UK-Swiss deal creates opportunities for lawyers and law firms
The Swiss-UK Mutual Recognition agreement is good news for solicitors, law firms and the wider economy, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.
Law Society President Lubna Shuja said: “Switzerland is an important market for UK legal services exports. There is vigorous trade in legal services in both directions and Switzerland is the third largest UK legal services export market in Europe*.
“This deal exactly reflects the Law Society’s recommendations. It confirms and extends indefinitely the current provisions for UK lawyers operating in Switzerland, giving them the permanent right to requalify in Switzerland after three years of registration and practice without having to complete a Swiss law degree or sit any local exams**.
“The agreement provides a clear, transparent and proportionate requalification path for UK lawyers in another jurisdiction, which the UK can use as a blueprint for more ambitious commitments in trade negotiations with other countries.
“This deal will benefit not only our members but also the wider economy. Legal services facilitate all international business transactions and provide crucial support to UK and multinational firms wanting to export. The sector consistently generates a trade surplus. In 2021 net exports of UK legal services stood at £5.4bn.”
Notes to editors
* Latest data available is for 2021: 2021 data from the Office of National Statistics
** These provisions were due to expire at the end of 2024
Under this reciprocal agreement, lawyers qualified in the UK of any nationality can requalify in Switzerland if they:
• register with the relevant competent authority in Switzerland and spend at least three years in the country continuously practising host country law
• provide legal services during the three-year adaptation period
• apply to requalify into the local profession by having their qualifications recognised, without having to sit an aptitude test
However, regulators in Switzerland retain a responsibility to ensure those who practise law are fit to do so and therefore:
• the relevant competent authority can during or at the end of the three-year adaptation period, by reasoned decision and subject to a right of appeal, refuse to register the lawyer, or cancel such registration where the lawyer fails to meet other conditions that a lawyer in Switzerland is also subject to (for example: satisfactory supervision, good standing, insurance requirements)
• the relevant competent authority may prevent the registered lawyer from carrying out certain professional activities during the adaptation period or require certain activities to be supervised
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