Legal life in... Spain
Patricia Ayodeji, dual qualified lawyer in Spain, and England and Wales, shares her insights on practising in Spain.
Why did you choose to practise in Spain?
I opted to have a two-year break from working in London. I chose Barcelona because I supported Barcelona Football Club, loved Gaudi architecture and loved the idea of having the beach a stone’s throw away.
I decided to make that move permanent around the tw year mark. As a specialist in intellectual property at that time, I negotiated a very important contract for the city via a law firm. Once the negotiations were concluded, I decided that I wanted to practise as a lawyer in my own right with all the rights (and obligations) of a national lawyer.
Tell us a bit about your firm and practice area there
I am a sole practitioner and founding lawyer of E-PDP Protección De Datos Personales® (European Privacy and Data Protection) with over 18 years’ experience of providing legal services for entrepreneurs, private individuals, law firms, SMEs and multinationals.
My specialities are information, technology and communications law, privacy and data protection law, e-commerce law, and intellectual property law.
I work closely with different embassies and governmental departments. I am an elected member of the Governing Council of the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain and a regular conference speaker on ICT law issues in different European member states.
What are the main opportunities for foreign law firms/lawyers in Spain?
The British legal system is highly respected. Knowledge of the legal system coupled with native legal English helps British lawyers stand apart from Spanish lawyers.
Many members of the international community in Spain tend to prefer a native English-speaking lawyer, not only to avoid language barriers, but also because of the belief that there are cultural similarities and ways of doing business.
Are there any challenges or obstacles?
To practise with the same rights and obligations as Spanish lawyers, you have to re-qualify. There’s mutual recognition of qualifications but you have to take additional exams – for example, in Spanish constitutional law.
Do clients tend to prefer smaller local firms or larger international networks?
This depends on the type of client and whether they have international business. You need to bear in mind that 95% of businesses in Spain are small and medium sized enterprises. Some prefer the demonstrable expertise of individual lawyers rather than local or international firms.
What recent legal developments you have seen in Spain?
Recent developments include GDPR (RGPD in Spanish acronym).
Spain’s socialist government (PSOE) also brought in a new royal decree (effective from 12 May 2019) that requires employers to keep proper track of working hours of all employees (except middle and high management), so that overtime hours can be measured. Previously this obligation was restricted to part-time employees.
This law also guarantees the right to digital disconnection – that is, not having to read or respond to emails, whatsapps, etc outside of working hours and ensures that there is a minimum 12-hour break between working hours. Businesses that fail to comply will face fines ranging from €626 to €6,250.
Are there any changes that may affect the legal profession and practice rights in Spain?
The Spanish government is planning to maintain current residence and working rights of UK citizens but a no-deal Brexit may affect the practice rights of UK lawyers in Spain if agreements are not reached on the mutual recognition of qualifications.
How do you think your firm or practice might be impacted by Brexit?
Brexit will have a limited impact on my practice because I re-qualified into Spain´s legal profession am a full member of the Barcelona Bar Association and can practice throughout Spain.
What is your top tip for a lawyer moving to Spain?
Attempting to speak the language opens many doors. Try to integrate for a richer social and professional life. Remember that the Spanish have a different sense of urgency.
Finally, what is the one must-see or must-do thing you would recommend to a lawyer visiting Barcelona as a tourist?
The Sagrada Familia church (under construction since 1882 and consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2010) is a must. It’s an extraordinary example of gothic architecture.
A must-do would include a trip to the Montserrat (mountain, monastery, basilica) or sailing/kayaking/swimming in the Costa Brava. Barcelona’s Football club stadium, Camp Nou, is also highly recommended. Other sports take place at the stadium, for example handball.
These views are the views of the author and not those of the Law Society