Spain International Trade in Legal Services

Spain International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Organic Law 6 /1985 of 1 July, the Judicial Branch. Title II: Lawyers and Attorneys, Royal Decree 658/2001 of 22 June, which approves the General Statute of the Spanish Bar, Law 34/2006 of October 30, on access to the professions of lawyer or solicitor of the Courts. Royal Decree 775/2011 of 3 June, which approves the Regulations of Law 34/2006, of October 30, on access to the professions of lawyer or solicitor of the Courts.

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Licenciado/Abogado or Licenciada/Abogada

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

In Spain, a lawyer must be a member of a local bar association and in order to register with the bar a candidate must possess a graduate law degree, the Titulo de Licenciado en Derecho, which requires five years of study.

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

Spanish lawyers register with their local bar association but have the right to practise throughout the country.


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

Spanish legislation provides that lawyers have the exclusive right to practise the Legal Profession before any Court, administrative body, association, corporation or public entity.

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)

A lawyer can practise as a sole practitioner, or as an employee, or in any legal form, including as a company. The Civil Law Company is the most common form.

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

The Code of Conduct of the Spanish Bar was promulgated by the General Council of the Spanish Bar and was approved by the Real Decreto 658/2001, 22 June 2001

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

Lawyers must register their office addresses with their local bar. If they establish an association, then the agreement between the lawyers must be lodged with the Bar. The local bars also maintain registers of any multi professional businesses that involve lawyers.

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

Local bars are responsible for licensing lawyers. Links may be found from the Consejo General de la Abogacía Española (



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?

Lawyers from other EEA states may provide temporary services without needing to register with a local Bar in Spain. They will be subject to the Spanish code of conduct in their temporary practice. They may provide services in relation to home country law, EU law and international law.

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

Spain 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?

Foreign lawyers may practise in Spain under their home country title in the law of their home country or public international law.  EEA lawyers may establish under their home title and additionally practise local law in association with a Spanish lawyer.


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

An EEA lawyer must register with the relevant local bar in Spain, practise under his home title and comply with the Spanish code of conduct.

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

An EEA lawyer must hold EEA nationality and an EEA legal qualification.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?

Under the Spanish Arbitration Act, parties are free to choose the arbitrators of their choice.

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


European Union/EFTA and Swiss lawyers may all appear in courts in Spain provided they are introduced by a local lawyer. Other nationals are not permitted to appear in court.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?


EEA and Swiss lawyers may fully requalify as Spanish lawyers following the European Establishment Directive 98/5/EC, either by examination or by assimilation over a three year period of continuous and effective practice in Spain. Lawyers of other nationalities may have their qualifications assessed (Royal Decree 285/2004, 20 February as amended by Royal Decree 309/2005, 18 March)


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

Foreign law firms do not require licences to open offices to practise their home country and international law in Spain unless they are from EEA member states.

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)

Depending on the form of the operation, it must be registered with either the business register or the foreign investment register. Representative offices do not need to be registered.

Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)


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? EEA law firms are subject to the same rules on corporate form as local law firms.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? The Establishment Directive (98/5/EC) makes it clear that EU law firms may use the name of their law firm they use in their home country. The host Member State may require that, in addition mention is made of the legal form of the grouping in the home Member State and/or of the names of any members of the grouping practising in the host Member State.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL EEA law firms must register with the local Spanish bar in the location they are established.


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

There are no restrictions on the ownership share of EEA lawyers in a Spanish law firm.

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

There is no prohibition on employment of a Spanish lawyer by an EEA lawyer or law firm.

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

A Spanish lawyer may enter partnership with an EEA lawyer.

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

Yes but only under their home title.



Other useful sources or comments or links

Consejo General de la Abogacía Española (General Council of the Spanish Bars):