The French Court of cassation precluded consulting firms from carrying out legal expertise activities as they could be exercised only by lawyers

Cour de cassation, civile, Chambre civile 1, 17 février 2016, 14-26.342 14-29.686

The present case concerns the question whether the EU law, particularly Articles 49 and 56 TFEU and the Directive 2006/123/EC (known as the ‘Services’ Directive), precluded a national legislation which did not allow consulting firms to carry out legal activity as a primary activity.

The company X concluded a contract with Y, a consulting firm, seeking an expertise on how to decrease the amount of the statutory contributions for occupational accidents that Y had to pay to the French social security fund. The Court of Appeal of Paris (Cour d’appel de Paris) ordered the judicial annulment of the contract in question on the grounds that the task entrusted to X consisted in a legal expertise which could only be carried out by a lawyer. In fact, the French legislation allowed members of non-regulated professions to exercise, on an ancillary basis, a legal activity in addition of their main activity. However, in the instant case, the Court of Appeal of Paris held that Y was not only required to transfer the documents to a lawyer, but it was also examining if the “occupational accident” claims were well-found in the light of the French Social Security Code, which was a legal activity.

Y lodged a claim before the Court of cassation (Cour de cassation) claiming that the French legislation infringed the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services.

The Court of Cassation dismissed the appeal. Firstly, the Court of Cassation upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Paris in its part qualifying the activities carried out by Y as a legal activity. Secondly, the Court of Cassation refused to examine the national legislation under the EU law. In fact, the present case constituted a purely internal situation given the fact that, on the one hand, the contract in question was concluded and executed in France and, on the other hand, the case was dealing exclusively with national regulatory and legislative provisions. Moreover, the contract in question was concluded before the entry into force of the ‘Services’ Directive and, therefore, the Court of Cassation refused to apply it in the present case.

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