No exams for UK lawyers to requalify in Switzerland
Switzerland is the UK’s third largest export market in Europe for legal services and fourth largest globally (according to 2021 data from the Office of National Statistics).
UK-Switzerland Recognition of Professional Qualifications Agreement
The agreement signed on 14 June 2023 creates a permanent route for lawyers qualified in the UK to requalify in Switzerland after three years of registration and practice without having to complete a Swiss law degree or sit any exams in Switzerland.
It confirms and extends indefinitely key provisions in the UK-Swiss Citizens Rights Agreement (CRA), which were due to expire at the end of 2024.
The new agreement is expected to come into force on 1 January 2025.
Under this reciprocal agreement, lawyers qualified in the UK of any nationality can requalify in Switzerland if they:
- register to practise with the relevant local competent authority in Switzerland
- sit an aptitude test or complete an adaptation period consisting of three years' effective and regular practice of host-country law, or less than three years practice of host-country law if suitable professional experience has been obtained
- apply to requalify into the local profession by having their qualifications recognised by the relevant competent authority
Regulators in Switzerland must ensure those who practise law are fit to do so. Therefore, the relevant competent authority may:
- by reasoned decision and subject to a right of appeal, refuse to accept an application to join the register, or cancel such registration where the lawyer concerned fails to meet other conditions that a professional qualified in Switzerland must adhere to (including insurance requirements and satisfactory supervision)
- prevent lawyers covered by the agreement from carrying out certain professional activities
- require lawyers covered by the agreement to use their home-country legal title (solicitor, barrister or advocate) during the adaptation period
What it means for solicitors
Lawyers qualified in the UK who register with their local competent authority in Switzerland at any point in the future will be able to requalify after three years of regular and effective practice, in line with their existing rights.
Without the agreement, UK lawyers registering to practise in Switzerland after December 2024 would not have been able to requalify using their existing qualifications. Instead, they would have faced a much more onerous process.
This agreement also creates a precedent which the UK can use to push for more ambitious commitments in trade negotiations with other countries.
Our work so far
Throughout trade negotiations we have called on the UK government to maintain the current requalification regime to support our members wishing to practise in Switzerland on a permanent basis.
We’ve also highlighted that the UK should seek to maintain provisions under the Services Mobility Agreement (SMA).
These provisions allow UK lawyers to travel on business to Switzerland and provide their services in exchange for payment for up to 90 days per calendar year without a work permit or visa. However, they only apply until the end of 2025.
Short-term business travel is one of the main ways in which UK lawyers provide their services in Switzerland and remains a key priority for our members.
Get in touch
If you have any questions or would like any further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.