We sometimes have the sad job of informing a new client that the adviser that they believed was a qualified professional who previously acted for them when they bought a house or rented business premises in fact had no qualifications or professional training, who has left them in the lurch.
Here in Spain from time to time it is inevitable that we have to deal with the legal system so it can be important to understand the differences between the different types of Spanish lawyer, and the other officials who work together with the legal system .
First, what is a Lawyer? A Lawyer is a professional person authorized to practice law.
Spanish qualified lawyers are known as Abogados. They must hold a law degree and be registered with the legal association, or “college”, of the province where they practice. Only Abogados are allowed to act for parties in proceedings in Court. Of course a large part of their work involves the preparation of documents and providing advice to the public, “asesoramiento juridico”.
There are many reputable Spanish “asesores juridicos” who provide advice and prepare documents. They are legally qualified but are not members of the provincial college as they have chosen not to represent clients in court proceedings. Many specialize in Spanish employment or tax law.
If you become involved in Spanish court proceedings your Abogado must engage the services of a Procurador, who is the professional representative of your Abogado and deals with the formal aspects of the proceedings: filing of papers, arranging hearing dates, etc. Procuradores also have their own ¨college¨ in each province.
Notaries play a vital part in many transactions but they are not they do not represent you. Rather, a Notary is a law graduate who has gone on to become a highly trained public official. He does not act for any of the parties involved in a transaction. His role is to ensure that documents for use in connection with many types of transaction comply with the law and any necessary formalities. Property transactions, mortgages, Company Formations, Wills and many other types of business are concluded in front of Notaries so as to provide a guarantee that the all these formalities have been observed. The Notary does not guarantee that the terms of any transaction are fair or reasonable. That is the responsibility of the parties involved and those advising them.
The final member in this pantheon of Spanish Advisors is the “Gestor Administrativo” who practices in a “Gestoria”. A Gestoria can only be operated by a “Graduado Social” who is highly qualified in dealing with many different types of administrative matters. He is also qualified to represent clients at the many types of tribunal that regulate the citizen´s dealings with central and local government, such as social security, employment, etc. Most often expats find themselves instructing a “Gestor” to re-register their cars, obtain business licences, and other permits of all kinds.
There is often a large overlap between the expertise of all these advisers, but whichever you engage make sure that that they are properly qualified.
Anyone can set themselves up in business as an unqualified adviser and unfortunately expats are easy prey for these characters.