Five Essential Things You Need to Know When Selecting A Lawyer in Mexico
Because of the following five important reasons that we will explain below; clients, particularly foreigners, take on more risk when hiring a lawyer in Mexico than in the U.S. and Canada. References are a good start, but go further, check for reputable online presence and reviews and consult your embassy or consulate for recommendations.
1. In Mexico lawyers go to University for fewer years than in the rest of North America, and have less oversight over their legal practice. in the U.S. and Canada law students pursue legal degrees only after first obtaining a four-year undergraduate degree. Once they have graduated from law school they sit for the bar exam and obtain a license to practice law. In Canada, it is common for law graduates to article before the bar exam, that is, to work under the supervision of a licensed lawyer for ten months.
In contrast, a Mexican attorney can obtain a law degree (a Licenciatura En Derecho) after a five-year undergraduate program. Lawyers do not need to take a bar exam or to article after their degree in order to become licensed to practice law across the country.
2. In Mexico there are more lawyers than in the U.S. or Canada. In Mexico there are approximately six lawyers per 1,000 people. In comparison, in the U.S. the number is about four lawyers per 1,000 people, and in Canada there are less than two lawyers per 1,000 people. These numbers are an approximation, as statistics are not perfectly comparable among states, provinces and countries.
3. Bar Membership is not compulsory. In Mexico there is no need to belong to a bar to practice law. Although there are dozens of associations that provide pro-bono legal support but they do not have an effective oversight function. In the U.S. and Canada there is normally a bar in eachprovince or state and you must be part of it in order to be able to practice. The bar also functions as an oversight body to ensure that lawyers practice according to a code of conduct.
4. Lack of insurance. In Mexico there is no legal requirement to have malpractice insurance. In the U.S. and Canada, malpractice insurance is mandatory.
5. Risk. In conclusion, without mandatory insurance or a bar that enforces a code of ethics potential customers–particularly foreigners–take on more risk when choosing a lawyer in Mexico than in the U.S. and Canada. To mitigate that risk, public and large listed companies often hire transnational law firms. Nevertheless, these law firms operate under Mexican subsidiaries, under Mexican law, therefore they do not offer more safety than regular Mexican law firms, unless the contracted law firm is the one located in the U.S. or Canada with substantially higher rates.
What to Do to Mitigate Risk?
There’s a lot of lawyers in Mexico and they’re not necessarily behaving ethically. That’s not to say that you can’t find a great lawyer—you just have to know what to look for. Here’s our suggestions:
1. Ask for References
Reviews and trusted references from past clients are more relevant when selecting a lawyer in Mexico than in the United States (U.S.) or Canada.
2. Consult your Embassy or Consulate for Recommendations
Foreigners can request a list of lawyers from the consulate of their country–these lists are a great place to start your selection process.
3. Check for a Reputable Online Presence
Checking Google reviews and ensuring that the potential lawyer has a reputable website is an important step in the selection process. We suggest that you to contact a number of law firms and evaluate the quality of their communication with you before you hire them. Ask for clarity in how they charge and walk away from anyone who won’t openly share this information with you.
Why Choose I.C. Abogados?
IC Abogados is included on the list of many foreign consulates and embassies. We have important multinational companies and individual investors as clients. Each client is important to us and we pride ourselves on being responsible, responsive, providing real value and mantaining our reputation of excellence. We are fortunate that local law firms often turn to us when legal problems become too complex or specialized.
Have a legal issue and need help? Contact us for a free consultation!