ECJ tells Italy to liberalise access to legal profession

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ordered Italy to liberalise its regulations governing access to the Italian legal profession.

The ECJ has demanded that Italy’s national bar council does not reject out of hand qualifications gained in other European Union (EU) Member States.

The court ruled that by blocking part-qualified French national Christine Morgenbesser from studying as an apprentice lawyer in Genoa the bar council broke European law. Italian law required her to hold a legal diploma awarded or confirmed by an Italian university.

The ECJ said that because Morgenbesser was part qualified, EU treaty agreements on freedom of establishment or freedom of movement for workers would apply, rather than the specific European directive on the mutual recognition of legal qualifications.

As a result, the Italian bar should have made “a comparative examination” of the French and Italian diplomas required for becoming an apprentice lawyer, requiring top-up studies if necessary, but not rejecting her application out of hand.