Tuesday, 30 November 2010 10:31

The need to rethink legal education in continental Europe - Jorge Bleck

Continental graduates may have superior technical legal knowledge than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts but their commercial know-how is vastly inferior, believes Jorge Bleck

One of the things business lawyers on the European continent have difficulty understanding about their UK counterparts particularly is that a significant number of the latter are not law graduates, but have studied other – probably more interesting – areas of knowledge such as history, physics, Arabian studies, and the like.

Los licenciados en Derecho en Europa Continental probablemente tengan conocimientos jurídicos superiores a sus homólogos británicos o estadounidenses, pero su capacidad de aplicar dichos conocimientos en un entorno comercial es claramente inferior. Esto se debe a la falta de programas específicos por parte de las facultades y los colegios de abogados, que provean la formación que necesita un abogado.  Son los despachos los que están supliendo este vacío durante los primeros años de práctica, dice Jorge Bleck de Linklaters en Lisboa.

In Portugal, as in the large majority of continental European countries, one cannot practise law without having graduated from a law school. More than this even, it is law school that is the mould which shapes all lawyers on the continent. This confers an unquestionable advantage when it comes to knowledge of the law, and yet is also a significant inconvenience, particularly for those wishing to practise business law.

The vast majority of law schools on the European continent tend to over-emphasise the academic side of things and not consider the professional one. These law schools usually say their role is to graduate jurists, not create lawyers and much less “business lawyers” – a category still looked upon with particular prejudice and criticism, including by other lawyers.

Hence, memorising scholars’ thoughts and doctrine is of the essence, as it is to a law school graduate to express himself with erudition, even if the end result is the use of a kind of private language that clients do not understand – more so, that they do not even want to understand.

On the other hand, teaching law graduates how to interact with the client, what business clients usually want from a lawyer, what business means, how to develop commercial or presentation skills, to master project management or to understand basic concepts of business management, are the kind of subjects which do not deserve a single minute of attention in most European law schools.

Within Spain and Portugal there are a few notable exceptions, the highly regarded IE Law School in Madrid and ICADE (Universidad Pontificia Comillas) among those deserving praise, but which only highlight their very different approach to the vast majority of schools.

Unfortunately, local bar associations also tend to follow the same route as most law schools, tailoring the training of new lawyers to a replica of law school teaching, although with a more professional approach, at least towards deontology and procedural law.

Therefore to become a business lawyer in continental Europe, one must generally break down a true wall of prejudice, misunderstandings, criticism and lack of specific skills, mostly when compared with an English solicitor.

When knocking on the door of a law firm, clients tend to take for granted that lawyers’ technical skills are on a level playing field. Thus for most clients, what diffe rentiates one lawyer from another, apart from the chemistry which is always key in the client-lawyer relationship, is a lawyer’s soft skills; precisely the ones that he or she is not given at law school.

In the absence of law schools’ or local bar associations’ specific education programmes providing the basic knowledge a business lawyer needs – and the non-existence of private legal training institutions such as the UK’s College of Law – it is therefore up to law firms to fill the gap during the first years of apprenticeship.

Nonetheless, most continental European law firms do not have the resources or the critical mass necessary to implement a consistent and comprehensive training programme in the kind of skills that clients require from a business lawyer. This means that learning on the job is the pathway that the majority of business lawyers in continental Europe are obliged to follow.

Sadly, this is a handicap compared with the kind of diversified knowledge and skills that UK or US lawyers generally have when beginning to practise law, and is a disadvantage that continental law schools have yet to repair. I wonder when they will.ç

Subscribe now to receive your copy of Iberian Lawyer


The Latin American Lawyer
N.22 • November 2021

IL98 cover SP IL94 cover EN

Iberian Lawyer
N.109 • November 2021

IL98 cover SP IL94 cover EN

IBLLabourAwardsPortugal 202112 300x250 Finalists

UIAMadrid 300x100

IL LatamAwards STD 300x100 1

UIAMadrid 300x100

IL LatamAwards STD 300x100 1

IL LatamAwards STD 300x100 1

IpTmtAwardsSpain 2021 300x100 finalists 1

IL LatamAwards STD 300x100 1

IPTMTAwardsPT 2021 300x250 Vincitori

This website uses cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the IberianLawyer website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Learn more

I agree

What do I need to know about cookies?

A cookie is a small text file that’s stored on your computer or mobile device when you visit a website. We use them to:

  • Remember your preferences
  • Tailor our sites to your interests.

There are different types of cookies

First party cookies

These are set by the website you’re visiting. And only that website can read them.  In addition, a website might use a separate company to analyse how people are using their site. And this separate company will set their own cookie to do this.

Third party cookies

These are set by someone other than the owner of the website you’re visiting. 

Some IberianLawyer web pages may also contain content from other sites like Vimeo or Flickr, which may set their own cookies. Also, if you Share a link to a IberianLawyer page, the service you share it on (e.g. Facebook) may set a cookie on your browser.

The IberianLawyer has no control over third party cookies.

Advertising cookies

Some websites use advertising networks to show you specially targeted adverts when you visit. These networks may also be able to track your browsing across different sites.

IberianLawyer site do use advertising cookies but they won’t track your browsing outside the IberianLawyer.

Session cookies

These are stored while you’re browsing. They get deleted from your device when you close your browser e.g. Internet Explorer or Safari.

Persistent cookies

These are saved on your computer. So they don’t get deleted when you close your browser.

We use persistent cookies when we need to know who you are for more than one browsing session. For example, we use them to remember your preferences for the next time you visit.

Other tracking technologies

Some sites use things like web beacons, clear GIFs, page tags and web bugs to understand how people are using them and target advertising at people.

They usually take the form of a small, transparent image, which is embedded in a web page or email. They work with cookies and capture data like your IP address, when you viewed the page or email, what device you were using and where you were.

How does the Iberian Lawyer use cookies?

We use different types of cookies for different things, such as:

  • Analysing how you use the IberianLawyer
  • Giving you a better, more personalised experience
  • Recognising when you’ve signed in

Strictly Necessary cookies

These cookies let you use all the different parts of Iberian Lawyer. Without them services that you have asked for cannot be provided.

Some examples of how we use these cookies are:

  • Signing into the IberianLawyer
  • Remembering previous actions such as text entered into a registration form when navigating back to a page in the same session
  • Remembering security settings which restrict access to certain content.

Performance cookies

These help us understand how people are using the IberianLawyer online, so we can make it better. And they let us try out different ideas.
We sometimes get other companies to analyse how people are using the IberianLawyer online. These companies may set their own performance cookies You can opt out of these cookies here.Some examples of how we use these cookies are:

  • To collect information about which web pages visitors go to most often so we can improve the online experience
  • Error management to make sure that the website is working properly
  • Testing designs to help improve the look and feel of the website.
Cookie nameWhat it's for
Google DoubleClick The IberianLawyer uses Google DoubleClick to measure the effectiveness of its online marketing campaigns.Opt-out of DoubleClick cookies
Google Analytics From time to time some IberianLawyer online services, including mobile apps, use Google Analytics. This is a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. Google Analytics sets a cookie in order to evaluate use of those services and compile a report for us.Opt-out of Google Analytics cookies