The avocat’s role in France

What is the role of the avocat in France?

Salle de réunion de Nicolas Guerrero, Paris

The avocat is a person licensed to practice law In France, the profession is a liberal, independent, regulated profession.

The avocat carries out his duties with dignity, conscience, independence, integrity and humaneness, as solemnly sworn in his oath. With his clients, he behaves in a professional, dedicated, diligent and cautious way.

In France, the avocat provides his clients with legal advice in any situation, represents them during legal proceedings and defends them in court.

More particularly:

The avocats are attached to a Bar under the jurisdiction of a tribunal de grande instance (French Court of First Instance in Civil and Criminal Matters). Each Bar is directed by a conseil de l'Ordre (Council of the Bar), headed by a bâtonnier (chairperson of the Bar). The members of the Councils and the chairpersons are elected by the avocats registered in their respective Bar.

In France, the fees of the avocat are settled according to an agreement between himself and his client.

The avocat is bound by professional secrecy. This secrecy is general, absolute and indefinite.

Legal aid

You may be eligible for legal aid, as provided for by French Act 91-647 of July 10th, 1991.

In this case, French statutory law enables the beneficiaries to choose their own avocat. The beneficiaries will be asked to provide the Legal Aid Bureau with the name of their avocat and the latter’s written consent.

Legal aid may be provided completely or partially, dependeing on the applicant’s annual income. A decree determines the threshold under which the applicant is eligible. This decree is revised every year.

When complete legal aid is provided, the beneficiary will not have to pay any fee to the avocat. The latter will be paid by the French Ministry of Justice.

When partial legal aid is provided, the avocat and the beneficiary sign an agreement which specifies the amount of legal fees. The Chairperson of the Paris Bar (“Bâtonnier de l’Ordre des avocats de Paris”) must approve this agreement before any payment is made.

Every application for legal aid must be sent to the Legal Aid Bureau (“BAJ - Bureau d’aide juridictionnelle”) attached to the tribunal de grande instance of competent jurisdiction. In Paris, the Legal Aid Bureau is located at the tribunal de commerce de Paris, 1, quai de la Corse, 75004 Paris, France – Métro: Cité (line 4) or Châtelet (lines 1, 4, 7, 11 and 14).

Fees

Under provisions of article 10 of French Act 71-1130 of December 31st, 1971:

“[…] Consulting, representing, legal advising, legal documents drafting and pleading fees are fixed freely in accordance with the client.
Should no written agreement on fees be established, fees will be fixed according to customs, the client’s wealth, the complexity of the case, expenses incurred by the avocat, the reputation and diligence of the latter.
A fee which would be fixed solely according to the result in court is illegal. However, a written agreement that provides for complementary fees based on the result in court or the service provided, in addition to the original fees, is deemed acceptable.”

There are various methods used to fix fees.

Time-based fees

Time-based fees are fixed depending on the amount of time dedicated to the case by the avocat and his/her hourly rate. The clients are provided with a detailed account of the time dedicated to their case.

Flat-rate fees

The clients and the avocat can agree on flat-rate-based fees. The amount is fixed from the start and does not depend on the amount of time dedicated to the case by the avocat afterwards. Flat-rate-based fees can only be modified with the client’s agreement.

Complementary result-based fees

Complementary result-based fees include a fixed part (time-based or flat-rate-based) and a variable part which depends on the result in court. Such fees may be either a lump sum or a percentage of the sum granted to the client in court. French law strictly prohibits fees which would be solely based on the result in court (see above).

The choice of the most appropriate option is made by mutual agreement with each client depending on the peculiarities of the related file.

The first appointment is not charged.