United Kingdom (England and Wales) International Trade in Legal Services

United Kingdom (England and Wales) International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Legal Services Act 2007 (Amending and updating Solicitors Act 1974, Administration of Justice Act 1985, Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, Access to Justice Act 1999)

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Solicitor or barrister

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











In order to become a Solicitor in England and Wales an individual must have: 1) A recognised degree in law (QLD) which may either be obtained by completing three years full-time academic study as a first degree or as a full-time one year postgraduate conversion course (Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL); 2) Completed and passed the examinations at the end of the one year full-time vocational course, the Legal Practice Course (LPC); 3) Completed a two year traineeship (training contract) with a recognised training provider; 4) Undertaken the professional skills course during the training period. Individuals must register with the Solicitors Regulation Authority on entry to the LPC at which point they will also be required to meet certain character and suitability tests.  Licensing is required annually by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and requires: The payment of the requisite fee, fulfilment of the continuous professional development requirements and proof of adequate professional indemnity insurance.  In order to become a Barrister in England and Wales, an individual may follow the same initial stages as a solicitor but instead of a Legal Practice Course will be required to: 2) Complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC); 3) Complete a one year pupillage at a barrister's chambers or other approved organisation 4) Obtain tenancy at a barrister's chambers or become an employed barrister. Trainee barristers must join one of the Inns of Court before enrolling on the BPTC and must be 'called to the bar' before they can enter the second six months of their pupillage, which involves the completion of 12 qualifying sessions (either training or dining sessions) with their Inn. Registration or 'authorisation to practise' is granted by the Bar Standards Board on fulfilment of all the qualifying conditions. This authorisation to practise must be obtained annually and also requires proof of completion of continuous professional development requirements and adequate indemnity insurance cover arrangements.

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 United Kingdom is made up of three separate jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and lawyers must be licensed separately for each jurisdiction.

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






In England and Wales, the following areas are reserved by the Legal Services Act 2007 to individuals holding regulated legal professional titles:
• Exercise of a right of audience
• Conduct of litigation
• Reserved instrument activities
• Probate activities
• Administration of oaths                                                                                                                                     
Reserved instrument activities” are defined in Schedule 2 of the Act as — (a)preparing any instrument of transfer or charge for the purposes of the Land Registration Act 2002 (c. 9);
(b)making an application or lodging a document for registration under that Act;
(c)preparing any other instrument relating to real or personal estate for the purposes of the law of England and Wales or instrument relating to court proceedings in England and Wales.

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)

Solicitors may work as sole practitioners, in general or limited liability partnerships and in limited liability companies. Since 2012, solicitors have also been able to work in partnership with non lawyers or other regulated professionals in Alternative Business Structures.  Barristers generally work as sole practitioners but since the passage of the Legal Services Act 2007, have been permitted to enter into partnership with other regulated legal professionals.  The Bar Standards Board is currently considering whether to extend the range of entities in which barristers can work to include advocacy focused Alternative Business Structures.

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

Solicitors must comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Handbook and Barristers must comply with the Barrister's Code of Conduct.

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

The focus of regulation in England and Wales has shifted to entities since the Legal Services Act 2007 and law firms must obtain a separate authorisation from individual lawyers.  There is a separate licensing procedure for Alternative Business Structures which may be owned by a combination of lawyers and non-lawyers, or simply by non-lawyers.

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

For solicitors, law firms and Alternative Business Structures - the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) (independent regulatory arm of the Law Society of England and Wales) -  www.sra.org.uk ; For barristers (and possibly in future advocacy focused Alternative Business Structures) - the Bar Standards Board (BSB) (independent regulatory arm of the General Council of the Bar) -www.barstandardsboard.org.uk



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?

The law suggests that a foreign lawyer should register with the Chamber of Advocates.

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

Foreign lawyers may obtain a visa to visit clients but may also obtain special 'permitted paid employment' visas which are valid for up to one month without the need to obtain a work permit. 

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 requirement for a foreign lawyer to obtain a licence to practice as a foreign legal consultant. The only licensing requirements are on EEA lawyers (who must become Registered European Lawyers - a status which entitles them to practise in the reserved areas of the law of England and Wales) and on non-EU lawyers (and lawyers from other jurisdictions of the UK) who wish to enter into partnership with English solicitors (who must then register as Registered Foreign Lawyers).

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

Registered European Lawyer status is only required of EEA or Swiss lawyers resident in England and Wales. Registered Foreign Lawyer status is required regardless of residence where a qualified lawyer from another non-EEA or Swiss jurisdiction is in partnership with an English solicitor.

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

Following the Establishment Directive (98/5/EC) Registered European Lawyers must have three years prior practice experience before they can establish in the UK. Registered Foreign Lawyers must be from a recognised jurisdiction (see www.sra.org.uk).There are no other prior conditions on other (unregistered) foreign lawyers wishing to practise in England and Wales.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?


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


EEA and Swiss lawyers may appear in English courts if introduced by an English lawyer. Non-EEA and Swiss lawyers may apply for temporary call to the Bar (via the Bar Standards Board) in order to conduct a specific case (or cases) in England and Wales. To obtain temporary call, a candidate will need to provide the Bar Standards Board with: (1) Evidence to establish that he/she is of good character and repute, such as a Certificate of the Senior Judge, Attorney General or Senior Law Officer of the Superior Court in which they have practised (2) This evidence needs to show that for a period of not less than 3 years the candidate has been regularly exercising rights of audience in that court and that he/she is a fit and proper person to be Called to the Bar (3) A certificate that the candidate has not been prohibited from practising in the jurisdiction in which he/she is qualified on the ground of commission of a criminal offence or professional misconduct and is not currently suspended from practising on such grounds; (4)Evidence of all academic and professional qualifications. All applications must be supported by either the original or a certified copy of examination certificates, and an official English translation of certificates and results, if applicable; (5) Any other evidence in support of the application for call. [See https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/qualifying-as-a-barrister/transferring-lawyers/temporary-call/]

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?


Yes, foreign lawyers who are regulated and entitled to practise as a lawyer in their home jurisdictions may requalify either as a solicitor (http://www.sra.org.uk/qlts/) or barrister (https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/qualifying-as-a-barrister/transferring-lawyers/qualified-foreign-lawyers/)


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

Foreign law firms do not require licences to open offices to practise law in England and Wales, provided they are not practising reserved areas of work and are not fee sharing with English solicitors or barristers.  Foreign law firms who do wish to have English solicitor partners and practise reserved areas of work need to obtain a licence as a recognised body from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

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)

 No special permission is required to set up a business in the UK. 

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

There are no separate foreign law firms licences but if it chose to practise in reserved areas, a foreign law firm could establish either as a recognised body or as an alternative business structure.

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?

There is no limit on the number of branches a foreign firm may have but authorisation of the foreign law firm as a recognised body (or Alternative Business Structure)would need to be undertaken separately for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and different requirements and rules would apply.

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? Unless foreign law firms become recognised bodies (traditional law firms) or Alternative Business Structures regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and carrying out reserved areas of work, there are no limitations on their scope of practice.
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? No, unless that foreign law firm becomes licensed to undertake reserved English law work.  Law firms from the EEA and Switzerland are more restricted and can only take one of the forms permitted to English solicitors.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? There are no specific rules for the names of foreign law firms beyond the general naming provisions governing all businesses.  Foreign law firms should however note that certain words are protected, such as 'solicitors' and it would be an offence to use this word in a law firm name in England and Wales unless the practice contained English solicitors and was regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL There is no specific foreign law licence but foreign law firms wishing to obtain licences to practise reserved areas of work in England and Wales through qualified English solicitors should apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (www.sra.org.uk)


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?


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


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




Other useful sources or comments or links

Regulatory bodies: www.sra.org.ukwww.barstandardsboard.org.uk;

Professional bodies:www.lawsociety.org.ukwww.barcouncil.org.uk

Verified by

Law Society of Ireland (November 2013) www.lawsociety.ie; and
Solicitors Regulation Authority (November 2013) www.sra.org.uk