German Lawyers do not Renew their Practising Certificates each Year

How to check whether a German Lawyer (or other Professional) is properly licensed and insured

Hiring a foreign lawyer involves a certain amount of trust, especially if this lawyer is supposed to handle the client’s funds abroad. Many potential clients from the UK and the USA therefore ask their potential German attorney-at-law (Rechtsanwalt) to provide a copy of their current practising certificate. This request will, however, baffle a German lawyer (or tax advisor, account or auditor). This is because, in contrast to English solicitors, German professionals do not need to renew their professional licenses every year.  Instead, their lawyer’s license – once issued – is perpetual and is only being revoked if the lawyer is in breach of his / her professional duties. The same is true in regards to German professional indemnity insurance (Berufshaftpflichtversicherung).

munich-bar-lawyers-certificateThis, by the way, is what a German lawyer’s genuine practising certificate (Zulassungsurkunde) does look like, in this case issued by the Munich Bar Association (Rechtsanwaltskammer München) back in 2001. They still look the same. The seal at the top of the certificate will look different, of course, depending on which regional German bar association has issued the certificate.

But how, if the lawyer’s certificate was issued years or even decades ago, can you verify if a German lawyer (Rechtsanwalt) is actually still admitted to the German bar association and is currently properly registered? Very easily: Simply visit the official website of the German Federal Bar Association (which is also available in an English version) and enter this persons name to search the entire database of all German advocates admitted to the bar. That way, you can verify whether this lawyer actually exists and what his / her official law firm office adress and phone number are.

More information on German lawyer’s professional regulations are available here:

If you search for German litigation experts who are fluent in English, visit the website of GP Chambers: www.GermanBarristers.com. GP Chambers, with its international expertise, is well equipped to advise and represent clients from the UK, the USA and other English speaking countries.

More information on civil litigation and evidence rules in German Courts of law and before German arbitration tribunals:

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Solicitor_SchmeilzlThe law firm Graf & Partners and its German-English litigation department GP Chambers was established in 2003 and has many years of experience with British-German and US-German business and corporate matters, including the representation of clients in M&A transactions, medical malpractice litigation, contentious probate matters or labour law disputes throughout Germany.

If you wish us to provide advice on German law or represent you in court or arbitration proceedings in Germany, please call German lawyer Bernhard Schmeilzl, LL.M. (Leicester) or Munich based English solicitor Elissa Jelowicki on +49 941 463 7070.

Real German Lawyer or Fraudster?

Sadly, internet fraud and email scams are rather common nowadays (for “popular” schemes se here). In some cases one of the fraudsters claims to be a German Rechtsanwalt, i.e. a German lawyer. In case you have doubts whether this German solicitor really exists and what his registered professional office address and phone numbers are, there is a very simple and quick way to verify: Simply visit the official website of the German Federal Bar Association (which is also available in an English version) and enter this persons name to serach the entire database of all German advocates admitted to the bar. If a fraudster uses the name of an existing lawyer they usually state a different phone number and/adress. So you can easily verify by calling or writing to the respective lawyer at his official address given on the Federal Bar website.

The law firm Graf & Partners (Germany) assists entrepreneurs, businesses and private clients. Do not hesitate to contact us by calling solicitor Bernhard Schmeilzl at +49 941 785 3053 or send an email to: mail [at] grafpartner.com

So you want to practice Law in Germany?

There are an impressive 160,000 advocates (Rechtsanwälte) registered to practice law in Germany (from the official statistics of the German Bar Association: German Advocates in February 2013). However, that doesn’t mean there are not interesting opportunities for British lawyers who are considering practising law in Germany: Continue reading

What is a German “Civil Law Notary”?

And what are their Fees?

When you engage in business in Germany you will sooner or later encounter a so called “Notar“. These civil law notaries are neither judges nor attorneys, but something in between. German law (for example in Sec. 311.b.(1) Civil Code) requires the intervention of a notary in cases of important transactions with long-term effects and a particular economic or personal significance for the parties concerned, e.g. real property transactions, establishment of mortgages, incorporation of a limited liability company or a public corporation, certain corporate share deals, prenuptual agreements and testamentary contracts.

While judges decide legal disputes, the job of a notary is to prevent such disputes from arising in the first place. In contrast to an attorney at law (Rechtsanwalt, which is explained here) who must take sides and represent exclusively the interests of his client, a notary must be impartial. When drafting or recording an agreement he must counsel all parties involved, must ask them whether they have understood all the implications and must warn a party if the notary thinks that this party enters into a disadvantageous or even harmful agreement. The notary must personally read the entire document alound before the parties may sign.

The idea behind the mandatory involvement of a notary is to protect the parties from rushing into such dealings without getting proper legal counsel first (so called “Warnfunktion”). The second reason is to ensure proper documentation of such agreements (“Beweisfunktion”). All deeds recorded by a notary are being kept on official file. Certain authorities, for example the commercial registers, which are kept at the local courts, only accept applications and declaration when they are being communication by a notary. Thus, the founders of a company as well as the designated directors of such company must see a notary and execute their declaration before this notary who will then officially notify the commercial register.

Notaries enjoy a very high reputation in Germany since only the top graduates from law school have a chance to be appointed for this function within the German judicial system. So, the legal qualification of German notary is – on average – even higher than that of a German judge.

Notary fees are the same throughout Germany, because these are fixed in statutory fee tables, comparable to court fees. Thus, German notaries are neither willing (nor allowed) to negotiate their professional fees.

For more information you may visit Wikipedia and the website of the Bundesnotarkammer (Professional Chamber of Civil Law Notaries) which also has an English section.

What is a German Rechtsanwalt?

German Lawyers: Professional Education and Regulatory Framework

German advocates are independent and work as self-employed professionals (Freiberufler). To be admitted to the German bar (Rechtsanwaltskammer) one must pass two state examinations: The first exam requires four years of studies at a University law school . The second exam takes place after additional two years of legal clerkship (Referendariat) during which the future lawyers have to successfully complete various stages: civil court, criminal court, municipal or rural administration and – of course – advocacy. Thus, every German lawyer has seen all aspects of the legal professional and is formally qualified to practice as advocate, judge, prosecutor or notary. A German Rechtsanwalt (there is no distinction between solicitors and barristers) is authorized to repesent clients throughout Germany and to appear before all German courts (with only very few exceptions). The legal fees are regulated by the German Lawyers Fee Act (Rechtsanwaltsvergütungsgesetz). An English version of the “Rules of Professional Practice” for German lawyers is available as pdf-download here. The difference between a Rechtsanwalt and a civil law Notary is explained here.