Solicitors based in Paris can continue advising clients on English and international law post-Brexit after France confirmed they are now eligible for Foreign Legal Consultant (FLC) status.
After months of debate, the National Council of French Bars (CNB) and the French government have reached the conclusion that the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – ratified by MEPs on Tuesday - enables UK lawyers to register as FLCs both for temporary and permanent practice.
In order to register as FLCs, solicitors must apply for authorisation with the CNB for either permanent or temporary practice. Those applying for permanent practice must then register with a local French bar association (such as the Paris Bar); applications for temporary practice must be renewed with the CNB each year.
Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “This is great news for our solicitor members based in France. The TCA was instrumental in securing this outcome, as third country lawyers are only eligible for FLC status in France if there is a trade deal covering legal services between their country of origin and the EU.
“We are grateful to the French government, the CNB, the Paris Bar and the other stakeholders involved for reaching the conclusion that the TCA justifies granting FLC status to solicitors in France for both temporary and permanent practice. This is an interpretation of the agreement that the Law Society advocated alongside the Paris offices of international firms,” added I. Stephanie Boyce.
Lawyers registered as FLCs in France can practise under home title and advise clients on home-country law and public international law, excluding EU law.
What are the rules now for England and Wales solicitors in the EU27 and EEA?
- Via our EU membership UK lawyers were ensured virtually unrestricted market access to any jurisdiction in the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) plus Switzerland. They are now subject to 27 different regulatory regimes in the EU (one for each member state) plus one each for the other countries in the EEA (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland
- France confirmed that UK lawyers are eligible for Foreign Legal Consultant status; France had also previously (last December) issued legislation to grandfather UK LLPs, meaning dozens of UK firms with branches in Paris could continue operating as before after the end of the Brexit transition period (see https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/en/contact-or-visit-us/press-office/press-releases/uk-law-firms-working-in-france-can-continue-post-31-december-transition)
- UK lawyers can also continue to advise clients on English and international law in Germany following legislation in December which included solicitors, barristers and advocates among the professions eligible for FLC status in the EU’s largest economy
- They have also retained home-title practising rights in countries including Belgium (where they can register on the so-called B list), Spain, the Netherlands and most of the Nordic region
- Ireland re-introduced direct admission for English solicitors in March, meaning they can requalify as Irish solicitors without sitting any examination. The “automatic” admission route for English solicitors into the Irish profession had been a longstanding practice during the UK’s membership of the European Union but had come to an end when the Brexit transition period expired on 31st December 2020 (see https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/ireland-re-opens-door-to-england-and-wales-solicitors-/5107898.article#:~:text=Solicitors%20from%20England%20and%20Wales,respective%20professional%20bodies%20have%20confirmed)
- In Switzerland (not an EU member state but still a country where solicitors could benefit from the EU Lawyers’ Directives during the UK’s membership of the EU): UK lawyers can benefit from two bilateral agreements that the UK signed with the Swiss Confederation. The Citizens’ Rights Agreement of 2019 extended until the end of 2024 the right of UK lawyers to register to work in Switzerland and requalify into the Swiss profession in a similar way as before Brexit; the Services Mobility Agreement of 2020 gives them the ability to travel to Switzerland for up to 90 days a year without the need for a work permit until the end of 2022 (see https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/international/solicitors-post-brexit-market-access-to-switzerland-protected)
- In some of the other markets the situation is more complex: while the TCA sets out the principle of permitting home-title practice by UK lawyers in the EU, this principle is subject to each member state’s non-conforming measures (exceptions to the general rule) – meaning in EU member states UK lawyers have no better market access than any other non-EU lawyers (see https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/brexit/legal-services-in-the-eu-uk-trade-and-cooperation-agreement-an-initial-analysis).
- Another issue is the uncertainty around solicitors’ ability to advise clients on EU law, which is not protected under the TCA and rests on the domestic regulation in each EU member state. There are also concerns around EU legal professional privilege (particularly relevant to competition practitioners advising on matters that could be subject to investigation by the Commission): non-EU lawyers practising in the EU have not been held to be covered by legal privilege (see https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/brexit/eu-lpp-after-brexit).
- As many other UK professionals, lawyers are still finding their way around the new immigration/mobility rules into the EU after the end of free movement. Whereas until the end of 2020 they could simply hop on a plane to Frankfurt or a train to Paris, there are now new conditions, more paperwork and possibly additional costs involved when they visit an EU country on business. This is likely to be an issue once international travel resumes post-Covid.
Monday, 3rd May, 2021