Lawyers in Spain
The Spanish word for Lawyer is ‘Abogado’ and is the equivalent to a Solicitor or a Barrister in England or Attorney in the United States. The Law society in Spain is called the Ilustre Colegio de Abogados. It operates
at a provincial level and sets minimum levels of charges.
Do not hesitate to ask your lawyer for an estimate of the charges, preferably in writing. If you have a problem you can always take it up with the provincial ‘colegio to which the lawyer is a member. The national bar association is known as the Consejo General de la Abogacía Española which represents the legal profession at national level in Spain whilst theColegios de Abogados holds the majority of the regulatory powers on a local level.
Until November 1st 2011 law students in Spain only need to complete a 5 year law degree to qualify for the local bar association with no further training or qualification necessary. After that date law students will also need to complete 2 special courses, one involving a work placement and the other a state exam. This new requirement for passing the bar was actually passed in October 2006 but allowed a 5 year interim period for students who had already begun their law degree. There are many decent law firms to be found in Spain with many able
to speak a very good level of English.
If you are a resident of more modest means, you may be entitled to free legal aid. Anybody with an income of less than 2.5 times the legal minimum wage are entitled to free legal aid from the state. The legal minimum in 2003 was 6.000 Euro a year. The Colegio de Abogados who administer the scheme have a legal aid office in each Law court building orPalacio de Justicia. The procedure is complicated and will involve much paperwork to prove your wage and assets.
The Spanish Legal system
There could be any number of reasons for the need of qualified legal advice especially when you are in a foreign country. There are correct procedures to follow and things can take time and money. When choosing your lawyer or legal team, check their are of speciality. It may be wills, tax, property or other. A lawyer who specializes in a particular field will be able to get to the heart of a matter much quicker than a general law practice.
They may be a bit more expensive, but it will be worth it because they should be able to get things moving much quicker. It is always recommended to engage the services of a lawyer for the purchase of property and/or land. Make sure its your own. Its not uncommon for clients to be offered biased legal advice from the start. In Marbella some extremely high profile lawyers (abogados) have been implicated and convicted of colluding in some of the Marbella property scandals and corruption.
Other situations you will probably need a lawyer for in Spain
1. Making a will – very important for homeowners or property who should consider thevery serious implications of Inheritance tax
2. Marriage and Divorce
3. Disputes over property – Real Estate Law
4. Custody cases for children
Many of the larger legal firms, in places such as Madrid or Barcelona, will have departments or offices that specialize in different areas of the law. In areas further South such as Andalucia you will find that the legal
company’s services are more general with a range of services. It is wise to check that your chosen lawyer is familiar with your requirements; otherwise you could be paying them a lot of money just for doing the research.
Estate agents may not be able to give you adequate legal advice when buying property as it is likely that they are neither trained lawyers nor sufficiently independent from the seller to represent you true interests.
Some estate agents have been known to recommend the services of a Gestor for dealing with the legal aspects of buying a property. A Gestor is an administrative agent who specializes in carrying out a wide range of bureaucratic and administrative tasks for clients in Spain. However they are not trained lawyers, so it is strongly advised that you use the services of a trained lawyer to draft or review contracts, perform a due diligence, or provide any legal advice. So there is no getting away from the fact that you will need to hire an independent Spanish lawyer to make your purchase legally sound and secure. Ideally you should hire a lawyer who can provide you with an integrated service that not only protects you in the purchase but also optimizes your fiscal situation as a result of the purchase.
Of course you will also need a lawyer who speaks your own language and can provide you with translated documents. This is important as you HAVE to read all documents before signing them, no matter what anyone says.
Final responsibility always rests with you. Given that foreigners have been buying property in Spain for many
years it is not difficult to find a good Spanish lawyer who will look after your interests and deal with you in your own language. The best way to find a lawyer is by recommendation, either from a friend or a good agent. Agents should recommend independent law firms rather than in-house lawyers. Be skeptical if you are offered an inhouse
lawyer, as their independence may be compromised. Whichever law firm or lawyer you choose, ask for some background
information that allows you to verify reputation, independence, etc.