Good news for monoglots everywhere: yesterday the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that a lawyer does not have to speak the language of the country they want to practise in.

You can read more about this here, but right now we’re intrigued by the implications. Is this yet another reason for the Brits not to learn another language?

In fact it’s all the fault of those pesky Luxembourgers. The Establishment Directive was passed way back in 1998 and the deadline for implementation was in 2000.

By the way, it’s not just Luxembourg that has posed problems on the free establishment of lawyers. Guess which country was a whole four years late in implementing the directive? (Here’s a clue: it’s French-speaking.)

But Luxembourg ran into problems when it imposed a three-tier language test in French, German and Luxembourgish on two UK lawyers who wanted to practise there. One of the lawyers refused to take the test while the other failed it.

If this all sounds like an Ealing comedy to you, it didn’t to the European Commission. The Commission started infringement proceedings against Luxembourg and the two lawyers themselves took it to the administrative court. And because local lawyers were not subject to similar entry requirements to the local bar’s, the ECJ ruled yesterday that this was unfair.

Excellent for the principle of the freedom of establishment in Europe. Not that we’ll expect even DLA Piper to open in Luxembourg any time soon.

Catrin Griffiths, Editor
The Lawyer