New Portuguese lawyer requirements pending

Lawyers from Portugal will be able to sit the same exam as local lawyers in order to become an official lawyer admitted by the Macau Lawyers Association (AAM), but will have to wait for an established enforcing date for new regulations, while previous requirements will stay the same, said Paulino Comandante Secretary General of AAM according to local media reports. Last week, the AAM revised the requirements for Portuguese lawyers wanting to officially practice in the MSAR as a lawyer, decreeing candidates would have to pass the same exam as local lawyers after internship, regardless of already passing the Portuguese law access exam, according to news agency Lusa. However, no date has been established for when the new requirements will be enforced and according to Mr. Comandante at the moment there are currently four Portuguese trainee lawyers who still have to wait for a panel to be formed to perform the law access exam. With regard to the formation of the panel, the Secretary General admitted the requirement of 15 years experience for a panel member is too high, thus it will be lowered to “14,13 or 12 until we can form a panel,” for the awaiting Portuguese candidates. A hard find Between 1996 and 2013, Portuguese lawyers could join the AAM after practising law for a period of between three to six months, without the need to pass any exam; however, in 2013 the protocol between the Portuguese Lawyer Association (OA) and the AAM which allowed the entry of Portuguese lawyers to work in local offices was suspended due to the high number of arrivals of Portuguese professionals. At the time, AAM President Jorge Neto Valente justified the decision stating that more than half of the 250 registered lawyers in Macau were Portuguese, and since 30 Portuguese lawyers had arrived in Macau in that year the “market couldn’t absorb this number of professionals”. Then in 2014 restrictions were imposed by AAM for Portuguese lawyers, such as the necessity of passing a different exam on the juridical differences between the two territories, three years of work experience, and an MSAR Resident Identity Card (BIR), with one of the decisions imposed being the necessity of an access exam panel comprising bilingual lawyers with 15 years of experience of practising law. However, since the first Law Degree in Macau in Chinese was only created in 1995 there was great difficulty in finding suitable people for the jury to evaluate the access exams by Portuguese lawyers, the President of the AAM explained last week. “In order to overcome this difficulty, there won’t be the need to find people with 15 years of experience and [Portuguese Lawyers] will be able to join in and take the same exam as local candidates in order to enter the profession,” Mr. Valente told TDM radio. He also stated that the changes could “open a window” to the possible reestablishment of the previous protocol with the Portugal Lawyers Association. However, the AAM President stated that the previous approved requirements, such as the demand for a BIR, won’t be changed since “a lawyer can’t work in Macau with a Blue Card (temporary working visa) since he won’t have the necessary requirements to have financial independence.” Another previous limitation that won’t be changed is the cap limit of approved trainee lawyers and lawyers originally from Portugal who can practise in Macau – respectively 50 per cent and 10 per cent. The President of the AAM believes that “although some law firms complain they can’t find qualified lawyers in Macau,” the limitations should be kept in order to prevent a “flood of lawyers from Portugal.”