José María de Areilza, Dean of IE Law School, is also a member of the Board of the Madrid Bar Association.  He has been involved over the past few years in debates over the development of the law for admission to the practice of law and has contributed to both its focus and implementation.

The new law for admission to the practice of law will introduce dramatic reforms to the educational model.  Could you explain for us what the law consists of and what is your personal opinion?

The new law establishes three requirements before one may practice law, a master in legal practice, an internship period supervised by the institution which offered the master, and a national exam.  On one side, with this reform our country will cease to be the only within the European Union in which one can practice law immediately following the completion of undergraduate studies by simply registering with the Bar Association. The intention is to guarantee that all future lawyers have a specific education with a professional focus. On the other side, this will establish a barrier to open competition which must be justified with results from the new system so that we can count on better lawyers.

 Are there similar laws in other jurisdictions?

Yes, in every country in similar situations to us.  In fact the Spanish regulation is quite similar to that of France.

 The new law intends to combine theoretical knowledge with a much more practical educational model.  What value do you see with the law in this respect?

The law, and above all else the regulation on development, intends for theoretical knowledge learned at the undergraduate level to be complemented with a Master oriented toward preparation for the practice of law. Without a doubt, under the Bologna reforms, an undergraduate degree in law must have a practical focus. My fear is that in many cases the new master in legal practice could be a pretext for not offering innovative undergraduate legal education.  At IE Law School, fortunately, both our undergraduate program in law (LLB) and our Master of Laws (LLM) have a very international character and have been designed with an eye towards preparing the best global lawyers.

How will young attorneys be affected by these educational reforms?

The first consequence is that it will take much longer to begin to practice law, up to two years, thus making this option much less attractive.  Those lawyers which study in the best postgraduate schools will have a competitive advantage.

The panorama of the labor market is going to change dramatically. How will this affect the recruitment process for lawyers? And what knowledge are they going to demand of current attorneys?

The recruitment of future lawyers by top law firms will start earlier, in some cases at the conclusion of the third year of the undergraduate degree in law.  The profession will continue to demand young lawyers who have a capacity for abstract thought, are hard working, ethical, with international vision and the ability to work in teams.

To what extent will this reform affect the law programs (LL.M.) at IE Law School?

Our school is perceived in Spain, and every day more so internationally, as one of the best educational centers for lawyers prepared to practice in a global economy. We have been pioneers in offering and developing Masters which prepare the leaders of the profession and our programs are already well adapted to the requirements of the law and regulation. Our model for a Master is already imitated but it will be even more so in the future. For us, the key will be to continue innovating and maintaining a close relationship with law firms. 

 Do you believe the introduction of this measure will generate more professional opportunities at an international level for Spanish lawyers?

International opportunities will not come via the law for admission to the practice of law, which simply responds to a very bureaucratic mentality.  The law of the European Union has already opened the door to the free exchange and establishment of legal services and our ever more prepared lawyers are practicing in more jurisdictions, because they are following their clients.


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