New Zealand Law Society - Selling legal services around the world

Selling legal services around the world

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The continued growth in the sale of legal services across borders has resulted in preparation of a benchmark report which gives accurate and standardised information on an important sector of global trade.

The International Bar Association (IBA) recently published a comprehensive 715-page report on the regulation of cross-border legal services: IBA Global Regulation and Trade in Legal Services Report.

The report, which is the first to bring together research on a global scale, summarises the findings of research conducted in over 90 countries. Because federal jurisdictions also have different regulatory systems, it also includes each of the 50 states in the United States, Canada’s provinces, and the Australian states, meaning it covers over 160 jurisdictions.

The United States International Trade Commission’s 2013 report Recent Trends in US Services Trade estimated that the global legal services market was growing at around 3% annually and was worth US$623.3 billion in 2011.

US cross-border exports of legal services were estimated at US$7.5 billion in 2011. The United Kingdom is also a major exporter of legal services, with the Law Society of England and Wales estimating cross-border exports of £3.37 billion in 2014. This is over 1.8% of Britain’s GDP.

New Zealand is a small player here. Statistics New Zealand data says we earned NZ$153 million in the year to 31 March 2014 from legal services exports. This was just 0.9% of the value of our total services export in the period (and just 0.06% of GDP).

The IBA report uses a question and answer format to present information for each jurisdiction, thereby making it easy to compare different jurisdictions.

The IBA report shows that 56% of the jurisdictions covered now allow partnership or association between foreign and domestic lawyers. New Zealand is not one of these. The question “Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?” is answered as follows:

“Foreign firms are not permitted to enter into commercial association with local lawyers or law firms. This is because multi-disciplinary practices are not permitted and lawyers from other jurisdictions are not classified as ‘lawyers’ within New Zealand.”

Data in the report also shows that 77% of the jurisdictions do not have a nationality restriction on foreign lawyers requalifying as local lawyers (“Yes they can,” the report says for New Zealand, but notes that a foreign lawyer must have overseas qualifications assessed, complete any equivalence requirements, be admitted, and apply for a practising certificate).

The report is available as a PDF on the IBA website,

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