How to practise in Brazil
Updated 16 July 2012.
The Legal System:
Brazilian law is mainly derived from Portuguese civil law with a legal system based on statutes. However, a 2004 constitutional amendment now recognises that prior court decisions can be recognised as precedents, as in common law systems.
The Legal Profession:
There are 440,000 lawyers in Brazil. After the US and India, Brazil has the third largest legal profession in the world. Brazilian lawyers are called ‘advogados’.
Regulation of legal profession:
Lawyers are regulated by state bars which are overseen by the Brazilian Bar Association – the Ordem dos Advogados do Brazil (OAB).
Brazil is a growing market of great interest to foreign law firms. However, there are a number of restrictions on foreign lawyers’ practice rights.
Foreign lawyers in Brazil may:
- Practice home country and international law on registration with the OAB.
- Register their firm’s establishment with the OAB.
Foreign Lawyers may not:
- Enter into partnership with a Brazilian advogado. (if they do, the Brazilian advogado is treated as a foreign lawyer and is not able to use their title or advise on Brazilian law).
- Employ Brazilian advogados except as above, as foreign lawyers.
- Form Multi Disciplinary Partnerships.
Registration as a foreign lawyer
Each of the states and the federal district (Brasilia) is responsible for licensing local and foreign lawyers in its territory. The process of admission to practice law is carried out through each jurisdiction’s respective chapter of the Ordem dos Advogados. For example, a foreign lawyer or firm practicing in Sao Paulo must register with the Sao Paolo chapter of the OAB. He/she will need to provide the following:
- Residence visa in Brazil;
- Copy of practicing certificate (available from the Solicitors Regulation Authority);
- Letter of good standing from the competent authority (the SRA for solicitors) and from 3 Brazilian lawyers regularly enrolled with the Bar association state where he/she intends to practice; and,
- Evidence of reciprocity in dealing with Brazilian lawyers in the country or state of origin of the candidate (available from the Law Society’s International Department).
The OAB “may request other documents deemed necessary”. These seem to vary between state bars, but in the past have included documents such as a career history. All documents requested must be translated into Portuguese. The license to practice consultancy on foreign law is valid for three years and is renewable for successive three-year terms. For more information please see the OAB provimento 91/2000.
To requalify as a Brazilian lawyer, lawyers need to pass the OAB examination. In order to qualify to take this exam lawyers need to have studied law in Brazil, or at a law school that is an OAB approved teaching facility. In the case of law schools outside Brazil validation will be on a case by case basis, and applicants will need to apply to the OAB for validation of their law degree.
Brazil has made no commitment in legal services. It was hoped that Brazil would put forward a offer under the current round of GATS negotiations. However, this is looking increasingly unlikely.
The Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) held a meeting in May 2012 to discuss associations between foreign and local law firms. It is unlikely that there will be changes to the current rules in the near future, however the Bar has indicated that it may consider a new rule on partnerships. The Law Society will meet with representatives of the OAB in October 2012 and this will be one of the items for discussion.
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