An "avocat" must be a lawyer or attorney. Avocats may render legal advice on all matters, draft agreements and contracts, handle commercial disputes and collection cases, and plead and defend civil and criminal cases before the French courts to which they are admitted. A "notaire" is a public official appointed by the Ministry of Justice, and not the equivalent of a notary public in the United States. The number of notaires in each jurisdiction is limited, and their fees fixed by law. Their functions include the preparation and recording of notarial acts (wills, deeds, acts of incorporation, marriage contracts, etc.,) the administration and settlements of estates (excluding litigation in court) and serving as the repository of wills. They are not lawyers, but very specialized members of the legal profession. They may not plead in court.Credit Reports.
Credit reports can be obtained through: Dunn and Bradstreet, (17, avenue de Choisy, 75013 Paris), or through major banks represented in Paris.
Retaining an attorney abroad
The following guidelines may be helpful to you in retaining the services of an attorney abroad to protect your interest.
I. Selecting an Attorney
It is wise to contact several attorneys, briefly describing the nature of the services you desire. Before deciding which attorney to employ, ask for a written schedule of fees generally charged for the services you need. Be sure to ask whether the attorney is fluent in English. Do not turn over documents or funds until you are certain that the attorney fully under-stands your legal needs and is willing to hand handle your case.
II. Barristers and Solicitors
In some foreign cities, districts, or provinces it may be necessary to retain the services of both a solicitor and a barrister. In such jurisdictions, barristers are allowed to appear in court, including trial courts and higher courts of appeal or other courts. Solicitors are allowed to advise clients and sometimes represent them in the lower courts. They may also prepare cases for barristers to try in the higher courts.
III. Notaries Public, Notaries and Huissiers:
In some foreign countries, notaries public, notaries and huissiers can perform many of the functions performed by attorneys in the United States. Foreign notaries frequently draft instruments, wills and conveyances. In some countries a notary is a public official, appointed by the Ministry of Justice, whose functions include not only the preparation of documents, but the administration and settlement of estates. Such notaries serve as repositories for wills and are empowered to serve legal documents. In some countries the huissiers serve documents. They are not lawyers but are very specialized members of the legal profession. They may not plead cases in court.
IV. Assistance of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate
Should your communication with a foreign attorney prove unsatisfactory, a U.S. consular officer may, if appropriate, communicate with the attorney on your behalf. In addition, complaints against foreign attorneys whose names appear on the list can result in the removal of their names from the list.
V. Coordination with Counsel in the United States
American attorneys may not be in a position to represent your interests abroad, particularly because they will not be permitted to participate in foreign court proceedings under the laws of the foreign country. American attorneys experienced in international procedure may be helpful in explaining the complex international issues involved in your case and some may have associates or partners abroad to whom they can refer you.
Legal Aid Associations
There may be facilities in the foreign country for low cost or free legal services. If the information about such assistance is not included in the list of attorneys, ask the local bar association or the Ministry of Justice about the availability of legal aid.
• How to Deal With Your Foreign Attorney
• Find out the attorney’s qualifications and experience.
• Find out how the attorney plans to represent you. Ask specific questions and expect the attorney to explain the legal process in the country concerned, as well as the legal activities planned on your behalf, in language that you can understand. Have your attorney analyze your case, giving you the positive and negative aspects and probable outcome. Be honest with your attorney. Tell the attorney every relevant fact in order to get the best representation of your interests. Do not fail to ask how much time the attorney anticipates the case may take to complete.
• Find out what fees the attorney, notaire or huissier charge and what fees are expected. Notaires and huissiers are usually government officials who must charge fees established by their governments. Some attorneys expect payment in advance; some demand payment after each action taken, refusing to proceed until they are paid. Others may take the case on a percentage basis, collecting a pre-arranged percentage of the monies awarded by a foreign court.
• Ask that your attorney keep you advised of the progress of your case according to a pre-established schedule. Remember your responsibility to keep your attorney informed of any new developments in your case. Request copies of all letters and documents prepared on your behalf.
• Do not expect your attorney to give a simple answer to a complex legal problem.
Be sure you understand the technical language contained in any contract or other
legal document prepared by your attorney.
For AmCham France member law firms please follow the AmCham Service Providers link.
Official Translators and Interpreters
Official translators and interpreters (traducteur-interprète assermenté) are licensed to translate and interpret for the various French courts. Translations of documents intended for legal use in the United States must have the translator's seal and signature authenticated by Apostille at the French Palais de Justice.
For AmCham France member translation firms please follow the AmCham Service Providers link.