How to practise in Spain after the Brexit transition period

This information assumes that after the end of the Brexit transition period, the EU Lawyers Directives will no longer apply to UK solicitors and law firms, and that they will be treated as non-EU third country lawyers and law firms.

The position may change depending on the outcome of the ongoing UK–EU negotiations.

Conditions for UK solicitors to practise under home title

Foreign lawyers may practise in Spain under their home country title in the law of their home country or public international law.

Non-EU/EEA lawyers can:

  • practise home country law
  • practise public international law that is not enforceable in Spain
  • represent clients in arbitration, conciliation or mediation
  • call themselves legal consultants

Foreign lawyers cannot:

  • practise EU law
  • practise Spanish law
  • practise international law that is enforceable in Spain
  • use the title ‘abogado’
  • appear in court
  • sell their services
  • open a law firm

Requalifying as a Spanish lawyer after the transition period

Nationality requirements

To practise and be admitted to the profession of lawyer, third-country nationals must meet three requirements:

  1. Harmonisation of university qualification – this is required in all cases unless the applicant has a law degree from a Spanish university
  2. Dispensation from Spanish nationality requirement (see below)
  3. Registration with the Bar Association with jurisdiction over the area in which the applicant intends to establish their only or principal professional domicile

The Spanish nationality requirement is covered by:

  • Royal Decree RD 658/2001, passed in Spain in 2001, by virtue of which the Spanish Lawyers General Statute was passed (section 31.1.a)
  • Royal Decree 1879/1994, passed in Spain in 1994, by virtue of which certain procedural rules in the field of Justice and Home Affairs were passed (section 4)

See also pages 17 to 21 of the General Counsel of Spanish Bars guidance (PDF).

Residency requirements

A foreign lawyer must establish a physical presence in order to practise law.

Exam requirements

Lawyers from non-EEA member states may have their qualifications assessed (Royal Decree 285/2004, 20 February as amended by Royal Decree 309/2005, 18 March).

However the competent Spanish authority, the Relations Directorate General of the Judicial Administration, may require an additional aptitude test to practise in Spain if:

  • there are any regulated professional activities that exist in the Spanish legal profession that do not exist in the corresponding profession in the lawyer's home country
  • there is any training or any subjects required to qualify into the Spanish legal profession that are substantially different from those covered by the certificate of competence or title of the requesting party

There are no reciprocity requirements.

Setting up a law firm after Brexit

According to Spain’s entry in the International Bar Association’s Global Cross Border Legal Services Report, foreign law firms do not need licences to open offices to practise their home country and international law in Spain unless they’re from EEA member states.

If registering, depending on the form of the operation, an office must be registered as either:

  • a branch with the business registry (registro mercantil)
  • a subsidiary under the Professional Societies Act (Ley de Sociedades Profesionales)

Formal branches must register with the business registry.

Subsidiaries fall under the Professional Societies Act, which requires that they be 50% + 1 owned by professionals or formed by professionals (partners), with 50% + 1 of the board composed of professionals.

Resources

General Council of Spanish Bars (Consejo General de la Abogacía Española)

If you have any questions, email our international team at international@lawsociety.org.uk.

The information above does not constitute legal advice. It was drafted by the Law Society of England and Wales on the basis of desk research, bilateral relations with European Bars and engagement with members.

The Law Society cannot be held liable for actions taken on the basis of this note or lack thereof. In case of specific queries, we strongly advise you to consider instructing external counsel to obtain advice specific to your business objectives.


Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS