Gibraltar’s Legal Profession

Ian Watts  – providing legal services in Gibraltar since 2002

A Fused Profession

In Gibraltar, barristers are authorised by law to practice as solicitors, and practitioners enrolled as solicitors are correspondingly entitled to practice as counsel. The traditional dichotomy between the two tiers of the legal profession therefore does not apply in Gibraltar. Gibraltar’s “fused” profession can be seen in other parts of the common-law world – e.g. in Australia.

Her Majesty’s Attorney General

In Gibraltar, Her Majesty’s Attorney General is the principal law officer of the Crown and therefore lead adviser to Her Majesty’s Government for Gibraltar. The current Attorney General for Gibraltar is Michael Llamas Q.C. He is the head of the local bar.

The Attorney General enjoys certain rights and privileges under the Gibraltar Constitution Order 2006 such as the power to discontinue a public prosecution or to take over and discontinue a private prosecution. However, since 2018 the powers of prosecution are largely delegated to the Gibraltar Director of Public Prosecutions.

Aside from “relator” actions, the Attorney General is the nominal claimant or defendant (as the case may be) to all civil proceedings by or against the Crown: s.12 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1951.

General litigation and advice on behalf of the Government of Gibraltar is undertake by the Office of Criminal Prosecutions and Litigation which is staffed by 10 law officers of the Crown, who bear the title of “Crown Counsel”.

Director of Public Prosecutions Gibraltar (Gibraltar DPP)

In August 2018, the Gibraltar legislature created the office of Director of Public Prosecutions under the terms of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 2018. This statute lays down, amongst other things, the DPP’s duties and functions.

The duty of the DPP is to act under the general or special instructions of Her Majesty’s Attorney General for Gibraltar in pursuance of the Attorney-General’s powers conferred upon him under s.59(3) of the Gibraltar Constitution. In practical terms, it is the DPP who institutes and undertakes criminal prosecutions in Gibraltar on behalf of the Attorney-General- however, the 2018 Act provides exceptions to this.

The current Director of Public Prosecutions for Gibraltar is Christian Rocca Q.C.

The Profession – In General

There are a prodigious number of lawyers in Gibraltar given the size of the jurisdiction. The mainstay of the profession comprises English qualified barristers, although there are fair a number of English qualified solicitors.

Because of the fused-style of the profession, barristers work out of “firms” not sets of chambers in the traditional sense, as one sees in England.

Gibraltar is a finance centre of high repute and attracts a considerable amount of high-end commercial work. The majority of local lawyers practice in the field of trusts, tax, corporate and gaming law.

In terms of litigation, the jurisdiction has heard cases concerning wealthy trust disputes. Freezing Orders and Admiralty Claims are also a feature of local litigation – the Admiralty Jurisdiction is a popular forum for ship arrests given Gibraltar’s unique maritime location.

Gibraltar Legal Services Act 2017

The Gibraltar Legal Services Act 2017 came into force on September 20th, 2017. The new legislation represents, on the whole, a major legislative overhaul in the regulation of Gibraltar’s legal profession.

Provision of legal services in Gibraltar

The regulatory aspects of this piece of legislation extends to all those who are providing “legal services” (as defined therein) in Gibraltar- e.g. Barristers and Solicitors engaged in private practice; those providing services in-house (whether in a public or private organisation); Legal Executives and Law Costs Draftsmen. On the other hand, Notarial activities and the Administration of Oaths are not caught by provisions of the Gibraltar Legal Services Act 2017.

Gibraltar Legal Services Regulatory Authority

The legislation also establishes a Gibraltar Legal Services Regulatory Authority as a body corporate entrusted with several functions as stipulated by the Act – essentially, the LSRA is the front-line regulator of the legal profession in Gibraltar. On its website, the LSRA publishes a list of lawyers practising in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar Law Council

Furthermore, there has been created the Law Council of Gibraltar which is also a body corporate under the terms of the Legal Services Act 2017 and which supersedes the Gibraltar Bar Council. The newly-constituted Law Council is given several functions under the Act , such as upholding the standards of probity to be expected by members of the Gibraltarian Legal Profession; and to consider, lay down and implement general policy relating to all matters affecting the local profession.

Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year

Gibraltar adopts the fine traditions of the British judicial system. There is the annual ceremonial opening of the legal year (or ‘legal calendar’) which takes place in October of every year. For an interesting article by Ian Watts on Gibraltar’s opening of the legal year, please see: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6319853345355898880/

Further Information

For further information, please contact Ian Watts, Barrister-at-Law & Acting Solicitor.

©Ian Watts, Barrister-at-Law, 2017-2021. All Rights Reserved.

Back to top