Quizás, quizás, quizás

How can the British Spanish Law Association help your international practice? Sarah Lucy Cooper explains.

The British Spanish Law Association (BSLA) was founded in 2001 by a group of British and Spanish lawyers including myself. It is one of a number of bilateral lawyers’ associations set up to enable networking across jurisdictions, something which with the benefit of Direct Access is becoming an increasingly important part of all of our practice. We were set up with the support both of the Bar Council and the Law Society and are one of a number of bilateral lawyers’ organisations. In 2001, despite apparently one million British people owning property in Spain, with the obvious cross border issues that arise as result, there was in fact no organisation set up for British and Spanish lawyers to come together.

The BSLA currently has almost 200 members who are a mixture of judges, barristers, solicitors and abogados, some based in the UK and some in Spain. Many of our members, particularly the Spaniards, are dual qualified in the UK and Spain. This has been made much easier particularly, in the UK, as a result of three EU Directives – Lawyers’ Services Directive 1977, Lawyers; Establishment Directive 1998; and Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive 2005. We also have a few members from Spanish speaking Latin American countries who do not have their own bilaterals.

Our membership is both individual and corporate. The firms who join tend to have international aspirations but are not large enough to justify their own offices in Spain. The contacts offered by the BSLA are a great way for the self-employed and smaller firms to be instructed by Spanish lawyers – I have been instructed by other members of the BSLA. It is undoubtedly an advantage to speak Spanish, but it is not a condition of membership – anyone with an interest in developing their practice in Spain is more than welcome to join.

Every year we host a two day conference in a city in Spain. There are 83 local Bar organisations in Spain which hold most of the regulatory powers and are much more influential than the central organisation, the Consejo General de la Abogacia Espanola. These conferences are always fully CPD accredited for 8 hours with the BSB and SRA and include Spanish and British lawyers and judges speaking on a variety of topics such as family law, insolvency, employment, and professional negligence. In recent years we have been warmly welcomed by the local Bars in Bilbao, Malaga, Madrid, Alicante, Valencia and Granada, and have gone wine tasting in Madrid, cider tasting in Bilbao and paella tasting in Valencia. The conferences always attract plenty of local Spanish lawyers from the hosting local Bar as well as members of the BSLA; this year our annual conference will be in Barcelona.

Given the number of British residents in Spain, there are many cross border issues arising between the UK and Spain. At the moment, as an example, Spanish banks are repossessing holiday homes owned by British people and then going on to enforce the debt against properties in the UK, causing great anxiety to the British owners who had believed that they could walk away from the debts. In addition, the Spanish courts frequently apply the law of the nationality of a party in family proceedings, opening up interesting work, especially as an expert witness.

In addition to our conferences, we host various informal events in London such as visits to the Spanish galleries at the National Gallery, flamenco evenings in the gardens of Inner Temple, annual Epiphany dinners at a variety of Spanish restaurants and an annual summer party. This year we also have planned a private screening of the new Almodovar film and a jamon and jerez tasting after work, the details of which can be found below.

In the words of Sara Mantiel in Noches de Casablanca, let your quizás, quizás, quizás, instead become your fully signed up membership of the BSLA.

There are lots of other bilaterals from the French to the Kazakhstanis, the Italians to the newly launched Brazilians. A full list of all bilateral lawyers’ associations can be found at: www.barcouncil.org.uk.

The BSLA Jamon Jamon reception takes place on 24 April 2013 at the Bar Tozino, London SE1 from 6.30 – 9 pm. For details of this and of how to join the association, please go to www.bsla.org.uk.

Sarah Lucy Cooper, Thomas More Chambers

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