1. What do you have to do to become a lawyer in Spain and how is that different to Scotland?

There is only one kind of lawyer in Spain, with all lawyers being referred to simply as "abogado". There is no difference between lawyers and advocates. All Spanish lawyers can appear before all courts within the Spanish jurisdiction. Lawyers are assisted by another type of legal professional known as a "procurador". The role of the procurador is to formally represent the client before the court in respect of procedural legal issues. The role of the abogado is to deal with the substantive legal issues.

Procuradores and abogados have different regulatory bodies. Whilst there are presently 83 regional law societies in Spain, known as Colegios de Abogados, they all apply the rules and regulations issued by the Consejo General de la Abogacía Española, which would translate as the General Council of Spanish Legal Practice, and coordinates all 83 Spanish law societies. In order to become a lawyer in Spain in 2012, I had to complete a 5-year law degree and then register with my regional Spanish law society. However, following the coming into force of the Spanish Law of Access to the Legal Profession in 2013, law graduates require to undertake the Official Master's Degree in Legal Practice accompanied by practical work experience, much like a Scottish traineeship, however in many cases it is unpaid. Thereafter, they are required to sit the Exam of Access to the Legal Profession organised by the Ministry of Justice before they can request registration with a regional law society.

2. What is the biggest difference between working in a Spanish Law firm as opposed to a Scottish firm?

In Spain, most legal practitioners, including abogados and procuradores, are sole practitioners. However, there are also some large foreign law firms that have offices in Madrid and other large cities and employ local legal professionals. In Madrid alone, there are approximately 75,000 lawyers registered with the regional law society. One of the biggest hurdles a newly qualified Spanish lawyer must face is generating enough business. Unfortunately, the system gives way to fraud. It is not uncommon for there to exist fraudulent use of the figure of the "self-employed" professional targeted at young practitioners early in their careers by established practitioners with their own practice, where the young professional is not truly self-employed. In large firms, performance is goal-based and lawyers are often required to work up to 14 hours per day, with their hours not being disclosed to the client. Further to that, the latest figures from year 2022 show that 39,8% of young Spanish lawyers earn an average gross income of 13,300 euros per year. The long hours and level of pay may discourage young people from entering the legal profession in Spain.

3. How did you find moving to work in Scotland as lawyer? What were the biggest challenges?

Until almost the date of my graduation from Comillas Pontifical University of Madrid in the summer of 2012, it was not clear whom the Spanish Law of Access to the Legal Profession would affect or exactly what the effect would be. It was very much a political issue in the lead up to the Spanish 2012 General Election. Moving to Scotland was a way for me to escape that uncertainty. I moved to Scotland back in September 2012 to study the Accelerated LLB for graduates. Although I adapted to Edinburgh accents without a problem, I must admit that at first it was very difficult for me to understand accents from elsewhere in Scotland, in particular Glaswegian accents! I attended The University of Glasgow and at the same time continued with legal practice as a sole practitioner dealing with Spanish cases. I met my husband and ended up staying. I find legal practice in Scotland very rewarding and loved learning about the differences between legal systems.

4. What do you think are the three biggest differences between Spanish law and Scottish law in your area of practice?

Actions for personal injury not arising from contract, what is known as Tort in English law and Delict in Scotland, are referred to as "acciones de responsabilidad civil extracontractual" in Spain. In Spain these actions timebar within one year for the whole of the jurisdiction, with the exception of the autonomous community of Catalonia, where they timebar after three years, just like in Scotland. The period of timebar is established in the Spanish Civil Code and in the Civil Code of Catalonia respectively, as Spanish law is mostly codified. However, once timebar has been prevented, say by a court action, should time start running again, for example if the court action is dismissed for any reason, then the period of timebar is completely reset, starting all over again from day zero.

In Spain, parties to civil court proceedings have the right not to disclose information and not to be completely truthful before the court in order further their own interests, albeit subject to certain limits as evidence must not be tampered with. However, there is no duty on lawyers to disclose all available documents to the court, if these could prejudice the interest of their clients. There is no duty for the parties to place all available evidence before the court, or for lawyers to disclose all facts that they know to be true. In civil and employment proceedings, it is accepted that both the claimant and the defender are entitled to not tell the truth. However, the law establishes that witnesses must be truthful, and the only person entitled to lie in criminal proceedings is the person against whom proceedings are directed (whose formal denomination varies throughout the stages of the proceedings).

In Spain, there is no period for "adjustment of the pleadings" in civil proceedings. The written pleadings or demanda made upon commencing the court proceedings cannot be modified. The written answers or contestación a la demanda made during the timeframe afforded to do so cannot be modified either. The concept of adjustment of pleadings is non-existent in Spanish Law. Moreover, all documents that the parties intend to rely on must be disclosed on submitting the pleadings or the answers to the pleadings. If they existed at such dates and were not put before the court, they will not be allowed by the court at a later stage, and the parties will be completely prevented from relying on them. If new facts arise, or documents are created at a later date, then subsequent written communications can be made to the court to bring the new fact or new document to the court's attention.


Lara Graham

Senior Solicitor