Lawyers in Denmark
Types of Lawyer
In Denmark there is essentially only one main type of lawyer, the advokat (advocate, see below). There are approximately 4,000 advocates. Bailiffs (pantefogeder) also exist. There is no notarial system.
See also Pantefogeder (Bailiffs) below.
Once certified by the Minister of Justice an advocate is free to practise law before the lower “district” courts (Byret). The advokat can only practice by himself after one year either as an articled clerk to another advocate (that advocate also having had at least one year’s experience) or as an advokat employed by or carrying on a business jointly with another advocate. All advokats must be members of the “Danish Bar and Law Society” (Det Danske Advokatsamfund)
The bulk of practitioners are single lawyers and in small partnerships, although a series of mergers in the late 1980’s has created some larger law firms. The largest firm has roughly 90 lawyers (including trainees). It is possible for advokats to be employed and to act for their employer. Since 1991, they may also, within limits, be incorporated. Office sharing arrangements (kontorrfællesskab) are also possible whilst remaining in effect a sole practitioner.
A special test in advocacy must be passed before the right of appearance before the High Court (Landsret) and Maritime and Commercial Court of Copenhagen (Soe- og Handelsretten), as regards some cases, is granted. The right of audience before the Supreme Court (Hoejesteret) is granted to those with at least five years experience of practice as advocates having a right to appear before the High Court (Landsret), which must also attest to the advocacy experience of the advokat.
With certain narrow exceptions there is, in civil cases, no necessity for individuals to employ advokats to plead the case in Court, as they have the right to plead the case themselves. However if they wish to choose a third party to represent them, then they can only choose an advocate. In criminal cases the accused shall have a counsel for the defence appointed in cases in which, generally-speaking, he may be sentenced to imprisonment.
The intending advokat will have to complete a law degree and follow a professional training, as well as comply with rules regarding good character, not be bankrupt, etc.
In the recent past, advokats could only have offices within the area of their local court circuit, though they were able to appear before any court. The rule was interpreted to allow the establishment of offices by advocates outside Denmark but was strictly interpreted within Denmark disallowing even the listing of an advokat’s home address in a classified telephone directory if it was outside the relevant court circuit. These rules have now been repealed.
It was incompatible with the Administration of Justice Act 1982 for advocates to incorporate into a limited partnership or company. There was an assumption following from this that firms cannot employ an advocate to carry on legal work on behalf of third parties. This situation has changed. The Minister of Justice’s Bill (of January 17th 1990) replaced Article 124 of the Administration of Justice Act allowing lawyers to form limited liability companies within limits.
Enforcement in Denmark is the responsibility of 3 different, organisationally separate units. Information about Bailiffs in the European countries is provided here.
Information about Notaries in the European countries is provided here.
Mobility: Directive 89/48/EEC
No rules relating to an aptitude test for lawyers have been established.
This means that anyone who applies for permission to become an advokat will be considered on a discretionary basis by the Danish authorities. The Ministry of Justice is the Competent authority under Directive 89/48/EEC, but applications should be made to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (Erhvervs- og Selskabsstyrelsen). Usually an adaptation period is required.
The Ministry of Justice has kept no statistics but some lawyers have managed to cross-qualify.
See also Directive 98/5/EC.
There are only two universities that provide Law Degrees, the University of Copenhagen and the University of Aarhus.
The law degree is divided into two parts.
The first, three year, “basic” part (grunduddannelsen) consists of all compulsory courses. The major examinations are taken at the end of the first and third years (BA Law).
The second part (candidatus (candidata) juris or cand.jur.) has 12 courses including two obligatory elements (Tax Law and Economics). The Law Faculty will typically offer between fifty and fifty-five courses to choose from. These are examined at the end of each semester in the fourth and fifth years.
The compulsory part of the training programme consists of the following subjects:
- Family Law and Inheritance
- Public Law
- Private Law
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Legal History and Jurisprudence
- Law and Society and Legal Sociology
- Economics and Tax Law
There are additionally many other courses offered.
Grades in Denmark, (both for written and oral examinations) are within the range 0 – 13. The following scale sets out the meaning of marks within this range:
- 0-5 FAIL
- 6-7 PASS
- 8 GOOD
- 9-10 VERY GOOD
- 11 EXCELLENT
- 13 EXTRAORDINARY
The average on this scale is 8. The bulk of examination results are between 7.5 and 9.5. It is rare to achieve average grades above 9.5.
Once the individual has the cand. jur. law degree there follows a period of post-graduate training which consists in practical training with an advocate, including going to court. The Administration of Justice Act Section 119(3) specifies:
“The training in practising law referred to in paragraph 4) of sub-section (2) above shall consist of participating in general legal practice, including conducting** cases as an Articled Clerk of an advocate practising law, or through employment in a legal position with the courts, the Director of Public Prosecutions, or the police, provided that conducting cases forms a substantial part of such employment.”
The Minister of Justice is empowered to decide that work in legal positions other than those mentioned in Article 119(3) can be included in the time required by Article 119(2)4), provided that such work does not account for more than two years. Article 119(5) allows the Ministry of Justice to certify a person as trained “in practising law at a level fully comparable with that referred to in sub-section (3) above”.
Professional training and Examination
Before the end of 1996, once one had fulfilled this three year post-graduate legal training (more or less equivalent to traineeship) the individual could get his practising certificate from the Ministry of Justice. Since 1 January 1997 the rules require that the series of professional training courses are taken and a professional law exam is passed, unless specially exempted by the Minister of Justice. The course last for 36 days over 4 terms.
Det danske Advokatsamfund is the Danish Bar and Law Society (official body representing the profession in Denmark). Membership of the Danish Bar and Law Society is compulsory for all practising lawyers in Denmark.
Det danske Advokatsamfund, Kronprinsessegade 28, 1306 Kobenhavn K, Denmark.
- Lov nr. 291 of 8/5/91, lovtidende a 1991 s.1087 05/05/91.
- Bekendtgoerelse nr. 292 of 08/05/91, lovtidende a 1991 s.1087 05/05/91.
- Bekendtgoerelse nr. 1129 of 13/12/96.
Author: J Lonbay
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