Legal Ethics Education in Germany

Author:Stefan Kirchner
Position:University of Lapland Faculty of Law, Finland

As more and more law school graduates enter the legal profession there is at the same time a deregulation of the legal profession, which is understood to refer to attorneys. This leads to the emergence of new players in the legal market and - in addition rather than taking anything away from the importance of professionspecific rules - an increased importance of legal ethics. For the purposes on... (see full summary)

e Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law
ISSN: 2338-7602; E-ISSN: 2338-770X
© 2015 e Institute for Migrant Rights Press
Note. is text is up to date as of 19 December 2014. e research for this article has been
made possible by a grant by the Research Council of Lithuania (No. MIP-020/2012).
e author thanks the Research Council of Lithuania, Vilnius, Lithuania, and Vanessa
M. Frese, Fribourg, Switzerland.
University of Lapland Faculty of Law, Finland
As more and more law school graduates enter the legal profession there is at the
same time a deregulation of the legal profession, which is understood to refer to
attorneys. is leads to the emergence of new players in the legal market and - in
addition rather than taking anything away from the importance of profession-
specic rules - an increased importance of legal ethics. For the purposes on this
text, legal ethics is dened as unwritten rather than written rules of behavior
which is expected of attorneys. For centuries, Germany has relied on a two-step
legal education, in which university studies are followed by practical experience.
is two year period introduces graduates to dierent legal professions. In recent
years, though, also university education is putting more emphasis on the needs
of the profession and many law faculties have begun to place more emphasis on
the practical dimensions of the law. is will include written rules concerning
the legal profession but it might not necessarily include legal ethics in the sense of
the term used here. While the most fundamental rules relating to the profession
of attorneys are regulated under federal law, education, including legal studies,
falls within the purview of Germany’s sixteen federal states. Although basic rules
are very similar across states, there are small dierences between the details of
the subjects which are to be covered in legal studies. As the current attention
given by academia to professional rules regarding the profession of attorney is a
relatively recent phenomenon, there are marked dierences with regard to what
dierent states require their law graduates either in the rst state exam at the
end of their university studies or in the second state exam after the two year
practice period. Apart from this, the question is asked in this article how legal
ethics, as opposed to professional rules for lawyers, are dealt with by law faculties
in Germany.
Stefan Kirchner
Legal Ethics Education in Germany
Keywords: Professional Ethics, Comparative Law, Legal Education.
“In a culture where income has become a crucial measure of status,
the market for morality is bound to suer.” Deborah L. Rohde1
In the last twenty years, the number of attorneys (Rechtsanwälte2) in
Germany has risen dramatically.3 Recent legislation has even opened the
eld of legal services to other actors.4 An increase in competition can
lead to improvements in the overall provision of legal services through an
increase in specialization and a resulting increase in the quality of legal
services, but it can also provide an incentive to engage in less than ethical
behavior for attorneys. e deregulation of the legal profession, requires
that greater attention is paid to legal ethics. While legal ethics are of
utmost importance to the everyday work of attorneys, formal professional
responsibility education is often limited. is text aims at describing the
role of legal ethics (as opposed to legal rules regulating legal professions5)
in the regulatory framework applicable to German attorneys6 from the
perspective of legal education. It is written under the assumption that
1. Deborah L. Rohde, Personal integrity and professional ethics, in R L
E: T S  N I 28, 32 (Kieran Tranter et al. eds., 2010).
2. Singular: Rechtsanwalt (male form), Rechtsanwältin (female form). In order to
increase the readability of this text, if the female and the male form is used the
other form is meant to be included as well as there are no discriminations between
between men and women in this regard.
3. See B, S “E  Z
 A    ” (2014), available at http://les/04_fuer_journalisten/statistiken/04_entwraeseit1950_.pdf
(last visited May 2, 2014).
4. Michael Kleine-Cosack, Verschärfter Wettbewerb auf dem Rechtsberatungsmarkt:
Inkrafttreten des Rechtsdienstleistungsgesetzes, 7 N J 289 (2008).
5. On the role of such rules in German legal education see the forthcoming text
“Professional Rules for Attorneys as a Subject of Legal Education in Germany” by
6. On ethics for judges and prosecutors see Kirsten Stand, Berufsethik für Richter
und Staatsanwälte, NRB M 45 (Jan. 2013), available at http://
The Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law Volume II Issue 1 (2015) at 98–132
Stefan Kirchner
an increased awareness of legal ethics will lead to an improvement of the
overall quality of legal services provided in any given jurisdiction.
e German legal market is highly competitive. In 2013, the number
of attorneys rose by 1.13 %7 to 162,695.8 While the number of female
attorneys rose even faster (+1.81%)9 to 54,139,10 the number of female
notary-attorneys11 has dropped dramatically (-13.78%)12 down to 61313
(as opposed to 5,214 male notary-attorneys14). It is too early to tell if
the recent case law, which has cemented discrimination against women
in this area,15 has already contributed to this eect. In the long run,
however, the legal profession as a whole can suer from such imbalances.
e biggest local Rechtsanwaltskammern16 are those in Munich (20,969
Rechtsanwälte17) and Frankfurt (18,135 Rechtsanwälte18). At the same
time, legal studies in Germany takes a relatively long time: “In Germany
one often hears that the path to becoming a lawyer is far too long, that
it covers too little of too much along the way, and that even after years
of training, young (or no longer young) lawyers are not ready for the
job.”19 Taking into account the large number of law graduates that
have entered the job market in recent years, it is hardly surprising that
many young lawyers regard it as dicult to nd permanent, adequate
employment.20 While the aforementioned statement seems to be a bit of
7. Anon., Anwaltschaft wächst: aber mit immer weniger Anwaltsnotarinnen, 64
A M158 (2014).
8. Id.
9. Id.
10. Id.
11. In many German Länder, public notaries are required to be admitted to the
bar (Anwaltsnotare, attorney-notaries). Notaries in other Länder, which are not
admitted to the bar, are not included in this count.
12. Anon., supra note 7, at M158.
13. Id.
14. Id.
15. Id.
16.Rechtsanwaltskammer” is to be translated as “bar association.”
17. Anon., supra note 7, at M158.
18. Id.
19. Jutta Brunnée, e Reform of Legal Education in Germany: e Never-Ending Story
and European Integration, J. L. E. 399, 400 (1992).
20. Id.

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