Legal professions - Portugal
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This page provides you with an overview of the legal professions in Portugal.
Judicial administrators ( Administradores Judiciais)
Industrial property officer ( Agente Oficial da Propriedade Industrial)
As set out in the Portuguese Constitution, judges belong to a sovereign body — the Courts.
Bound only by the law, judges administer justice on behalf of the people.
Judicial court judges are governed by the Constitution and the Statute of Judicial Court Judges (Estatuto dos Magistrados Judiciais). In accordance with the hierarchy of the respective courts, there are three types of judicial court judge:
- Judges of the Supreme Court of Justice (Supremo Tribunal de Justiça), designated as Conselheiros;
- Judges of the Appeal Courts (Tribunais das Relações), designated as Desembargadores;
- Judges at 1th instance, known as Juízes de Direito.
Administrative and tax court judges are governed by the Constitution, the Statute of the Administrative and Tax Courts (Estatuto dos Tribunais Administrativos e Fiscais) and on a subsidiary basis by the Statute of Judicial Court Judges (Estatuto dos Magistrados Judiciais). In accordance with the hierarchy of the respective courts, there are three types of administrative and tax court judge:
- Judges of the Supreme Administrative Court (Supremo Tribunal Administrativo), designated as Conselheiros;
- Judges of the Central Administrative Courts, designated as Desembargadores;
- Circuit administrative court and tax court judges, designated as Juízes de Direito.
Access to the profession of judge is a three-stage process comprising a public competition, a theoretical and practical training course undertaken at the Centre for Judicial Studies (Centro de Estudos Judiciários), and an apprenticeship. If they successfully complete all three stages, they will be appointed Juízes de Direito.
Judges continue their training throughout their career.
The High Council for the Judiciary (Conselho Superior da Magistratura) conducts regular inspections at the courts of first instance, and the High Council for the Administrative and Tax Courts (Conselho Superior dos Tribunais Administrativos e Fiscais) does the same for judges at these courts. Following each inspection, judges are ranked by merit, using the categories very good, good with distinction, good, sufficient and poor. If a judge is ranked in the ‘poor’ category, they will be suspended from duty and an inquiry will be launched to assess their suitability for the job.
The High Council for the Judiciary and the High Council for the Administrative and Tax Courts are responsible for appointing, assigning, transferring, promoting and taking disciplinary action in respect of judges of the judicial courts and the administrative and tax courts.
To ensure that judges are independent and impartial, the Constitution lays down that practising judges may not carry out any other duties, be they public or private, with the exception of unpaid teaching or scientific research in the field of law. judges can only be transferred, suspended, retired or dismissed in the cases provided for by law; they may not be held accountable for their decisions, other than where the law provides for exceptions.
Prosecutors in the public prosecution service are responsible for representing the State, carrying out prosecutions and defending the democratic rule of law and the interests determined by law. Public prosecutors have their own statute and autonomy as provided for by the law.
Access to the profession of public prosecutor is by public competition, consisting of knowledge tests, a CV evaluation and a psychological selection test, all undertaken at the Centre for Judicial Studies (Centro de Estudos Judiciários).
Candidates who are admitted are appointed as trainees (auditores de justiça). On successfully completing theoretical and practical training at the Centre for Judicial Studies, they are appointed apprentice deputy prosecutors.
The career of a public prosecutor consists of five levels, listed in hierarchical order:
- Prosecutor-General (Procurador-Geral da República);
- Vice-Prosecutor-General (Vice-Procurador-Geral da República);
- Deputy Prosecutor-General (Procurador-Geral Adjunto);
- Prosecutor of the Deputy Republic.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office (Procuradoria-Geral da República) is the highest body in the Public Prosecution Service and is presided over by the Prosecutor-General. it also comprises the High Council of the Public Prosecution Service (Conselho Superior do Ministério Público), the Consultative Council, official legal advisers and support services.
The High Council of the Public Prosecution Service is responsible for appointing, assigning, transferring and promoting public prosecutors and taking disciplinary action against them.
More information can be found at http://www.ministeriopublico.pt/.
Lawyers are legal professionals who, once they have registered with the Bar Association, provide legal representation and legal advice, consisting of the interpretation and application of the rules of the law at the request of a third party.
Registration with the Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados) is required to practise as a lawyer in Portugal.
In order to access the profession, it is necessary to:
- Hold a Portuguese law degree or a university-level law qualification from outside Portugal, if this qualification is deemed to be equivalent to a degree or has been recognised as being of the same level;
- Complete a traineeship lasting 18 months, comprising two stages of training: the initial training phase lasting 6 months and the additional training phase lasting 12 months;
- Pass the written and oral Bar exam.
Foreign citizens who have obtained their degree in Portugal may register with the Portuguese Bar Association in the same way as Portuguese citizens, provided that their country of nationality grants identical rights to Portuguese citizens.
Lawyers from other EU Member States wishing to establish themselves permanently, with a view to practising in Portugal under the professional title of their country of origin, must register with the Bar Association. In such cases, they may provide legal representation in court only under the guidance of a lawyer who is registered with the Bar Association. If they want to practise as lawyers with the same rights and obligations as Portuguese lawyers, they must register with the Bar Association and sit a written and oral exam in Portuguese.
The Bar Association is the representative public association of professionals who, in accordance with its statute, practise as a lawyer. It ensures access to the law, regulates the profession and takes disciplinary action against lawyers and trainee lawyers (the only body that does so), protects the social role, dignity and prestige of the profession and promotes access to knowledge and application of the law.
More information can be found at https://portal.oa.pt/.
In the Portuguese legal system, there is no distinction between lawyers and legal advisers.
Legal agents are independent professionals who provide their clients with legal advice and legal representation in court, within the limits imposed by their statute and procedural legislation. they may represent the parties in court whenever legal representation by a lawyer (advogado) is not mandatory.
Legal agents may also provide citizens and businesses with legal representation outside of court, for instance, before the tax administration, notary offices, registrar offices and public administration bodies.
In order to access the profession, it is necessary to:
- Hold an officially recognised law degree and not be registered with the Bar Association, or hold an officially recognised degree in legal agent studies. foreign nationals of another EU Member State must hold the academic and professional qualifications legally required to exercise the profession in their respective State of origin;
- Complete a traineeship lasting between 12 and 18 months;
- Obtain appropriate references during the traineeship, provided by the trainer and traineeship centres, and pass a national examination set in accordance with the relevant rules.
The registration of professionals from another Member State of the European Union or of the European Economic Area in the college of solicitors is governed by Law No 9/2009 of 4 March, in its current version.
The Order of Legal Agents and Enforcement Agents (Ordem dos Solicitadores e dos Agentes de Execução, OSAE) is the public association representing these legal professionals. It is responsible, among other things, for exercising disciplinary powers over its members and giving opinions on draft legislation relating to its competences.
More information is available here http://www.osae.pt/.
Enforcement agents are professionals to whom powers are granted at national level to carry out civil enforcement activities. They are independent and impartial professionals and do not represent any of the parties, but are responsible for carrying out all the formalities for enforcement, including seizure, service of documents, notices and sales of seized assets. In some cases their duties may be carried out by a court official.
Enforcement agents are appointed by the party seeking enforcement or by the court.
Enforcement agents must hold a degree in legal agent studies or in law and must:
- You have Portuguese nationality;
- Not be covered by any of the restrictions laid down in the Statutes of the Order of Legal Agents and Enforcement Agents or the Bar Association;
- Not have been included on the official public list of debtors in the last ten years;
- Have successfully completed the enforcement agent traineeship;
- Sit the exam for legal assistants after having worked for more than three years as an enforcement agent and receive a favourable opinion from the Commission for Legal Assistants (Comissão para o Acompanhamento dos Auxiliares de Justiça, CAAJ);
- Register with the relevant professional association within three years of successfully completing their traineeship;
- Has the minimum data-processing structures and means defined by a regulation approved by the general meeting.
The Order of Legal Agents and Enforcement Agents and the Specialised College of Enforcement Agents (Colégio de Especialidade dos Agentes de Execução) are the bodies responsible for regulating the profession.
The CAAJ, which is independent from the Order of Legal Agents and Enforcement Agents, is the body responsible for supervising and exercising disciplinary action over enforcement agents.
Notaries are specialist professionals authorised to perform duties in certain legal contexts. they play a major role in commerce, both nationally and internationally.
Notaries are empowered to:
- To draw up private agreements and to advise the parties while satisfying an obligation to treat each of them fairly. In drafting official documents, the notary is responsible for the legality of these documents and for the advice s/he gives. S/he has to inform the parties of the implications and consequences of the obligations they undertake,
- Carry through legal transactions agreed in their presence. The deed can then be registered directly in the official records, or enforced if one of the parties does not meet its obligations, without the prior intervention of a judge,
- Act as mediators, in an impartial way and in full compliance with the law, to enable the parties to reach a mutually acceptable agreement;
- Draw up documents for and the terms of inventory proceedings, except for those matters that must not be decided in inventory proceedings, due to the nature or legal or factual complexity of the matter; such matters must be decided by the judge in the district court (tribunal de comarca) that has jurisdiction for the notary’s office where the proceedings were lodged (Law No 23/2013 of 5 March 2013, which approved the Legal Framework for Inventory Proceedings, granted notaries this power, thereby creating a system of shared powers).
The reform of the profession of notary and the consequent privatisation of the sector mean that notaries have a dual role: they are public officials and also liberal professionals but are no longer civil servants.
As public officials, notaries come under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, which has regulatory powers, and also has the power to take disciplinary action against notaries. In view of the new liberal profession of notaries, the Notary Chamber has, since 2006, been regulating in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, in terms of ensuring compliance with the ethical principles to be followed by the professionals involved in it and of ensuring the pursuit of the public interests underlying it, without prejudice to the powers of intervention which, in view of the nature of the profession, are provided for by law to the Ministry of Justice.
More information available at: Http://www.notarios.pt/OrdemNotarios/pt.
Registrars are public officials with responsibility for registering and publicising legal acts and facts relating to immovable property, moveable property that must be registered, business activity and events in people’s lives. Their role essentially involves carrying out legal checks in respect of the above and the related documents and ensuring that the rights contained in the documents attesting to the facts to be registered are correctly defined and comply with the legally stipulated order of registration; they are also responsible for publicising this information and may decide whether or not to enter the legal act or fact into the register.
Depending on the subject areas of their duties, registrars may be:
- Registrars for the civil register (conservadores do registo civil), whose duties involve defining and publicising legal facts and acts relating to the lives of natural persons. Their competence includes the registration of acts such as birth, marriage, death, adoption and the declaration and establishment of maternity/paternity; the organisation of proceedings such as those related to divorce and separation by mutual consent; and the issuing of certificates and copies of registered documents.
- Registrars for the land register (conservadores do registo predial), who publicise the legal status of land and property with a view to ensuring the legal certainty of property transactions.
- Registrars for the vehicle register (conservadores do registo de veículos), whose duties relate to the publicity of rights to moveable property that must be registered (motor vehicles, ships and aircraft) and who publicise the legal status of motor vehicles and trailers with a view to ensuring the legal certainty of transactions.
- Registrars for the commercial register (conservadores do registo commercial), who publicise the legal status of sole traders, commercial companies, civil-law companies having a commercial form, individual establishments with limited liability and other entities that must be registered in the commercial register with a view to ensuring the legal certainty of transactions.
They are requirements for gaining access to the profession in law by a Portuguese university or equivalent academic qualification, as well as carrying out aptitude tests, a university extension course developing the legal/registered matters which are relevant to the exercise of the profession, lasting 6 months, and a traineeship of 1 year, followed by public evidence. All steps in this process are subject to assessment and may lead to the exclusion of the applicant in case of a lack of recovery. The final stage is a public competition organised by the Institute of Registries and Notaries (Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado).
The Institute of Registries and Notaries is responsible for directing, coordinating, supporting, evaluating and supervising the activity of registry offices.
Additional information is available at https://irn.justica.gov.pt/.
Bailiffs constitute a group of staff members of court staff who work in support of the proceedings before the courts or public prosecutor’s offices. However, the concept of an official of justice still includes computer, administrative, technical and professional staff.
Access to the career of a court official starts with the entry-level roles of auxiliary clerk (escrivão auxiliar) in the judicial service and auxiliary legal clerk (técnico de justiça auxiliar) in the public prosecution services. access is open to persons who have completed a professional training course and who have been approved via an admission procedure.
The staff of justice officials are governed by the Staff Regulations set out in the current version of Decree-Law No 343/1999 of 26 August 2007 and the exercise of their functions has a significant role in international legal cooperation, in particular in the implementation of European regulations and directives.
The Directorate-General for the Administration of Justice (Direção-Geral da Administração da Justiça) is the Ministry of Justice body with responsibility for recruiting, managing and administering justice officials.
The Council of Court Officials (Conselho dos Oficiais de Justiça) is the body responsible for assessing the professional merit of court officials and for exercising disciplinary authority over them.
For further information, see available information at https://dgaj.justica.gov.pt/.
In Article 2(b) of Law 29/2013 of 19 April 2013, a mediator is defined as ‘(...) an impartial and independent third party, with no power to impose a course of action on the parties receiving mediation, who helps them reach a final agreement on the disputed matter’. That law also provides for the status of the intermediary for the pursuit of his activity in Portugal and the inclusion of that intermediary on the lists of each of the public mediation systems, which is carried out by means of a selection procedure, the regulation of which was approved by Order No 282/2010 of 25 May.
The activity of a mediator is of great importance as it helps the parties to build the agreement contributes to the maintenance and, in some cases, restoration of social peace. In Portugal, there are specialist mediators who deal with family, labour and criminal matters. There are no non-governmental organisations active in mediation, but there are private associations providing mediation and training services for mediators.
There is no nationwide code of ethics for mediators, However, the above-mentioned Mediation Act contains a chapter on the rights and duties of the mediator, who must also act in accordance with the principles set out in the European Code of Conduct for Mediators, which is an integral part of their training.
The conduct of mediators is monitored by a public mediation system in three parts: civil, labour and criminal matters. Each part of the public mediation system is managed by a public authority, which is identified in the authority’s articles of association.
In Portugal, mediators do not receive training from a public body; instead, they are trained by private bodies that are certified by the Directorate-General for Justice Policy (Direção Geral da Política de Justiça, DGPJ) in accordance with Implementing Order No 345/2013 of 27 November 2013, with a particular focus on compliance with the quality framework.
The DGPJ, through its Alternative Dispute Settlement Office (GRAL), manages the public mediation systems. although it does not provide information on how to find a mediator, it does keep lists of mediators, and mediators can join these lists by taking part in the selection procedure laid down in the rules approved by Implementing Order No 282/2010 of 25 May 2010.
More information can be found here: http://www.dgpj.mj.pt/.
The judicial administrator shall be responsible for the supervision and guidance of the acts forming part of the special revitalisation process, as well as the management or liquidation of the insolvency estate in the insolvency proceedings, and shall be responsible for carrying out all acts conferred on it by statute and by law. A temporary judicial administrator, insolvency administrator or fiduciary will be appointed depending on the tasks they will carry out during the proceedings.
The judicial administrator’s role is set out in Law No 22/2013 of 26 February 2013.
A judicial administrator must:
- Have a relevant university degree and appropriate professional experience;
- Follow a 6-month promoted traineeship;
- Pass the admission test specifically designed to assess the knowledge acquired during the traineeship;
- Not be in a situation that is incompatible with their professional duties;
- Be suited to the profession.
The Commission for Legal Assistants (Comissão para o Acompanhamento dos Auxiliares da Justiça, CAAJ) is responsible for the admission procedure for judicial administrators and monitors their work.
More information on https://caaj.justica.gov.pt/
An Industrial Property Officer is an Industrial Property Technician, to which companies and individuals can use to better defend their rights and interests in this field.
Industrial property officers are those who are recognised by the Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial, I. P., to carry out acts of industrial property on behalf of, and in the interest of, their clients and constituents, with no power of attorney.
Access to this activity in Portugal is regulated by Decree-Law No 15/95 of 24 January 2009 (as amended) and Order No 1200/2010 of 29 November, as amended by Order No 239/2013 of 25 July.
More information can be found under https://inpi.justica.gov.pt/.
The Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with the Bar Association and local authorities, ensures the existence, throughout Portuguese territory, of Offices for Legal Advice (Gabinetes de Consulta Jurídica), where citizens may receive free legal advice from legal professionals. A list of these offices, together with the relevant contact details, is available online (among other locations) on the website of the Directorate-General for Justice Policy ( Home Page).
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Last update: 15/09/2020