SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

CRIME

EXPLAINED: How to find a lawyer in France

The French legal system can be complicated, so in many circumstances it's better to have a lawyer on board. Luckily, there are a lot of qualified, English-speaking lawyers in France - here's how to find them.

EXPLAINED: How to find a lawyer in France
A plaque and a board indicate a notary office in France (Photo by PASCAL PAVANI / AFP)

First steps

First, you need to know exactly what it is you are looking to address – is it an immigration issue? Property-related? Are you caught up in the criminal system?

This will help you to determine the type of expert that you need.

If your concern deals with property or a will, you probably want a notaire rather than an avocat (explained below).

All lawyers in France must have at least a CAPA (Certificat d’Aptitude à la Profession d’Avocat) master’s degree in law. After working for four years, French lawyers are able to work toward a specialisation.

Next, you need to decide whether you are confident enough in your French to seek out legal advice in French, or if you will need a fully bilingual lawyer. Don’t worry – there are plenty of lawyers in France who speak English, but unsurprisingly it will be easier to find a lawyer in French. 

Where should I look?

A good resource available to you is your Embassy and its website, as well as the websites for other English-speaking countries’ embassies. For example, the British, American, and Australian embassies all have extensive lists of recommended English-speaking lawyers in France (by region and speciality). 

Other online resources include the website “AngloInfo,” along with Facebook groups moderated by lawyers and notaires (ex. Strictly Legal France). 

If you are confident enough to go through the French system in French, then you can search directly through your local barreau (bar) via their online annuaire (directory). 

One thing to keep in mind, according to Maître Matthieu Chirez, a criminal attorney at J.P. Karsenty & Associés law firm, which is one of the British Embassy’s recommended law firms, is that foreigners ought to be vigilant when using the internet to find a lawyer.

“The lawyers who are most visible on the internet are not always the best,” said Chirez. “It is always best to go through your embassy first.” 

What criteria should I prioritise?

It is worth considering your lawyer’s level of expertise: How many cases similar to yours have they handled? How long have they been practising law? Do they come recommended? By going through your Embassy’s resources, you can have more peace of mind that the lawyer you would be working with fits these criteria. 

You should also prioritise your own rapport with the lawyer. If possible, try to schedule a preliminary meeting or consultation (before doing so, be sure to check to see whether this will be charged or not). This will help you also determine whether the lawyer has a satisfactory level of English for your needs.

What is the difference between a notaire and an avocat?

A notaire’s role is to secure and make official concerns related to a “sale, purchase, or transmission” or a property, as explained Chirez.

A notaire cannot represent you in court, but they will be necessary for making official matters related to succession, like writing your Will, for instance, and officially registering the sale of a property. A property sale in France cannot be legally completed without the involvement of a notaire.

It is important to note that a notaire is a representative of the French state, so having a personal lawyer looking out for your individual best interest during a sale or purchase might still be advisable.

And yes, avocat means both lawyer and avocado in French.

READ MORE: The reasons why you’ll need a notaire in France

What about payment?

In France, it is the lawyer who sets his or her own fees – meaning it is not regulated by the State.

Average rates will depend on the ‘complexity of your case’ and the specialisation of your lawyer, but the average hourly rate for 2022 is between €100 and €300.

Criminal lawyers often charge more for drink-driving cases.

You can pay a lawyer either based on their hourly rate or by a flat-rate (usually reserved for simple procedures). When you find a lawyer, you will have to sign an agreement that outlines their fees, as well as various additional costs that might be incurred.

If you cannot afford to pay your lawyer, you might be able to qualify for legal aid (though for this you must demonstrate a sufficiently low income/ wealth status). The rate of legal aid is calculated based off your earnings, and you can use the online calculator to see how much you would benefit HERE.

READ ALSO How do I find professional help with my French taxes?

Otherwise, you can check to see whether any “permenance juridiques” (legal clinics) will be held near you.

These tend to be free days where you can seek out legal support (though it is worth verifying it is indeed gratuite before going). For finding legal aid in France, you can use this government website, which is also available in English.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

PROPERTY

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

While French cities such as Paris are notoriously expensive, there are many areas outside the cities where it is still possible to buy spacious homes for less than €100,000 - particularly if you don't mind a bit of renovation.

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

We decided to look at where in France you could afford a property on a budget of €100,000, and it turns out there are some bargains to be had.

There are a lot of caveats while searching for property, and many local variables in place, but our search does show some of the areas to concentrate on if you have a limited budget.

We used the Notaires de France immobilier website in August 2022, and we specified that the property should have at least five rooms (including kitchen and bathroom) and a floor space of at least 100 square metres.

We also discounted any property that was for sale under the viager system – a complicated purchase method which allows the resident to release equity on their property gradually, as the buyer puts down a lump sum in advance and then pays what is effectively a rent for the rest of the seller’s lifetime, while allowing them to remain in the property.

READ ALSO Viager: The French property system that can lead to a bargain

For a five-room, 100 square metre property at under €100,000, you won’t find anywhere in the Île-de-France region, where the proximity of Paris pushes up property prices. The city itself is famously expensive, but much of the greater Paris region is within commuting distance, which means pricier property. 

Equally the island of Corsica – where prices are pushed up by its popularity as a tourist destination – showed no properties for sale while the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – which includes the French Riviera – showed only 1 property under €100,000.

The very presence of Bordeaux, meanwhile, takes the entire département of Gironde out of this equation – but that doesn’t mean that the southwest is completely out of the running. A total of 25 properties came up in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. One property was on the market for a mere €20,000 – but it was, as the Notaires’ brochure noted, in need of “complete renovation”.

Neighbouring Occitanie, meanwhile, showed 12 further properties in the bracket.

By far the most properties on the day of our search – 67 – were to be found in the Grand Est region of eastern France. The eastern part of France overall comes out best for property bargains, with the north-east region of Hauts-de-France showing 38 properties and and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté displaying 25.

Further south, however, the presence of the Alps – another popular tourist destination – pushed up prices in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region which showed just three results.

The below map shows our search results, with darker colours indicating more cheap properties.

Property buying tips 

In order to make a comparison, we focused our search on properties advertised online, but if you have a specific area in mind it's well worth making friends with a few local real estate agents and perhaps also the mayor, since it's common for properties not to be advertised online.

Most of the truly 'bargain' properties are described as being "in need of renovation" - which is real estate speak for a complete wreck.

If you don't mind doing a bit of work you can often pick up property for low prices, but you need to do a clear-eyed assessment of exactly how much work you are willing and able to do, and what the cost is likely to be - there's no point getting a "cheap" house and then spending three times the purchase price on renovations.

READ ALSO 'Double your budget and make friends with the mayor' - tips for French property renovation

That said, there were plenty of properties at or near the €100,000 mark that were perfectly liveable or needed only relatively minor renovations.

You also need to pay attention to the location, as the sub-€100,000 properties are often in remote areas or very small villages with limited access to amenities. While this lifestyle suits many people, bear in mind that owning a car is a requirement and you may end up paying extra for certain services.

Finally remember that government help, in the form of loans and grants, is available for environmentally friendly improvements, such as insulation or glazing.

SHOW COMMENTS