Types of Attorneys in Mexico
– Attorney – Barrister – Solicitor – Lawyer – Abogado – Licenciado en Derecho – Corredor Publico – Notario –
In Mexico the legal system comes from Roman Civil Law. This makes it difficult for people coming from Common Law countries like the United States to understand the differences between the two countries legal systems and figures.
One common difference is that in Mexico there are 3 types of attorneys, one type has two different names and each of the three types has a different function.
In Mexico to be an attorney (Abogado or Licenciado en Derecho) you need to go to law school, BUT you go directly from high school so you do not need a 4 year degree prior to entering law school.
Law school runs 3 to 4 years and you need to do community service and work in a government office for a minimum of six months and 480 hours (prior law was 600 hours). I interned in the State Civil Courts in Chapala to complete this requirement. Some people do their community service at the Book Fair, at a municipal office or directing bicycles on Sundays. You can tell a little about an attorney from where he did his service. Also you can tell about an attorney if he finished in 3-4 years versus some who don’t get their cedula for 5 to 10 years after they started studying. Also watch out for “pasantes” these are people who haven’t completely finished everything. Some are only pasantes for a month and other are pasantes for over 10 years, legally you can apply to be a pasante which is only good for 6 month and can only be renewed for another 6 month period.
At last you need to satisfy a requirement to be able to finally be an attorney, this can be having an A+ GPA (9.5), taking a multiple choice test to test all you learned in law school, studying a masters degree, 2 years work experience or tests in 5 subjects (I did this one).
To legally exercise as an attorney you need a “Cédula” which is your attorney card. There are two types, there is a federal one issued by the Secretary of Public Education and one issued by the State. Normally cédulas are for life and the federal one allows you to litigate in all states. Recently the State of Jalisco has imposed restrictions on professionals requiring them to have a Jalisco State cédula to practice within the state and to be certified every 5 years by taking courses or exams to prove they are competent.
We have just talked about the base level attorney who with their cédula(s) can litigate in all federal and state courts and tribunals.
There is a next class of attorneys called a Corredor Público, this class of attorneys can do everything the lower class can do except they also have exclusivity on preparation of business and insurance documents, forming corporations, sign off on tax improvement appraisals to raise a property’s taxable basis (and therefore pay less capital gains tax) and in business cases take depositions. They need to take an additional test, have a master´s degree in law and meet other requirements.
The highest class of attorney is the Notary Public or Notario Público, these are attorneys who have taken tests, met other requirements such as doing a 3 year registered internship with a Notary Public and 5 years court litigation experience and who have been named by the governor and who can do any and all acts the other classes of attorneys do except they have the exclusivity on preparation of real estate deeds, wills, civil association formation, certifying copies and signatures, doing administrative matters such as Mutual Divorces, Lot Line delineation, uncontested probate cases, correcting errors on birth certificates, being depositories or holders of stock certificates and taking depositions. Their commission is called a FIAT and is granted for them to be based out of a certain Municipality and Region.
The HUGE difference between the Latin American system of Notaries and the US is that in the US notaries aren´t even attorneys, they are people who have had to show no education, they take a simple test and pay $50 dollars for a bond.
Canada has a system in some provinces where the requirements for being a notary are such that only attorneys are qualified to provide all notary public services.
I have hopes of one day being a notary as I have a law degree, a specialty law degree, a postgraduate degree in notarial law, have over 5 years litigation experience and three years working under the supervision of a notary public and preparing thousands of deeds, wills and other documents, BUT I cannot be a Notary Public as I have another nationality but maybe someday they will change the laws.