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Old 13.12.2012, 23:32
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Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

Hi everyone,

I have a very serious question and I am in a desperate situation. I am a Swiss citizen who wants to become a lawyer. Now, I am studying law in England since my school ( which was English) had told me to go study law in England and come back to Switzerland and become a lawyer. I have called many people all who tell me it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to become a lawyer in my home country. They tell me that I have to redo my bachelors, masters and law school and then pass the bar in order to become a lawyer in Geneva. My questions are these. Can a barrister ( which is what many urge me to become) work in Switzerland as a lawyer? If so, what do I need to do to become a lawyer once I become a barrister? Secondly, which is the fastest way to become a lawyer. I know this sounds silly since becoming a lawyer is serious and hard working business. The thing is I don't want to repeat my whole degree!! I speak French and Italian fluently. I also speak German ( not fluent). I have asked numerous people, called numerous people, all who say different things. Are there any short courses which I can take in order to become a lawyer in Switzerland?? I even called the Swiss embassy in London who didn't know what to do and wouldn't help a Swiss citizen!! Can someone out there please give me some answers. I would be very grateful as so far my research has lead to no answers. I'm someone who is hard working, so work is not the issue. I just want to know the various ways in which someone with a foreign degree and no experience can become a practicing lawyer in Switzerland. Thank you.
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Old 13.12.2012, 23:48
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

Some useful reading I envision:

UK lawyer working in CH

American Lawyer Living in Zurich and Looking for Advice

Lawyer job search advice

Law Graduate Wanting to Move to Switzerland

Seeking advice--LLM helpful to job search as an attorney?

English solicitor to practice in Switzerland

Re: Swiss Bar Exams

and welcome to the forum!
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Old 14.12.2012, 08:08
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

The legal system of Anglo Saxon countries is very different to European countries. The law school gave you VERY bad advice.

Parts of canton Bern speak French, and so on the Berne education website is some career information in French. Maybe Geneva has a similar website,

http://www.erz.be.ch/erz/fr/index/berufsberatung.html

In England don't you have to work as a solicitor before becoming a barrister?
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Old 14.12.2012, 10:31
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

Route 1:
become an English-qualified solicitor/barrister then follow Art. 27 - 34 BGFA (http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/sr/935_61/a27.html)

Route 2:
finish a law degree in England. Hope its equivalent to a Swiss master's degree in law, then follow Art. 7 et seq. BFGA (http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/sr/935_61/a7.html) and the bar examination law of the Canton in which you want to take the bar exam.

Route 3:
question whether being a lawyer is what you really want to do, since finding and identifying relevant legal statutes is pretty much part of the job description.
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Old 14.12.2012, 10:46
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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Route 1:
become an English-qualified solicitor/barrister then follow Art. 27 - 34 BGFA (http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/sr/935_61/a27.html)

Route 2:
finish a law degree in England. Hope its equivalent to a Swiss master's degree in law, then follow Art. 7 et seq. BFGA (http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/sr/935_61/a7.html) and the bar examination law of the Canton in which you want to take the bar exam.

Route 3:
question whether being a lawyer is what you really want to do, since finding and identifying relevant legal statutes is pretty much part of the job description.
Fully agree with that post! If you are not able to find that information I am not sure if you would be a good lawyer...
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Old 14.12.2012, 11:11
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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Route 1:
become an English-qualified solicitor/barrister then follow Art. 27 - 34 BGFA (http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/sr/935_61/a27.html)

Route 2:
finish a law degree in England. Hope its equivalent to a Swiss master's degree in law, then follow Art. 7 et seq. BFGA (http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/sr/935_61/a7.html) and the bar examination law of the Canton in which you want to take the bar exam.

Route 3:
question whether being a lawyer is what you really want to do, since finding and identifying relevant legal statutes is pretty much part of the job description.
I DO want to become a lawyer. By the way, I am just about to finish my bachelor's and I have never used Swiss statutes hence why I don't know how to use them. Plus, the statute system in Swistzerland is different to the UK. So identifying statutes ins't a pblm! Thx for you help though
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Old 14.12.2012, 11:13
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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I DO want to become a lawyer. By the way, I am just about to finish my bachelor's and I have never used Swiss statutes hence why I don't know how to use them. Plus, the statute system in Swistzerland is different to the UK. So identifying statutes ins't a pblm! Thx for you help though
And that is why you can't study law in the UK and then be a lawyer in Switzerland.

You have many good websites linked above. But you should probably just email someone at the University of Geneva and see what they have to say about how much education you need to repeat. Eventually though you're going to have to repeat some of your education if only learn about the Swiss system.
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Old 14.12.2012, 11:20
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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The legal system of Anglo Saxon countries is very different to European countries. The law school gave you VERY bad advice.

Parts of canton Bern speak French, and so on the Berne education website is some career information in French. Maybe Geneva has a similar website,

http://www.erz.be.ch/erz/fr/index/berufsberatung.html

In England don't you have to work as a solicitor before becoming a barrister?
Thanks for your help. In England you can pick which one to become, so either a barrister or a solicitor. It seems that the authorities in Switzerland don't like helping or answering questions that young students ask. Everyone's answers has given me finally a little bit of hope. Thanks
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Old 14.12.2012, 11:26
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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And that is why you can't study law in the UK and then be a lawyer in Switzerland.

You have many good websites linked above. But you should probably just email someone at the University of Geneva and see what they have to say about how much education you need to repeat. Eventually though you're going to have to repeat some of your education if only learn about the Swiss system.
Thanks for your help again. The thing is I was given bad advice from my English school here. Clearly they knew nothing about law!! I know that Switzerland is has a civil law system and that England has a common law system. Thus I realised that it is indeed difficult to study in one country and work in another. However, I have heard that english barristers have become practicing lawyers in Switzerland without re-doing their education. The problem is that they had been barristers for many years. I don't mind repeating some of my education. I contacting the university of Geneva who said that I have to do a total of 6 years, and that my degree has no worth. They also said my situation is strange so they can't say exactley if there are any alternatives since all their students are Swiss high school students.
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Old 14.12.2012, 11:32
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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Fully agree with that post! If you are not able to find that information I am not sure if you would be a good lawyer...
The Swiss statute system is completely different to the english one. I have NEVER used it and thus have no clue how it works. Furthermore, it is not wise to criticize someone and state they won't become a good lawyer just because they can't do some legal research in a foregn country. May I remind you that being a lawyer requires more than just research?? Give me an english statute and I can find anything you wan't.
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Old 14.12.2012, 11:35
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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The Swiss statute system is completely different to the english one. I have NEVER used it and thus have no clue how it works. Furthermore, it is not wise to criticize someone and state they won't become a good lawyer just because they can't do some legal research in a foregn country. May I remind you that being a lawyer requires more than just research?? Give me an english statute and I can find anything you wan't.

How about criticizing someone who cannot do some common search in a familiar language forum or even bother to read the rules?
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Old 14.12.2012, 12:01
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

Hmmmm, you indicated you were swiss and do not know anything about the statues or rules for employment in your own country. very strange indeed. Even my 10 year old has had to research and learn some of these basic principles in primary/secondary school.


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The Swiss statute system is completely different to the english one. I have NEVER used it and thus have no clue how it works. Furthermore, it is not wise to criticize someone and state they won't become a good lawyer just because they can't do some legal research in a foregn country. May I remind you that being a lawyer requires more than just research?? Give me an english statute and I can find anything you wan't.
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Old 14.12.2012, 12:06
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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Give me an english statute and I can find anything you wan't.
You stated that you are fluent in French and Italian. All Swiss statutes are published in those languages (and German).
Do you really want to become a member of the Swiss bar ? Or do you want to work as a lawyer in Switzerland ? The latter might be easier, given that many foreign qualified lawyers work in-house in Switzerland.
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Old 14.12.2012, 12:34
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

It is almost impossible to pass the bar without having gone to a Swiss law school. It is an extremely difficult exam, 70% fail each year, most of them having gone to law school in Switzerland, worked for courts and lawyers for several years and then studied 100% for six months or more.

If you would like to be a laywer in Switzerland, go to a Swiss law school. Swiss lawywers can also not simply go and practice in England but must jump through several hoops.

I know it sounds tough, but it is the same everywhere. Law is a field that is more often than not very much bound to the country you study it in. Anyhow if you have just gotten or are going to get the bachelors you are not too far along to do another one. A bachelor for british law and a bachelor and master in Swiss law will enable you to have your pick of amazing internships and jobs in Switzerland. If you really want to come back, put in the extra effort - it would be worth it.
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Old 14.12.2012, 12:54
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

Geneva is slightly special with regard to becoming a lawyer because they've introduced the "ecole d'avocature", i.e. a six month course which ends with an exam, after which you will need to do 18 months stage, and then have the final bar exam.
http://www.unige.ch/droit/ecav/
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Old 14.12.2012, 14:09
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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The Swiss statute system is completely different to the english one. I have NEVER used it and thus have no clue how it works. Furthermore, it is not wise to criticize someone and state they won't become a good lawyer just because they can't do some legal research in a foregn country. May I remind you that being a lawyer requires more than just research?? Give me an english statute and I can find anything you wan't.
I know that the systems are different. I studied law in Switzerland and did a university exchange in Ireland - and I managed to read the law there and find the necessary things...IF you speak French then just search on here and on Google and you will find all the information you are looking for.

As others pointed out: you will have to do some part of your education again. That's just the way it is. You either do a full Swiss law education (Bachelor and Master) or you become a barrister and then work in Switzerland and sit the bar exam - as other stated not the most easy thing to do in the world but you will have to work hard anywhere in order to become a lawyer...
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Old 14.12.2012, 14:12
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Hmmmm, you indicated you were swiss and do not know anything about the statues or rules for employment in your own country. very strange indeed. Even my 10 year old has had to research and learn some of these basic principles in primary/secondary school.
I am Swiss but did not go to a Swiss school. My mother tongue is english hence the fact that I am asking questions in this forum. I went to an english school, followed the english system etc. Thus the swiss system is not familiar to me.

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I know that the systems are different. I studied law in Switzerland and did a university exchange in Ireland - and I managed to read the law there and find the necessary things...IF you speak French then just search on here and on Google and you will find all the information you are looking for.

As others pointed out: you will have to do some part of your education again. That's just the way it is. You either do a full Swiss law education (Bachelor and Master) or you become a barrister and then work in Switzerland and sit the bar exam - as other stated not the most easy thing to do in the world but you will have to work hard anywhere in order to become a lawyer...
I came on this forum to ask questions and seek help and NOT to be criticized!!

Last edited by jrspet; 15.12.2012 at 12:17. Reason: Merging of successive posts
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Old 14.12.2012, 14:40
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

Jesus this place kills me sometimes. I could count on one hand the number of times I have researched statutory provisions as an attorney, and I have been a practicing attorney for a long time.

decide what type of law you think you will want to practice, and then worry about where you think you will want to do so. unless your desired area of practice is limited to local jurisdictional issues, e.g. criminal or family law, the world is your oyster and you will find plenty of non-Swiss law firms who have offices in Switzerland (and elsewhere) and who move their young attorneys around to remote offices on a regular basis.
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Old 14.12.2012, 15:00
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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Jesus this place kills me sometimes. I could count on one hand the number of times I have researched statutory provisions as an attorney, and I have been a practicing attorney for a long time.

decide what type of law you think you will want to practice, and then worry about where you think you will want to do so. unless your desired area of practice is limited to local jurisdictional issues, e.g. criminal or family law, the world is your oyster and you will find plenty of non-Swiss law firms who have offices in Switzerland (and elsewhere) and who move their young attorneys around to remote offices on a regular basis.

Thanks for you help. You gave me some hope again
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Old 14.12.2012, 15:35
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Re: Desperate help needed on how to become a lawyer in Switzerland

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Thanks for your help again. The thing is I was given bad advice from my English school here. Clearly they knew nothing about law!! I know that Switzerland is has a civil law system and that England has a common law system. Thus I realised that it is indeed difficult to study in one country and work in another. However, I have heard that english barristers have become practicing lawyers in Switzerland without re-doing their education. The problem is that they had been barristers for many years. I don't mind repeating some of my education. I contacting the university of Geneva who said that I have to do a total of 6 years, and that my degree has no worth. They also said my situation is strange so they can't say exactley if there are any alternatives since all their students are Swiss high school students.
Yikes. It does look like you were given bad advice. But I think you could still find work as a lawyer doing corporate work, NGOs, lobbying, etc without needing a Swiss law degree/sit the Swiss bar.

Well, it's possible the the people in Geneva are correct, but since you speak French and Italian and looking at some of the links already posted, I'd keep asking around. Maybe ask someone at the other universities that have law schools in the French and Italian cantons (now sure which ones do). There are still some differences among cantons in education.

Don't dispare yet. And well, to be honest, going back to school isn't the worst thing in the world. Who wants to grow up anyway?
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