Starting a new life in a different country is a big adventure because you have to deal with a new culture, a different language, different customs and of course, different laws. When in a new country there will be always the need for professional services of any kind: legal, medical, financial, and so on. Choosing the right people who will provide you with these services is of the outmost importance. However, you have to be very careful and you have to conduct a thorough research before hiring and this way you don’t end up in the wrong hands. Regarding lawyers, falling into the hands of an unexperienced or unknowledgeable lawyer can bring you serious liabilities. Unfortunately this happens quite often, and you can end up with a licensed attorney who has practically no knowledge of the law or is quite incapable. This happens mostly because of the bar exam here in Mexico … which is nonexistent.
So Mexican lawyers don’t have to pass a bar exam in order to practice law?
Unfortunately, no. Here in Mexico the only requirement to be able to practice law is to have a law degree and a license (or Cédula in Spanish). However, when lawyers graduate from law school here, they automatically receive their diploma and their license to practice law without any further tests, courses or examinations. This creates a problem because every year thousands of students graduate from law school here in Mexico and they are all licensed attorneys. Normally only the lawyers that graduate from the best schools are able to find a good job in the legal field, and as consequence you may find that your taxi driver or your plumber here in Puerto Vallarta, are actually licensed attorneys.
So what should I look for in a lawyer in Mexico?
The first thing that you must do when hiring a lawyer in Mexico is to verify that he or she has a valid Bachelor’s Degree in Law from a Mexican law school, which is called Licenciado en Derecho in Spanish. You have to be aware however there are about two thousand universities in Mexico offering a Law Degree and the range of these universities varies from a low-quality education to a high-quality education with standards equal to those of an Ivy League university.
Another thing you should verify about your Mexican attorney is his work experience. Like with any profession, the more work experience the better this attorney might be. However, this work experience should be relevant to the practice of law, such as legal department of companies, law firms, government agencies, and so on. The more renowned the places where the attorney acquired his experience, the better.
Finally, the last thing to check are references from clients. This will give you a wider perspective on what the attorney is able to do and if the service he has provided is reliable, accurate and of quality.
Choosing an attorney in Mexico is not an easy task. The due diligence must be thorough, but in the end you will have some peace of mind knowing that you are in the right hands.