2008 – Amendment to the Law Practitioners Act

In 2008, the National Assembly voted the possibility of creating “law firms” and allowing foreign lawyers to practice in Mauritius, under certain specific conditions, by amending the Law Practitioners Act (Act No. 8 of 2008). The amendment enables the various branches of the profession, Attorneys, Barristers and Notaries to work together under one legal entity being either a limited liability company or a partnership. The amendment makes provision for the status of consultants. It also affords the possibility of having partnerships between local Mauritian Law Practitioners or Law Firms or the setting up of joint law ventures and sets out the framework for the regulation of the practice of foreign law and international law in Mauritius. The 2008 amendment has brought a fundamental change and has restructured the legal profession to meet the growing regional and international competition. In the presentation of the Law Practitioners (Amendment) Bill in Parliament, the Honourable Attorney-General stated: “Our legal profession has been restricted for too long. The time for change and innovation has come. We now need to move from competition between ourselves to competition with the rest of the world.” The Law Practitioners (Amendment) Act was proclaimed on 15th December 2008, date on which the Law Practitioners (Registration of Law Firms, Foreign Law Firms, Joint Law Ventures and Foreign Lawyers) Regulations (“Government Notice No. 268) also came into operation. The new provisions enable the setting up of a local law firm, the local office of a foreign law firm and a joint law venture between a local law firm and foreign law firm. They also allow a foreign lawyer to provide legal services within a law firm, a foreign law firm or a joint law venture. In order to form a law firm, an application must be made to the Attorney-General and forwarded to the Legal Secretary. The Attorney-General decides whether to approve an application, subject to any conditions he thinks fit, or reject the application. If the Attorney-General rejects an application or waives or modifies any conditions already imposed, he must, as far as possible, provide reasons. On receipt of an application, the Attorney-General must make a decision not later than 6 weeks from the date of confirmation by the Legal Secretary that all the documents have been submitted and the application can be processed. After 6 weeks the application is deemed to have been approved. If an applicant is aggrieved by the decision of the Attorney-General, he may within 21 days of being informed of the decision, appeal to the Supreme Court. The primary object of the law firm must be to provide legal services. Under section 10D of the amended Act, a member of a law firm is subject to the same disciplinary measures as are applicable to a law practitioner where his conduct is such that it constitutes an act of professional misconduct. Section 10N of the amended Act provides for circumstances under which the registration of a foreign law firm, joint law venture or foreign lawyer may be suspended or cancelled. The application must be made in a specified form set out in the Regulations, accompanied by a processing fee of Rs. 10,000 and the following documents: (i) certified copy of the constitution or the objects of the law firm; (ii) certified copy of the certificate of incorporation or registration of the company or société; (iii) certified copy of the educational and professional qualifications of every law practitioner and legal consultant intending to provide legal services for the law firm; and (iv) certified copy of certificate issued to every foreign lawyer registered to provide legal services within that law firm in Mauritius. When the application is approved by the Attorney-General a registration fee of Rs. 50,000 is payable for the issue of a certificate of registration. The certificate is valid for 5 years and is renewable. Foreign law firms may request to be registered to practice in Mauritius. Pursuant to Section 10G of the amended Act, a corporate entity licensed or registered as a law firm in a foreign country may make a written application for registration as a local office. The foreign law firm needs to satisfy the Attorney-General that it has a physical establishment in Mauritius and has at least two lawyers in its office in Mauritius who are qualified under the law of their home jurisdiction to practise the law of that jurisdiction. Foreign law firms may also practise Mauritian law through the creation of a joint law venture with a local law firm, pursuant Section 10H of the amended Act. The foreign law firm must associate itself with a local firm to be able to provide domestic legal services. One of the conditions imposed on the foreign law firm which chooses to form a joint law venture is to ask to be deregistered as a foreign law firm (Section 10J of the Act). On registration the certificate issued to foreign law firms or joint ventures are valid for 12, 24 or 36 months (subject to renewal). The fees payable for registration of a foreign law firm is as follows:

Registration/renewal fee Rs.
For a period of 12 months or part thereof 100,000
For a period of 24 months or part thereof 200,000
For a period of 36 months or part thereof 300,000

Section 10K of the Act enables a foreign lawyer to join a law firm, a foreign law firm or a joint law venture to provide legal services. The foreign lawyer will have to submit himself to the code of conduct that governs the legal profession in Mauritius. He may be subject to have his registration suspended or cancelled in cases of professional misconduct pursuant to Section 10(N)(1) of the amended Act. Section 10M sets out the areas of the law the foreign lawyer may deal with. The foreign lawyer may only provide legal services in the field of arbitration, in addition to foreign law and international law. He may only advise on the effect of a Mauritian law where such advice is necessarily incidental to the practice of foreign law or international law and the advice is expressly based on advice given on the Mauritian law by a law practitioner.