In France, the lawyer can be regarded as a legal officer but in private practice. Accordingly, the french lawyer is independent and free to accept or refuse any mandate. The lawyer must comply with strict professional conduct rules set by French and European regulations. He has an obligation to advise his clients and he is expected to provide them with legal information which is clear and accessible to non-lawyers.
The lawyer must ensure professional secrecy so that conversations and correspondence between his client and him remain secret and cannot be disclosed to third parties. In addition to its role of mediation and counseling, the main activity of the lawyer is to carry out any type of procedure which can be of civil, commercial or criminal nature. The lawyer is also able to deliver to the attention of his client written legal advice in all areas of law.
The lawyers’ qualification
The access to the profession of lawyer in France requires at least four years of studies (equivalent of a 1st year Master) in a Faculty of Law. Then, the student must pass an exam to be admitted in a Professional Training Center. The student-lawyer will study there for two years the basics and mechanism of the profession and will face daily practice.
After these two years, he must pass a final examination to assess his skills and obtain the Certificate of Fitness for the Profession of Lawyer (known as CAPA). He becomes a member of the local Bar Association by taking the following oath: “I swear, as a lawyer, to perform my duties with dignity, conscience, independence, integrity and humanity.”
The lawyers’ fees in France
Unlike many other countries, fees aren’t submitted in France to any regulated ratemaking. If fees are set up freely, however they must take into account certain criteria, such as the complexity of the case and the fortune of the client.
In addition to the initial basic fees, a success fee can be agreed in advance between the lawyer and his client. Generally, a fee agreement is signed and the client then pays a retainer which will be deducted later from the total expenses and fees of the lawyer.
The mandatory nature of representation by a lawyer
In France, representation by a lawyer is mandatory in most of written proceedings. This is true particularly for proceedings before a First-Level High Court (“Tribunal de Grande Instance”) or before a Court of Appeal.
The organisation of the profession in France
A lawyer is a member of a local Bar Association which is linked either to First-Level High Court or to a Court of Appeal. The President of each local Bar Association (called „Bâtonnier“) oversees and monitors the profession. Enrollment in a Bar Association is mandatory for a lawyer if he wants to enter into practice.
In relation to the growing of European standards in recent years, any lawyer qualified in France can validly bring a case before a foreign court within the EU. However, he will previously get in contact with a colleague situated in the foreign jurisdiction to be advised on the proceedings rules which are applicable locally.