Question: What is the difference between Italian lawyer, Italian solicitor, Italian barrister and Italian attorney? I heard Italian solicitors can discuss cases in court nationwide.
Answer: When you hear the word "Solicitor" in Italy the speaker is referring to a qualified Avvocato, i.e., a professional licensed to practice law. Italian Solicitors are allowed to practice law and represent clients nationwide, in and out of court.
The Italian word Avvocato is typically translated into English as Italian lawyer (most common and general), Italian solicitor (more oriented to the UK and Irish market) and Italian attorney or attorney at law (as per the U.S. nomenclature). When used to refer to an Avvocato, the three expressions above (Italian lawyer, Italian solicitor, Italian attorney) are used without substantial differences, rather synonymously.
In the UK jurisdiction the word “Lawyer” is just a generic term for anyone who has studied law. It does not necessarily mean someone who is qualified or licensed to practice law. In Italy only subjects who meet certain requirements are allowed to qualify as Avvocato.
An Italian Solicitor most likely studied law at the university, trained law in an Italian Law Firm and passed the national Italian Solicitor qualification exam. In particular, after graduating from an Italian law school, Italian Solicitor trainees have to train at least two years in a qualified Italian Law Firm before taking the qualification examination, which in Italy is called the Esame di Stato, the equivalent of the American bar exam.
There are also other ways to become an Avvocato in the Italian legal system. For example, lawyers coming from foreign jurisdictions might be allowed to get registered in Italy as Avvocato after a specific transfer procedure.
Given that the Italian legal system employs the fused profession model (as opposed to the split profession model) in relation to legal representation, an Avvocato would perform in Italy the legal activities that in the UK would be split between solicitor and barrister.
Italian Solicitor’s role – functions and capacities of Italian Lawyers
Once they have successfully passed the qualification examination, Italian Solicitors can handle any legal matter nationwide. Once qualified, a registered Italian Solicitor can conduct proceedings in all courts, including civil court, criminal court, labour court, bankruptcy court, administration court, tax court and court for minors, also for appeals. An Italian Solicitor can speak on behalf of clients and represent them in front of a judge and jury. Italian Solicitors can also act in place of clients for any Italian legal purposes, such as signing contracts, and may conduct litigation by submitting applications or affidavits to the court, drafting documentation for litigation and so on.
After 12 years of practice as an Avvocato registered with the Italian Law Society, Italian Solicitors can apply to be registered in the Supreme Court Lawyer Registry, to conduct cases at the Italian Supreme Court (Corte Suprema di Cassazione), the highest level of Italian jurisdiction.
Italian law firms and Italian law practices exclusively reserved for Italian Solicitors
Law firms in Italy must be comprised of at least one Italian Solicitor and can be comprised of multiple Italian Solicitors. When more than one Italian Solicitor runs a Law Firm in Italy, they work in the form of an unlimited liability partnership. Italian solicitors are not allowed to run their business in the form of a limited liability company.
Italian Solicitors must be registered with the Italian Law Society (Consiglio dell’Ordine degli Avvocati) in order to act as a professional legal representative. Registered Italian Solicitors and Italian law firms are the only subjects allowed to provide legal services in Italy. Limited liability companies are not allowed to provide legal services.
Role of Italian Solicitor vs UK Solicitor: Practical examples
The role of Italian Solicitors and UK solicitors are similar in several ways, but there are also several substantial differences. For instance, Italian Solicitors are not allowed to certify people's identity or true copies of documents. Italian Solicitors are only allowed to certify their own client’s signature in a few circumstances, e.g., on a court proxy needed to assist the client in court.
Also, a Property Solicitor in Italy working in a property purchase or a property sale looks after his or her own client's interests during the whole property purchase or sale process. However, at the end of the process, an Italian Property Solicitor is not allowed to formalise the title transfer.
A Solicitor in Italy, if involved in an Italian Will, advices the client on Italian inheritance law and perhaps drafts the Italian Will, but does not formalise it.
An Italian Corporate Solicitor working on an Italian company incorporation advises the shareholders on possible opportunities, alternative structures, drafts the bylaws and article of incorporation, but does not formalise these documents nor registers the company with the chamber of commerce.
Personal identification, true copy certification, property transfer formalisation, Will formalisation and company registration are the domain of the Italian notary public (in italian "Notaio"), not Italian Solicitors.
For the activities listed above, though the formalisation is completed by an Italian notary public, it might be crucial to involve an Italian Solicitor in a timely manner, in view of that an Italian Solicitor represents the best interests of his/her own client while the Italian notaio is a neutral party representing the state in the formalisation of the documents.
Italian Solicitors of Studio Legale Metta are all qualified registered Italian Lawyers and work closely with experienced English speaking Italian notario.
Please find below some links to more information regarding the activities carried out by our Italian Solicitors on behalf of our international clients:
Should you like to contact our Italian attorneys, please click here.