Lawyers in Belgium
Types of Lawyer
- Avocat (advocate/lawyer): The avocat practices in all areas of legal work. Only avocats have the right to plead in court, with a small number of statutory exceptions. They give legal advice and represent clients before tribunals. A defendant may represent himself, or with the permission of the judge, a close member of his family may represent him. In labour cases, Trades union representatives may appear for their members. otherwise, a member of the Bar will be appointed to take a case in civil matters. The conditions for admission into the profession depend on university qualifications and professional qualifications.
- Notaire (notary): see below.
- Huissier de Justice (bailiff): see below.
- Avocats á la Cour de Cassation
- Juriste d’entreprise (in-house lawyer).
There are more than 500 huissiers de justice in Belgium. Their primary role is to enforce court judgments, notarial acts and tax acts, as well as issue summonses for which they have a monopoly. They can also act as witnesses and determine facts of a situation, though their evidence can be challenged.
They are formally appointed by the Crown and are considered fonctionnaires as they have to advise both parties as to their rights and duties. There are a fixed number of huissiers in each district and they are limited to acting within their territory. Within these bounds they are in competition with other huissiers in their territory, though this is hampered somewhat as there is a fixed tariff of fees for carrying out their activities. Huissiers have their own disciplinary code enforced in each district by the Council of the local Chamber of huissiers.
Information about Bailiffs in the European countries is provided here.
Information about Notaries in the European countries is provided here.
The academic requirement is the qualification of Licence en droit. The period of study is five years, of which the first two are spent studying for what is called the Candidature en droit (candidature in law) and the next three studying for the full Licence en droit (Bachelor of law degree).
University legal studies are available either in French or in Dutch. French courses are given at the Free University of Brussels, the State University of Liege and the Catholic University of Leuven. Degree certificates are issued in the language of the university in which the studies have been completed. Degrees from all universities carry equivalent value for the purposes of professional qualifications. Nevertheless, despite such equivalence, one cannot become become a magistrate (i.e. either a judge or a prosecutor) in a French speaking area unless one has taken, in French, the examinations for the Licence en droit: the relevant legislation is of great complexity.
The candidature in law (see below) consists of two examinations and at least two years of studies.
The Licence en droit (see below) is obtained after at least three years of studies. The examination takes place in three stages.
Candidature in law
The first examination includes:
- Introduction to Public Law.
- Parliamentary and legislative history of Belgium.
- Theory of Natural Law.
- Introduction to Judicial Law.
- Introduction to Criminal Law.
- Historical introduction to Private Law.
- Roman Law.
- Psychology and Sociology.
The second examination includes:
- Introduction to Private Law.
- Initiation into methods of application of Law and exercises.
- Foundations of Public Law.
- International System.
- Introduction to the Law of companies’ annual accounts.
- Philosophy of Law.
- Political economy.
- Optional history course.
- Other optional course.
Licence en droit
The first examination includes:
- Civil Law of Property (Mortgages).
- Civil Law of Contract and practical exercises.
- Criminal Law and practical exercises.
- Public and Administrative Law.
- Private judicial law and practical exercises.
- Public International Law.
- Social Law.
The second examination includes:
- Civil Law of securities.
- Civil Law of persons.
- Civil Law of Contract.
- Civil Law of Succession.
- Donations and practical exercises.
- Criminal procedure and practical exercises.
- EC Law.
The third examination includes:
- Private International Law and practical exercises.
- Tax law and practicale exercises.
- A total of 250 hours of options teaching (at least four subjects).
In conformity with the normal continental practice, the law graduate must undergo a period of practical training before he can be accepted as a fully qualified avocat. The duration of the stage is for a continuous period of three years without interruption except for some minor exceptions. Normally the stagiaire (trainee) becomes apprenticed to an avocat who has himself been inscribed on the Roll for at least ten years.
The stagiaire must attend regularly at the office of his principal and will work under the supervision of the principal. There is a minimum programme of lectures and practical exercises (see below) to be attended by every stagiaire. Apart from compulsory attendance at the above programme of courses, the stagiaire is under three specific obligations: regular attendance at the office of his principal, regular attendance at hearings of the various courts, conduct of legal aid cases. The only requirement of an examination during the stage is that the stagiaire must (at the latest) at the end of the second year of the stage take a practical examination, both written and oral.
Lectures and practical exercises: Subjects
The Regulation of 1989 still does not impose a full time course of study to be undertaken by the trainee. It does however require a minimum programme of lectures and practical exercises (travaux pratiques) to be attended by every stagiaire. This programme (which the Council of each Bar must organise) consists of 60 hours of lectures and exercises on such matters as:
- Legal ethics.
- Relations with clients colleagues and the judiciary.
- Relations with the administration.
- Office organisation (including the keeping of accounts and discharge of tax obligations).
- Practice relating to family law
Practice relating to:
- Family Law.
- Civil law.
- Criminal law.
- Commercial and tax law.
- Social law.
- Liability in contract and tort.
Ordre National des Avocats de Belgique
Palais de Justice, Place Poelaert
1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Author: J Lonbay
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