Greece :: EU Lawyers Directive Criticized at Local Crete Level

Greece :: EU Lawyers Directive Criticized by Local Bar Associations

Don't try to transact a property sale or purchase on Crete (or anywhere else in Greece for that matter) within the foreseeable future as Greek lawyers are on strike until at least July 7th, 2010. They have in fact downed tools for two reasons. Firstly they have a big issue on the introduction of value added tax for the first time on their billings to clients. Secondly, faced with full implementation of the EU Lawyers Directive at the local prefecture level will force many lawyers out of business.

(More on the Greek Lawyers VAT issue.)

EU Lawyers’ Establishment Directive
Greece is being pressured by the European Commission to fully implement the Lawyers’ Establishment Directive (EU Directive 98/5/EC 16 February 1998) in Greece. For example, in Scotland the law came into force on 22 May, 2000. The EU Lawyer's Directive is designed to facilitate the passage of lawyers from one Member State to practice permanently in another and was the result of highly involved negotiations over 20 years. Member States were given until 16 March, 2000 to transpose the Directive into each national law.

To understand why lawyers across Greece are so angry at the EU Directive - 98/5/EC in this year - 2010 - is to understand better the way the practicing lawyer system works in the Greek state.

Firstly the EU law was supposed to have been fully adopted in Greece by 16 March 2000. Better late than never, belatedly the country is catching up time to conform to the EU directive fully. Foreign lawyers are allowed to practice in Greece under EU Directive 95/5 but the EU is telling Greece to bring its local laws in line with the EU Lawyers Directive.

The local laws governing how Greece's attorneys date back to 1954. The local bar association takes the university graduate with a degree into an 18 months apprenticeship/internship, then onto taking the local bar association examinations and upon passing be accredited as a member of the local bar association. The tradition, governed by statute, has been that lawyers can (for the most part, there are exceptions) only practice in their local bar association territory. In Crete, territory is delineated as the four prefectures: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion or Lasithi.

Bringing these local laws in line with EU requirements means that any lawyer in Greece will be able to practice anywhere of his choosing in the country at any time. Local prefectural lawyers are concerned that out of the 36,000 lawyers practicing in Greece, some 24,000 are located in or around Athens - which means the remaining one third of the total are spread across the rest of the country.

In Lasithi Prefecture for example, there are approximately only 100 lawyers.

If the huge numbers of Athens area lawyers are permitted to practice in places on Crete for example the concerns of lawyers in Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lasithi is that they will be likely swamped by big law firms from the capital who will try to take all the traditional local business away from them. Competition is good but not at any price say the local lawyers. One local Cretan lawyer told me that there simply would not be enough work to go around and his livelihood would be at stake. So what is going to happen?

The current strike of the Greece's lawyers is due to end on July 7th, 2010 when the General Assembly of the country's Bar Associations is meeting in Athens to try to find a solution. Until then we have to hold our breath as does the rest of the country.