EU court opens way to foreign lawyers

A European Court of Justice decision has opened the way for foreign lawyers to operate in Greece more freely in a landmark decision that appears to have opened wide the sector. The ruling requires all European legal associations to open their doors to all EU nationals who hold a law degree without subjecting them to local language tests. «The purpose of Greek language tests is to protect litigants. That is why lawyers need to know the Greek language and legislation,» said Dimitris Hadzimichalis, a board member of the Athens Bar Association (ABA). «Of course, since English and French are considered international languages, the European Court does not pose the question of such language problems, which of course should not exist,» he added. The decision signals a change in the sector as it will not only allow more lawyers to practice in Greece but also more law firms. According to ABA records, 76 practitioners of law are registered in Greece who have come from other countries – all of whom are of Greek descent. The total number of registered lawyers in Greece reaches some 30,000. ABA General Secretary Dimitris Vervessos told Kathimerini that entry to the association is allowed after examinations, all held in Greek, which candidates can complete on the condition that sufficient professional experience over the last three years can be ascertained. The European Court decision was made after English barrister Graham Wilson was refused permission to practice in Luxembourg unless he passed language tests in German, French and Letzeburgish.