de abogados de Panama:

Panamanian law on lawyers: