• Not every “lawyer“ is an authorised lawyer

    Posted by Zsolt Szemerszky on August 27, 2023 at 8:34 am

    Another learning cycle for me was to realise that the majority of the legal advisors in the Principality of Monaco are not authorised. This is a biggie, considering the fact how many private people and corporate entities are looking for legal advice when they aim to move to Monaco, or when they aim to start a business activity related to the Principality.

    It is highly important to know that based on the Monegasque law, only Monegasque lawyers can practice in front of the court. The list of the authorised Monegasque lawyers is published on the website of the Monegasque Bar Association, both in English and French.

    In the Principality, I saw and knew that there are some different titles such as “Avocat-Défenseur” or “Avocat”, but I was sure that Avocat-Défenseur stands for defence lawyer, while Avocat is a general lawyer. Again, I made the mistake to decide what those words stand for, instead of researching them.

    In Monaco, there is a huge difference between these words. When you finish law school, you start as Avocats-Stragiaire for three years. After that, for the next five years you are an Avocat. So basically, you will be a full powered lawyer, called Avocat-Défenseur only after eight years. 

    So it is no wonder that the Avocat-Défenseurs did not want to be put in the same box as the Avocats-Stragiaires. Naturally the difference is significant and not just because of the years of practice, but also because of all the experience coming with it. The professional experience really counts in Monaco.

    The legal hierarchy is extremely important in Monaco:

    • Avocats-Stragiaire (first 3 years)
    • Avocat (next 5 years)
    • Avocats-Défenseur (minimum 8 years of experience)

    Therefore, when I listed the “juniors” with the “masters”, they were not happy and they refused all co-operation. Not to mention that many of them criticised that the Legal advisors are not even approved by the Monaco BAR. 

    So why is Monaco filled with legal advisors who are not members of the Monaco Bar at all? One can say that it is because most people who are coming to Monaco do not know this, offering an easy target for quick money. I made my learning curve to understand this and it took years to realise it.

    I asked Mr. Bergonzi about this and he explained me that there are two kinds of legal professionals in the Principality of Monaco. We can roughly define them as attorneys-at-law (avocats) and legal advisors (conseillers juridiques).

    The first ones, attorneys-at-law (avocats) need to hold the Monaco nationality and they have to pass the Bar Exam. This basically means that only Monegasque nationals are allowed to plead before Courts in Monaco. 

    On the other hand, legal advisors (conseillers juridiques) who are mainly foreigners, may have another Bar exam (usually from an EU country) or not, and are not allowed to plead before Courts of the Principality of Monaco.

    For me the most interesting thing is that the two professions are authorized to practice in Monaco, but under very different rules. 

    When I asked Mr. Bergonzi the main difference, he simply said to me that for instance, the “avocats” need to comply with ethical rules and have to pay an insurance, which is not the case for legal advisors.

    This was the point when I saw red flags in front of me. So there is a profession, called legal advisor, which can basically freely target clients without complying with the same rules as I would expect in an other foreign country such as in Germany.

    On the other hand, we have to be fair because most of the time, “avocats” and legal advisors do not compete on the same market as they do not attract the same kind of clients. Still, some legal advisors tend to create confusion in order to nurture upsetting competition.

    Hopefully in the future there will be a plan to create further differentiations or restrictions to protect the members of the Monaco Bar, as well as all the people who are unaware about these differences.

    My recommendation is to alway check who is authorised and who is not.

    Zsolt Szemerszky replied 1 month ago 1 Member · 0 Replies
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