Strike the local balance

Your correspondent who writes under the name "Eurosceptic" about the question of rights of establishment for lawyers in Europe seems to have got a rather confused idea of what the argument is all about.

In fact the CCBE did reach agreement on a draft Establishment Directive for lawyers in October 1992. It was the European Commission which departed from the principles of this agreement in its proposal for a directive adopted in December 1994.

It is hardly surprising that the CCBE should now have difficulty in agreeing on how to respond to this new situation.

"Eurosceptic" suggests that the Law Society turns a blind eye to what the City solicitors firms do in other jurisdictions. The fact is that the Law Society first made its Overseas Practice Rules as long ago as 1987. It was the first legal professional body to make it clear in this way that its members were bound by its rules wherever in the world they practise.

The criticism of English solicitors firms in the letter seems to be that they practise local law in other countries, engage in arrangements with local firms and take large chunks of local work.

What is wrong with English solicitors developing their practices internationally by advising on local law and associating with local lawyers to the extent allowed in the jurisdiction concerned? This is no more than we already permit foreign lawyers to do in this country.

"Eurosceptic" asks what is wrong with taking an examination and becoming a member of the local Bar, and then expresses sympathy with the position of the Spanish and French.

But a major part of the problem is that the Commission's Draft Directive goes a long way in the direction of accepting the proposition, supported by the French and Spanish Bars, that tests should be abolished altogether for integration into the host state legal profession, but that such integration should be compulsory after a limited period.

In the view of the Law Society (and others) what is needed is a better balance between a permanent right of establishment under home title and some form of "quality control" as a condition of voluntary integration into the local legal profession. That is essentially what the argument is about.

Hamish Anderson,

Head of International

The Law Society

London

WC2A 1SX

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