How do I become a lawyer?
What do I need to study to become a lawyer and then how do I become a lawyer once I get my degree?
What do I need to study to become a lawyer?
If you want to become a lawyer in Belgium, you must first study law at university. You need a Belgian master's degree in law.
A master in law must be understood as a Belgian master in law. If you obtained a Belgian bachelor's degree in law and a foreign master's degree, you will not be admitted to the bar. In that case, you must apply for equivalence with a Belgian master's in law at a Belgian university.
I got my law degree in Belgium, how do I become a lawyer now?
To be admitted to the Bar Register as a lawyer, you must:
- complete a three-year apprenticeship,
- undergo professional training,
- pass the exams of the professional training course,
- prove that you participated in second-line legal assistance (pro bono),
- receive a favourable evaluation of your internship.
How to proceed.
- Find a firm where you want to do an internship. Poll several firms and be sure to contact several young lawyers to see if they would like to share their experiences with you.
- Check whether the firm you want to apply to has lawyers who are accredited internship masters. You can also ask the bar association you want to join.
- Beforehand, make proper agreements about the work content and conditions of the internship, and have these included in a written internship agreement, as this is compulsory, the bar association can help you with a model text.
- Make an application to take the oath (to be found on your Bar's website or at the Bar secretariat). Ask your local counter about the formalities involved in taking the oath, as they vary from counter to counter. Then you have to take the oath at the court of appeal. The website of your local bar association will tell you when the oath-taking takes place.
- Register on the list of trainees at the bar association where you will do your internship. Check the website of your future bar association to find out what you need to register on that list of trainees. For your registration, you will definitely need the following items:
- an office address (address of the internship office)
- an eID and card reader
- an original diploma (not a copy or scanned document)
- a signed internship agreement with a recognised internship master
Once you are included in the list of trainees, you may use the title of lawyer, wear the gown and perform duties as a lawyer.
Ok, I am now an intern, now what?
- You pay a bar association fee. Check with your local bar as to how much it is as it varies from bar to bar.
- Keep in mind that you will also have to pay for vocational training classes. These currently cost €1,150. If your office is located in the Flemish Region, you can apply for a 30% contribution via the so-called KMO-portefeuille. You can charge these costs fiscally.
- At the end of your first internship year, you must obtain a Beroepsuitoefeningbekwaamheidsattest(BUBA). You will learn the schedule and location of the classes you have to attend after you are included in the list of trainees. Part of the registration fee is subsidised through the KMO Portefeuille. So be sure to register on the KMOportefeuille once you have your KBO number. (see info below)
Practically, what do I need to get right before I can start working as a lawyer?
- A lawyer is self-employed, so you need to register in the Crossroads of Enterprises (CBE). You do this through an enterprise counter. You can find the list of recognised enterprise offices online. Expect to pay around €100; you will then get a company number.
- You need to apply for a VAT number, arrange that when you register in the CBE. That will be the same as your enterprise number. Depending on your enterprise office, this can cost up to €70. Furthermore, you also need to keep track of your VAT income & expenditure and declare it periodically.
- You have to register with a social insurance fund for the self-employed. At the start, you pay a provisional social contribution of around €800 per quarter. After three years, the amount is revised based on your real income.
- Join a health insurance fund. Do you already have a health insurance fund? Then pass on the change of your status. Don't have a health insurance fund yet? The social insurance fund can certainly recommend one.
You do not have to take out professional liability insurance or guaranteed income insurance in the event of illness or pregnancy. Do check whether you might want higher cover. You can apply to Precura, the mutual insurance company managed by the OVB, or to another insurance company.
Additional info can be found here, on a checklist of tips for people with a law degree who want to become a lawyer.
Have you already done your law degree in another country?
Are you Belgian or a national of another EU Member State and did you obtain your law degree in another composition of the European Union? Then you can undergo an aptitude test and thus be admitted to the profession of lawyer. However, there are some conditions attached to this.
If you obtained your law degree outside the European Union, you will not be easily admitted to the Belgian legal profession because foreign study programmes are often very different from the Belgian law school.