Chamber of Advocates questions new bill that distinguishes advocates from legal service providers

The Chamber said that a large pool of law graduates are not sitting for their warrant exam, but are still employed with companies and government to provide services usually provided by advocates

The Chamber of Advocates is calling into question a new bill distinguishing advocates from legal service providers, claiming that it seeks to legitimise a situation where government employs law graduates for legal services that should only be provided by warranted advocates.

The Bill in question seeks to amend various laws regulating the legal profession while introducing a division between advocates and "providers of legal services".

In a statement reacting to the bill, Chamber President Louis de Gabriele noted how a number of law graduates have been choosing not to sit for their warrant exam, and in turn have not qualified as advocates.

"Nonetheless, it seems that a number of them, and we understand that this is quite a sizeable number, have employed themselves with companies and even the Government of Malta in positions where they are required to give legal advice and provide other services which technically should only be provided by duly warranted advocates," he explained.

"We disagree that this situation should now be legitimised simply by creating a new class of “professional” termed providers of legal services, particularly when it is remains unclear what the term legal services means or includes."

De Gabriele goes on to explain the distinction between a law graduate and advocate. A university degree in law is a pre-requisite for those wishing to join the legal profession, but it is not equivalent to admission into the profession, and should not automatically entitle the holder to carry the title of advocate.

"It is the successful completion of the warrant examination that would then entitle the individual concerned to be admitted to the profession of advocate and to be registered as such. This is the professional qualification as opposed to the academic qualification."

"It is indeed the conferment of the warrant by the state that would entitle someone to be called advocate and to authorise that person to provide legal services for consideration to third parties. This remains today the general rule and whilst one may wish to create exceptions to the rule with respect to very circumscribed situations, they should always remain exceptions, and not the rule."

The Chamber of Advocates maintained that this distinction at law provides a significant change to the profession's structure, and would require further discussion and debate before it is adopted.