Lawyers in France

Lawyers in France

Legal Professionals

Types of Lawyer

They are:
Avocats (advocates) (see below)
Specialised Practitioners include Insolvency practitioners and Other Practitioners (see below).
Huissiers (bailiffs): see below.
Notaires (notaries): see below.


The avocat has exclusive rights of audience in all courts of general jurisdiction:

  • Tribunaux de Grande Instance
  • Cours d’Assises
  • Cours d’Appel
  • Tribunaux Administratifs
  • Cours Administratives d’Appel

The avocat also has the exclusive right to represent a client in the pre-trial stage of a criminal case and may complete acts of procedure on his behalf.

Since 1992 (merger between the professions of avocat and conseils juridiques et fiscaux), the avocat has a monopoly of giving legal advice, though this new legal monopoly contains a long list of exceptions.

They are more than 21,000 avocats (nearly half practises in Paris). Entry into the profession requires a law degree and professional qualification.

Insolvency practitioners

They include:

  • Administrateurs Judiciaires (administrators) who are appointed by the Court the company when it goes into insolvency.
  • Representants des creanciers who are appointed by the Court to represent creditors.
  • Mandataires Judiciaires (liquidators) who are appointed by the Court to liquidate the company.

Other Practitioners

They include.

  • Avoues pres les Cours d’Appel who are public officers appointed by the Minister of Justice and are attached to the Courts of Appeal only. Their function is to conduct the procedural stages of litigation in the Courts of Appeal, the oral pleadings being, in practice, the work of the avocat. The question whether or not the avoues should merge with the avocats has been raised, but so far, it will remain as an independent profession. It is compulsory to hire an avoue before the civil courts of appeal. The avoues are small in number (some 330 only). Entry into the profession is done by the completion of a professional examination (see below).
  • Avocats aux Conseils who are public officers and have a monopoly of the function of both avoues and avocats before the two highest courts in France (Cour de Cassation and Conseil d’Etat).
  • Huissiers de Justice (bailiffs) who are appointed to serve documents to anyone. They tend to deal with local debt recovery. Entry into the profession is through completion of a professional examination (see below).
  • Juristes d’entreprise (in-house lawyers) who have no particular legal status. They are regulated by the general labour laws, and are not covered by any legal privilege. They can join the profession of avocat if they have continuously practiced for at least 8 years. This possibility is extended to jurists having worked in a law firm for the same period of time.
    Greffiers des Tribunaux de Commerce who are the Registrars of the Commercial Courts.
    Commissaires-Priseurs who are licensed auctioneers.


The huissier de justice is an advisor and a mediator. Information about Bailiffs in the European countries is provided here.


The notaire is a public officer appointed by the Garde des Sceaux, Minister of Justice. He has a monopoly on documents that must be authenticated by deed, i. e. wills, marriage, contracts, document dealing with transfer of real property, and conveyancing. Furtherthemore he is allowed to give advise in these fields, normally on a high and secure level. Although he is a public servant the notaire runs his office in his own economic responsibility as his enterprise. Since there are notaires spread over the whole country, they are considered as a good service of justice by the people. They act professional and show a unity and solidarity of the profession in the départments, regional and national.

Information about Notaries in the European countries is provided here.

Other Issues


Legal Education

Since 1977, the intending avocats must first obtain a university law degree called Maitrise (Master of Laws) which requires four years of study. The first three years entitle the successful candidate to the degree of Licence en droit. The four-year programme for the degree guarantees a comprehensive knowledge of French law and procedure, and also contains some elements of non-legal subjects such as economics.

It includes:

Administrative Law
Business Law
Civil Law and Procedure
Company Law
Constitutional Law
Criminal Law and Procedure
EC Law
Economic Sciences
History of Law
Labour Law
Public Finances
Public Freedoms
International Law
Tax Law

Legal Training

Information on professional qualification in France:

  • In addition to the Maitrise (law degree) oe equivalent, the intending avocat must obtain the certificate of aptitude for the profession of avocat (CAPA).
  • The rules require the candidate for the CAPA to pass an entry examination and then to follow a 18-20 month long course of study at one of the centres régionaux de formation professionnelle (CRFP) which course covers both theory and practice. (Arrêté du 11 septembre 2003 fixant le programme et les modalités de l’examen).
  • The entrance examination comprises both written and oral tests.
  • The certificate for the CAPA is granted after a further examination at the conclusion of the course.
  • The candidate then takes the oath of admission to the Bar and becomes an avocat.

The CRFP programme consists of:

  • 6 months of core studies (covering deontology, office management, drafting, pleading etc. )
    followed by a 6-8 month individual project which could include periods of training with an accountant, or in legal departments of a commercial company, or court, or with a trade-union, or with a central or local government department in France or abroad in agreement between the candidate and the CRFP;
  • followed by a 6 month stage in the office of an avocat. Admission to the stage is dependent on evidence of good character; the stagiaire must also show that he is going to serve his stage in the office of an avocat situated in the area of that particular Bar.

Governing Bodies

Some of them include:

  • Conference des Batonniers (this includes all Bars except Paris). For the Paris Bar, the responsible is Monsieur le Batonnier de l’Ordre des Avocats.
  • Conseil National des Administrateurs Judiciaires et Mandataires Judiciaires.
  • Chambre Nationale des Avoues pres les Cours d’Appel.

Relevant Legislation

French Implementation of Directive 89-48-CEE is:

  • Texte(s) Legislative(s): Loi n 90-1259 du 31.12.90. Ref: JO du 5.1.91
  • Texte(s) Reglementaire(s): Decret n 91-1197 du 27.11.91 “organisant la profession d’avocat”. JO du 28/11/91

Relevant is the Arrete (sentence) du 7.01.1993 (JO du 29.01.93).

Author: J Lonbay

Lawyers in other European Countries



See Also

Further Reading

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