Sri Lanka International Trade in Legal Services

Sri Lanka International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Administration of Justice (Judicature) Law, No. 44 of 1973 and  Part VII of the Rules of the Supreme Court Rules, 1978 published in the  Government Gazette No. 9/10 of November 08, 1978

Under what title do lawyers practise?


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

Applicants must be admitted and enrolled as an attorney-at-law by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. This requires pledging alliance to the Constitution of Sri Lanka. There is an education requirement: applicants must take and pass all three law examinations at the Sri Lanka Law College, which takes three years. If one has a law degree from a foreign university recognized by the Council of Legal Education, then the entrance examination to the Sri Lanka Law College may be waived. If qualified as a barrister in Scotland, England or Wales, applicants can sit for examinations at the Sri Lanka Law College without having had attended lectures, which takes approximately six months. Applicants also need to have credit passes in English and Sinhala or Tamil (local language) at the GCE Ordinary Level exam or its equivalent. They must also compete a six-month training period; the only exception is for those applicants who served a pupilage in the United Kingdom. 

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

The  Administration of Justice Law defines the 'rigths and liabilities of attorneys as follows: 'Every attorney-at-law shall be entitled to assist and advise clients and to appear, plead or act in every court or other institution established by law for the administration of justice'.  There is no explicit statement of exclusivity of rights but this it has been interpreted to mean reserved rights in both advisory and representational services.

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

Section 41 of the Judicature Act provides that every Attorney-at-Law shall be entitled to assist and advise clients and to appear, plead or act in every court or other institution established by law for the administration of justice. An attorney- at-law may only carry out conveyancing if he has undertaken a separate examination in conveyancing or have had qualifications recognised from abroad which required conveyancing (e.g. UK), he can then obtain a warrant from the Minister of Justice to practice as a notary in the judicial zone in which he resides

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)

Under Section 34 (2) of the Judicature Act: "it shall be lawful for attorneys-at-law to practise in partnership, or to employ such other persons as may be necessary or expedient for the proper and efficient discharge of their duties and functions. It shall also be lawful for an attorney-at-law to be assisted or instructed by another attorney-at-law".  Branch offices are not permitted.

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

Section 40 of the Judicature Act, no. 2 of 1978 provides for the Supreme Court to admit and enroll as Attorneys-at-Law, persons of good repute and of competent knowledge and ability, in accordance with Part VII of the Rules of the Supreme Court Rules, 1978 published in the  Government Gazette No. 9/10 of November 08, 1978

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

A practising address must be registered. If an attorney -at-law is also a notary he may have two offices but one of these must be his home address.

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

The Supreme Court issues licences to attorneys-at-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?

There are no explicit rules on fly in fly out practice beyond the requirements of the visa regime..

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

The duration of stay initially allowed is one year with a residence visa, and three months with a multiple entry business visa. A resident visa is granted for expatriate professionals whose services are required for projects or companies approved by the Board of Investment or a governmental authority; extensions are possible.

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 limited licence scheme for foreign lawyers. Foreign lawyers may either requalify as Sri Lankan lawyers, work as employees or outside the scope of reserved legal services.

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?

Arbitration Act, no 11 of 1995 allows for the conduct of international arbitration procedures in Sri Lanka. The ICLP centre for international arbitration was established in 1996.

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


Only if fully enrolled as an attorney-at-law with  the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. 

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?


Entry conditions for lawyers licensed in Scotland, England, Wales are different from those licensed in other countries. Barristers of Scotland, England and Wales are required to take only Civil Procedure & Pleadings I & II, Law of Property I & II, Revenue Law, Industrial Law and Commercial Law 1. They will  also be required to attend the practical training course and serve the period of apprenticeship except in the case of those who have served a period of pupilage in the United Kingdom.


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

Ownership by foreign nationals or non-locally-licensed professionals is not permitted. 

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)

Not applicable

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?

Not applicable

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?

Foreign lawyers could work as 'paralegals' in Sri Lanka, since if a lawyer only works as an employee and does not sign off on documents they do not have to be licensed in Sri Lanka.



Other useful sources or comments or links

Sri Lanka Law College: