Transnational Mobility of Lawyers

Transnational Mobility of Lawyers

The transnational mobility of lawyers is important for several reasons. For those involved in it, the experience represents first-hand contact with a different legal system in which approaches to providing legal services, as well as its methodologies and organisation, may differ. It is a unique opportunity for foreign lawyers to reflect on their own ways of offering legal services, producing legal research and exchange views about their experience with colleagues abroad.

Transnational mobility may also help lawyers overcome scepticism regarding other methods of legal research, client care and offering professional services, by providing them with an opportunity to observe their use directly and their impact on clients. This experience may in turn motivate them to gain fresh skills for more innovative approaches of their own. Conversely it may be an opportunity too, for them to discuss their own approaches with lawyers at their host legal firm, thereby developing a greater sense of empowerment and professional recognition. Finally, working visits by lawyers to a country whose main language is not their mother tongue is likely to help them develop their language skills, an asset of special importance to those whose speciality is international or foreign lawyers.

Purposes of transnational teacher mobility

Accompanying clients abroad is the most common reason for the professional mobility of lawyers. Learning languages and law are also a very common motives to go abroad. In fact, study abroad as part of teacher education is almost as common a reason given.

Establishing contacts with law firms abroad is a preparatory phase in organising cooperation between law firms. This type of mobility generally involves lawyers in a medium-term project.

Offering legal services abroad is only given by a few of mobile lawyers in the EU as a reason for mobility.

Exchange of legal practitioners in Europe

The European Union is still a « mosaic » of many legal systems and more. An exchange programme of practitioners is one of the key element to improve the judicial cooperation in Europe at a cross-border level. It has a positive effect not only on the legal practitioners involved in the exchange but as well on how the justice will be rendered for citizens, companies or public bodies.

An exchange-programme between legal practitioners from various countries may enable:

  • better acquaintance with the institutions and procedures of another Member State,
  • sets up of professional contacts and correspondents as well as structure to organize a mutual cooperation effective on a long-term scale,
  • analysis of the reglementary framework of judicial cooperation,
  • exchange of best practices and comparative analysis of law and practices between countries,
  • information on the legal system of another Member State,
  • improvement of the knowledge of legal terminology in a foreign language,
  • exchange of ideas and opinions on the development of legal matters in Europe,
  • exchange of opinions on the necessity for EC law in particular matters,
  • exchange of best practices in the management and organisation of the office, and
  • discussion on the upraisal of converging european culture in the field of justice and law.

Political Goals

Numerous studies demonstrate the benefits to furthering the Single Market in services. A World Bank study estimated that reducing services barriers could yield a 5% productivity increase. (worldbank.org/en/region/eca/
publication/eurer).

The OECD has shown, in other work, that labour mobility is a key determinant of productivity which enhances economic growth (oecd.org/eco/growth/OECD-2015-The-future-of-productivity-book.pdf).

Not only does labour mobility help close skills gaps and labour shortages, it also balances demand for labour between Member States. The modernisation of professional regulation can improve the functioning of the labour market by promoting mobility between Member States; contribute to lower prices for professional services and by doing so, increase the capacity for growth of the European economy.

The Five Presidents Report on ‘Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union’ highlights that, in order to secure long-term success of the Economic and Monetary Union, the
European Union should go a step further and push for a deeper integration of national labour markets by facilitating geographic and professional mobility, including through better recognition of professional qualifications (ec.europa.eu/priorities/economicmonetary-union/docs/5-presidentsreport_en.pdf).

Better recognition of qualifications is sought through the Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications (Professional Qualifications Directive), as revised
in 2013 and due to be transposed by all EU Member States and EEA countries by 18 January 2016. This directive has a direct role in supporting geographic and professional mobility by virtue of the mutual recognition process.

Low labour mobility

OECD studies show that labour mobility is a key determinant of productivity which enhances economic growth (oecd.org/eco/growth/OECD-2015-The-future-of-productivity-book.pdf). Not only does labour mobility help close skills gaps and labour shortages, it also balances demand for labour between Member States.

The modernisation of professional regulation can improve the functioning of the labour market by promoting mobility between Member States, contribute to lower prices for professional services and, by doing so, increase the capacity for growth of the European economy.

The Professional Qualifications Directive lays down the conditions for the recognition process in order to ease the administrative burden on those who want to be employed or self-employed in
a different country from where they have obtained their qualification.

Where a profession is regulated, citizens may have to go through the recognition process which often requires paying substantial fees, can be timeconsuming and cumbersome.

This directly affects the mobility of professionals which has a knock-on effect on the amount of skills available to businesses.

The proportion and the type of decisions taken for professionals qualified in one Member State who apply for recognition in another country (EU Member States, EEA countries and Switzerland) in view of practising there on a permanent or on a temporary basis.

The statistics cover the 2012 – 2014 period and refer to the country in which the qualification was issued, not the country of origin of the citizens. As shown above, the EU average for a quick positive recognition of a qualification is 77.5%.

The EU average of negative, difficult or unsettled cases is 22.5%. The statistics also indicate that there is a substantial difference in the recognition rates between Member States, which is influenced by several factors, such as the number of applicants, the Member State’s resources dedicated to processing the applications for recognition, the complexity of the regulation and the economic sector concerned.

However, the higher the response and recognition rate, the easier and less costly it is for the citizen to have their qualification recognised.

Despite the high recognition rates of professional qualifications workers’ mobility remains low for various reasons. Across the whole business economy, in a study of the European Commission, an average of 3.6% of those employed in the EU were EU citizens coming from another Member State. This is higher than the proportions observed in accounting activities (3.2%), real estate activities (2.8%), civil engineering (2.3%) and legal activities (1.6%). On the other hand, it is interesting to note the significantly higher proportion of EU architects (6.5%) over the total employed, which may be due to the existence of an automatic recognition
regime based on the Professional Qualifications Directive.

As regards mobility, the proportion of foreign-born workers is about one third lower among regulated workers. Automatic recognition arrangements in the EU are nonetheless effective in
facilitating entry into foreign markets and mobility across countries.

The World Bank, in a recent paper (World Bank Group (2016), “EU Regular Economic Report – 3: Growth, Jobs and Integration: Services to the Rescue”), advocates the creation of a common
market for professional services and explains that a “European Passport for professional services” may increase mobility within the EU, although they admit it will not be enough to create a truly common market.

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