The Legal System:
The Italian legal system is a so-called “continental” civil law system grounded on statute law.
The rules governing business relationships are mainly contained in the Italian Civil Code (enacted in 1942) as complemented by several Acts (for example the Consolidated Law on Finance - Legislative Decree No. 58/1998 - and the Consolidated Law on Banking - Legislative Decree no. 385 of 1 September 1993 - focusing on specific areas, e.g., listed companies and banks) and special legislation.
In such respect, the Italian “continental” civil law system differs from some other civil law systems in which business rules are usually contained in commercial codes separate from the civil codes.
Rules concerning criminal law are instead contained in the Italian Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.
The Legal Profession:
In Italy a lawyer is known as an “avvocato” (pl. “avvocati”).
There are currently roughly 250,000 avvocati duly registered in Italy.
In order to become a lawyer in Italy, one needs to complete a five-year law course at an Italian University and a traineeship of at least eighteen months at an Italian law firm. Following a successful completion of the traineeship future lawyers need to take the bar exam (both written and oral examinations are required). After passing the bar exam each graduated student becomes an Italian qualified “avvocato”.
Having registered with the Local Bar Roll for eight years (or having taken a specific examination after five years of being enrolled with the relevant bar) one is entitled to acquire the qualification of avvocato to the Italian Supreme Court (“Corte Suprema di Cassazione”) if s/he wishes to represent clients in Italian Higher Courts.
The Legal Profession in Italy is regulated by the Professional Code of Conduct (Codice Deontologico Forense) setting the main duties of lawyers regarding their relationships with clients, counterparts and colleagues.
Regulation of legal profession:
There is a National Bar Association (Consiglio Nazionale Forense) representing the profession of avvocato at the national level in Italy. However, the structure of the Italian profession is decentralised, with the local bar associations (Consiglio dell’Ordini degli Avvocati) holding most of the regulatory powers. The Consiglio Nazionale Forense deals with disciplinary policy for the profession; it is responsible for the Code of Conduct and will hear appeals from disciplinary decisions of the local bar associations.
There are more than 130 Local Bar Associations in Italy which correspond to the number of court districts in the country. Each local bar deals with the admission, supervision, training and disciplining of its members as well as maintaining the register of avvocati. All avvocati must be registered with their local bar in order to practise in Italy.
Exercise of the profession of avvocato without being duly qualified and registered with the Local Bar Association is a criminal offence under Italian Law.
Italy is a Member State of the European Union and has therefore implemented the Establishment Directive 98/5/EC which allows lawyers who are qualified in and a citizen of an EU/EEA Member State of Switzerland to practise on a permanent basis under their home title in another EU/EEA Member State, or Switzerland.
See http://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/brussels/how-to-practise-in-the-eu/ for more information about the requirement to register with the host state bar and other regulatory requirements.
Italy has also implemented the Lawyers’ Services Directive 1977 (77/249) which governs the provision of services by an EU/EEA/Swiss qualified lawyer in a Member State other than the one in which he gained his title - known as the ’host state‘.
See http://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/brussels/how-to-practise-in-the-eu/ for more information about the Lawyers’ Services Directive.
For all nationals of an EU/EEA Member State, or Switzerland there are two routes to re-qualification as an Italian avvocato:
(i) the Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36, which replaced the 1989 Diplomas Directive (89/48); or
(ii) Article 10 of the 1998 Lawyers’ Establishment Directive is basically an exemption from the regime foreseen by the Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive.
For more information on these routes to re-qualification see http://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/brussels/how-to-practise-in-the-eu/
Italy is a member of the WTO but all GATS negotiations are carried out by the European Commission on behalf of all EU Member States.
A foreign lawyer from a WTO Member State other than an EU/EEA Member State or Switzerland is only permitted to supply legal services in Italy in the following areas:
(i) public international law;
(ii) EC law; and
(iii) law of jurisdiction of qualification
Foreign lawyers establishing a commercial presence in Italy can only do so via legal practice vehicles permitted by Italian law.