How to practise in Spain after the Brexit transition period

The UK left the EU single market and customs union at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.

The EU Lawyers Directives no longer apply to UK solicitors and law firms, and freedom of movement to the EU has come to an end.

Different rules on practising rights, immigration, visa and work permit requirements apply in each EU member state.

Conditions for UK solicitors to practise under home title

Solicitors may practise in Spain under their home country title. They are not required to register with the local Spanish Bar, but it's recommended that they do so. Solicitors must have an address in Spain.

Solicitors 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

Solicitors cannot:

  • practise EU law
  • practise Spanish law
  • practise international law that is enforceable in Spain
  • use the title ‘abogado’
  • appear in court

Requalifying as a Spanish lawyer after the transition period

Spanish nationality requirement

Solicitors can requalify as Spanish lawyers. There is a Spanish nationality requirement, but it can be waived through application to the Spanish Ministry of Justice.

Educational requirements

An undergraduate law degree is required. A Spanish university must validate that the coursework passed is equivalent to that taken in a Spanish law degree programme.

Where necessary, completion of any missing coursework will be required.

Once the foreign degree has been validated, prospective lawyers must complete either:

  • a master’s degree in access to the legal profession (offered by public or private universities) or
  • atraining course in access to the legal profession at the School of Legal Practice (offered by the Bar associations)

This requires approximately one and a half years of study.

Exam requirements

After graduation, prospective lawyers must pass an examination by the Ministry of Justice. This examination is offered twice a year.

If they pass, the foreign lawyer can then register with a Spanish Bar association in the region in which they intend to practise. 

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 law 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 Spanish or EU professionals, or formed by professionals (partners) with 50% + 1 of the board composed of Spanish or EU professionals.

Resources

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

Procedure for requalification as Spanish lawyers

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.


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