This guide provides information for solicitors and UK law firms working in Colombia.
For more detailed information on the legal services market see the Law Society’s Doing legal business in Colombiareport (log in required).
The Legal Profession:
There are approximately 200,000 lawyers in Colombia, a country with a population of around 46,000,000.
The typical route to qualification involves a five year law degree during which students complete vocational training, often at the university’s legal aid clinic. Students are assessed at the end of their studies and must then either complete a thesis or work placement to conclude the qualification process and earn the title abogado.
In order to practice, lawyers must register with the government’s National Lawyers Registry and must carry a professional ID card issued by the Ministry of Justice, Consejo Superior de la Judicatura, when appearing in court.
Regulation of legal profession:
There is no official bar association in Colombia. In early 2012, the Colombian government considered a legal professions bill to introduce a national and mandatory bar but the initiative stalled and it is unlikely to be revived soon.
Foreign lawyers do not need to register their presence or their intention to provide legal services for occasional or ‘fly in, fly out’ services. However, only Colombian lawyers can appear in court and provide advice on Colombian law.
Foreign lawyers can work as in house advisers for Colombian companies and international companies operating in Colombia.
Colombia offers an open market for foreign law firms. There are no rules restricting foreign firms in their operations although, as with ‘fly in, fly out’, only Colombian lawyers can appear in court.
Foreign lawyers can requalify as a Colombian abogado though additional study is required.
Candidates must submit an application to the Ministry of Education, Ministerio de Educación Nacional de Colombia, including a copy of their undergraduate degree, their professional certificates, identification and administrative fee. Translations in to Spanish and notarisation may be required. The applicant also must prove evidence of studies of Colombian law in the following areas: Colombian constitutional law, administrative law and special proceedings (civil, administrative, criminal and labour).
The application process normally takes between 2 and 5 months.